Directed by Scott Schultz and Christian Jacobs. 99 minutes. DVD. Nickelodeon. 2008. $14.98. ISBN 097368925847
Recommended for ages 1-5
Yo Gabba Gabba is a fun Nickelodeon series that teaches children social skills. The Dancey Dance Bunch DVD packages four episodes from Yo Gabba Gabba’s first season in 2007: Eat, Dance, Friends and Happy. Each 23-minute episode features human host DJ Lance Rock (Lance Robertson) and his costumed character friends, Muno (voiced by Adam Deibert), Brobee (voiced by Amos Watene), Foofa (Emma Jacobs), Toodee (Charme Morales), and Plex (voiced by Christian Jacobs). The group sings, dances, and plays together while teaching children lessons about friendship, eating healthy, and respecting one another. The show is live-action, with animated sketches and segments featuring real children dancing and playing. Celebrities including Elijah Wood, Mya, and Mark Mothersbaugh teach dance moves and give drawing lessons. The music, while geared toward a very young audience, is set to pop, rock, and hip-hop beats, and the songs stick with you long after the episodes are over. The sets are simple, almost stripped-down, so the emphasis is on the characters.
Color is an important part of Yo Gabba Gabba. DJ Lance Rock’s costume is bright orange, and the characters are all brightly colored. Children appearing in sketches often wear colorful clothing with Yo Gabba Gabba characters on them, and the backgrounds where the characters sing and dance range from bright green grassy fields to icy blue glaciers to 8-bit computer backgrounds. The characters’ voices are high-pitched like a child’s, but the language never speaks down to the audience; rather, it takes concepts like learning how to lose gracefully and simplifies the concepts through song and conversation to reach their viewers on their level: “We play games to have fun, not to win or lose”.
The episodes in this video can be used to teach toddlers and preschoolers alike about forming good habits early in life. In the episode Eat, for instance, the character Muno has a party in his tummy that carrots and string beans want to be invited to. Space and cleanup permitting, this could be a great idea for a healthy eating workshop, with finger foods like baby carrots, celery sticks, and sliced up fruit for preschoolers to invite to the “parties in their tummies”, while dancing and singing along with the video. It would be a great teaching tool for teachers and librarians alike, particularly with episodes that teach the joy of playing, that it’s more important to enjoy a game rather than worrying about winning or losing, and how to be a good friend.