It’s time to shake your tail feathers! Amazon is releasing an original animated series, Do, Re & Mi, starring Kristen Bell (Frozen I and II, The Good Place), Jackie Tohn (GLOW, The Good Place, The Boys) and Luke Youngblood (Harry Potter, Fast & Furious Spy Racers, Baby Shark’s Big Show). Geared toward preschoolers, this fine feathered show incorporates friendship, adventure, and the positive power of music in a way that young children can access and understand.
Amazon and Do, Re & Mi
Centering on the musical adventures of three birdie buddies (voice by Youngblood, Tohn, and Bell respectively), this latest offering from Amazon’s streaming service combines teamwork, social-emotional learning and, of course, tons of original music spanning a multitude of genres. These three wee warblers share adventures finding new sounds, melodies, and beats in the everyday world, discovering again and again that music can solve just about anything.
Life imitates art with a collaborative tour-de-force that includes executive producers Bell, Tohn, Michael Scharf and Ivan Askwith, as well as Nicolas Atlan and Terry Kalagian of Gaumont. Signing on to be the show’s frontrunner was an easy decision for Scharf and Tohn, the latter of whom has been good friends with Bell for nearly two decades.
“After Mike and I really had the bones of the thing, and we knew that we wanted to make an animated musical series for kids, I didn’t even have the business acumen to show it to Kristen, because she’s an amazing Hollywood entertainment mogul lady,” says Tohn. “She was just my close friend who had a kid. And Kristen was like, ‘This is amazing. What are you guys doing? If you need help in any way, I’d love to help,’” says Tohn.
Scharf adds, “I told Jackie not to tell anybody. I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to animate the entire pilot myself. I don’t care if it takes three years, do not tell anybody about it.’ And then she called me and said ‘I messed up. I told my friend about it and she wants to join.’ And then she took a beat and said, ‘Her name is Kristen Bell.’”
“And next thing you knew, we were working with Amazon and Gaumont. Everybody wanted to join on, everybody loved our concepts,” Scharf says.
A Need for Early Music Education
Simply put, music makes your children smarter. There are hundreds of studies that outline the benefits of music education at an early age, including language acquisition, higher IQ, and the development of social-emotional skills. Yet, everywhere you turn, there is a fundamental lack of musical education in North America.
“When schools are facing budget cuts, the first thing to go is the arts and music education. And it’s not just useful to make your kid an artist, it’s useful to make your kid a functioning member of society,” says Tohn. “It does so much more for your brain function and development. So for the people that we love, and the kids that we love, to not be able to have that without their parents paying for extra-curricular activities, it was a passion of ours and a mission of the show to make sure that music education gets into the hands of kids.”
Tohn, Bell, and Scharf engaged a child psychologist to make sure the preschool lessons and jokes were appropriate and digestible for the age group. “We had many music curriculum specialists. We dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s to make sure… but we’re musicians by trade,” says Tohn. “There would be an episode where a preschool writer maybe didn’t use a musical term correctly. So there were always checks and balances to make sure that everything was right on point.”
Continuing Musical Education Offline
In the spirit of continuing musical education when children aren’t watching Do, Re & Mi, the team developed offline resources such as toys, a book, a mobile game, and a teacher and family guide available for purchase — all of which augment the lessons learned from the show while inspiring a love and appreciation for music at an early age. The goal is to eliminate passive entertainment and create a dynamic experience where learning can happen.
The Do, Re & Mi toy collection will also be available exclusively on Amazon this fall, and features the characters, musical instruments, and settings from the series.
“We really wanted to make sure to reap the developmental benefits of music education that really inspire love and appreciation; not just for the kids, but so their parents can engage with them,” Scharf says. “That was really important to us. We wanted kids to watch, fall in love with the characters and be inspired to learn. This way, parents can also learn and help teach the kids as the show goes on.”
Both Tohn and Scharf are excited about the mobile game, Do, Re & Mi: Musical Adventure. Consisting of multiple “mini-games” that incorporate aspects of music education, music vocabulary, and instrument identification, the app also offers an interactive, dynamic opportunity for learning. “We really wanted the app to have multiple mini-games, so we could pinpoint different parts of musical education and then let kids learn on their own through that,” says Scharf.
“This is instrument recognition and note-following and beat-learning and recording and songwriting. So, this is the sort of screen time we are hoping to be giving to kids,” Tohn says.
Do, Re & Mi launches September 17 on Prime Video.