Bud­dies to the End

Animation Magazine - - Tv - By Tom McLean.

Teen boys’ au­then­tic re­la­tion­ship grounds the lu­nacy in Dis­ney XD’s new se­ries

When Dis­ney gave the green light last year to Pickle and Peanut and re­leased a crude early im­age from the se­ries, the re­cep­tion online was bru­tal with com­ments in­di­cat­ing the show sig­nal­ing “the end of ideas” and even the start of the End Times.

Those com­ments are en­shrined on a bill­board in the pro­duc­tion of­fice of the se­ries at Dis­ney TV An­i­ma­tion in Glendale, Calif., and fre­quently re­ferred to by ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers Noah Z. Jones and Josh Tressler, and the show’s staff, as they work on com­plet­ing the show’s 20 half-hour first sea­son.

“It’s so easy to tell ev­ery­one — lit­er­ally ev­ery sin­gle hu­man be­ing in the world — that you hate some­thing,” says Jones.

But un­der­dog sta­tus suits Pickle and Peanut, a plucky, un­pol­ished buddy com­edy that mixes an­i­ma­tion and live-ac­tion tech­niques and is set to de­but Sept. 7 at 9 p.m. ET/ PT on Dis­ney XD.

“When we pitched the pi­lot, no­body re­ally knew what we were do­ing,” says Jones, who pre­vi­ously cre­ated Fish Hooks for Dis­ney. “At the first pitch, we were like, ‘It’s the end of the road but we had a re­ally good time.’ So then they said ‘Oh, we like it.’ And we said: ‘Re­ally? Are you guys sure?’”

The show is about Pickle, voiced by Jon Heder, and Peanut, voiced by Johnny Pem­ber- ton — two teenage boys in the fi­nal year of high school in an anony­mous sub­urb of Reno, Nev., who are look­ing to have as much fun as they can be­fore they have to grow up.

The show is “low-fi, kind of scrappy; an au­then­tic de­scrip­tion of two teenage boy best friends,” Jones says. “They don’t have se­cret hand­shakes and call each other ‘bro’ and high­five all the time. We said that we wanted to do some­thing that’s dif­fer­ent. They’re not go­ing to say ‘I love you, man’ and ‘Let’s hug it out.’”

The duo mostly hang out and in­ter­act with the town’s odd­ball cast, which in­cludes their prob­lem-solv­ing friend Cham­pion Horse, some­time friend Lazer, an­noy­ing friend McSweats, ri­val kid Wayne, Mjart Mart co­worker Spedac­u­lar Don­key, trou­ble­maker Sneaky Patty and the fake 9-year-old doc­tor Dr. Pam­ple­mousse, MD.

The look of the show is scrappy — the town is as drab and bor­ing as can be, with a big box store, a ceme­tery in the mid­dle of town and even train tracks that run be­tween the lead char­ac­ters’ homes. The idea was to re­flect Jones and Tressler’s own ex­pe­ri­ences grow­ing up in Rochester, N.Y., and Knoxville, Tenn., re­spec­tively.

Pro­duc­tion on the show is out­line driven, with out­lines turned over to the show’s two di­rec­tors and three per­ma­nent sto­ry­board artists to flesh out into 11-minute episodes. It’s then turned into an an­i­matic that Jones and Tressler help pol­ish be­fore it’s sent to Coper­ni­cus Stu­dios in Hal­i­fax, Canada, for an­i­ma­tion.

“We are a scrappy crew,” says Tressler, ac­knowl­edg­ing that the crew is small and the board artists in par­tic­u­lar carry a heavy bur­den.

But Tressler, who de­vel­oped the show and pre­vi­ously di­rected and pro­duced mu­sic videos and TV se­ries such as Yo Gabba Gabba!, says they found that as long as they kept the boys’ re­la­tion­ship au­then­tic, they could tell any kind of story they wanted, from hav­ing a crazed mu­tant zit run through town to Pickle learn­ing to swim.

“They’re mak­ing bad de­ci­sions and do­ing bone-headed things, but they’re not do­ing it out of mal­ice. They’re not do­ing it be­cause they don’t like peo­ple. They’re just try­ing things out,” adds Jones. [

Think of your fa­vorite episode of your fa­vorite car­toon… Got it? Well, guess what – the per­fect plot, the in­ge­nious jokes: those grew out of a hum­ble spring­board! A spring­board is the bare-bones idea of the script you hope to “sell” to a pro­ducer, who will then hire you to write it. At just 3-5 sen­tences long, it has to grab the pro­duc­ers’ at­ten­tion and con­vince them your con­cept will lead to a great script that suits their show. It has to be orig­i­nal, “hook-y” and fit well to the show rules. This month, we’ve asked Ba­boon’s writ­ers to shed a lit­tle light on the sim­ple, yet el­e­gant process.

— Claire Stenger Joe Vi­tale ( An­gry Birds Toons, Felix the Cat): I al­ways start with the hook; the one gim­mick that’ll drive the story. “Char­ac­ter X pre­tends to be a mem­ber of the en­emy gang!” “Char­ac­ter Y finds a jet­pack!” or “Char­ac­ter Z gets am­ne­sia!” None of these are an ac­tual story, but they’re enough to start build­ing a story around.

I love spring­boards be­cause they don’t re­quire you to have all the an­swers. You just need a hook, and if that hook gets a bite, then you can fig­ure out the rest later.

John Foun­tain ( The Fairly Od­dPar­ents, My Life As A Teenage Ro­bot): For ex­am­ple, I’ve writ­ten spring­boards about two char­ac­ters in a star­ing con­test, and another where the en­tire plot re­volved around mak­ing a bowl of ce­real for break­fast. Any­one can write a spring­board that ends with a line like “…and then all hell breaks loose and ev­ery­one in town ri­ots in the streets…” [But] I love the com­edy that comes from un­ex­pected places, like that lit­tle web of skin be­tween your pinkie toes. Vi­tale: Yes. But that’s the sec­ond step. Com­ing up with that hook is first, and is ei­ther the eas­i­est or hard­est part of the whole process. Some­times it’ll just come to me whether I’m look­ing for it or not. Other times, I have to spend a lot of time and energy think­ing one up. When the lat­ter hap­pens, I find it help­ful to leave it alone for a while and come back to it later. Restart the brain, if you will.

Then it’s sim­ply a mat­ter of fill­ing in the rest with very broad strokes. If your char­ac­ter finds a jet­pack, what’s he go­ing to do with it? How will that af­fect the other char­ac­ters? Will it help or hin­der their over­all goal? How will it

cre­ate con­flict? Foun­tain: I try to turn it into a game where I come up with the most im­pos­si­bly, dras­ti­cally, ridicu­lous idea imag­in­able, and then force my­self to make it work. Sim­i­larly, if it’s a com­edy show, I’ll start with a topic that is un­funny, and then go spelunking to mine those hid­den gems in the deep­est nooks and cran­nies of an idea for what’s funny in it. Vi­tale: In ac­tion-ori­ented se­ries, it’s es­pe­cially help­ful if you can come up with a “tick­ing clock,” some­thing that has to hap­pen in a cer­tain time or else some­thing bad will hap­pen to your hero. Maybe the jet­pack only has so much fuel, but your char­ac­ter needs to get to a far-off lo­ca­tion. Will he make it? If not, how does he get around that and still save the day? Vi­tale: Spring­boards can be left open-ended (well, for most clients), which frees you up to try out as many crazy ideas as you can think up. End it with some­thing like, “Will he make it across the At­lantic Ocean, or will the ra­dioac­tive Puffer Fish catch up to him?” Of course he’ll make it — but I have no idea how. Not un­til the net­work buys the pitch and I’m ob­li­gated to fig­ure it out in script. Com­ing soon in Part 2: More tips from Jymn Magon ( DuckTales, Win­nie the Pooh) and Mike de Seve ( Mon­sters vs. Aliens, Peg+Cat).

This month, over 850 in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als from 30-plus coun­tries will con­vene on the an­cient trade hub of Toulouse, France, for Europe’s pre­miere pitch­ing and co-pro­duc­tion event as the 2015 edi­tion of Car­toon Fo­rum kicks off. Hav­ing cel­e­brated its 25th in­stall­ment last year, the Fo­rum con­tin­ues to bol­ster lo­cal tal­ent and in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tion. To date, the event has helped a stag­ger­ing 594 an­i­mated se­ries projects gather roughly 2 bil­lion eu­ros in fi­nanc­ing — and toon fans the world over are the richer for it.

This year, the or­ga­niz­ers at Car­toon have se­lected 80 projects to be pre­sented to po­ten­tial buy­ers, co-pro­duc­ers and fi­nanciers. These were culled from a record 150 sub­mis­sions. Of the 80 se­lec­tions, French projects An­i­man­i­mals Stu­dio Film Bilder ( Ger­many) Preschool | 26 x 4 Dig­i­tal 2D, Cross- Plat­form Betty and Yeti A Pro­duc­tions ( U. K.) Preschool | 52 x 11 Dig­i­tal 2D Bot­tle Pi­rates Sacre­bleu Pro­duc­tions ( France) Kids 6-8 | 26 x 11 Dig­i­tal 2D, Cross- Plat­form Dickie De Hoflever­anciers/ Beast An­i­ma­tion ( Bel­gium) YA & Adults | 104 x 1 Dig­i­tal 2D, Cross- Plat­form

Sa­ban Brands and ZAG En­ter­tain-

Orig­i­nal con­cept by Amer­i­can Greet-

Fall 2016


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