The Bopps

It’s a rare occasion when someone involved in music you grew up with would then have an influence on music your child is currently growing up with (especially when she’s only 2) – but it’s already happened. Stan Cullimore, formerly of The Housemartins can be found these days on Nick Jr as Stan Bopp – alongside Keith Littler (producer of hit UK kids shows such as Merlin and Little Red Tractor) aka Keith Bopp – collectively known as The Bopps (in case you hadn’t already guessed!).

Each episode begins with a slapstick comedy sketch usually featuring Stan Bopp playing a trick on poor Keith Bopp. Expect squirrel costumes, invisible bikes and even a magic remote control that changes people’s clothes! The Bopps then perform one of their catchy songs, which will bring out a love for music in pre-schoolers. Songs include Hungry Squirrel, Dizzy the Dragon and The Holiday Song.

I was given an opportunity to ask them some questions – please read on…

Firstly I have to say, back when I was in my teens, one of my favourite bands was The Housemartins. It’s kind of weird and good that a member of a band I grew up with is now someone my daughter is growing up with! Have you had many people say this since the show started?

(Stan Bopp – SB) Hiya – glad your daughter likes the show, and glad you liked The Housemartins. Does that mean good taste runs in your family? Hee hee. Actually I have had a few people say similar things and I think it’s fantastic. Makes me feel all warm and cosy! My kids were growing up when I was in the HM’s and now I’ve got grandkids it feels like a pleasant evolution. Also, since we’re trying to make a show that both kids and their parents will like – you and your (extremely clever and tasteful) daughter are living proof that we’re on the right path!

(KB): I wasn’t in The Housemartins but Stan Bopp did give me a sock and a Diarylea triangle he found in the car park – near the studio they recorded in.

The first series and accompanying album featured four of you – the current series only two – what happened?

(SB) Keith told the others they had a choice – either they had to start calling him “Sir Keith Bopp of the Regal Gloucesters” or they had to leave. Luckily I was on holiday that day so I got to stay in the show. Over to you KB for the more fact filled version….

(KB) The true, and not so funny answer, is that the new minimalist style of series 2 and the decision to include dialogue meant 4 would have been overcrowded on screen and impossible to write for in 2 min. segments. Mike, Jo and I started playing together in the early 90’s so we’re very good chums. They were ok about it. Mike continues to produce our records and provide techie stuff on our live shows, Jo still sings on the songs (beautifully) and, as a animation voice over person, is very busy anyway. So there has been no fall out and we still play together from time to time

Watching a lot of children’s TV programmes these days I have to ask, do you get inspiration from shows such as The Wiggles – they are excellent at getting messages across, each person has their own colour, and the songs are catchy – all of which I’d say applies to your show too.

(SB) I would agree that the Wiggles are excellent. I’m also a big fan of Justin Fletcher. Truth is, I’m just grateful that you would mention us in the same breath.

(KB) That’s a good question. Never sure where inspiration comes from but The Wiggles have come up a lot in conversation since we went on air. I share Stan’s view that it’s lovely you should mention us in the same breath but they are in a different class…..I think they’ve been going nearly 20 years and are pretty global whereas we are pretty well known in Stan Bopp’s house!

When you play gigs, what would you say your target audience age would be? Is it something that would be suitable for a 2 year old who likes to listen to music, is it just the music, or are there sketches too?

(SB) On telly our main target audience is supposed to be 3 to 5 years old – plus any parents who are watching! But my youngest grand-daughter is 18 months old and I think she would love to watch one of our live shows. (When we play one close enough to her home!) We pretty much do on stage what we do on the TV show – a mix of sketches and songs – though we also interact with people; getting them to sing along and get up and dance. So really – anyone who feels like joining in and having some fun would be very welcome.

(KB) I genuinely try not to think about it. Whilst common sense dictates certain things one can and can’t do the rest, in my opinion, should be spontaneous. As dads, and Stan Bopp is also a granddad, we do what we know works with our kids and their friends. We also make a point of trying to create songs that won’t drive mum and dad bonkers… not straight away anyway!

Stan, what made you move from music into writing books? Was it something that was easy to do? I’ve found I want to write books from making up stories with my daughter – was it that kind of a progression which then led to where you are now with The Bopps?

(SB) Yes, it’s definitely been a progression. I started writing books for my children. Then as they got older I started writing kids TV shows that I thought they would like (mainly so that they would think I was a “cool” dad – not that it ever really worked!) And when I got grandkids I started writing songs for the Bopps which I thought my grandkids would like to listen to. So my advice to you would be – keep on with the making up of stories!

(KB)The market for kid’s books is a difficult one to crack and one has to think carefully about prose style, illustration and content. My books have all been based on TV series I have made (which helps) but all have a theme… the little guy beating the odds. Stan Bopp is right… focus on what you like and do that well. The minute you try to make something “for” the market it tends to go horribly wrong.

We’ve found that a lot of the time with the show it’s on at the wrong time, so we’ll catch it at weekends, or record it in the morning to watch later – do Nickelodeon have any plans for repeats later in the day?

(SB) We don’t know yet… but we shall ask them – and mention your name!

(KB) There might be plans for the series to be on later in the day. We’ll tip you the wink when we get the details.

(me – hurrah!)

How long would you say it takes to create an episode, and how easy do you find it?

(SB) I would like to say it is very easy and doesn’t take much time. But that would NOT be true! It takes ages to do every single episode of The Bopps – because Keith Bopp won’t stop telling everyone stories about his train-set. No – really!

(KB) Oooo! That is so…er…well…true really. Dull answer is about 3 hours for a sketch and then half a day for the song. Of course composing and recording the songs, writing sketches, post-production and all the techie stuff adds time (and money). But we do enjoy it and hopefully you can see
we’re having a good time. The crew is excellent – very friendly and we are looked after well for a couple of old’uns.

(KB) Lastly, on behalf of us both…a massive thankyou for the questions and your kind words….about Stan Bopp!

Ha, sorry Keith!

If you’ve not yet seen The Bopps, then head over here where there’s lots of video to watch. Their official site is over here and you’ll find tour dates here!

Catch The Bopps every morning on Nick Jr’s Wake Up World at 7.35am

Thank you to Stan and Keith for answering the questions, and to Louise for your help!

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