Call Us

(415) 843-4473

Call Us

(415) 843-4473

Imagination Movers’ first 20 years: Disney show, long tours, an arrest at a video shoot | Keith Spera

Children’s music quartet the Imagination Movers is not particularly gangsta. In fact, a tour bus driver named Zeus, whose previous clients included Snoop Dogg, pronounced the Movers “the most boring band in the world” for their lack of on-the-road debauchery.

But someone did get arrested at a long-ago Imagination Movers video shoot. 

In the early 2000s, the Louisiana Children’s Museum, which was still in the Warehouse District at the time, allowed the nascent Movers to use the museum for a late-night filming session.

After the shoot wrapped around 2 a.m., a passing police officer spotted the Movers, in their signature blue jumpsuits, hauling props out of the museum and loading them into the trunk of a car.

“I’m sure it looked fishy,” Mover Scott Durbin said recently. “There were lots of red flags.”

The cop stopped and interrogated everyone. In what later turned out to be a case of mistaken identity and mishandled paperwork, the video’s director was handcuffed and arrested.

As Durbin recalled, “we watched him drive away in the back of a police car, slack-jawed.”

That miscue aside, the Louisiana’s Children Museum and the Imagination Movers have enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial shared history.

The Imagination Movers perform at the Gentilly Stage during the 2018 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Sunday, April 29, 2018. Advocate staff photo by LESLIE GAMBONI

That history continues Saturday when the four primary Movers – Durbin, Dave Poche, Scott “Smitty” Smith and Rich Collins – plus drummer “Farmer” Kyle Melancon perform outside at the Louisiana Children’s Museum, which is now in City Park.

The Movers’ first New Orleans show since the start of the pandemic kicks off the museum’s summer season as well as the band’s 20th anniversary year. Festivities – “play, summer games and activities, and cool treats” – start at 9:30 a.m.; the Movers are scheduled to perform at 1 p.m. Tickets for anyone 12 months and older are $6 for museum members, $20 for nonmembers.

The Louisiana Children’s Museum’s early support provided crucial “proof of concept” for the Movers, Durbin said. “We aligned with the museum’s vision to uplift and celebrate families and children.

“And here we are circling back to celebrate 20 years with them.”

Catching a break from Elmo

Collins, Durbin, Poche and Smith, friends and neighbors in Lakeview, formed the Movers in 2003 to inspire creativity in kids with songs that parents could also enjoy. Paying their dues, they sang about healthy snacks and taking your medicine at backyard birthday parties.

In an early break, the Louisiana Children’s Museum booked the Movers as the opening act for “Sesame Street” Muppet Elmo’s keynote address at a conference for children’s museum administrators. That exposure led to the Movers being invited to perform at museums across the country.

The Movers eventually sold tens of thousands of their independently-released, award-winning CDs and DVDs. Between 2008 and 2013, Disney Junior aired three seasons of the self-titled “Imagination Movers” live-action show. In each episode, taped at a soundstage in Harahan, the Movers confronted and resolved “idea emergencies” inside their Idea Warehouse. The slapstick humor paused long enough for the Movers to perform original songs they wrote specifically for each episode.

The show was translated into more than 20 languages and earned the Movers an international following. They toured the globe from Dubai to the White House, playing to over 1 million fans and filling theater-sized venues as Walt Disney Records released Movers albums.

Scott Durbin of the Imagination Movers walks up to fans to greet them during the 2018 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Sunday, April 29, 2018. Advocate staff photo by LESLIE GAMBONI

Disney’s decision not to produce a fourth season of the show could have doomed the Movers. But Collins, Poche, Durbin and Smith have found ways to keep going. They crowd-funded the recording costs of their “Licensed to Move” and “10-4” albums, as well as a five-song 2021 EP, “Happy To Be Here.”

They recently raised $40,000 through the crowd-sourcing platform Indiegogo to finance their next album and more music videos. The plan is to release the album of new songs, as well as a compilation of other bands covering Movers songs, during the band’s 20th anniversary year.

“We still have people who are passionate about what we do,” Durbin said. “We’re so fortunate to be able to continue to do it.”

From Alaska to Hawaii

They still travel for concerts. Armed Forces Entertainment, the Department of Defense agency that provides entertainment for troops at bases around the world, recently booked the Movers for eight shows in Alaska and Hawaii. “That was an interesting trip to pack for,” Durbin noted.

Meanwhile, all four Movers have returned to the day jobs they had before the Disney deal. “Everything goes full circle,” Durbin said. “We started off with side gigs and we’re back in the same side gigs.”

Smith is a firefighter. Poche is an architect. Collins is a writer/editor who also performs and records as a solo artist; he had a solo gig at the 2022 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Durbin is an assistant professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and coordinator of the university’s music business program. His real-world music business experience – touring, releasing and marketing music, lawsuits with ex-managers, etc. – informs his discussions with students.

The music business is in constant flux, so the Movers continue to adjust. They are in the process of consolidating their back catalog. The rights to the Movers’ first three albums – “Good Ideas,” “Calling All Movers” and “Eight Feet” – recently reverted back to the band from Disney.

Scott Durbin of the Imagination Movers performs in the crowd during the 2018 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Sunday, April 29, 2018. Advocate staff photo by LESLIE GAMBONI

They hope to launch new projects with other partners, as they, not Disney, own much of the intellectual property associated with the band, including the Imagination Movers name and the distinctive blue coveralls.

They also own the name of Warehouse Mouse, their puppet sidekick, but Disney owns the image of the Mouse that appeared on the show. Thus, they could bring back Warehouse Mouse for a Movers movie, but he’d have to look different than he did in the Disney Junior show.

The 76 episodes are available again on the streaming service Disney+. Movers songs – they’ve written more than 250 original compositions – continue to populate the playlist of SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live.

So new generations of fans are still discovering the Movers, real-life humans in a kids’ entertainment universe dominated by puppets and cartoons.

And, as evidenced by the Movers’ performance at the 2019 Austin City Limits Festival in Texas, nostalgic college- and high school-age fans who first cheered the Movers as kids still come out to see them.

“It’s crazy to see that span of fans,” Durbin said. “That it’s been 20 years and we’re still going says something about what we’re doing. We wanted to do it the right way and for the right reasons. Our mission has always been consistent.

“We climbed the mountain and we’re on the other side. But we’re still being creative, and people still respond to it.”

Source link