Imagination Movers relies on good, smart music to reach kids and adults
For many parents a big pet peeve is that some educational music insults the intelligences of their children. The songs are sung in goofy voices and condescend rather than lift up.
This is where the Emmy Award-winning group Imagination Movers differs from the pack.
Imagination Movers, which will end the Park City Institute’s Main Stage season when it plays two shows on Saturday at the Eccles Center, writes and performs rock songs that talk about bedtime fears and healthy eating in ways that even get parents to pump their fists or dance along, according to Rich Collins.
Collins, who co-founded Imagination Movers more than 10 years ago with Scott Durbin, Dave Poche and Scott "Smitty" Smith, took a break from washing laundry to speak with The Park Record about the upcoming show.
"It’s basically a rock concert," Collins explained. "We don’t have any back tracks or tapes to help us out. We have no singing characters with costumes. It’s just a rock band playing rock music and getting the audience involved.
"While we’re not the world’s most flashy musicians, what we have done over the past 10 years is whittle and carve away at our show so it’s now been reduced to the most crowd-pleasing and most [enjoyable] performance we can do," he said. "It’s designed to grab a 3-year-old as well as a 30-year-old dad. We want to get the whole family up and dancing."
In addition to the music, the band presents a segment called the Silly Spectacle that features flying toilet paper, giant balloons and a bunch of "crazy visuals," according to Collins.
"It’s a trip and a lot of fun," he said with a laugh.
The idea for Imagination Movers was to make smart music for children by adding the energy of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Beastie Boys, said Collins, who cited The Beatles, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke as his early musical influences.
"We brainstormed the idea for a TV show and we became an indie rock band playing shows for families here in New Orleans," he said. "Through momentum and word of mouth, we were able to get on the entertainment industry radar two years back."
That’s when the folks at Walt Disney Records and Disney Jr. channel took an interest.
"We ultimately made 75 TV episodes that were broadcast in more than 50 countries, and that obviously helped us turn our cool idea in New Orleans into a worldwide brand," said Collins, who also enjoys the music of Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber. "We’re proud of that, but in reality, we’re just guys who love to play live music and keep what we do relevant."
That philosophy trickled down to even simple word choices in the lyrics.
"For example, when we write the script for the TV show, we came up against the temptation to say ‘animal doctor’ instead of ‘veterinarian,’" Collins said. "We used ‘veterinarian’ because we needed to trust that the kids would be able to understand and keep up."
The songs were written about anything and nearly everything that pertained to children and parents.
"We were all fathers of young kids when we started and we were up to our elbows in the themes that were appropriate to make songs into," Collins said. "So, it was just us expressing our reality."
Still, the whole journey has been a learning process.
"We figured out things as we went along," Collins said. "We learned how to use a studio and how to build a song and things like that."
Throughout the process, Collins believed there was a certain innocence that kept the band grounded.
"Some of the earliest songs that we did were probably not the technically perfect songs, but are the ones that still resonate with people," he said. "So, there’s something to be said about that, I guess."
There was a period of time when things — mainly schedules — got crazy.
"We would film 13 hours a day for seven months and then we would take off on a tour," Collins said. "One of the biggest tours we did was something like 100 and something shows. Creatively, I enjoyed doing both."
These days the schedules are more reasonable because the band isn’t taping a TV show.
"We go out three to four days at a time, because we try to spend more time with our kids," Collins said.
However, a new chapter has begun for Imagination Movers.
"We’re in an exciting moment because we are now developing an animated series based on the Movers’ characters," Collins revealed. "It’s a fun and creative new endeavor with Nine Story Media Group out of Toronto. They are an animation company that provides shows to the networks."
Collins is looking forward to the Eccles Center show.
"I’ve never seen Park City and we’ve never performed in Salt Lake City, either," he said. "I do remember that we did a stop over in Utah when we were on a big bus tour and our bus driver needed to sleep. So we stopped in a tiny town in the Utah mountains. It was gorgeous. I don’t think it was Park City. So, I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like."
The Park City Institute will wrap its Main Stage season with Imagination Movers at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., on Saturday, April 16, at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tickets range from $15 to $30 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.ecclescenter.org .
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The Utah Conservatory is recruiting singers to perform with the Distinguished Concerts International New York in February at Carnegie Hall.