Sher­iff Cal­lie Saves the Day!

Dis­ney Ju­nior’s de­light­ful new preschool show in­tro­duces a great cast of ec­cen­tric Western char­ac­ters, while teach­ing young’uns about so­cial ethics and man­ners. by Ramin Za­hed

Animation Magazine - - Content -

Dis­ney Ju­nior’s de­light­ful new preschool show in­tro­duces a great cast of ec­cen­tric Western char­ac­ters, while teach­ing young’uns about so­cial ethics and man­ners. by Ramin Za­hed

Akid’s never too young to learn about the “Cow­poke Code!” At least, that’s what the creators of Dis­ney Ju­nior’s charm­ing new se­ries Sher­iff Cal­lie’s Wild West were think­ing when they de­cided to de­velop a show about a cat sher­iff, her wood­pecker deputy and their fun cac­tus side­kick. Cal­lie and Peck and the rest of the res­i­dents of Nice and Friendly Cor­ners are go­ing to teach two- to seven-year olds all about morals, man­ners and so­cial ethics when the toon de­buts on Dis­ney’s WATCH app this month and on the cabler in early 2014.

Sher­iff Cal­lie’s Wild West was cre­ated by De­nis Morella and Ge­orge Eve­lyn and de­vel­oped by Holly Huck­ins, the same team who gave us Hig­gly­town He­roes, another preschool show that ran on Dis­ney Chan­nel from 2004 to 2008. Morella re­calls pitch­ing an early ver­sion of the show to Dis­ney Ju­nior’s exec VP and gen­eral man­ager Nancy Kan­ter. “We had this lit­tle Western sher­iff and all th­ese char­ac­ters from a Western town, and they liked it,” he says. “We made the pi­lot and then de­cided to add more hu­mor and age it up a lit­tle bit. Dis­ney is best at hav­ing strong, char­ac­ter-driven sto­ries, and our Western com­edy felt quite at home.” Of course, the creators of the toon are very care­ful about cre­at­ing a Western show that avoids the trap­pings of a grownup world like Dead­wood or the Wild, Wild West! “Our sher­iff has a magic noo­dle lasso—which she doesn’t use as a weapon, but as a rope to help the towns­peo­ple,” says Huck­ins, who also exec pro­duces the show. “We have a sa­loon that serves milk and fruit drinks, right on Main Street. We also have orig­i­nal songs with a dance num­ber in each

“I think that’s why we loved some of the old TV shows…Just like The Andy Grif­fith Show, the sher­iff is the voice of rea­son and you have a hi­lar­i­ous deputy and all the nutty peo­ple in this town. Those re­ally sweet, old,

clas­sic come­dies re­ally in­spired us along the way.”

11-minute episode. There’s a Prairie Dog Trio, which serves as a Greek cho­rus that helps the sto­ries along.”

In­spired by clas­sic Hanna-Bar­bera toons like Quick Draw McGraw and col­or­ful cin­e­matic West­erns like the 1965 Jane Fonda-star­rer Cat Bal­lou, the show creators strove to craft a unique world that was both invit­ing and mem­o­rable.

“We have big land­scapes of the South­west desert as our show’s en­vi­ron­ment,” says Morella. “It was won­der­ful to cre­ate th­ese back­drops, with big, blue skies, golden yel­low plains. We re­ally wanted to show off this world in CG.”

Huck­ins, who over­sees the writ­ing and act­ing as­pects of the show, says in the be­gin­ning, she was a bit ner­vous about go­ing the CG route. “I was think­ing that 2D an­i­mated come­dies are more com­mon. CG is go­ing to be a lot more work, but ul­ti­mately, we were re­ally glad to go with 3D. It’s both hi­lar­i­ous and ex­cit­ing to see this Western come to CG life.”

“Get­ting the CG char­ac­ters to work is al­ways a chal­lenge,” ex­plains Morella. “For ex­am­ple, Cal­lie has th­ese big eyes, big head and a big cow­boy hat. It all works great as still im­agery, but it’s much harder to make it work in CG. You need a lot more light. Some of the early de­signs weren’t quite right for CG, so the char­ac­ters cer­tainly evolved visu­ally in the process.”

Both exec producers be­lieve that both the look of the show and the writ­ing has im­proved a lot through­out the long de­vel­op­ment process. “Through­out the episodes, we get to re­ally know the res­i­dents of this Western town,” ex­plains Morella. “They’ve be­come fun­nier. Then we have all the in­ci­den­tal char­ac­ters in the back­ground that we get to make sto­ries about. You can even imag­ine spin-offs based on the side char­ac­ters!”

“I think that’s why we loved some of the old TV shows,” adds Morella “Just like The Andy Grif­fith Show, the sher­iff is the voice of rea­son and you have a hi­lar­i­ous deputy and all the nutty peo­ple in this town. Those re­ally sweet, old, clas­sic

come­dies re­ally in­spired us along the way.”

Char­ac­ters Wel­come

— Exec pro­ducer and co-cre­ator De­nis Morella

In case you were won­der­ing, Gun­smoke ain’t got noth­ing on Sher­iff Cal­lie in terms of a col­or­ful cast of char­ac­ters! There’s Ella Cow­belle, the owner of the town’s Milk­shake Sa­loon; Priscilla, a posh skunk who loves at­ten­tion; Farmer Stinky, Priscilla’s over­all-wear­ing cousin; Mr. Dillo, an ar­madillo who’s the town’s black­smith; Un­cle Bun, a kind jack rab­bit who runs the gen­eral store; Doc Quak­ers, a smart duck who works as the town doc­tor; and Tio Tor­tuga, a very old desert turtle who loves to tell tales about the Old West. Not to for­get the brothers Dirty Dan and Dusty, two javelina min­ers who are al­ways caus­ing trou­ble; a road­run­ner named Cody who works as the Pony Ex­press Rider; and Frida Fox, the rodeo star. Now that’s quite a cast.

Led by Mandy Moore ( Tan­gled) as Cal­lie, the rest of the voice cast in­cludes toon vet­er­ans such as Lu­cas Grabeel, Jes­sica DiCicco, Mo Collins, Cree Sum­mer, Kevin Michael Richard­son, Jeff Ben­nett, Gary An­thony Wil­liams and Car­los Alazraqui. Ac­cord­ing to the producers, the show works on a roughly 40-week pro­duc­tion sched­ule—10 weeks for pre-pro­duc­tion, 23 for an­i­ma­tion and seven for post-pro­duc­tion, give or take. All the pre-pro­duc­tion is done in the Dis­ney TV stu­dio in Glen­dale, while the ac­tual an­i­ma­tion is han­dled by Xen­trix Stu­dios in Ban­ga­lore, In­dia, us­ing Maya-based tech­nol­ogy.

Both Morella and Huck­ins be­lieve that we are go­ing through a very rich and di­verse pe­riod in TV an­i­ma­tion. “I love the fact that there are so many great shows right now that are equally ap­peal­ing for par­ents to watch with their kids,” says Huck­ins. “When my daugh­ter was about four years old, there weren’t too many shows for us to watch to­gether.”

Morella agrees. “There are so many great shows that are out there for preschool­ers,” he said. “It’s gone way be­yond Blue’s Clues and Dora the Ex­plorer. You see a lot of older kids watch­ing them. I no­ticed that my eight-year-old niece is watch­ing those shows be­cause the pro­duc­tion val­ues are great, the de­signs are re­ally in­ter­est­ing. It’s re­ally fun for us to be part of this new wave of preschool show.”

Sher­iff Cal­lie’s Wild West pre­mieres on Dis­ney Ju­nior’s WATCH app this month. The se­ries will de­but on Dis­ney Ju­nior in early 2014.

Blaz­ing Whiskers: Sher­iff Cal­lie pays ho­mage to fa­vorite Western tropes while teach­ing young view­ers about do­ing the right thing.

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