‘Jam Van’ Dares to Ask: What if Family Road Trips Were Actually Fun?01/18/2023
A new travel series featuring a diverse array of beloved musical artists uses original tunes to help children navigate the world.
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By Laurel Graeber
Few family expeditions are more fraught than long-distance road trips. What parent hasn’t longed to take the kids on a highway journey that is free of bored whines, back-seat battles and the terrifying possibility of having to put “Baby Shark” on endless repeat?
Now a new series aims to fulfill that dream: “Jam Van,” on the YouTube Originals for Kids & Family channel and the YouTube Kids app, stakes out novel territory as a tune-filled travel show for children. In each of the season’s eight episodes — the first two will be released at noon Eastern time on Thursday, and a new one each Thursday thereafter — young viewers become the touring companions of Lamb, a detail-obsessed sheep, and Anne, a free-spirited alligator. Together, they explore a distinctive American city (and, in one case, a wide swath of a state) in their sky blue S.U.V.
“I felt like this was the best way to sort of make something funny and interesting, both visually and sonically,” said Bill Sherman, one of the series’s creators and a Tony Award-winning music orchestrator and composer whose credits range from “Hamilton” (he won a Grammy as a producer of the original Broadway cast recording) to “Sesame Street” (he is that show’s Emmy-winning music director).
Anne and Lamb’s 10- to-12-minute adventures in locations like Seattle, Nashville, Los Angeles and New Orleans involve landmarks, culture, food and, most important, music. On these road trips, however, moms and dads need not cover their ears: Musical artists including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow, Fitz and the Tantrums and Trombone Shorty portray themselves in live action, serenading the cartoon heroes with an original song created for each destination.
In some episodes, like the one set in Virginia, featuring the band Old Crow Medicine Show, the artists have written the central tune’s music or lyrics (or both) themselves; in others, they perform the work of an eminent composer like Butch Walker, who wrote the song for Sheryl Crow, or Sherman himself.
The result, Sherman said, is “music that you don’t often hear in kids’ shows,” including hip-hop, ’70s funk, bluegrass and country indie tunes.
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