“Splash and Bubbles: Rhythm of the Reef (Songs from Season One)” is a new musical album of sixteen songs from the hit PBS Kids TV show “Splash and Bubbles, created by noted actor-puppeteer John Tartaglia. The album includes six bonus tracks from the interstitial series “Get Your Feet Wet” produced by Rob and Laura Sams. It’s the perfect summer beach-time album, full of funky, Motown-inspired tunes, with themes around marine science and personal development. The series songs were written by award-winning composer Mike Himelstein and feature the vocal talents of the beloved show’s favorite characters.
Released on June 1, 2018 by The Jim Henson Company, Herschend Studios, and Music.Film Recordings the album release is part of a “Splash and Bubbles” centered consumer products push that also includes a series of storybooks published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on June 5th and a “One Big Ocean” DVD being released by PBS on June 12th – all in celebration of World Oceans Day on ( June 8th). Other celebratory events are happening at aquariums and other spaces this summer, including free events at Barnes and Noble stores in Southern California: The Grove (June 23) and Burbank Town Center (July 14).
Splash and Bubbles is a production of The Jim Henson Company and Herschend Studios. Created by Tartaglia (ImaginOcean, Johnny and the Sprites), the series is executive produced by Lisa Henson and Halle Stanford of The Jim Henson Company, Julie Phillips and Merrill Puckett Miller of Herschend Enterprises, as well as Tartaglia, Michael Shawn Lewis, and Jill Shinderman. The series is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Splash and Bubbles airs daily on PBS KIDS and streams on Netflix.
Recently John Tartaglia discussed his experiences working on the show and his hopes for the future via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in children’s television and why do you think music is so important?
John Tartaglia (JT): I got interested when I was very young and saw The Jim Henson Company series “Fraggle Rock.” To me, it’s the best show created for families and I’ve always strived to create that sort of quality programming. Then, when I got to work on “Sesame Street,” I saw the determination and commitment to making something the best it could be. So, both of those shows really influenced me. I think music is important because it’s emotion- songs can make you feel so much more than just dialogue often can. And sometimes, in children’s series, songs help break down a big idea in simpler more accessible ways.
MM: How did you think up the show’s premise and how did you manage to get it on air?
JT: Well, the series is actually based on an Off-Broadway live blacklight stage show that I wrote called “ImaginOcean.” There was interest in turning it into a television series and I had worked with Halle Stanford (president of television for The Jim Henson Company) several years before and really connected with her- she’s also someone who believes in creating quality, intelligent kids programming. I cold-called her up, told her about ImaginOcean and she was immediately interested in seeing how to turn it into an animated series. We then met with Lisa Henson who also loved the idea. Both she and Halle shepherded the show along with our awesome executive producers, Jill Shinderman and Michael Shawn Lewis, and our friends from Herschend Studios. We took the show to PBS KIDS and after several years of development, here we are! It took a long time to get it to TV but we all wanted to make sure it was the best it could be!
MM: Have you a favorite character and episode?
JT: Well, when you create a show, all of the characters kind of become like your kids! It’s hard to pick a favorite. I genuinely do love them all. But, what I can tell you is that I absolutely LOVE playing Tidy the Garibaldi fish. He is SUCH a goofy and ridiculous comedic character and those are my favorite kinds to play! As far as a favorite episode- I think it would have to be our holiday episode. I had the great honor of writing that and the holidays are so important to me. I was thrilled to create a brand-new tradition for our characters to take part in. We worked hard to give that episode a lot of heart and to make sure that no matter which holiday was celebrated by that kid watching at home, they felt included.
MM: What are the main challenges of making music for this show and what was it like to put the album together?
JT: When you have the most awesome musical director and composer leading the way like we do (the unbelievable Mike Himelstein) then you’re already starting off on the right foot and three steps ahead! Mike really is the best of the best and he was so excited at the idea of creating a kid’s series that had Motown music as its inspiration. When I pitched that to him his eyes lit up- he LOVES Motown which I didn’t know! So, we were very lucky it was the perfect match! Mike knew all the right people so we have amazing supporting vocals by some of the best in the industry and some of the best composers and lyricists too. Everyone really loved the Motown vibe and getting to create music that nods to that world. Putting the album together was a treat- I think the only hard part was trying to decide what to include and in what order!
MM: What’s your favorite song from the show and why?
JT: I think it’s a tie! I really love our holiday song “And So We Celebrate (Coral Day).” It really captures the heart and spirit of community that the show is all about. I also am a big sucker for our theme song. I just love how upbeat and sing-along-able it is! It won “Best Song for a TV Series” at the 2017 Kids !magination Awards.
MM: You use marine conservation as a theme for a lot of the songs and the episodes, so do you think kids “get it” and it makes them more eco-conscious?
JT: Well, we sure hope so! I think kids absorb things much quicker and sometimes much more deeply than we do as adults. They may not always be able to find the words to express it, but they’re always listening and their capacity to do so is much greater than we give them credit for. I know for a fact that so many of the environmental and inter-connectedness themes on Fraggle Rock that I saw as a 6,7,8-year-old absolutely shaped my view of the world and made me the person I am today. So, I truly hope that we can help this generation watching the show be more aware of how we treat the ocean and to look for things to make a more positive impact on their environment. The truth is, we’re all going to need to pitch in and do our part as the future unfolds and I hope these kids have a better understanding of how we’re all connected to each other, the planet and the oceans, of course.
MM: You have been on TV got awhile now, so what have been the most rewarding aspects of working on a children’s show?
JT: I think seeing how much it means to so many kids and their families. I feel so blessed to get to do what I love and to be making a difference in so many families’ lives. Continuing a legacy created by Jim Henson makes my heart burst with pride. I was that kid when I was little, just like the ones watching our show now. And I know the impact it had on me, so to think that something we all poured our hearts into is connecting with families like that…it just means so much.
MM: Overall, what are your biggest goals for the future of “Splash and Bubbles”?
JT: I think we want to make more episodes that really get kids proactive on how they can make a difference. Simple things they can do at home that will positively impact the oceans and this planet. And of course, dive deeper into the characters and discover even more about who they are and learn as much as possible about this beautiful aquatic world they live in!
MM: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
JT: I just feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world because everyone that has worked on this series really did give 110% all of the time- every artist no matter what position, was working at their highest level because they, too, believe that what we do can make a difference not only in these kids’ lives but in the future of our planet. It’s one thing to get to do what you love, but a whole much better thing to know that you’re contributing somehow.
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