First off, you may be surprised I am not getting on the soapbox about “Yo Gabba Gabba,” since my posts always seems to somehow mention this preschool phenomenon. I do love this show, and it is a personal fave. But Gustafer Yellowgold is an organic, indie creation that slowly snuck its way into our household.
The Gustafer Yellowgold character, music and live experience is brought to life by Morgan Taylor. Working on both the illustrations and music for this project, Taylor is quite the everyman. With a background that includes working with members of Wilco, Duncan Sheik, and Lisa Loeb, he is no fly-by-night musician.
His talent for illustrations and storytelling is also on full display on each of the three DVDs, “Have You Never Been Yellow?,” “Wide Wild World” and “Mellow Fever.” Instead of trying to explain the mythology of the cone-headed central character on my own, I will rip it right from his press materials:
Playtime with Slim the Eel
Gustafer is a friendly creature who came to Earth from the sun and has an unusual magnetism for making friends with some of Earth’s odder creatures. His best friend is Forrest Applecrumbie, the flightless Pterodactyl. Gustafer and Forrest built a small cottage-style home on the edge of an uncharted wooded area in Minnesota. He has a pet eel named Slim (short for Slimothy) and a pet dragon named Asparagus who lives in his fireplace and loves corn on the cob. Gustafer’s pals, the Mustard Slugs practice their math under the shrubbery.
Still not convinced to go his official site and order all three DVDs? Here are 5 more reasons:
1. This music project is a true original that cannot be compared to anything out there. You can use terms like “a cross between ‘Yellow Submarine’ and Dr. Seuss” (as the New York Times has), but nothing can describe the unique songs and the animated accompanying segments. Morgan Taylor’s cleverly crafted Gustafer mythology melds comedy with subtly-hinted-at real life lessons – all rolled up into sweet pop songs.
2. You will say “I would listen to the music without my kids” and mean it. I know that when I have pitched a kids’ music act to my friends I often utter that phrase, and the veracity of it is sometimes in question. But there is no doubt that with Gustafer, this is actually true. Mixing a few Gustafer songs into the iPod playlist is a perfect accompaniment to a Travis, Shins, Death Cab for Cutie or (fill in indie pop band here) song.
Belly Flopping Into Birthday Cake
3. It hasn’t been licensed yet. Sure, some dolls and clothing are for sale on the site, but you aren’t going to go into your local toystore and find a slew of Gustafer Band-Aids, bubblegum and building blocks. And while I personally would love a few more licensed items for my own collection, parents who like to avoid this will be happy.
4. His live shows are a special experience. Usually at intimate venues with like-minded people, Morgan Taylor brings the shows to life with tales of Gustafer’s orgin, his daily life and the story behind the songs. Plus, you are just as likely to find parents singing along as their kids and not ashamed in the slightest.
5. As mentioned earlier, Gustafer manages to sneak in a few lessons without spoon-feeding them or talking down to his audience. Quirky songs like “Jump on Cake” shares Gustafer’s love of belly flopping into pastries and cakes while subtly celebrating the value of doing what you love. “Green Heart” tells of Gustafer’s obsessions with a sparkly green heart and how it affects those around him. Morgan Taylor doesn’t shy away from using big words either. I am proud to have a three-year-old who can pronounce and define “oblivion” thanks to the song “I’m From the Sun.” The whimsical nonsense of Gustafer’s world is sure to inspire budding minds and show them is there is no limit to what you can dream up.
If you are still not sold, check out the clips below and you will be hard-pressed not to join Team Gustafer.
Some pics to share:
Wide-eyed and waiting for Morgan to do his thing in Portland, Maine
Yo Gabba Gabba gets lots of well-deserved props for the musical guests that perform on the show. Whether it’s indie soft-rockers The Shins telling kids “It’s Ok, Try Again” or electro-funk act Chromeo reminding us to keep our hands “Clean,” there is no shortage of cool ‘Super Music Friends’ on this show.
But, one of the main reasons I tune in is Gabba’s animated music segments. Unlike the Super Music Friends Show segment, which features the band members as guests, these segments pair cutting edge animated segments with original songs from some of the coolest indie acts out there. Usually completely forgoing the Gabba characters as well, these quick segments all feel like they are directly pulled from an animation festival.
Some of my personal favorites:
“Listen” – This chill out song from Paco mixes a message about listening to all the sounds around you with retro psychedelic animation from Lori D. Watch now online
Image from “Listen”
“Hey, Won’t Somebody Come and Play” – One of my Maia’s favorite songs from Yo Gabba Gabba, this cover song from The Little Ones features rainbow-colored animation with artist Jesse Ledoux‘s unique characters brought to life by frequent Gabba go-to PUNY. Watch now online
“Train” – This sunny, catchy tune from Tahiti 80 takes a little girl through 3-D, candy-colored wonderland and an adventure inside a dinosaur’s stomach. This animated piece from PandaPanther is probably my personal favorite. Watch now online.
Image from “Train”
“I Found Love” – This song from the Trembling Blue Stars is another sunshiny Gabba classic. The pink, red and green, colored animation from Bran Dougherty-Johnson will remind you of both the retro cartoons you used to catch on the Disney Channel in the 80′s (non-Mickey ones) as well as the coolest Valentine’s Day card you’ve ever gotten. Watch now online
Image from “I Found Love”
“Bedtime Lullaby” – Animation house Lippy takes this beautiful song from Mark Kozelek and immerses it into an equally beautiful animated segment. As a young mouse drifts off to sleep, he is lead into a colorful dream inspired by the mobile in his room. Watch now online
Image from “Bedtime Lullaby ”
“Come & Play With Me”- Another come-out-and play themed song, this time from The Clientele. This time the 2-D animation from Merijn Hos and Jurriaan Hos has a bunch of walking fruits and veggies playing on what looks like a psychedelic, 60′s-inspired alien planet. This is nothing you will ever see outside of a show like Yo Gabba Gabba and that is why I love it so.
Watch “Come & Play With Me” now!
Lucky visitors to the upcoming “Art of Yo Gabba Gabba!” exhibit at the Pink Hobo gallery in Minneapolis are sure to be treated to some of these videos, as well as behind-the-scenes details. Your jealous Boston friend looks forward to a full report!
We have two nightly, alternating bedtime traditions in our house.
Life’s a party in The Jimmies’ videos.
2. “Watching Music”
While the first in pretty self-explanatory, the latter may need some clarification.
Maia is a music-junkie, and enjoys anything to which she can sing, dance or rock out. Once upon a time, after streaming an episode of Caillou, we showed her a music video on YouTube and a nightly tradition was born.
“Watching Music” now consists of firing up the laptop and watching kindie-centric music videos available online. Alternatively, we have also ripped some of Maia’s favorite music DVDs onto an iPod for her to enjoy on shuffle mode. We call it her own little MTV, minus the bad reality shows.
Believe it or not, there is an ample amount of resources online for finding kid-targeted music videos. Here are a few ways to get your own kiddie music video network going in your house.
Jitterbug.tv – This online destination strictly shows music videos for kids. It is a great resource and one we have used often to find new artists and new videos.
GimmieJimmies.com (Video Page) - One can spend multiple nights just watching the videos on this site. The detail, artistry and sheer fun put into each video by this NYC-based band has to be seen to believe. There should be a kids category at the VMAs based on their videos alone.
“Jack’s Big Music Show” Music Videos – You are sure to chance upon one of the many music videos from this show on JitterBug or Zooglobble. However, this is a one-stop source for the music videos pulled from this show. (Maia’s favorite video, Lisa Loeb’s Jenny Jenkins, comes from this show.)
Xilisoft DVD Convertor Software – Taking some of Maia’s favorite music DVDs, we have used this software to rip individual files onto our iPod so we can also watch videos on the “big screen.”
Some of the ripped DVDs in our private iPod mix include:
For almost a decade, Portland-Oregon-based Captain Bogg & Salty have been creating their trademark pirate-themed rock for kids. A five-member band that includes talent from musical theater, sketch comedy, and children’s theater, their music has found a loyal following and their live shows have become legendary.
Captain Bogg and the gang are back in the spotlight thanks to the release of their latest “nautical pop” and “pirate rock” CD for the kiddies, “Emphatical Piratical.” Already a 2009 Parent’s Choice Recommended Award winner, this album is a must for your music library. Covers of classic songs like Disney’s “Never Smile at a Crocodile” are mixed with new tunes like the instant kindie-classic “Don’t Drink Sea Water.”
We discovered Captain Bogg & Salty on YouTube after seeing the two videos below. The live-action video for “Pieces of 8ight” is 4 minutes of kiddie-comedy gold, sure to get you up and dancing as well. The animated “Cat O’ Nine Tales” demands the production of a Captain Bogg & Salty TV pilot.