You could say Disney Channel has a thing for mice.
Imagination Movers, the Playhouse Disney live-action series starring four musical "average dads" from New Orleans, is wrapping up its first season on the air. The troupe is about nine episodes into producing the show's Big Easy-based second season.
The second season will have 25 episodes -- but the group also is making the equivalent of a twenty-sixth episode, a series of short stories about a puppet cast member, Where Is Warehouse Mouse?
The shorts will appear sometime this summer, ahead of the Imagination Movers' second season premieres in September.
"They feature the mouse," Scott "Smitty" Smith, a guitarist and New Orleans firefighter (on leave), explained. "Warehouse Mouse, not Mickey."
"They're very kind of Buster Keatonish," Mover Scott Durbin said. "It's like the silent movie where everything has to be conveyed. Kevin Carlson, the puppeteer, is just a really brilliant, brilliant fellow."
The Movers were in New York City last Monday (June 8), for Live With Regis and Kelly and performing a 45-minute concert for kids at Sirius XM Satellite Radio headquarters. They spoke with The Wire after the radio gig, which will air on the Kids Place Live channel.
Imagination Movers, on Disney Channel, has connected with viewers, with 19% more average viewers (1.15 million vs. 969,000) in the 9:30 a.m. weekday slot compared with a year ago, according to the channel. The week of June 1, it averaged 1.5 million viewers, its best mark in five months and up 69% from its first full week (in September 2008).
The Movers say they get recognized more now -- even at Patsy's restaurant in Greenwich Village -- and "we're still at the stage where [that's] awesome," drummer Rich Collins said.
"It's an extreme honor," he said. "We're just goofy guys and dads from New Orleans and we had this dream to make a funny show that our kids would like, that was smart and funny and was really rocking. And we are so fortunate to have made it through Hurricane Katrina and all these other obstacles that would be in the way of any project like this. Now we are here playing in New York City, our show is on in 40 countries and we've got CDs and DVDs in stores nationwide."
"It's such a one-in-a-million shot, from where we were to here, that I don't think there's a day goes by that we take it for granted," Mover Dave Poche added.
The group famously was scouted by Playhouse Disney programming executive Nancy Kanter at the 2005 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, where they played the Kids Tent. Disney signed the Movers to do a show that's essentially a concept the foursome developed themselves in 2003. "Idea emergencies" come up and the guys, in the Idea Warehouse, work out solutions and sing songs, tell stories and clown around.
When the Movers played the Jazz Fest this past April, they were on the Acura Stage, where Bon Jovi and Dave Matthews Band played. The Movers were on at 11:30 a.m. "Now we're lobbying to get later and later in the day," Durbin joked. "We're regular guys but we also are very ambitious and have a lot of dreams and desires. We think big. We want to close the Acura Stage now."
The group's next CD drops widely on July 7 and a 40-city concert tour is being scheduled for the fall. Future goals include an international tour -- especially Australia, home base of Playhouse Disney's The Wiggles, a troupe the Movers say "blazed the trail" -- and a movie.
"Maybe more important to me, I want to get Kristen Wiig to be a guest star on our show," Collins said of the Saturday Night Live caster. "Funniest person out there. I'm going to start mentioning it in every interview so that she will eventually see it."
Google, do your thing.
(This story was corrected after publication to change the shorts' premiere date.)