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Monster mash-ups

Nick Jr.'s wacky new TV show ratchets up the musical firepower.

Photo by Ben Clark / Nick Junior

Yo! Man DJ Lance Rock with buddies Muno, Foofa, Plex, Brobee and Toodee.

Photo by Ben Clark / Nick Junior

When the frontman for cult rock band the Aquabats (whose members don sky-blue unitards and act like renegade superheroes) and the lead singer of electronica group Majestic got together to create a program for Nick Jr., their collaboration resulted in a wildly imaginative half-hour series for three- to five-year-olds. Yo Gabba Gabba!, an amalgam of original tunes and low-tech animation airing on the cable network best known for animals rescuing other animals, evinces an idiosyncratic throwback vibe. “There was a lot more live-action going on in the ’70s than there is now, and we wanted to tip our hats to the series we grew up watching,” says program cocreator Christian Jacobs, “like Sid and Marty Krofft’s stuff, The Electric Company and even Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

Though the musicians had spent years developing children’s programming at Fox, Jacobs and partner Scott Schultz found that their interest in creating a show for preschoolers soared when they became dads themselves. The show’s gibberish title came about when “we looked into the first sounds that babies make,” Jacobs recalls. “Gabba gabba is hooky; it’s kind of like abracadabra.”

The series’ cast of creatures—which includes shaggy life-size monster puppets and a boxy robot—enact loopy musical skits about eating your veggies, sharing and not biting other kids. The producers liken the creative process for YGG! segments to an ongoing jam session. “Christian and I showed up with ideas, our musician friends came with beats, and we hashed them out,” says Schultz. The collaborations yielded more than 100 songs—including the especially catchy “Party in My Tummy”—that cross genres ranging from reggae to new wave.

Leading little viewers through this musical landscape is host DJ Lance Rock (real name: Lance Robertson). While deejaying at a radio station, Robertson came across a track by Schultz’s band, Majestic. He liked the song so much that he contacted Schultz, and they eventually played a few shows together. When Schultz and Jacobs began their search for a host, they immediately thought of Robertson. “I don’t have kids or watch kids’ shows,” admits the DJ. “But I keep it playful, and the children watching at home seem to like me.”

Adults tuning in with their little ones will get their own kicks from the guests, musical and otherwise, who frequent Yo Gabba Gabba!’s set. Visitors include hip-hop legend Biz Markie, actor Elijah Wood (who, in an inspired performance, teaches kids to dance like a puppetmaster), skateboard legend Tony Hawk and alt-indie darlings the Shins. Even the cocreators are surprised by the A-list guests who have signed on for the first season. “Anyone who agrees to be on the show wants to be a kid again,” says Jacobs. “We see the light in their eyes when they come on set.”

Yo Gabba Gabba! premiered on Aug 20. Check local listings for showtimes.

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