'Yo Gabba Gabba!': TV For Kids And Music Lovers The creators of the children's show discuss booking the bands they love — including The Roots, Weezer, Chromeo and The Shins — and how it has won Yo Gabba Gabba! some unexpected fans.
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'Yo Gabba Gabba!': TV For Kids And Music Lovers

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'Yo Gabba Gabba!': TV For Kids And Music Lovers

'Yo Gabba Gabba!': TV For Kids And Music Lovers

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SIMON: That's Hot Hot Heat, the indie folk band out of British Columbia, singing a song that urges children, and their parents, to get up off the couch and go outdoors. But they might also be reaching a lot of students and other viewers, too. Yo Gabba Gabba! began on the Nick Jr. TV network as a show to entertain and educate the pre-K set. But now, as it prepares to shoot its fourth season, the show's popularity is busting demographic boundaries.

Original songs, performed by popular bands like The Killers, The Roots and Weezer, have snagged teenage and older fans who enjoy the often psychedelic performances.

(Soundbite of song, Time To Go Outdoors)

SIMON: The show is nominated for two 2011 Daytime Emmy awards. Joined now by the co-creators, Christian Jacobs and Scott Schultz, who are out at NPR West.

Thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. CHRISTIAN JACOBS (Co-creator, Yo Gabba Gabba!): Thank you, Scott.

Mr. SCOTT SCHULTZ (Co-creator, Yo Gabba Gabba!): Thanks for having us.

SIMON: How do we tell the difference between your two voices?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JACOBS: I think mine is the better one.

Mr. SCHULTZ: I think mine is the deeper one.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: All right. So Christian Jacobs has the somewhat deeper voice.

Mr. JACOBS: No, that would be Scott.

SIMON: All right.

Mr. JACOBS: Scott is the maybe deeper. Mine is a little more nasally.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: So let me ask the nasal voice first then.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Did you just set out to do a show that didnt sound too much like Barney?

Mr. JACOBS: Yeah. As first time dads, when we were sitting down, we were so excited to, you know, watch television with our kids and really participate.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. JACOBS: And we just felt like not that everything was wrong with preschool television, but there was so much more that we could bring to the table. Maybe na�vely so we were thinking why not have new great animators on every week and new bands, new celebrities. You know, we could really create this sort of, you know, dream television show that we wanted to make. And I guess we were just naive enough to think like, of course, we should just do it. Why not? You know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JACOBS: Well roll up to television USA and say we have the show idea.

Mr. SCHULTZ: Call the president of show business. We're ready.

Mr. JACOBS: Mr. Hollywood, put us on the air.

SIMON: So how did you get that done because I mean the, you know, the first answer is usually, you know, where's the marketing study?

Mr. JACOBS: Yeah. Exactly. And, you know, we're not television executives. Were not child psychologists. Were just dads who love our kids and want to share things with them. And Scott and I both have the production background. We actually cut our teeth making skateboard videos and local music videos for bands. And so we just put our resources together and grabbed some friends and took out loans on our houses and just we went for it. So...

Mr. SCHULTZ: Yeah. I mean, I think it was a really strange collaboration bringing in all our friends, all of our influences. All the people, you know, around us that helped shape the show in little ways.

Mr. JACOBS: Like Biz Markie was in the pilot. He really showed up and pretty much created "Biz's Beat Of The Day. He said, you know, I want to be Mister Rogers for kids. And we said, of course, should be, you know?

Mr. JACOBS: Yeah. Why not?

(Soundbite of TV show, "Yo Gabba Gabba!")

BIZ MARKIE (Hip-hop artist): (Rapping) Hey kids, just gather 'round, for Biz's Beat of the Day, I'mma teach you some sounds.

(Soundbite of human beat box)

BIZ MARKIE: Okay, heres Bizs beat of the day.

(Soundbite of human beat box)

BIZ MARKIE: Now practice this at home and I'll see y'all next time. Bye-bye.

SIMON: Biz Markie, Mos Def, Jack Black, Sarah Silverman, they're not always known as family-friendly entertainers.

Mr. SCHULTZ: Thats, that is true and...

SIMON: Although, Jack Black, of course, is Kung Fu Panda...

Mr. SCHULTZ: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: ...as probably we can tell each other.

Mr. SCHULTZ: We do try to look for the energy and the motivation. And with Jack Black, you know, he's got kids himself and he wanted to be on the show because he loved watching the show with his kids.

Mr. JACOBS: Yeah.

Mr. SCHULTZ: And I think that energy really is a pure thing. It's really fun and contagious.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Yo Gabba Gabba!")

Mr. JACK BLACK (Actor): My fancy dance is called the Disco Roll.

KIDS: Wow. Woo.

Mr. BLACK: And this is how you do it. First you point up to the sky.

KIDS: Up to the sky.

Mr. BLACK: Then you point down to the ground.

KIDS: Down to the ground.

Mr. BLACK: Then you do it again. Up to the sky.

KIDS: Up to the sky.

Mr. SCHULTZ: We were trying to do what had been predetermined is a kids show song.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. SCHULTZ: Or a kids show celebrity. We didn't want to pander to the kids or talk down to them. We felt like we could take a band that we loved and ask them to play a song that had lyrics that kids could understand and relate to and that kids would like this.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Yo Gabba!")

Kids: Up, down. Up, down. Up, down, Up, down.

Mr. BLACK AND KIDS: And roll. And back. And roll. And back. And up, down. Up, down. Up, down.

Mr. SCHULTZ: You know, these people that aren't traditionally kids-show-friendly, I think when they come to the table, they bring this sort of a fun awe. You know, I guess they're in awe of being a kid again. And we get to celebrate in this idea that we're being kids together, and we're just doing something that kids can relate to.

SIMON: We have a recording of The Roots performing "Lovely Love My Family."

(Soundbite of song, "Lovely Love My Family")

THE ROOTS (Hip-hop/neo soul band): (Singing) Sometimes when I am sitting by myself, those quiet moments when not with no one on, Im mesmerized by all the many good things in my life. I think about the time when I was younger and the older that I get the more that I feel wiser with the love of friends and family get stronger and it carries me on through.

SIMON: This is a reading I saw.

Mr. SCHULTZ: Yeah. We like it.

SIMON: When did you begin to understand that "Yo Gabba Gabba!" was catching on outside the demographic that youd kind of penciled in?

Mr. JACOBS: Thats interesting that you used The Roots right there because first season, you know, Elijah Wood was on the show and we had The Shin on the show and some people that we really respected. And one of the things we were trying for is to have The Roots be a part of the show. And when we actually got a hold of them this was during the second season. I was talking to Amir, the drummer, also known as Questlove, and he was like yeah, yeah, yeah. And he cut me off mid-sentence and he finished the description of the segment and he said Christian, we watch the show every day at our house.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JACOBS: We can't wait to be on the show. And I blown away because...

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. JACOBS: ...heres this band I've looked up to and Amir is an amazing drummer and I realized, wow, like the show has touched a lot of people and people that have touched us.

(Soundbite of song, A Space Adventure)

THE KILLERS (Rock band): (Singing) Come with us on a spaceship adventure flying through the galaxy. We'll travel far to see sparkling beauty.

SIMON: Scott Schultz and Christian Jacobs, they are co-creators of the Nick Jr. TV show "Yo Gabba Gabba!" speaking with us from NPR West.

Gentlemen, it's been a pleasure to talk with both of you. Thanks so much.

Mr. JACOBS: Thank you so much, Mr. Simon.

Mr. SCHULTZ: Yeah. Thanks for having us. Our pleasure.

(Soundbite of song, A Space Adventure)

THE KILLERS: (Singing) See the moon and see the stars. There's a planet so very far from home on a spaceship, spaceship adventure.

SIMON: And you can watch The Roots performance on Yo Gabba Gabba" at nprmusic.org.

And this is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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