Disney's hottest dad act, the Imagination Movers encourage friendship, creativity, and thinking while they get kids up off the couch. You may assume this is just another example of the Mouse's Midas touch, but it's more. The four friends (three of which are fathers to a combined nine children) have a back story beginning in New Orleans that will have parents pushing their tots in front of the television as the band's message is genuine. Rich Collins (Mover Rich) explained, "We weren't four guys that went and auditioned and got put on a show. There's history that makes us what we are." I had the opportunity to sit down with the foursome (Collins, Scott Durbin, Dave Poche, and Scott "Smitty" Smith) recently in San Francisco. To see how Hurricane Katrina altered their lives and led them to become male role models on the Disney channel,
lilsugar: How did you guys go from being an architect, a firefighter, a teacher and a journalist to having a kid's band?
Dave: We wanted to make quality music for kids because we had children who were steeped in the whole world of entertainment and a lot of what we saw was cartoons and puppets. We brought it back to what we had grown up with — Mr. Rogers and Captain Kangaroo. Mr. Rogers had just passed away and we thought there was a void and decided to take a shot at doing something about it. So we got together — four goofy dads who had an idea and here we are years later and it's turned into something that is of value.
Scott: Actually, the initial idea was local in New Orleans and then low and behold what we created resonated with people and we were tenacious about its development and were fortunate that Disney came and saw us at Jazz Fest. We played our set and started talking about doing a show together and had this concept and that's how it was born.
lilsugar: Did you guys quit your day jobs as touring and doing a show must take up the majority of your time?
Dave: When we started it was a hobby. We'd put the kids to bed and meet. At first, it was in my built out attic room and we'd be there from like nine at night until 12 or one in the morning a few days a week and brainstorm and work. Then, the music took on a life of its own. We made three independent CDs and a DVD and started playing shows. The business needed attention so Rich was the first one to quit and make the full time leap. Then, three years ago Katrina came. Once that happened we lost three of our four homes and Smitty was a firefighter.
Smitty: I still am a New Orleans firefighter, I'm just on leave of absence.
lilsugar: When you lost your homes, did you go stay with family and then reconnect later?
Rich: So the flood came and the three of us lived in one neighborhood (Smitty lived in a drier part of town) so our houses got completely flooded and were under eight feet of water for weeks and our office, Mover stuff and instruments — it was all gone. So we were all in our cars with the kids and the cat and the computer and a few pieces of clothing and a couple of pictures you saved and we were literally refugees, but it's funny. It's not funny really, but there was a day or two after when we were all holed up in different cities and hotels and things and we started communicating via text because we had a show booked that next Saturday in Dallas. And, so I was like — can you get there? Can we do this show?
Dave: I was sitting on the steps of a hotel in Houston, my kids were in bed and I'm exhausted outside with my wife and we're texting because that's the only way you can communicate. I looked at my phone and it was Tuesday or Wednesday and he's like so are we still playing Dallas Saturday? Saturday, I was in Dallas. We realized what else are we gonna do? We will have a hotel room there. I don't know if I have a job, I don't know where anybody is, and there's a small fee out there and I've got an obligation. Not knowing where anything was or where money was gonna come from, we went. People loaned us instruments.
Rich: Scott bought some replacement suits — I was wearing my old glasses. We were like refugee performers — so a bad thing happened and that's kind of a symbol for what happened in the bigger picture. We were totally thrown off of our routines, but quickly realized that there was this huge community of Movers fans in New Orleans and around the south who reached out to us to ask if we were okay. And to let us know, "your music was in the car and kept our kids feeling safe and please keep doing what you're doing". It was this outpouring of support. Doing the Movers gave us this safe harbor and in a bigger sense, it is what allowed us to pull ourselves up out of the storm. This is maybe getting a little too grand, but we managed to get the deal with Disney and bring the production of the show to the city. It was the lifeline for us and for our families to get the show going, but we're now employing more than one hundred people for seven months at a time when we do the show. It's a huge boost for the local film community.
lilsugar: No matter what happens, you're staying in New Orleans?
Smitty: New Orleans is a small town, we grew this thing from nothing. People would tell us that this was their sense of normalcy and for us this became the thing we rallied around to lift ourselves up.
Scott: The one guy who didn't lose his home, Smitty, penned the lyrics to the song, We Got Each Other which was probably the first recorded song in New Orleans after Katrina and was on our Eight Feet album.
Dave: You might lose your tangible things, but you've still got your family and friends and support.
Smitty: I didn't lose my house and none of my family died or anything, but as a fireman, for two weeks straight we banded together and relied on one another for our lives. That was part of that song too. It was pretty tough, but I think out of all that, here comes this good thing.
Scott: Our lives turn on a dime. We were professionals working jobs and then we were standing in line for welfare or to get food stamps. It was just a real experience.