I rarely stray from the subject of kids music here at Zooglobble, so when I do, you can rest assured it's with good reason. This is good reason. Before it was an acclaimed iPad app (or at least simultaneously), The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore was also a short animated film co-directed by author William Joyce (The Guardians of Childhood series and much more) and Brandon Oldenburg. To say too much would ruin the joy that's found within the roughly fifteen-minute movie, but it celebrates stories and books and movies and includes both goofy slapstick and tugged heartstrings. I'm not surprised that it picked up an Academy Award nomination for Animated Short Film. It is worthy of Pixar's short film work, which is no small praise from these quarters. I've embedded it below, but it would be doing a disservice to the movie if you didn't go here and watch it full screen, or, even better, watch on your TV via Roku or Apple TV.
I'm posting this video from Music in Motion, the latest album from Groove Kid Nation (the creation of L.A. musician Rodney Lee) mostly for one reason: the stinky face. The animation's OK (a bit static, but it'll do in a pinch), and the groove on this retelling of the story of Humpty Dumpty is pretty funky, but, like I said, it's all about the stinky face. How often do you get to learn about the stinky face in a musically-appropriate manner? Groove Kid Nation - "Humpty Dumpty" [YouTube]
A while back the Official Wife of Zooglobble brought this book home from her preschool classroom. It's called What Instrument Is This?, and as you might deduce from the title, its structure is a series of questions encouraging the elementary-school-aged reader to guess the name of an instrument. Now, given that the book is 20 years old, and some of the pictures inside appear to be at least twice that, one could be forgiven for dismissing the book. But it's a totally charming book, probably the best "introduction to instruments" book I've ever seen. Author Rosemarie Hausherr organizes the instruments by instrument group (winds, strings, keyboard, and percussion), and features many different types of pictures and settings. There's just enough detail to make it interesting without overwhelming -- the recorder is a long, hollow piece of wood with eight holes, played by blowing into the whistle mouthpiece, with a "warm and cheerful sound." While the text style and the design of the book remain remarkably consistent throughout (and the subtle logos representing each of the four instrument groups would look modern today), that's offset by the diversity of musical and photographic styles and subjects. Classical music, sure, but bagpipes? CBGB (yes, that CBGB) is thanked in the credits, so I can only assume the picture for the electric guitar (strings section) is from a gig there. The kids in the pictures reflect a fairly diverse crowd, spanning many races and featuring more than one child with disabilities playing (or experimenting with) instruments. It's nothing fancy, but it's great at keeping kids interested without trying too hard to do so. The book appears to be long out of print, but Amazon has several copies for little more than the cost of shipping and I'm sure it's available elsewhere. (That's an Amazon affiliate link, by the way.) What Instrument Is This? is a great book for preschool and elementary school classrooms, as well as families looking to introduce a visual element of music into their homes. Definitely recommended.
Take one longtime fan of Twin Cities musician Jeremy Messersmith, mix in a video featuring kids having a snowball fight, and what you get is a "Monday Morning Smile." The video's for "Violet," one of several great tracks off his great 2010 album The Reluctant Graveyard. And, yeah, a snowball fight is actually kinda thematically appropriate. Keep the video in mind for this year's "Storm of the Century." Jeremy Messersmith - "Violet" [Vimeo]
There's a reason this video had over 300,000 views within 48 hours of its release a couple weeks ago: it's enchanting. Sean and Lisa Ohlenkamp (and their friends) make a Toronto bookstore come to life using stop-motion animation. Regardless of whether you're pro- or anti-Kindle (and I think you can guess on which of the debate this video would side), the word "magical" isn't too much of a stretch to describe this. The Joy of Books [YouTube]
Rick Dobbis' resume is a lengthy one, with many stops in the music and record business, including a stint as president of Sony Music International. His latest effort targets a younger audience than one he's spent much of his career focusing on -- preschoolers and elementary school-aged kids. Along with business partner Richard Ellis (that's him on the right, Dobbis on the left), myKaZootv and myKaZoo Music are attempting to bring a wide variety of music videos in one centralized (and curated) place as well as seeing if the idea of a kids' record label can be saved. Their label's first release, Farmer Jason's Nature Jams, comes out February 7, and the myKaZoo website will be up and running this month. They've got ambitious plans in a field that has seen many ambitious plans -- and seen many of those fail. Dobbins chatted with me this week about his introduction to kids music, why he thinks myKaZoo is good for the genre and not just his artists, and one inspiration for the site's name. Zooglobble: What are your earliest musical memories? Rick Dobbis: I grew up with a sister six years older than me. She was a huge, huge rock 'n' roll fan. This was the early '50s, so folks like Elvis Presley, Connie Francis. My sister was a huge Connie Francis fan -- my father once brought her an autographed picture of Francis and she just about died. My father... the name "myKaZoo" isn't specifically named for my father, but he was an amateur kazoo player. He opened for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at an annual show three years in a row. My first kids record was the theme from Davy Crockett. My first album was "A Taste of Honey" by Jimmy Rodgers. How did you get into kids music? Well, Rick Chertoff, who's a distinguished producer, he and his wife and others formed Dream Jam Productions to do stuff related to music and movement. It'd primarily been focused on books. We were sitting talking one day, and we asked, "why don't we create our own music -- good music that shares the values we're trying to convey?" That struck a chord with me, so I worked with them and that's when the Dream Jam Band came into being. I worked with every genre over my career, and internationally at a particularly good point, a great time to open my mind. It was new, and new is healthy. There's some wonderfully creative content in the genre. It's also under-resourced and underrepresented in the marketplace.