‘Yo Gabba Gabba’ traces its origins to Barney, MTV
BY TRICIA DesPRES January 16, 2013 5:52PM
Brobee, Foofa, Toodee, Muno, and Plex want fans to jump, shake and shimmy the sillies out at “Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE!: Get the Sillies Out!”
YO GABBA GABBA LIVE!
♦ 2 and 5 p.m. Jan. 19-20
♦ Akoo Theatre at Rosemont, 5400 N. River Road, Rosemont
♦ Tickets, $25-$75
♦ (800) 745-3000;
Updated: January 17, 2013 7:42PM
Californian Christian Jacobs had nothing against the purple dinosaur. It was a harmless character his oldest daughter was watching on television 10 years ago . . . and it kept her happy.
It just wasn’t making Daddy very happy.
“I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus,” chuckles the father of four and the co-creator of the award winning preschool show “Yo Gabba Gabba!” “It just seemed that there were a lot of shows on television at the time that was made by the grandparents of preschool kids. They weren’t connecting with the kids and they certainly weren’t connecting with us as the parents. There was no straying from the formula of these preschool shows. They all seemed so sterilized and homogenized . . . and those were the good ones.”
So Jacobs joined forces with fellow music lover and the eventual co-creator of “Yo Gabba Gabba!,” Scott Schultz, to do a little experiment.
“My daughter would be playing with her Little Ponie and I would be channel surfing,” recalls Jacobs. “Whenever I would land on MTV and the beat of the music would start, my daughter would stop and look up. Obviously, I would have to change the channel because what they were showing was inappropriate for a young child, but it was one of those moments when everything crashed together. It made us wonder what would happen if we put that kind of music and appropriate it for kids. Make it not be so much about ‘up in the club,’ but more about ‘up in the clubhouse’. That’s when we realized we were on to something.”
After much research and production, Jacobs and Schultz developed the pilot for “Yo Gabba Gabba!,” virtually creating an online frenzy when released.
“I’m fairly sure we were the first preschool show that was basically mined off the Internet,” says Jacobs. The show found a home and an almost instant fan base on Nick Jr. in 2007, and soon after, Time magazine named “Yo Gabba Gabba!” one of the Top Ten new television series. These days, the successful brand is launching everything from beverages to toys to sportswear.
“Kids are fun and unpredictable and funky,” says Jacobs. “We basically created a show that mirrored the strange world kids are discovering as they grow. And throwing some old school hip-hop music was vital.”
And nothing says old school hip-hop more than the legendary Biz Markie, who plays a recurring role on the show.
“I was supposed to film the pilot and do the ‘Dancey Dance’ portion of the show, but my back was hurting,” laughs Markie. “That’s when I said we should do ‘Biz’s Beat of the Day.’”
Markie is also featured in the new livestage tour, “Yo Gabba Gabba! LIVE! : Get the Sillies Out!,” coming to Akoo Theatre at Rosemont Jan. 19-20, alongside characters such as DJ Lance Rock, Muno, Foofa, Brobee, Toodee, and Plex.
“Having a live show was really a natural progression,” explains Jacobs. “We definitely customize the shows and tailor it [them] to the town we are playing in. Maybe Rahm Emanuel can come out and do a happy dance.”
Jacobs says Chicago is by far one of his favorite towns to bring the show.
“DJ Lance and I like to go to the Strange Cargo shop across from Wrigley Field,” he concludes. “DJ Lance knows where all of the cool record stores are around town, so we definitely make it somewhat of a shopping day. There is just a really cool vibe in Chicago that, of course, we love.”
Tricia Despres is a local free-lance writer.