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Imagination Movers make kids' music hip

The Imagination Movers want to make one thing clear: They aren't the Wiggles.

Like the Australian pre-school band, they are a four-man group with a TV show for kids on the Disney Channel, but the similarities end there.

Put on the latest CD, Juice Box Heroes, and you'll hear songs delivered in a style that has been compared to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Barenaked Ladies, Sugar Ray, the Beastie Boys, even Aerosmith. One song, Farm, includes a line that sounds remarkably similar to the tune of the 1984 dance hit The Roof is on Fire. Only these lyrics are G-rated.

"It's not baby music," said Rich Collins, a guitarist and player of the group's signature trash can drums. "That's what's really neat about it."

The foursome were neighbors and formed the band in their hometown of New Orleans in 2003. Each had "respectable" day jobs. Collins was a journalist; Dave Poche was an architect who helped design the New Orleans Saints practice facilities and also designed various New Orleans-based banks, offices and hotels. He most recently worked on several designs that are part of the post-Hurricane Katrina rebuild efforts. Scott Durbin, who is credited as the visionary who first imagined the Movers, taught elementary school. Scott "Smitty" Smith worked as a firefighter who also was part of the Katrina search and rescue effort.

All but Smitty lost their homes in Katrina. The storm flooded the group's studio and destroyed its instruments and equipment.

The experience provided inspiration for We've Got Each Other, a song about a family evacuating before a storm that is sure to help the band connect with Florida audiences.

"Smitty wrote that song when he was imagining what we were going through with our little ones," said Collins.

All members except Smitty have kids — Collins and his wife have five — so they never lack for material or honest feedback.

Topics include conquering bedtime fears, messy rooms, healthy snacks, good manners, the first day of school.

Members conceived the group with a television show in mind so when they got Disney's attention, the rest was easy.

"We were having kids around the same time, and we saw all the shows out there and thought wouldn't it be cool to have music combined with a live action show," Collins said. The guys, who admit to being "late 30s," grew up with The Electric Company and campy live action shows such as Sid and Marty Krofft's Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.

The goal was a show with a rock and roll edge and a comic sensibility in the tradition of the Monkees.

But first they had to get on the local radar. That meant birthday parties and festivals, any gig they could get.

"There were places where we had to pick up dog poop before we had to play," Collins recalled.

For years they handed out self-produced CDs to family and friends.

The group soon got support from the New Orleans community.

"It's a very creative, artistic, large small town where everybody knows each other," Poche said. "A lot of people confirmed that what we were doing was meaningful."

Finally the band got the attention of Disney execs, who signed them to a series that debuted in September. The Imagination Movers features the band as blue coverall-clad brainstormers who solve "idea emergencies" in their Idea Warehouse.

The show, recently renewed for a second season, uses songs, stories and skits to inspire kids to exercise both body and brain.

"We wanted to encourage creativity and physical fitness, not just being a couch potato," Collins said.

The show airs at 10 a.m. daily on the Disney Channel.

Band members say they try to place healthy limits on their own kids' television.

"During the week, between school and homework and basketball and dance, there's not a lot of time for TV," said Poche, a father of two. "We're selective. It's not something you leave them in front of by themselves."

Lisa Buie can be reached at buie@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4606.

Imagination Movers

The group performs at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater. Tickets are $39, $29, and $21 each; lap passes available upon request only for infants younger than 1 year. www.rutheckerdhall.com or (727) 971-7060

Imagination Movers make kids' music hip 01/02/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 2, 2009 10:11am]

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