Janice Burgess is one of The Backyardigans creators. Here's what she had to say about the show, imagination, and her own childhood.
NickJr.com spoke with Janice Burgess--one of the creators of The Backyardigans--about the show, imagination, and her own childhood. Here's what she had to say.
What's the first thing you'd like everyone to know about The Backyardigans?
The Backyardigans is the result of the collaborative work of an incredibly talented team of people that I feel truly lucky to work with. Robert Scull's brilliant direction brings the stories and characters to life. Jonny Belt creates the beautiful worlds of imagination that we visit. Composers Evan Lurie and Doug Weiselman write wonderful sing-able melodies for us; McPaul Smith gives us smart and funny words to sing to them, and Beth Bogush fancy steps to dance. Animation directors Bill Giggie and Mike Shiell make sure every frame is perfect. And producers Ellen Martin, Pam Lehn, and Ruta Cube keep the whole machine running.
Where did the idea for The Backyardigans come from?
When I was a kid I spent a lot of time playing in my backyard. It seemed like a world in itself where my friends and I could have really big adventures. When I started thinking about creating a show, I think I naturally returned to the place that held some of my happiest childhood memories as a setting for the series. As for why it is a musical--why not?
How did you come up with the five different characters?
One of the sad things about being a writer is that you always put yourself in your work. So, to some extent, all the characters are kind of like me. One of the great things about being a writer is that you can improve upon yourself--make yourself braver or funnier, sweeter or more daring than you are in real life. Which is a way of saying that all the characters are not like me, they're much better. And, of course, the people who you know are also sources of inspiration for character traits and foibles. Since I'm lucky enough to know some strange and wonderful people, I was able to steal some really great stuff.
How do you come up with all of the different imaginary places and situations?
I've always loved adventure movies and stories so I used classic adventure settings for the show, re-interpreted to be appropriate for young children. Where else to be a pirate but on the high seas?
The show uses diverse musical styles. How do you choose the style of music to go with each episode?
Whim. I like the idea of mixing up those classic adventure conventions with unconventional music choices. As we were planning the first episodes, the show's composer, Evan Lurie, created a list of musical genres, everything from Gilbert and Sullivan to Afro Pop to Zydeco. As each episode is being developed, we run barefoot through that list and come up with something that feels like it fits.
The dance numbers are essential elements of every episode. Can you tell us how you choreograph computer-generated characters?
I wish I could take credit for it but the choreography for the show is the work of the very talented Beth Bogush. Working with real live dancers, Beth choreographs each dance. We videotape the dancers and that video is sent to our animation production partner, Nelvana Ltd. The amazing animators there use the video as reference, re-interpreting and recreating the dance moves with our CGI characters. It's a complicated process but it gives us the best of both worlds--real dancing and great animation.
What do you hope children will take away from the show?
Obviously, I hope they'll sing the songs and remember the catch phrases and gestures. But most of all, I hope that they will use the show as raw material to imagine and play their own adventures.
Which character is most like you when you were a child?
I wish I could say Uniqua but truthfully, it's Pablo. Like him, I've always been wound up a little too tight.
What did you like to pretend as a child?
Everything you see in the show.