Take The Wiggles out of those rainbow coloured shirts singing cute songs about fruit salad, and replace them with four guys wearing blue jumpsuits rocking to Red Hot Chili Peppers/New Orleans-style rock, and you get the Imagination Movers.
Like the Aussie entertainers, The Imagination Movers have their own kids’ TV show, on Disney Junior, and like The Wiggles, they sing songs that appeal to the younger set, but that’s where the comparison ends.
These guys, who reference Revenge of the Nerds and play music that a dad in his Mötley Crüe T-shirt can enjoy, bring their Rock-O-Matic tour to the Vernon Performing Arts Centre for two shows Thursday.
It was a random conversation between four New Orleans residents, Rich Collins, Scott Durbin, Dave Poche and Scott “Smitty” Smith, that started it all.
As friends who bonded over watching Saints football games and as fathers of young children at the time, some of The Movers had previously performed in bands, but had taken on day jobs to help raise their families.
“We were at a birthday party for Scott’s son, and we thought wouldn’t it be cool to combine the Red Hot Chili Peppers with Mr. Rogers,” said Collins, a multi-instrumentalist who is originally from the East Coast and has lived in the Big Easy, where his wife is from, since the early ‘90s.
They now have five kids.
“I started songwriting when I came home from work and we started dreaming up the show,” said Collins. “It happened by degrees. We were all over 30 at the time. I worked at a newspaper, so I had the skill sets and knew the networking side of things and had the business abilities to move it forward.”
The Movers became a reality 10 years ago, but then the worst disaster to ever hit New Orleans came in 2005. That’s when the levees broke from Hurricane Katrina.
“To be honest Katrina freed us up to make the TV show. Scott (Durbin), Dave and I had our houses destroyed. Everything was suspended. We had no jobs to report to. It was life interrupted,” said Collins, adding that Smith was the exception as he had to report to his day job as a firefighter and first responder.
Already in negotiations with Disney, The Movers focused their energy on developing the show.
“If we had any doubts, they all disappeared after Katrina, and Disney was committed… It was like somebody gets flooded; let’s take the situation and shake it up.”
Since then, the group has filmed 75 episodes of its now hit music-and-comedy series for Disney Junior. The show now airs in more than 55 countries and territories, in 12 languages.
In addition, The Movers have also sold roughly 250,000 CDs and DVDs to date and won a 2009 Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding original song in the children’s show/animation category. They have performed twice at the White House as well as on Good Morning America, Live With Regis and Kelly, and The View.
“We hope the show goes on for another 20 years,” said Collins, adding he and the fellow Movers wouldn’t be adverse to filming a live action feature film next. “These are all things we have been dreaming of. We want to ride making music as long as possible.”
And that includes performing live. The Rock-O-Matic North American tour, which coincides with the Movers’ latest album of the same name, follows the group’s 2011 In a Big Warehouse tour, which attracted 150,000 fans and was one of Pollstar magazine’s top 100 tours of the year.
For his part, Collins is happy to head back on the road with his bandmates, after playing a small tour last month on the release of his solo album.
“I went from playing to 37 people on my solo concert to 2,000 the next day with The Movers,” he laughed, saying things have really changed from those early days 10 years ago.
“We started off slow with some technical problems. Basically we had three guitars not working. Not having all your instruments on would probably make you fall apart, but we laugh it off and move on. It’s half playing songs, and half being our goofy selves.”
And if that means transcending the genre of what a typical kids’ entertainer does, appealing to both the dad in the Beastie Boys T-shirt as well as little Johnny or Susie, then that’s just fine with The Movers.
“A big part of how we relate is that we are real dads with real kids, and if people want to spend that time with us and feel the passion translate, then we’ve done our jobs,” said Collins. “Kids don’t fake smiles.”
The Imagination Movers perform at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre for two shows, Thursday at 4 and 6:30 p.m. Regular seats are $35, while the Mini-Movers VIP package ($118.50) includes premium seating and a chance to meet The Movers. Both are available at the Ticket Seller box office, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.