A Singin’ and Dancin’ Mystery Tour

Cookie Jar delivers a colorful, animated show featuring The Doodlebops.

When the live-action children’s series The Doodlebops debuted in 2004, many were struck by how closely the three major stars of the musical show (Deedee, Moe and Rooney Doodle) resembled animated characters. So it’s not surprising that the creative team at Cookie Jar is now delivering a new animated version of the hyper-energetic series.

Doodlebops Rockin’ Road Show, a co-production with Argentina’s Illusion Studios and Germany’s Optix Entertainment, finds the dynamic trio traveling to new destinations and enjoying kid-relatable adventures.

‘I worked on the live-action show for three seasons, and we were all thinking about how to take the show to the next level,’ says Jamie Waese, the toon’s creator, producer and head of current programming at Cookie Jar Entertainment. ‘If you think of the Doodlebops as The Beatles of the preschool generation, then we had to make their version of The Yellow Submarine.’

The 26 x 22 series, which premiered on the CBC last month and will begin its run in the U.S. on CBS this April, finds the animated versions of the Doodles on a magical tour bus along with Bus Driver Bob and their dog BopBop, where they travel to new destinations while helping preschoolers at home make sense of the world around them.

‘We wanted to do a show that explored what it was like to hang out with the preschoolers’ favorite rock band, while allowing the characters to interact with their fans,’ says Waese. ‘That’s why in the beginning of each episode, we have one of the fans send in a video message asking the Doodles about issues, like ‘My mom wants me to clean up my room,’ or ‘My dentists wants me to brush my teeth twice every day and I don’t have time to do it,’ etc. Then we have the kid turn into an animated character and go on an adventure on the Doodlenet.’

Obviously, you can’t really have a show about the Doodles without some amazingly catchy songs. That’s why each half-hour show features two original songs penned by the same musicians who worked on the live-action series. Waese says he wouldn’t desribe it as a traditional preschool music. ‘It’s hoppity’disco influenced, actually, and lots of fun,’ he adds.

Using Toon Boom Harmony, the show’s animation team came up with an eye-popping and colorful universe where children’s imaginations can run wild. ‘You can see that there’s a lot of joie de vivre in the Doodlebops,’ notes Waese. ‘I grew up on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, and I believe that I was missing that show’s wonderful sense of absurdist humor’it was a world which was wildly playful, but na’ve and sincere at the same time. I think our show fills that vacuum that we’ve been feeling in children’s entertainment for a while.’

Since music and dancing go hand in hand, Waese made sure they used the original series’ choreographer David Connolly to create fanciful dances for the musical numbers. ‘Traditionally, you don’t think of preschool as a dance-friendly format, but we asked David to choreograph each song with live dancers and we videotaped them and used the footage as reference for our storyboard artists and animators. We’re talking elaborate Busby Berkeley-style numbers here!’

Waese, who loved to watch reruns of Gilligan’s Island and Little Rascals when he was a kid himself, says he’s proud to be working on a show that makes people smile and appeals to a wide age range. ‘It has a broad appeal,’ he claims. ‘Even 18-month-old kids are responding to it. For shows to be effective as learning tools, parents have to take the time to watch them along with the kids, so they can talk to them about it afterwards. So you have to deliver something that appeals to everyone.’

When asked about the state of TV animation in 2010, Waese seems genuinely optimistic. ‘A lot of changes are happening in the entertainment business overall,’ he notes, ‘So we have to come up with more creative ways to deliver our shows. Yes, it was fun to have unlimited budgets and the luxury of having a long time to develop and explore ideas, but in a way, it’s more liberating to have less to work with and smaller groups with which to find creative solutions.’

Having international partners in Germany and Argentina was also an eye-opening experience for Waese and his company. ‘It’s a positive experience because you get wider perspectives on what you’re doing. For example, you can’t just rely on dialog or puns to deliver the humor. It forces you to think more visually, which is better for young audiences anyway.’

As busy as Waese is, he says he’s just happy that he gets to work with the same family he worked with on the live-action Doodlebops. ‘There’s a lot of trust and we try to make each other giggle. Seriously, if we manage to polish something to the point that it makes us giggle, we know we’ve got something good!’

Doodlebops’ Rockin’ Road Show airs on CBS Saturdays beginning in April.