imagination movers cast

Unleashing Their Inner Children to Rock the World
March 17, 2017 – 02:03 pm
Disney Channel s

Set in an “idea warehouse, ” the show was inspired by fond memories of Captain Kangaroo and Mister Rogers and a realization that there were no longer many male role models among preschool television offerings, said Mr. Durbin, 38. “The world of children’s programming is dominated by animation or puppets, ” he said.

Except for a puppet mouse, the “Imagination Movers” universe is all adults, although the Movers themselves “are very kidlike, ” said Mr. Collins, 39.

Indeed, as the Movers and supporting cast members puzzle out solutions to practical and fantastical challenges like how to move a giant pumpkin or stop a sneezing attack, they exude little of the Zen-like calm of Mister Rogers; the effect is closer to that of the Monkees as they zoom from song to song in their blue coveralls.

Many preschool shows promote problem-solving, but “Imagination Movers” takes a broader approach to the concept, said Nancy Kanter, senior vice president of Playhouse Disney Worldwide. “The way to get to the right answer is by putting lots of different ideas on the table, but even kids seem to be sometimes inhibited by that, ” she said, because children worry about looking silly.

The Imagination Movers, from left: Scott Durbin, Rich Collins, Dave Poche and Scott Smith.
Steven Teagle/Disney Channel

At the time they conceived of the show, the four men were working variously as an elementary school teacher, firefighter, architect and journalist; two had played in bands, and one did stand-up comedy. Mr. Durbin, the teacher, encouraged by a contact at the local PBS station, proposed a show to the close-knit group of friends, who lived within blocks of one another.

They began meeting at Mr. Poche’s house after their children went to bed (they now have nine children among them, from 3 months to 9 years old; only Mr. Smith, 39, is childless) and quickly settled on becoming a band first, Mr. Collins said. They worked their way up from local birthday parties to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Television was slower to come together; the PBS station, Mr. Durbin said, didn’t have the money. Undaunted, they made three CDs and a DVD on their own.

A DVD made its way to Disney, and Ms. Kanter flew to the jazz festival in 2005 to see them play in the children’s tent. (In recent years they have moved to the main stage. On Sunday they will play the national anthem at the New Orleans Saints’ first home game of the season.)

“I thought what distinguished them was that they were really genuine in wanting to make music for kids that parents could listen to, ” Ms. Kanter said. “It wasn’t about being rock stars who had adult careers that had faded.” With some bands, she added, “I get why the parents like them, but I sometimes don’t get why kids would like them.”

Although the show barely refers to New Orleans, the Movers felt strongly about keeping production in the city, which became a challenge after Hurricane Katrina (in which three of them lost homes). When production began in 2007, construction supplies had to be shipped from neighboring states, said Skot Bright, an executive producer of the show and a partner in Penn/Bright. The extra costs were offset by Louisiana tax credits, and the show benefited from unusual dedication from the crew, Mr. Bright said.

Creatively, the floods proved to be a turning point, Mr. Collins said. He likened the aftermath of the storm to “hitting the reset button” as they rebuilt their lives. “At that moment we had a choice to make: play it safe, or everybody dive in headfirst.”

Mr. Poche, 41, added: “Carpe diem. You don’t know what tomorrow brings. So follow your dream and take the risk.”

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