Day-glo route to stardom

Adrian Chamberlain, Times Colonist
Published: Thursday, March 30, 2006

One of Canada's hottest pop groups is poised to rock our fair city. . Of course, unless you're under the age of 12 (or have young children), you've likely never heard of the Doodlebops. They are Canada's reigning kiddie sensation ... even if they have drawn flak from at least one well-known children's entertainer.

Doodlebop Deedee says the rainbow-coloured trio's spring tour -- expected to draw 30,000 devotees -- is selling out theatres across Canada.

"Now that we're on the road, seeing our fans, they're screaming our names and stuff. It's a different feeling [from television] and it's lovely," said Deedee, aka Lisa Lennox, phoning from her tour bus near Prince Albert.

Deedee has purple skin and a pink '60s-style bouffant. Rooney (Chad McNamara) is the blue Doodlebop with the rastaman hairdo. Moe (Jonathan Wexler) is orange and red. In Canada, where the program airs on CBC television, Doodlebops is one of the top-rated children's shows in the two-to-five-year old range. Their DVDs have gone double-platinum in this country (sales of more than 100,000 each).

Some youngsters attend concerts dressed as their heroes. And if the TV show's producer is to be believed, other children even coax their families to rearrange vacations around Doodlebops concerts.

Does that make them Doodle-heads?

In the U.S., Doodlebops is broadcast on the Disney Channel, putting their show before millions of delighted thumb-suckers. After shooting a third season this summer (to air February, 2007), the Doodlebops will embark on a seven-month stateside tour, said Lennox.

"It's really big hype, probably more so in the States than here," she said.

The creators at Toronto-based Cookie Jar Entertainment have craftily grafted '60s influenced pop and Monkees-inspired zaniness onto a cheerful threesome painted Day-Glo colours. The notion is that youngsters are starving for a taste of the pop-rock their elder siblings love. If you're too young for Britney Spears, you're probably the right age for purple Deedee or blue Rooney.

Another selling point: kiddies already have a track record of adoring heavily made-up rockers -- remember Kiss? Meanwhile, baby-boomer parents are allegedly able to tolerate this sort of pabulum pop, since it carries faint echoes of the Beatles and other familiar 1960s groups.

Of course, with fame often comes notoriety and scandal. For example, it was reported that the Doodlebops lip-synched at a March 24 Jubilee Auditorium show in Edmonton. Then there's Fred Penner, the evergreen Canadian kids' entertainer who this month told the Winnipeg Free Press the Doodlebops are "superficial."

Added a disgruntled Penner: "I look at the Doodlebops and I think 'What's the point?' It's frustrating to see the power of television dragging the kid in."

Lennox, who chuckles and giggles often on the phone, isn't about to be dragged into a knuckle-duster with the mighty Penner.

"We all grew up with Fred Penner and we loved his lessons," she said. "He just probably thinks because we're fantastical creatures, it's not real life. But we're really just going on every day lessons and situations a pre-schooler would go through."

And just what lessons might one learn from a Doodlebop? Well, in one show, Rooney refuses to eat his cauliflower, but then changes his mind. After it aired, the producers got an e-mail from a mom whose cauliflower-refusing son now insisted on the vegetable, following Rooney's noble example.

In another episode, drummer Moe believes he will be replaced by a drum machine. The whole thing was a misunderstanding, and Moe learns he is a "unique individual" who cannot be replaced. Elsewhere, Deedee's favourite flower -- the Ewww Flower -- grosses out everyone but her. She learns that just because she likes something, it doesn't mean everyone else will.

I wonder whether Deedee/Lennox likes being covered in gooey purple makeup for hours at a stretch. No problem-o, replies the perky actor, a former children's camp counsellor.

"It is not bad at all. We're air-brushed with the colours and stuff. It doesn't bother us. We just wanted to go with a different feel. We're Doodles."

What about the flip-side? After all, the children don't recognize the Doodlebops without their makeup. Doesn't that leave the 'Bops feeling empty, depressed and ... well, just downright un-Doodle-like? "It works to our benefit actually," said Lennox. "We can leave a venue not having screaming kids run after us."

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