Meet Sholly Fisch, the Chief Content Officer of UMIGO- You Make it Go! These awesome videos take place in a world of adventure with best friends Bit, Bean, and Dizzy, who save the day using math! He answered all of our burning questions, from who his favorite character is, to what his favorite subject was in elementary school. Check it out below, and keep an eye out for UMIGO videos here on batteryPOP!
batteryPOP: Tell us what makes UMIGO special.
Sholly: There are lots of things that make UMIGO special: Laugh-out-loud cartoons, crazy characters, challenging games, great music… and, when you’re not looking, you can even learn some math along the way. Pizza, spies, ghosts, singing rulers, flying robot hippos – you name it, and there’s a good chance that UMIGO’s got it.
One of the things that really make UMIGO unique, though, is the way all of the pieces fit together. On the UMIGO web site (www.umigo.com), you’ll find a bunch of “appisodes” that combine funny, action-packed cartoon stories with interactive fun. So you can watch and laugh along as our UMIGO pals Bean, Bit, and Dizzy try to catch an ancient mummy, or play video games to win a flying scooter, or take on the world champions in Umiball – and when they get in trouble (which happens pretty often), you can join in to help them out by scoring Umiball goals yourself, or putting Bit’s shapes together to make a glider so they can fly away before the mummy catches them. That’s why we call it “UMIGO” – because “U Make It Go!”
batteryPOP: What do you like best about Bit, Dizzy, and Bean? Who is your favorite?
Sholly: Hmm, it’s hard to pick one thing I like best. I guess it’s that they make such a great team, because they’re such good friends and each one brings his or her own strengths to the group. Bean is probably the most sensible one. She’s clever, helpful, and her stretchy tail saves the day more than once. Bit is a walking, talking box who always seems to be carrying just the right tool for what they need…if they can find it among all of the other stuff he’s carrying. And Dizzy is a big, lovably goofy guy, who’s always good for a laugh, whether he’s drooling over a prize at the video arcade or striking ninja poses in his alter ego of “Ninditzu!”
And let’s not forget the Umis! They’re colorful, little characters who are shaped like cubes, pyramids, and spheres. The Umis don’t talk (at least, not in English), but they can bounce and stretch, and they sure get into a lot of mischief!
batteryPOP: Where can kids find UMIGO?
Sholly: The main place to find UMIGO is on the UMIGO web site: www.umigo.com. But there are many other places where you can find UMIGO too. With help from our friends at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, UMIGO exhibits are popping up at children’s museums all over the United States. When you go out to eat, you can find UMIGO on the Ziosk tablets at Chili’s restaurants. Through a partnership with the Spanish-language TV broadcaster V-Me, we’re even making UMIGO available in Spanish. The list goes on and on.
And, of course, you can always find UMIGO right here on BatteryPOP!
batteryPOP: What is your favorite part about working with math songs for kids?
Sholly: Well, for me, I’d say it’s getting to work with UMIGO’s main songwriters, Chris Staples and David McLees, who are brilliantly creative guys. Hey, what else can you say about a couple of guys who can turn quarts and gallons into a Wild West showdown, fractions into a pizza party, or place value into a seafaring song about pirate treasure?
For kids who watch the UMIGO music videos, they’re not just fun, lively songs that you can clap or dance along with. Everyone needs a little help with math sometimes (even me). And, as a developmental psychologist who’s spent many years making TV shows, games, and other media to help kids learn, I know that songs are also a great way to learn and remember new math ideas. So, if our songs can help kids remember all of the different pairs of numbers that add up to 10, or which sign means “greater than” and which one means “less than,” I’m glad we can give them the tools to make it a little easier – and a little more fun. (By the way, if you want to remember the difference between “greater than” and “less than” yourself, here’s a hint from the song: “My face looks at greater, my rear points at less.”)
batteryPOP: Did you like learning math in school? What was your favorite subject?
Sholly: I did like math in elementary school, although my favorite subject was English. Math got harder for me in high school, though, when I hit subjects like geometry, trigonometry, and pre-calculus. But I developed a new love for math as an adult, when I worked on TV shows about math, like Cyberchase and Square One TV. And now, the UMIGO videos and games are giving me whole new ways to play around with math.
batteryPOP: How many people does it take to make an episode of UMIGO? What kinds of jobs do they do?
Sholly: Let’s see... 1, 2, 3, 4… Um, let’s just say “a whoooole lot.” There are animators, game designers, math educators, actors, writers, programmers, musicians, educational media experts… not to mention all of the business and staff people behind the scenes who make it all work. It’s a huge team that spans at least a few different countries.
batteryPOP: What is the craziest or funniest thing that has happened while working on an episode of UMIGO?
Sholly: You mean besides this interview? Well, there was the time we sat through a full-day meeting wearing fake moustaches. Or the time we were supposed to meet for dinner on a freezing cold night, only to discover when we got there that the restaurant had gone out of business…and one of the team members from California hadn’t brought a coat. But one of the most fun parts of working on UMIGO is seeing the finished appisodes when they all come together. You can never tell what Dizzy might do next!
batteryPOP: When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Sholly: Actually, I can tell you exactly, because I have a vivid memory of the day when I figured it out at the age of 10. At that point, I narrowed it down to three choices: a detective, a scientist, or a writer. I never did become a detective, but I am both a social scientist and a writer. So two out of three ain’t bad – and maybe someday, I’ll get to be a detective too.
batteryPOP: What were/are some of your favorite cartoons? And if you were a superhero, what would you want your superpower to be?
Sholly: To tell you the truth, these are really easy questions for me, because I not only work in TV, but late at night, after I finish working on UMIGO, I also write stories for comic books. One of the great things about that is that I’ve gotten to write stories about lots of the characters I loved as a kid (and still love as a mostly-grown-up): Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Scooby-Doo, Mr. Peabody and Sherman… plus superheroes like Batman, Superman, and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Working with brand new cartoon characters like Bean, Bit, and Dizzy is pretty fun too.
What superpower would I want? Well, that depends. When I need to get somewhere and I’m running late, I wouldn’t mind a little super-speed or teleportation. Sometimes, in meetings, being able to read minds could come in handy. But, mostly, as I try to juggle work, doing things with my family, and sleep, the most useful superpower would be the ability to squeeze more hours into the day.
A special thanks to Sholly for answering all of our questions, and don't forget to check out the UMIGO videos HERE on batteryPOP!