When Stevin John shows up at an aquarium or indoor playground to film his smash hit online series Blippi, even his biggest fans are a bit surprised by his regular guy appearance.
But once he appears wearing his orange bowtie, suspenders and two-tone scally cap, watch out — it’s pandemonium for the character created by the 31-year-old actor and filmmaker, who grew up on a farm in Washington state.
“Everything was just so hard at the beginning, especially when there was no traction on the show,” John tells Billboard. “Now we go to a venue to film and everyone’s just so happy that we’re there and they can’t believe they went to the zoo the same day as Blippi.”
Today John is announcing the launch of Blippi Live!, a 30-city North American tour produced by touring veterans Stephen Shaw and Jonathan Linden from Round Room Presents, which is also producing the Baby Shark Live tour.
One important fact to get out of the way — the character of Blippi is going on tour, but not John himself.
“I won’t be on the road, but I am obviously extremely involved with the whole process,” he notes. “Blippi is as a character and I’m the creative force behind it, but since YouTube is a monster and all of these platforms are really crazy I can’t go on the road for many weeks or months at a time.”
Instead John will hire an actor, who he’ll train to appreciate and eventually master the mannerisms of the boisterous-yet-eternally-young leading man. It’s a shrewd, and long-thought out move — in order for Blippi to grow and truly scale into an empire, John recognizes that he’s got to separate the persona from the character. It’s a long term play to create a global brand, but John said he’s deliberately not skipping steps in building Blippi and is preparing to work with whoever is cast to play Blippi in the live show.
“My advice to them will be to try and envision what it was like to be a child and remember how your excitement and imagination we’re at such an elevated level,” John said. “I really try and remember what it’s like to be a child. I had a great childhood and I want my audience to have a great childhood and get excited about life and to love learning.”
Blippi Live will be centered around the themes on his show — music, dance, machines, animals and vehicles — Blippi’s second album is dedicated to motorized vessels and construction machines with tracks like “The Excavator Song” that have racked up 49 million plays on YouTube.
“My ultimate goal is to have a localized Blippi in every single territory,” said John, a former U.S. Air Force serviceman who has generated 600 million views in the last month on Youtube alone and nearly 10 billion views since launching the Blippi in 2014.
Today Blippi Inc. is anchored by about ten agents at UTA in Los Angeles that cover live touring, publishing, licensing and products. John also employs animation teams in the Philippines and Mexico, along with Spanish voice over actors in Costa Rica for Blippi Espanol, a handful of cameramen around North America, a merch team that works with Amazon to fulfill and ship about 30 products around the world and a new publishing team that will launch a book at Barnes and Noble.
“There’s no set headquarters — it’s a lot of passionate people that are scattered across the country,” said John, who splits his time between Seattle and Las Vegas and is looking to establish a third residence in Los Angeles in 2020.
Today, Blippi’s show has become a platform for celebrities like Olympic Gold medalist Shawn White, but John said he spent years developing the Blippi character. Most videos are shot with a minimal three to five person team, there”s usually no cinematic director and much of what appears on the end video is improvisation.
“I know what I want to talk about, but the delivery is very fluid,” he explains. “And we rely on help from the local people at the venue where we shoot. They’ll suggest places to film and point out things that most kids find funny. I’m always looking for good ideas and new ways to have fun.”
Tickets for Blippi Live! go on sale Friday (Oct. 11). Dates for the tour are below. Learn more at blippilive.com.
Feb. 2 — Tobin Center in San Antonio
Feb. 4 — BJCC Concert Hall in Birmingham, Alabamba
Feb. 5 — Saenger Theatre in Mobile, Alabamba
Feb. 6 — Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida
Febr. 7 — Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach, Florida
Feb. 8 — Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Febr. 9 — Straz Center (Morsani Hall) in Tampa, Florida
Feb. 12 — Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium in Spartanburg, South Carolina
Feb. 13 — Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C.
Feb. 14 — Lynn Memorial Auditorium in Lynn, Massachusetts
Feb. 15 — Bushnell in Hartford, Connecticut
Feb. 16 — Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, New Jersey
Feb. 17 — Bergen PAC in Englewood, New Jersey
Febr. 19 — Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta
Feb. 20 — DPAC in Durham, North Carolina
Feb. 21 — Palace Theatre in Columbus, Ohio
Feb.22 — Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont, Illionios
Feb. 23 — Riverside Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Feb. 25 —Byham Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Feb. 26 — Kirby Center in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Feb. 27 — Tilles Center in Brookville, New York
Feb. 28 — Kodak Center in Rochester, New York
Feb. 29 – Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto
March 1 — Akron Civic Theatre in Akron, Ohio
March 3 —Adler Theatre in Davenport, Iowa
March 4 — Ralston Arena in Ralston, Nebraska
March 5 — The Orpheum Theater in Madison, Wisconsin
March 6 — The Family Arena in St. Charles, Missouri
March 7 — Des Moines Civic Center in Des Moines, Iowa
March 8 — State Theatre in Minneapolis