Jackie Tohn still remembers the day her best friend Kristen Bell co-signed her dream of musical education.
Tohn, an elder American Idol competitor and GLOW actress, wanted to give children who no longer have arts education programs in their schools a colorful and unpretentious way to learn about various instruments and styles of music. It was then that she tested a prototype on Lincoln, Bell’s eldest daughter, with the help of her creative partner Michael Scharf.
Bell, who heard the music, saw the designs and loved the way it resonated with his daughter, then encouraged Tohn and Scharf to think about turning their idea into a TV series, and Do Re Mi was born. The lively offering, which leverages its three adorable and brightly colored titular birds to teach preschoolers everything from rhythm to genre, is featured today on Amazon Prime and boasts of Bell as the executive producer and voice of Mi, an optimistic blue bird.
“Arts education in schools is always the first thing to do when schools are faced with budget cuts,” Tohn told TVLine. “Mike and I wanted to create something that would replace all of these music and art programs that are being wiped out in schools. It was a great business that would have remained the dream of two artistic hippies if Kristen, Gaumont and Amazon hadn’t made it a reality. I’m a creative who hasn’t thought of asking for help from one of my closest friends, who also happens to be the voice of Princess Anna. Fortunately, she helped me anyway.
In addition to co-creating the show, Tohn voices Re the Talkative Hummingbird, and Community and Harry potter Veterinarian Luke Youngblood does the honors as Do, an adorable owl. Saturday Night Live alum Fred Armisen invited as a Frankish peacock named Juan.
The series, which also features interactive play and other home educational components, focuses on a different kind of music per episode and kicks off its debut with six installments. Tohn and music supervisor David Schuler handpicked the genres, and Tohn even tries his hand at rap in Episode 5.
“Each episode presents a new genre and a new emotional lesson,” adds Tohn. “The hardest part was the opera episode because the whole episode was sung. We had to work closely with the screenwriter to make sure it was as satisfying as it was empowering. “
Youngblood, who grabbed fans years ago with his small but hilarious turn as Magnitude on Community, says he hopes the series will fill young viewers with inspiration and information.
“When I was a kid, I remember how much music education helped me as a performer and as a human being,” exclaims the London native. “Our show exploits that and gives wisdom. My character Do, for example, is not the best pilot, but his friends are there to raise him. It’s the kind of symbolic, subtle lesson that teaches kids, when the going gets tough, that there are ways to find and overcome solutions.
Playing Magnitude in the past has also helped in some ways, Youngblood says.
“It’s really cool that this character who said a word twice [Pop! Pop!] could have such an impact, ”Youngblood says with a laugh. “Being on the set of Community allowed me to watch a lot of other actors and observe their comedic timing, and I learned the rhythm of when to drop the punchline. The more you do, the better you become, and the more you are able to incorporate that into your own work.
In this way, comedy and music are very similar, observes Youngblood.
“You can teach so much through music and humor,” concludes the amateur steelpan drummer. “Do Re Mi is such a collaborative project, and it was so nice to share ideas with each other. This family spirit is found in this magnificent world that we have been able to build. “