Kristen Bell

Filled with toe-tapping original songs spanning multiple genres, Do, Re & Mi follows the musical adventures of three best birdie friends—voiced by Kristen Bell, Jackie Tohn and Luke Youngblood. The preschool series is a production of Amazon Studios and Gaumont for Prime Video and Amazon Kids+. Bell, whose voice is instantly recognizable to little ones from her role as Anna in the Disney hit Frozen, is also an executive producer on the show. She tells TV Kids about the value of music education in children’s lives and the show’s ability to “sneak teach” important life lessons.

***Image***TV KIDS: What was the genesis of Do, Re & Mi, and how did the collaboration with Jackie Tohn and Gaumont come about?
BELL: Jackie Tohn has been one of my best friends for 15 years. She came over one afternoon and said, “I’ve been writing this show with my friend Michael [Scharf]. It’s got music for kids. Can I play it for your girls?” When I heard it, I immediately wanted to know more. She told me about the show—and particularly the idea that in the midst of public schools slashing music and art programs, a show like this would keep that alive in kids’ lives. I had previously seen studies that an early music education or exposure to music at an early age actually impacts everything about a child’s brain. It improves their mathematic scores; it improves their social-emotional relationships—it’s endless. I asked what she was doing with it, and she said, “We don’t really know yet.” I asked, Can I help you produce it? I called Gaumont. I thought they had been doing great work, and I knew they had a great animation facility. We met with them, and everyone was on the same page. It was 0 to 60 from there.

TV KIDS: What are the challenges in voicing animated characters compared to on-screen acting?
BELL: It’s a bit of a paradox: Animated characters are infinitely easier and infinitely harder than on-screen characters. It’s easier because I get to go in my pajamas, and there’s no hubbub around the whole thing. There’s no hair and makeup. Eliminating the visual component reduces the strain immensely from my point of view. But the challenge is that I have one tool to tell the story with, one tool to ask the audience to go on this journey, to engage the audience with this story—and that tool is my voice. I have learned a lot of tricks, which have mainly been gut instincts, about the tone of my voice, the pace of my voice, how I’m forming the vowels in my mouth versus how they sound, to try to engage the audience and tell the maximum amount of emotion with a sound.

TV KIDS: Through this show and in your experiences with your own kids, what have you learned about the importance of music education for young ones?
BELL: This type of engagement with a show like this will help them learn music fundamentals because the show is talking about, under the guise of entertainment, music theory and vocabularies like beats, lyrics and tempo. It can help create an interest in music from an early age. By children having the opportunity to discover and interact with a variety of music genres in a meaningful way, it creates more cultural exposure. The developmental benefits of music education don’t just inspire a love and appreciation for music; from a brain-development perspective, it gives them a head start on so many other things, including cooperation and sharing. You make music how? With other people! You cooperate while making music; the drummer listens to the pianist, and the pianist listens to the violinist. Music can make you feel a certain way, so there’s social-emotional education. When you’re sad, could you put on a happy song and pump yourself up? Could you put on an even sadder song and get your cries out? It can change your mood; it has a major effect on things. To say nothing of counting and the mathematical benefits. I have allowed my kids to plunk on a piano and sing songs, and I’ve talked about a four-four measure versus a three-four. We’ve clapped it out in the car from a very early age. But I realize the privileged parenting that I’m accomplishing; I have the time to do that. If you’re a single mom with four kids and your public music education was cut, we wanted to make Do, Re & Mi to help you out and give your kids the head start that they deserve.

TV KIDS: What do you enjoy most about the songs in Do, Re & Mi, and who is coming up with them?
BELL: Jackie is writing the songs, along with David Schuler, who is a friend of hers. They’ve written music for a lot of different pop artists together. What I love most about the music in Do, Re & Mi is that it genuinely covers all genres. And I mean niche genres! It’s not just country, reggae and pop. We have an Olivia Newton-John episode. There are songs from artists who have created a mini-genre that is all their own.
Because Jackie and David write pop hooks for people that I would listen to on the radio and do listen to, none of the songs feel like the ones that are stuck in your head late at night because you walked by whatever television show your child was watching and now you feel like you can’t fall asleep because it’s on repeat. They’re actually really fun songs to sing. They are all a bit like a Justin Bieber hook or a Jason Aldean hook or a Bob Marley hook. They are interesting for adults as well. One of my main goals in this show was that I don’t want music that will be grating on adults; I want adults to be singing along and excited about this music as well. I don’t want adults to desire putting the television in the microwave.

TV KIDS: Tell me about some of the ancillary touchpoints of the series—from toys to books to gaming to teaching guides—and why those are important.
BELL: When we chose Jazwares to make the toys, it was because they had an engaging amount of musicality to each of their toys. It would allow the kids to be creating music. They are actual instruments. We want kids to learn about music, but the goal with music is not to study and memorize; it’s to learn the fundaments, go in your bedroom and make it yourself because it has an incredibly positive impact, even if you’re only playing songs and writing songs that no one else will hear. That’s an outlet for kids.
As far as making toys that aren’t musical, the benefit is that the story stays alive, the engagement stays alive. My youngest daughter is particularly into stuffies; she loves them, she cares about them, she anthropomorphizes them, she takes them places. When we first got the prototypes of the Do, Re and Mi birds, we had to go to the grocery store later that day, and she put masks on all of them and took them with us because they were important people in her life. I think that’s really cute!

With books, we have The Mysterious Beat, which retells the first episode of Do, Re & Mi in storybook form. We know that any amount of repetition with kids creates a deeper understanding. With the paperback edition, we put in stickers for a higher level of engagement. It’s all about keeping it alive in children’s lives from a story and engaging narrative perspective and not like they watched a show that was a lesson. It doesn’t come across like a teaching show, even though it is what Jackie and I call “sneak teaching.”
One of the most exciting things is that the mobile game, Do, Re & Mi: Musical Adventure, has multiple mini-games that incorporate aspects of music education such as following a beat, instrument identification and music vocabulary. It’s giving kids a leg up on the music education they deserve, whether they have it in their schools or not, and those skill sets will bleed into a lot of other forms of education and development for a child.

TV KIDS: What are some of the underlying themes the show imparts?
BELL: Cultural exposure and learning from it. One of the ways my kids are able to keep a growth mindset is that we expose them to a lot of different things—we try different cultures’ foods; we talk about Chinese New Year or the Hindu holiday Holi. We remind them that there are people who live in other parts of the world who we could learn more about. When you’re popping your bubble and not limiting your exposure, you have a greater sense of empathy and compassion for sharing Earth. From an emotional standpoint, from an intimate, interpersonal standpoint, music can affect the way you feel, and you can use it as a tool. If you wake up and are really tired, maybe put on a pop song. It might get you jazzed. It has the ability to change your feelings, exposing kids to the fact that there are tools out there to help them along the way.