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Betty Jo Tucker Reviews Buddy Bear

Updated: May 2, 2023

BUDDY BEAR'S MUSICAL ADVENTURE put me in a happy mood while dealing with two life-changing falls and a death in the family all at once. That’s how powerful this amazing children’s video was for me. So I had to find out more. Fortunately, director John Aguirre, the man behind this delightful project, agreed to the online interview below.

TUCKER: Do you have a directing philosophy? If so, please explain.

AGUIRRE: Yes, in a nutshell, make the audience "feel" something or inspire something in them. Bring people together, elevate the human spirit whenever possible. I try to arm myself with a sense of humor on set. It's important. I approach every project with the script being the foundation upon which a film is built. It serves as the blueprint for every aspect of the production, from the casting to the cinematography to the final cut. Even on a children's project like Buddy Bear. My job is to bring that screenplay to life on the screen. Finding the heartbeat of the story is essential. Since the script is critical to the process, you need to honor the script as the director, then find the right cast who really become THE storytellers on your mission, because they're the ones on camera bringing the story to life. Can I make something that provokes a feeling from the audience? I'll try my best. Depending on the project, perhaps the story will evoke a sense of nostalgia, appreciation, maybe even educate or inspire folks to think more openly and less judgmental about the people around them and maybe even themselves. Can I get a reaction; Joy, fear, relief, gratitude? Can I inspire hope? Maybe. I'll try and do that, because the world needs more hope.

I was looking at my YouTube stats for the channel last night and saw that on any given day, kids in more than 100 countries are watching ourBuddy Bear channel on Youtube! That's a lot of different languages! Even countries who are currently at war with one another, Ukraine and Russia. I couldn't help but think about the little kids listening, dancing and singing along to Buddy Bear, while their parents are shooting at one another. It makes one sad. Some of those Ukrainian kids may have been watching from a bomb shelter, or underground somewhere. The idea of music being THE universal language, really hit home. If we could only resolve our issues with music instead of fighting, we'd live in a better world. In a way, this gets back to the original philosophy of bringing people together. I guess creating a sense of community is also at the heart of my directing philosophy . Ron Howard, Frank Capra, Steven Spielberg, Walt Disney, and even Ron Underwood are all directors who have a hand in inspiring my directing philosophy and perspective.

TUCKER: This musical adventure is so jolly throughout. What did you do to create that atmosphere?

AGUIRRE: I'll steal a quote from a director colleague of mine named Todd Holland, "Joy, Craft, Repeat." I need to set an example along with my assistant director team. I usually start off with a team talk at the top of the day of how lucky I am to have all these great filmmakers/collaborators around me and if anyone has any ideas to make something better, let me know after the take. Just not all at once. LOL Also, it helped that I created Buddy Bear from scratch, sort of like Walt Disney did with Mickey Mouse, then building a world around him. I think music and children made the job of establishing a jolly atmosphere much easier, because those elements are at the root of joy. There is probably a lot of inspiration subconsciously that inspired my creativity from films like "Jungle Book", "Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory", "Mary Poppins" and many others. Music + Fun, Colorful Characters = Joy, at least in my experience. So, to create that atmosphere, I started with like-minded people. Dale Fabrigar, Teruhisa Yoshida, and Joan Wong, all, whom I had worked on set with in the past on various shows. I have to "set the stage" metaphorically speaking. The director sets the tone on set so, it definitely does not help to come on to set with a grumpy or ungrateful attitude.

TUCKER: How did you become involved with BUDDY BEAR’S MUSICAL ADVENTURE? AGUIRRE: In a way this adventure is a continuation of the original concept, “Buddy Bear in My First Day Adventures At Preschool.” That original idea was to have Buddy Bear go out into the real world environments where a preschool child might have some trepidation and at the same time, be curious about things like, taking an airplane ride for the first time or visiting the dentist or doctor for the first time, hence "My First Day Adventures.” Our pilot was, "My First Day At Preschool With Buddy Bear.” And that won a number of awards including Parenting Magazine's "Best New Video of the Year" and a Scholastic Parent Magazine John Lennon Songwiting award, plus a few others. I quickly realized that without any outside investment, it's a tall financial order for me to do another full production. We shot the "Preschool", half hour pilot in just 2 days at a real school location, with a reality style feel. I thought for my next outing, shooting on stage might defer about 25% costs since I'd have more control, in this case, I miscalculated. For "Musical Adventure", Not only did I have to create a new Buddy Bear animatronic Puppet, but an entire colorful world for Buddy Bear to exist in, including illustrated back plates (art) that would become the Magical Forest, as well as the various characters who live there and of course, I had to write the music. I didn't do that alone, my long time composer and musical collaborator, Oliver Goodwill, helped with the heavy lifting. My costume designer friend, Judith Curtis, came in to design the fairy characters as well as the kid's marching band costumes and Mike and Alexandra Mcgee at Alex In Wonderland, helped with the design of Buddy Bear as well as the Production Design of the show. We shot at Silver Dream Factory in Anaheim California and my friend Roland Canamar, the owner of the studio, made a deal for our 2 day shoot that I could afford and that no other studio would have done. Casting Buddy Bear was essential and with Terra Jole, we found the absolute perfect actor. She stands at 4'2" as a person with dwarfism, but she can literally move and dance with the force of the combined energy of the entire chorus line of the Rockettes. Donning the Buddy Bear costume for many hours a day is an extremely challenging task. There's a lot of physicality and sweat involved and I have to say to this day, I am impressed with Terra's talent and agility in executing a perfect performance. Terra embraced the role with pure joy and enthusiasm that was frankly contagious and that helped foster a jolly atmosphere as well. I think when the crew saw how hard Terra was working at helping to bring Buddy Bear to life, it made us that more happy to be there making a fun project. TUCKER: What is the message you want Buddy Bear’s Musical Adventure to deliver? AGUIRRE: That music is the universal language and we can all celebrate our differences that make us unique through the gift of music. Just today on Linkedin I posted : Today, Buddy Bear's Jump Jive and Stretch is being celebrated with 100% "Likes" from children of 27 Countries, 2 of which are at war with each other. Amazing that 12 musical notes can translate into something kids speaking many more than 12 languages can understand. If Music isn't THE universal language, then what is? Creative exploration, adventure, encouragement, respect for one another, and a little bit of hope for making life better by working together. Learning music is a gift for life. It's meant to be shared in a community. So are films. So let's find a song, a dance and a story to tell and share as we continue learning and helping each other out. ***** Thanks to John Aguirre for his revealing interview. Please check out Buddy Bear’s Musical Adventure on: Google play On iTunes and Apple TV Below is the poem which came to me after watching Aguirre’s uplifting children’s video. Ode to “Buddy Bear’s Musical Adventure Buddy Bear loves music worldwide so this adventure is a fun ride of instruments and songs to play with young children singing away. Diversity is loud and clear as Buddy Bear leads with a cheer. Educational? Yes indeed. Just the kind our children need! ***

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