Every being strives after pleasure, and it is in pleasure that happiness consists.
There's a party in my tummy!
(So yummy! So yummy!)
Carrots in my tummy!
-- Brobee the green monster
I see a lot of TV animation for kids. Sounds pretty enviable, doesn’t it? Well, it is when you stumble upon godsends like the shows Yo Gabba Gabba or Jack’s Big Music Show (okay, Jack is only animation in spirit). Otherwise, it’s a pretty hellish experience being forced to hear god-awful music and watch screaming adult-voiced kids, bad animation, idiotic storylines, and annoying dialogue, writing, and plots that read like they’re were made by a factory of Ned Flanders clones. Trifles, “that are nothing at all, yet a nothing that’s everything.” They lack an “overflowing abundance, that je ne sais quoi which might even be the soul.”
Yo Gabba Gabba is something completely different. It’s a fresh and inspired crash of generations and cultures that fuses retro sensibilities, dance culture and, incredibly, fun. Not since Pee Wee’s Playhouse has there been a show that is so cool and fun and different that it appeals to both adults and children. Yo Gabba Gabba also has elements of vintage Sesame Street, U.P.A., and Electric Company. Viewers are approached as though they have minds. They are allowed to engage on their own terms with the show’s various segments.
Moderated by a bright orange attired and wigged DJ name Lance, Gabba (a nod to The Ramones) is like taking ecstasy and going to a rave (something I never did. Too much happiness scared me). Along the way you meet a quartet of friendly monsters, learn to draw from a guy from the new wave band Devo, do some dancing with Elijah Wood and other kids, watch some strikingly original animation (done by the likes of Joel Trussell, Nick Cross and other indies). In short, Gabba is about joy. Sure, there are lessons learned about life, but they are not hammered into the child (or parent). The characters don’t shout at you like you’re an idiot. The obnoxiousness of so much of kids’ TV is nowhere to be found in this paradise.
As there was with Pee Wee, there’s something refreshingly naïve and innocent about Gabba and that’s why it’s so successful. It’s not consciously trying to be hip. It’s just made by people who are having fun and making things they enjoy and love. And that’s the THING. You watch this show and realize what a fucking joy it is to be alive, especially if you're a kid. That’s precisely why adults love the show too. It transports us back to a pretty fantastic time when every day was an adventure of imagination, creativity and play. Like Jack’s Big Music Show (any show that heavily references the Jack Benny show is pretty fuckin neato Jackson), Yo Gabba Gabba took me out of my seat. The music, stories and characters were alive and fun. It’s like hearing a rocking sermon from the Rev. Charlie Jackson, who after watching Gabba said: "Well if you need it, Gabba’s got it. It’s got everything thing you need. It’s got everything a poor man need."
The crappy state of most kids’ TV animation makes you wonder if the creators were ever children. Maybe they had miserable childhoods and decided to have revenge on humanity by creating a steady stream of puerile, droning and agonizing screams and visions that feel more like a sampler from a life in hell, than a life here and now.
Yo Gabba Gabba has a soul. It makes you want to get off your ass and live.
Isn’t that everything?