Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood had its first national broadcast 50 years ago this week, on February 19th, 1968. To celebrate, today I’m having a 2nd conversation with my first-ever guest on the Kid Stuff Podcast, Danny LaBrecque.
Danny started off following in Fred Rogers’ footsteps, but has since branched off and found his own path as the creator and host of Danny Joe’s Treehouse.
If you take a look, it will feel familiar. It’s a calm, grown-up voice talking directly to his audience in a respectful way about really tough issues, bringing in really great guests and a variety of puppets. But it’s also brand new, and exactly what young audiences need in their media right now. It’s an island of sanity in a time of insanity.
Do you know a dude named Mike who hosts a podcast where he talks to people about the stuff they make for kids? So do I! His name is Mike Mason, and he is today’s guest. Mike started the Good Stuff Kids Podcast because he couldn’t find the interviews that he wanted to hear with the people who were making the great stuff that his kids and he were into. Sound VERY very familiar…
Tami Stronach has been very busy since she played the Childlike Empress in 1984's The NeverEnding Story. She’s mainly been a dancer, as well as a choreographer and dance teacher. Her company with her husband Greg Steinbruner, Paper Canoe, has created live theater for families, and have now released their first album. And Beanstalk Jack is a true album, with a through-line, and an A side and a B side.
You can find Paper Canoe Company on Facebook, or at www.papercanoecompany.com. You can go to their Patreon, and there are lots of fun things you can get there for just $1 a month. You can also find Tami on Twitter @NeverendingTami.
Thanks for listening!
Alitzah was a child actor. Then she grew up and was a member of the girl group Nobody’s Angel. Now, she’s come full circle and is performing for children, as her musical alter ego Twinkle. She’s continued acting all along, including a recurring part on General Hospital. She is also the President of the Young Entertainer Awards, which are celebrating their third year.
Brady Rymer has been recording and performing kids music for almost 20 years. He has been nominated for three Grammys, and at the end of last year he released his first holiday album, Revvin’ Up The Reindeer. Here’s what you should do: grab your favorite swing dance partner, Go to BradyRymer.com, listen to the first track from that album (which is also the title track), and you’ll be hooked.
Joe Hennes is not just a blogger. He is a Muppet Blogger. Along with Ryan Roe, he is the co-owner and editor of toughpigs.com, the preeminent location on the web for all things Muppet and Jim Henson. I can’t believe it took me 42 episodes of a show about children’s media to talk in-depth to someone about the Muppets. Muppets, y’all. Muppets.
Kevin Aniskovitch is the CEO of Jumo Health. Jumo Health creates comic books and other media that uses a team of superheroes called the Medikidz to teach children about different medical procedures and conditions. From jumohealth.com:
“It all started when two compassionate medical professionals wanted to alleviate the anxiety that often accompanies a diagnosis.”
Meredith Halpern-Ranzer is the Chief Executive Tinkerer at Tinkercast, the company that produces last year’s immensely popular new podcast “Wow in The World” featuring NPR’s Guy Raz and former Kid Stuff Podcast guest and Kids Place Live host Mindy Thomas.
Before joining Tinkercast, Meredith was there at the beginning of Sprout, and spent 10 years bringing the kids' channel to the world and defining its brand.
C.J. Pizarro is a fan of Vanilla Ice. He tells us why, and also explains the beautiful construction into which all of his music as Mista Cookie Jar fits, The Love Bubble.
Natalie Woociker is a photographer, an artist, and the founder of Wooly Mammoth Stories, where you can have a custom story written and performed by Natalie for your child (or for any child of your choosing).
Thanks for listening!
"I'm still willing to show the flaws and the edges because those things connect us all."
Heather B. Armstrong has made a name for herself writing autobiographically in an authentic and transparent way on her website dooce.com for over seventeen years.
Annabeth Bondor-Stone and Connor White met in the theater department at Northwestern University. Annabeth was writing and directing plays, and Connor discovered the group Griffin’s Tale, which took storytelling into elementary schools with high-energy performances.
When Annabeth’s young cousin Harrison sent them an email asking for a funny story to read, they did not know it would change their lives and careers. But it did, and Shivers, the Pirate Who’s Afraid of Everything, was born.
You should go find Annabeth and Connor on the web at annabethandconnor.com.
Rachel Giannini spent years as a pre-school teacher in the Chicago area. She was so good at it that she has since become one of the subjects of an upcoming documentary about early childhood education called No Small Matter. She was so good at that, that the producers of the movie asked her to take on some of the outreach for the movie via their blog.
She now works at the Chicago Children’s Museum on Navy pier as their Brand Ambassador.
You can find all things Rachel at www.rachelgiannini.com.
You can find the Chicago Children’s Museum on Navy Pier in Chicago or at chicagochildrensmuseum.org.
You can find the movie No Small Matter at nosmallmatter.com.
Susan and Refe Tuma are the creators, authors, and photographers/ art designers of the “What the Dinosaurs Did” book series. The books came out of a project they originally made just for their own kids, but blew up as a blog. Several years later, they find themselves with three books in the series. These books are so charming, and witty, and painstakingly created, they just have to be seen to be understood and appreciated. So listen to our conversation, then run to your nearest local bookseller and buy them.
Angela Ferrari is a painter, writer, and the creator and host of the new Story Spectacular podcast, featuring a new story for kids every Monday and a new mini-nighttime story every Friday. We talked about how she learned the business side of an art career, about finding a project that combined all of her talents and interests, and about the importance of play.
Jack Forman used to be a classroom teacher. When his first child was born, his band Recess Monkey was doing well enough that he became a stay-at-home dad and the manager of the band. Around the sa me time, he started hosting “Live From The Monkey House,” talking to kids and playing tunes on the Sirius XM Kids Place Live channel.
Now, he has his first solo album out, “Songs From The Monkey House.” It’s available exclusively on Amazon Music, and you can find a link and all the info you would ever want about all things Jack by going to jackformanmusic.com.
Stephanie Sharis is the CEO of Cricket Media. Cricket has been publishing magazines for kids for over 40 years, and they still have eleven titles that they publish, on actual paper, for kids of all ages and on a wide range of topics.
They’ve recently launched a new website and initiative called “Keeping Tech in Check.” They’re motto is “a balance, not a ban.” Keeping Tech in Check acknowledges and embraces the idea that technology and screens are part of our and our kids’ lives now. It acts as a hub for resources on how to manage the time we spend on that technology, how to use it wisely and safely, and how to share those skills with kids.
Thanks to Stephanie Sharis for that conversation, to Beth Blenz-Clucas for introducing us, and to Caroline Zekan at Cricket for setting it up. You can find cricket at http://www.cricketmedia.com/, and you can find Keeping Tech in Check at https://keepingtechincheck.com/
Also, don’t forget, thanks to our friends at BizKids, we are giving away a handful of free copies of their book “Turn $100 into $1 Million." Just write into us on our contact page at kidstuffpodcast.com and tell us a story about your business, a business you’d like to start, an idea of a business that you think kids should try, anything at all. Include your address, and boom, free awesome book.
We have a very different episode for you today. My family and I spent this past Saturday at The SoCal Mom’s Great Big Family Play Day in Los Angeles.
I had my intrepid field reporter Sophie at my side, and she and I had some conversations with some of the companies that had booths at the event.
I got to talk to Tracy Fredkin, the CEO of SoCal Moms and CityMoms and the organizer of the event.
And to close out the episode, I sat down for about 15 minutes with Lisa Loeb, who was performing that day.
Many thanks to Beth Blenz-Clucas for connecting me with Tracy Fredkin of CityMoms, to Tracy for making arrangements for my family to attend that day and for chatting with me, to Lisa Loeb for taking time out of her busy day to talk, and of course to Kid Stuff Sophie, who had all the best questions and made me look good just by being in her proximity.
For a little over a year while he was in college, Garrett Sander worked at FAO Schwartz. Other than that, he has spent his entire professional career, about 13 years, at Mattel.
His background and training are mostly in graphic design, and after he presented his portfolio to them at the end of his junior year, Mattel spent the next year waiting for him to graduate so they could hire him.
He started by designed packaging. He now works in entertainment, making the animated Barbie movies, and from 2007 to 2010 he was the person who birthed the global phenomenon known as Monster High and brought it forth to the world.
Thanks for listening!
Jeannine Glista is the executive producer of the PBS show “Biz Kids.”
It uses sketch comedy and profiles of young entrepreneurs to teach kids (mostly in the middle school range) how to start their own business, grow that business, run that business, and how to manage their money.
You know, all those incredibly useful skills that no one has taught me yet in my 40s.
The process of getting the show produced and on the air was quite a feat of entrepreneurship itself.
Thanks to Shelby Burford with Biz Kids for introducing me to Jeannine.
Thanks again to Jeannine Glista for her time and her stories, and thanks for this very exciting bonus:
Jeannine has offered me a few copies of the book from the creators of Biz Kids, “How to turn $100 into $1,000,000.”
It’s a road map for young people to take to learn how to achieve financial freedom, and you can get your very own free copy.
Tell any kid you know who has started their own business (or at least tried to) to go here.
Send us an email with the story of your business, whether it took off and became a huge success, or whether it crashed and burned or just fizzled out, we’d love to hear about it. Include your address, and the first few stories will get a copy of the book.
Thanks for listening!
I was introduced to Dan Bern’s music almost 20 years ago when a friend played the song “Jerusalem” for me, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. I got ridiculously excited to learn that Judd Apatow had tapped him to write the songs for “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” and the songs he contributed to that movie are hilarious and wonderful.
He has a 7 year old daughter now, and has recently started writing more kids’ songs. He has 2 kids’ albums, "Two feet Tall" and "Three Feet Tall." Plus, he writes the songs for the amazon kids’ show “Stinky & Dirty.”
He’s also a poet, a novelist under the pseudonym Cunliffe Merriwether, and a painter.
Aaron Goldblatt runs Metcalfe Architecture and Design in Philadelphia with his partner Alan Metcalfe. They design a lot of public spaces, and spaces for kids, including health care spaces and informal education spaces like museums and botanic gardens.
Alan’s background is in architecture, but Aaron’s is in museum design and art (he was a sculptor, ceramicist, and welder for years before getting into museums).
As an actor, it’s funny to hear their philosophies about their work. Alan Metcalfe talks a lot on their website about empathy, and creating empathetic spaces. Alan, on the other hand, is obsessed with the idea of play, and he incorporates it into his working process wherever he can. For him, that seems to mean approaching work with a sense of fearlessness, and also trying to find a place of flow, of letting the play take over and your getting your brain out of the way.
Of course, those are two of the most important elements of acting; putting yourself in the shoes of your character (empathy), and playing. I mean, when we get on stage, that’s what we call the thing. A “play.” We’re playing make-believe.
It was nice to hear that, even in fields as disparate as architecture & design and acting may seem, the goals are still to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and to have a little fun.
You can check out their incredible body of work on their website. Take a look at some of their work, some of it may even be close enough to where you live for you to check out in person. They have worked on projects all over the country and the world.
One of the first people I talked to for this show was Shane Portman, the script supervisor for the Amazon preschool show Tumble Leaf. Shane has been a huge supporter of the show, and has connected me with several of the people I’ve talked to since then.
At one point, looking at a long list of people who had worked for Tumble Leaf, I thought “Maybe I should stop going through this list, it’s starting to become a podcast of people who have worked on Tumble Leaf."
Then I decided not to worry about that, because I firmly believe in the idea that “every head is a story.” Every person you see on the street has a story and a history and an inner life and is worthy of your curiosity.
Today’s guest, Sarah Serrata, is a perfect example of why I made that decision. Not only did she work for Tumble Leaf as a producer for a while, but I didn’t know that much about her going into our conversation. All I had were a couple job descriptions on LinkedIn and a couple credits on IMDb.
It ended up being a really interesting conversation with a really interesting person who has lived, by my count, about 18 lives so far. Her current life sees her as a producer for Mattel, making the animated Barbie movies. If you respond to the idea of animated Barbie movies the way I did before talking to Sarah, which is with at least a little skepticism (which is also the way Sarah responded to them before taking the job), than I think you’ll be just as surprised and delighted as I was by what you learn about her and about what Barbie has been up to lately.
Beth Blenz-Clucas is a PR rep and Publicist working mostly with family-friendly musicians. She lives in Portland, but her clients and the work of her firm Sugar Mountain PR extend across the US and Canada. She represents many of the biggest names in the kindie scene, from The Lucky Diaz Family Jam Band, to Justin Roberts, to Raffi, to Lisa Loeb, to The Pop Ups, to Alphabet Rockers… it’s a very long list of really great people.
I talked to Beth via Skype about how she went from getting a Masters in English Lit to a 20 year career in children’s music We talked about the importance of knowing who you are as an artist, and about the importance of setting realistic, reachable goals for yourself.