Wednesday, January 2, 2013

TV Shows We Love: “Imagination Movers” on Disney Junior

After suffering through the relatively minor inconvenience of living without electricity for a week after Hurricane Sandy, I was interested to learn that one of the best live-action preschool shows, Imagination Movers, was almost permanently derailed by Hurricane Katrina. The more I learn about the show’s four stars—who encourage preschoolers to brainstorm—the more I want them to be a part of my child’s life.

Left to right: Durbin, Poche, Collins,
and Smith on the set of their show.
The band and subsequent show are the brain-child of New Orleans-based elementary school teacher (and Teacher of the Year) Scott Durbin who, inspired by his own favorites Captain Kangaroo and Fred Rogers, wanted to create a live-action show that presented strong male role models for children. He got together with his journalist friend Rich Collins, architect Dave Poche, and firefighter Smitty Smith to form the kids’ rock band Imagination Movers.

The dream was almost washed away with Hurricane Katrina when all the band members (except Smitty) lost their homes as well as the band’s office in the flood. When they got back on their feet, they put the band back together. After being hired to create short music videos, Walt Disney Records sponsored their first nationally-released CD, “Juice Box Heroes.” Now they star in the half-hour show that’s The Monkees for the preschool set.

Wendy Calio plays Nina, seen here
with Warehouse Mouse.
Like most shows for this age group, the four lads never lose their temper or their cool as they problem-solve their way through minor crises. As I mentioned earlier, they encourage kids to work together and brainstorm to solve problems, usually bolstered by a lively pop tune written especially for the situation. The show’s aesthetic is a low-tech, Tinker Toy look, with warehouse gadgets looking as if they were patched together from remnants of Pee Wee’s Playhouse and Sesame Street. Their puppet sidekick Warehouse Mouse is also low-tech and looks a bit like a hand puppet from the bottom of your kid’s toy box, but the lack of slickness is part of the show’s charm.

There’s a sweetness here that’s hard to beat and I think Durbin truly realized his dream: these guys are GREAT role models for kids. They’re energetic; stick by their friends (like next-door neighbor Nina played by Wendy Calio who provides a female voice to the show); and they never give up until the problems are solved. And they end each show with a rockin’ musical number of their own creation. Parents will enjoy the stream of recognizable extras who appear on every show. Everybody seems to want to be a part of this wonderful show, and who can blame them? It’s a wonderful and worthy show. BUT, it has nonetheless been cancelled, so when the present season runs out, there will be no more new shows. This is a shame, but luckily this show can live on in reruns and The Imagination Movers continue to perform in live venues across the country.


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