Wednesday, April 20, 2011


It's not often that a man has a dream that involves all of his passions and through hard work and determination, it becomes a reality. You might even call it magical. Rich Sirgiovanni is that man and he is on the verge of something quite incredible. His creation of a new cartoon called "The Grimps" is about to take the world by storm. I recently had the good fortune to speak to Rich about his fascinating life and his great new adventure.....

MICK: Are you originally from New York?
RICH: Yes, I was born and still live in Queens!
MICK: I see on your Facebook that you were very involved with music when you were younger.
RICH: I've been playing drums and singing since I was around 14 years old. Back in the late 70's, I played in Max's Kansas City, CBGB's, Great Gildersleeves, quite a few clubs on Long Island. I played in copy bands and original bands. Manhattan was the place to feature all the original music in those days.
MICK: How did you get into the advertising industry?
RICH: I graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 1979. I got into advertising because it was one of those careers where when you got out of school, you could hopefully find a regular job while you pursued other things and in my case, it was cartooning. I took plenty of advertising courses and went in that direction where I made a good living for many years. Having a music background allowed me to work in recording studios and write musical jingles.
MICK: I know that "Gotta Go To Mo's", the Modell's jingle, is probably your most famous jingle you created. Did you have any idea that it would be so big? Everybody knows that!
RICH: When we came up with that idea, it was something fresh for Modell's. A new direction. We knew there was something special about it. It was catchy to everyone who heard it when we broke the campaign. By no means did anyone think that people would still being using it now 15 years later! That was an exciting thing to work on!
MICK: Please tell me about "The Trolls".
RICH: "The Trolls" was the original name of my of my current project "The Grimps". Two months ago, I changed the name of the project because I found out that Dreamworks is coming out with a movie called "Good Luck Trolls". They did the story with the family of the person who created the Troll dolls in the 60's. The story line is about the Troll Dolls. My idea is completely different. I went through all of my proper copyrights and felt it would be too confusing. So I created a new word called "Grimps" which is a combination of gruesome and impish. So that is the new title of the project and the show!
MICK: I saw that for "The Grimps", you have some amazing people lined up for the voices of the characters.
RICH: Yes, for the voice overs, we already have committed Peter Noone from Herman's Hermits, Eric Burdon from the Animals, Todd Rundgren, Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees, Keith Emerson from ELP, etc... I've met with most of them and they are all committed to being part of the project. We are also in the works of talking to other hopefuls like Ringo Starr, Meatloaf, Debbie Harry, even Jack Black!
MICK: Are they going to do just the voices or will they do the music also?
RICH: At this point, they will doing just the voices of the characters. Part of the plan with the Grimps is that the show is going to present original rock and roll music. Kind of the same theory as The Monkees back in the 60's. We will create new original songs from a wide variety of songwriters and try to create a completely different sound. The basic sound of The Grimps will be that of an original rock and roll band. Part of the concept is something that is very cool and will tie in the generations is to have a lot of rock icons involved in the show. The children are the primary audience but this will also attract the parents and definitely the grand parents. The show is a subtle tribute to the history of rock and roll also. All of the characters that I've named come from different people from rock and roll. For instance, the four main Grimps are Winston (from John Lennon's middle name), Moony (from Keith Moon), Mac (obviously from Paul McCartney) and Emerson (from Keith Emerson). We have other characters that are also named after rock people. A knight and a dragon are secondary characters who were with the Grimps when they were cursed in the storyline are named Billy and Shears. The evil wizard is named Specter. The fan club for the Grimps is run by Cynthia, Patty and Maureen (named after the Beatles wives). I tried to take a lot of these subtleties and maybe just the people from our generation will know or appreciate it and it may go over the heads of the kids but it really doesn't matter. When my oldest son was five, the biggest thing in cartoons was the Teenage Mutant Turtles. All the kids knew Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael as turtles, not as Renaissance painters! I took that same kind of concept in developing my characters.
MICK: Is "The Grimps" going to be a TV show or a feature film?
RICH: We are hoping for TV. When we go out to California next month to start pitching the Grimps, we have some meetings scheduled with some motion picture companies. It would be fantastic if it could go in both directions. I have some very interesting people involved with this working with me.
MICK: So what stage are you in now? Are the cartoons still being talked about or have they actually been created already?
RICH: We are right at the stage where we can present this to the networks. A presentation video has been made. Pilot episodes have been written. The characters have been developed. We are just putting the finishing touches on it. Even the music aspect is pretty interesting. My musical producer is Ron Dante! Ron is working with me as the musical production supervisor. The theme song, which was just finished and recorded in Los Angeles last week, is titled "We're The Grimps". It was written by Ron Dante and Freddy Cannon (who had the hit 'Palisades Park"). It is a very cool, upbeat introduction of the show and the characters. Simple lyrics for the kids to remember and very bouncy! We are also developing a three song demo of the actual sound of the Grimps. My idea is to produce good original rock music that will be presented by this cartoon rock and roll band. Ron Dante is writing some of the initial songs with Andrew Gold, another legendary performer and songwriter.
At the same time we go to the networks, we will also be going to record companies to present the concept of this. We are really trying to develop a sound that is very upbeat, contemporary and unique; not Juvenal even though it is for a cartoon show. We are right at the point where we are ready to show the world what we've got!
MICK: Sounds like you have some heavy hitters with you!
RICH: I'm also working with another gentleman, who is representing me, by the name of Ron Alexenberg. He is the former president of CBS Records and worked under Clive Davis many years ago. Ron is responsible for signing Meatloaf, Boston, Michael Jackson's solo career, etc...the list is endless with the people he has worked with. He is very involved in this project, both on the music end and the television end. Everything seems to be falling into place nicely. The next step is to see if the guys in the suits out there like it!
MICK: When is this going to be presented to them?
RICH: Sometime in early May, June the latest.
MICK: Do you have any other projects that you would like to share with us?
RICH: No. This thing has absorbed most of my time right now. I've put all of my concentration in it. I'm the creator and the illustrator of it. Developing characters and working behind the scenes, especially with the music. It's what I've really been involved with for the past two years. I've kept all of my focus on that.
MICK: How is the advertising industry doing these days?
RICH: It's been slow and soft. I've always worked with small and medium sized businesses, not only on Long Island but in the tri-state area. The economy the last few years has slowed things down quite a bit. You have to knock on more doors than you ever did before. People are very cautious with there money which I can understand.
MICK: Are there any future plans for new musical ventures after this?
RICH: I still play drums and sing. I hope that as this is being developed I will be more involved on a level of music with the Grimps. Once we get it launched, I will be busier than I ever have been which will be a lot of fun. I will get to have my hands in everything I always loved. When I decided to create this idea, I wanted to combine my passions which are rock and roll, cartooning and writing. That's how I developed this idea which is about 4 kids with a little magic and mystery. The storyline goes back 500 years ago where these 4 characters were minstrels and they were very popular in those days. An evil wizard, who is jealous of their celebrity, puts a curse on them and turns them into these little grimps to be thrown into the Forest for eternity. One of their other friends, who was also transformed, is also a wizard. After 500 years, he comes along and figures out a spell to transform them back to humans. But there are two glitches to it. One is that they only go back to being humans from sunset to sunrise. The other is they are still small. The ongoing quest is he will always be looking how to make the reversal of the curse permanent. In the meantime, they can come back to being humans and since they were great musicians who have been hanging around for 500 years hidden from society, they come out and become a pop rock group called "The Grimps". It's the trials and tribulations of being a rock band and having the secret that they turn back into these ugly little monsters in the daytime, that dual life they have to live with. That storyline gave me the ability to combine music and have something cool for kids.

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