It’s the Electric (boogie woogie woogie woogie) Company! A few nights ago I went to an ASIFA-East panel starring some producers, writers, and animators of this funky new revival. I… am too young to have been emotionally impacted by the original Electric Co, but not so many many other people. Let’s see if I learned anything from them:
The original TV show aired from 1971-1977 and had over 700 episodes. They were a sketch comedy show for kids starring the talents of Joan Rivers, and the Hubleys (a cute animator couple who inspired John Canemaker) among others. It was a “melange groove tune” for “people who like to scratch things.” That is “it’s a TV show not for kids, but for little people,” says Karen Fowler the executive producer. She is a very LOUD happy person who wanted to combine pop culture, righteous music, comedy and ‘the freedom to make mistakes’ to recreate this show. PBS Kids was lucky to receive a “Ready to Learn” grant to kick off the business, but ‘favors’ still had to be called in to get over 80 different animations done cheaply for the first season. On top of new animated segments, and a new narrative storyline, a special emphasis is placed on vocabulary skills. Hear hear.
Pat Smith was wrangled to do some shorts (he has awesome ones about drinking potions and ripping people OUT of your throat) but for some reason didn’t test well with kids and this apparently is enough to get him replaced. The new animation consists of typical-movie-monsters with ethnic accents, and some Reggae accented guy who is supposed to be teaching young kids how to speak English properly. Le sigh. As for the narrative stories, the 4 ’superheroes’ are as WonderBread as the cast of Barney, but the ‘prankster’ is everyone’s favorite crazy friend from prep school! She was very exciting, and the animation worked into live action footage only helped her glow.
A last note about ASIFA East… which is an animation club for those who might not know. It is always nice to see cute people secretly sketching others, but I am sad that I never see any NYU fellows. And finally… despite the accusations of certain unshaven hippies in the audience, The Electric Co is a show that embraces all cultures and ethnicities, even IF everyone on the panel is white. Linda Siminsky, exec producer, went on to say that some parts of middle America were worried it was ‘too urban’ (ha!) The point is, when you teach kids how to read and what “terrarium” means, they won’t grow up to be bigoted.