Yo Gabba Gabba!: Music Makes Me Move
by Jef Burnham
Now available on DVD from Nickelodeon.
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This most recent home video release of Yo Gabba Gabba collects four episodes of Nick Jr.’s highly-imaginative and educational series that, unlike many of its contemporaries, the whole family can enjoy. The motif linking these four episodes (albeit a motif that runs through all of Yo Gabba Gabba) is music and movement. What’s impressive about this particular release of the series is that the episodes, as included, deliver something resembling a story arc, or at least a cohesive thematic throughline. Thus, it is perhaps MORE useful as a supplemental educational tool than previous releases of the series.
In “Band,” DJ Lance Rock and the gang form a band. The primary foci of this episode are teamwork and the idea that patience and practice integral to improvement. These themes act as a throughline throughout. Following this up in “Move,” Ricky Fitness, drummer for the Aquabats, gives a demonstration of the drums, much as the toys had in the previous episode, and Tony Hawk demonstrates skateboarding. Both segments emphasize the carried-over theme of patience and practice. In addition to a number of segments revolved around movement, there is a cartoon about the importance of eyeglasses. This cartoon acts as a bridge into the third episode, “Differences.” In this episode, Muno discovers that he needs glasses, which is the catalyst for an entire episode revolving around the need for us to accept one another despite our differences. Reiterating this theme and harkening back to one of the central points of the first episode in the set, “Train” shows children how, once we’ve accepted the differences of those around us, we can work together to create some incredible things, such and DJ Lance and friends’ patchwork train.
As usual, Yo Gabba Gabba boasts a number of special celebrity guest stars. In addition to Tony Hawk and Ricky Fitness, Lalia Ali, Lady Tigra, I’m From Barcelona, and, of course, Biz Markie, drop in for a visit. But there are also the compulsory child guest stars, who adorably dance at periodic intervals throughout the episode. In addition, each episode contains at least one animated sequence, each done in a different style for greater variety.
I am a huge supporter of Yo Gabba Gabba. The writers never talk down to or lecture children, which is important. Rather, lessons are passively taught through the onscreen characters’ interactions with one another so that the children viewing at home learn as DJ Lance’s friends do. To emphasize these points, the lessons are reiterated in simple, catchy, necessarily repetitive songs. Additionally, the series encourages active participation from the home audience in the form of dances and pseudo-sing-alongs. End-of-episode dance recaps solidify the episodes’ content in the form of a remixed compilation of all the songs sung therein. But the greatest selling point of Yo Gabba Gabba is that, as children should always watch television with the guidance of an adult, the series’ charm, musicality, and excellent array of celebrity guests make the series palatable for adults as well as children.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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