Jack and I have always gone wherever our creativity takes us, and about a decade ago it took us in a strange direction…we created a preschool television property called The Zinghoppers. I had been studying Early Childhood Education and realized the need for fun and funky kids songs (most preschool songs are incredibly boring, outdated and don’t engage kids as much as they could). I decided to blend our love of electronic dance music and hip-hop with age-appropriate music and movement for young kids and their families. We started very humbly: with me making all the beats on a keyboard we bought for $35 at a pawn shop in Rochester, Minnesota (where we were living at the time). I designed and sewed the mascots and their costumes – I even voiced all three characters I created: Penelope The Possum, Olo The Donkey and Coconuts The Kangaroo.
Eventually Jack would take over the comedic voice duties for Coconuts…probably because we was just channeling his friend and mentor Tiny Tim – more on THAT, later! 😉 I also made Jack be in the show I was creating. I dressed him up as a train conductor because I knew how much little kids love trains, so he became “Conductor Jack”. I was “DJ Kitty”, because I made all the beats. And we started playing shows around the midwest. Jack was a good sport about the whole thing…he kind of just thought of it as one big joke, and I guess it was, but for a long time my heart was really into making the show as good as it could be (all while staying fiercely independent).
Parents loved us because their kids loved us, and eventually I convinced Jack we needed to move somewhere with more opportunities than Minnesota had to offer…so one day we sold everything we had and moved to Nashville. Within two years of arriving in Tennessee we were named the #1 Children’s Entertainers in Nashville by Parent Magazine (we were given that award for the next four or five years in a row!). We ended up doing some crazy things while in Nashville…like independently producing a TV series which ended up getting nominated for six regional Emmy Awards and being broadcast on PBS Kids member stations nationwide. We hired most of Rascal Flatts‘ touring band to be our studio band and all of Taylor Swift‘s dancers were our crew (when they were not on the road with Tay! LOL!!). We played the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC and we’re the first kids band to ever do a set at the legendary Bluebird Cafe back in Nashville. Celebs started coming to our shows like Mike Wolfe from American Pickers and the guys from Kings of Leon.
I even had one of my all-time biggest girl crushes ever ask to get HER picture taken WITH ME: yup, Nicole Kidman came up after our show at the Nashville Public Library to snap a pic with us. I would have loved to say “hello”, but the only problem was Jack didn’t recognize her…and I was stuck inside the Penelope The Possum mascot and I didn’t want to talk in my “real voice” in front of her little kid.
Over the next few days, I’d love to share with you some clips from our show…including a series of videos from our world tour which was presented by the Pentagon. Seriously.
By the way, we just re-launched our YouTube channel (be sure to like/comment/subscribe).
Don’t miss the entire Zinghoppers Blog Series…
Part 1: That Time We Created An Emmy Award Winning Preschool TV Show
Part 2: The Madness Of Pursuing Your Dreams And Making An Emmy Award Winning Preschool TV Show That Should Have Cost $250K…For $10K
Part 3: On This Episode Of Catfish, Or Filming The Next Season Of Our Emmy Award Winning Preschool TV Show Without A “Real” Director
Part 4: That Time The US Pentagon Sent Us To 19 Countries On A World Tour With The Zinghoppers Show
Part 5: That Time The Co-Founder Of Poison, New-Age Pianist Lorie Line And Preschool Star Dr. Jean Worked With Us On An Album…The Zinghoppers Show
Part 6: The Zinghoppers Show – A Visual Scrapbook
To get the ball rolling for this trip down memory lane, I have an assortment of random videos featuring The Zinghoppers. We’ll drop more professional clips from the TV show later this week, but for now…here goes!
Here’s our music video for “Haircut Party”. I wrote/produced/performed all the stuff on this track…Jack and I directed this as well. A few years ago one of our fave filmmakers Sean Baker ended up using this song in the soundtrack to his Oscar nominated film “The Florida Project” which starred Willem Dafoe. Great flick, you need to see! 🙂
Here’s one of the funnier clips we did for our old YouTube channel. It’s pretty low-budget (actually no-budget), but here’s The Zinghoppers lead singer Penelope The Possum doing her cover of Fergie‘s hit song, “My Humps”. We made it a bit more kid-friendly! 😉
By the way that’s Claire Callaway and Lacey Mason, two of Taylor Swift’s dancers. It was so fun to work with them! Here’s a clip of us dancing the “Tooty Ta”…
Here’s Jack and Coconuts The Kangaroo doing another video for our old YouTube channel. This song is really cute. Jack will probably not talk to me for a week because I’m posting this video again! Just kidding. But seriously, how adorable is this? 😀
A really fun project we got to work on was shooting this video with teen boy band Mindless Behavior. This video blew up at the time we first posted it…within it’s first week we hit half a million views on our old YouTube channel! Sadly, that channel was hacked (thanks to one of my stalkers, read the whole crazy ordeal here)…but whatevs, it’s a cute video and was a really fun thing to write/direct/produce…
Thanks in part to all the new fans that video brought in, Penelope (whose nickname was “Funky Possum”) ended up releasing her own single called “Scissors”. We filmed this music video in east Nashville and had a blast making this. It was around this time one critic called us “Barney meets the Black Eyed Peas“, and that was a really funny (but pretty accurate) description I just loved!
Here’s another cute video of Jack…which again, he probably doesn’t want me to post (he thinks he looks like a dork in this era, but I think he looks adorable). We shot this clip for our old website to help promote fitness and healthy living for families.
Because our presenting station was NPT (Nashville Public Television), who acted as a distribution partner for our series, we ended up collaborating on this track for another kids show called “Janet’s Planet“, hosted by Janet Ivey. Jack and I wrote/performed the music for this song…and it ended up winning an Emmy Award! Pretty wild.
We released this last video back in 2011 as kind of a promotional reel to help get us more work (we did a LOT of touring with our live stage show back in the day). This is kind of a fun watch and helps explain how we created The Zinghoppers. By the way, that’s the first “puppet version” of Penelope The Possum that I made. You can see how excited I was, and how Jack looks mildly terrified! Hahahaha…
We still get folks asking about The Zinghoppers Show and what we’re up to now. This was a fun phase in my life…I really loved writing and producing all the music for our show (you can listen to the Zinghoppers on every major music streaming site worldwide) and it was a great training ground for filmmaking. Ultimately, we both decided to pursue other creative passions and moved on. But I will always look back on my time in Nashville with fondness. Stay tuned…more fun clips coming soon!