Wait … Is that To­tal Drama in Day­care?

Fresh TV and Car­toon Net­work’s To­tal Dra­ma­rama brings back the cast of the pop­u­lar an­i­mated teen re­al­ity show spoof, but makes them younger — a lot younger!

Animation Magazine - - Front Page - By Ramin Za­hed

Fresh TV and Car­toon Net­work’s To­tal Dra­ma­rama brings back the cast of the pop­u­lar an­i­mated teen re­al­ity show spoof, but makes them younger — a lot younger!

Has it re­ally been more than 11 years since Fresh TV’S hugely pop­u­lar an­i­mated se­ries To­tal Drama pre­miered on Tele­toon in Canada? Cre­ated by toon vet­er­ans Tom Mcgillis and Jen­nifer Pertsch, the show was billed as the first an­i­mated re­al­ity se­ries for tweens and gained a huge au­di­ence world­wide, and it still de­liv­ers huge rat­ings in 260 coun­tries.

This fall, To­tal Drama fans will get the chance to see a new se­ries fea­tur­ing the same cast of char­ac­ters — as tod­dlers. That’s right! Owen, Court­ney, Jude, Dun­can, Izzy, Beth, Le­shawna and even Chef Hatchet will be en­joy­ing a wild se­ries of mis­ad­ven­tures in this 52 x 11-minute show, which is called To­tal Dra­ma­rama. The un­pre­dictable pre­quel will even fea­ture cameos by char­ac­ters from the cre­ators’ other hit show, 6Teen.

“The team at Car­toon Net­work in the U.S. ac­tu­ally ini­ti­ated this whole new ven­ture,” says Tom Mcgillias, show co-cre­ator, exec pro­ducer and pres­i­dent of Fresh TV, whose many cred­its in­clude 6Teen, Stoked, Gro­jband and My Babysit­ter’s a Vam­pire. “This was new to us, be­cause in the past, the ini­tia­tive came from Canada. What was in­ter­est­ing is that there’s a close brand af­fil­i­a­tion be­tween Car­toon Net­work and To­tal Drama.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mcgillis, for some rea­son, even very young kids believe that To­tal Drama is a Car­toon Net­work orig­i­nal show. “They did this test, where the young view­ers had to match the lo­gos of the shows with the chan­nels they aired on,” he ex­plains. “The kids were get­ting Sponge­bob and Dragon Ball wrong, but they got ours right! I thought it was so flat­ter­ing that my whole team was able to give the Car­toon Net­work brand a big hug.”

Ba­si­cally, the goal was to find a way to bring the show’s first sea­son char­ac­ters back in a new way. Car­toon Net­work orig­i­nally wanted to make the cast about 11 years old, but McGillis and his team sug­gested mak­ing them a lot younger. “We knew that if we made them 11-year olds, it would re­ally limit the num­ber of sto­ries we could tell, but when you turn them into preschool­ers, it lights things up. Dun­can was a ju­ve­nile delin­quent, Gwen is a four-year-old Goth girl — it just made us laugh our butts off at them.”

Then, there was the name. For a while, the show was con­ve­niently called To­tal Drama Day­care, but that was a bit prob­lem­atic. As Mcgillis ex­plains, “To­tal Dra­ma­rama was ac­tu­ally the fifth ti­tle we con­sid­ered. We just didn’t want young kids to mis­tak­enly think they show was preschool and avoid it. So, that’s why we went for a more ‘mys­te­ri­ous’ ti­tle!”

Just like the orig­i­nal se­ries, the an­i­ma­tion for the project is han­dled by Toronto-based El­liott An­i­ma­tion, which is headed by Ge­orge

‘With this show, we can have aliens or weird an­i­mals show­ing up, which is some­thing we wouldn’t nor­mally do with the previous sea­sons of To­tal Drama. I learned to go to Crazy Town a lot more!’

— Exec pro­ducer and co-cre­ator Tom Mcgillis

El­liott and Brian Irv­ing. Mcgillis says the team has re­ally per­fected the art of us­ing Flash and Af­ter Ef­fects tech­nol­ogy to de­liver won­der­ful an­i­ma­tion. “They use the same tools that they did a decade ago, but with the pas­sage of time, they have re­ally mas­tered the art of mak­ing the an­i­ma­tion not look like Flash,” he notes “The an­i­ma­tion is smoother, snap­pier, and I think our view­ers will no­tice that.”

Mcgillis is equally pleased with his Dra­ma­Rama crew. “What’s re­ally great is that both our an­i­ma­tion su­per­vi­sors are women, and we have a large fe­male con­tin­gent through­out,” he notes. “Many of our an­i­ma­tion team are fe­male grad­u­ates from Sheri­dan Col­lege. In ad­di­tion, two of our di­rec­tors — Keith Oliver and Chad Hicks — and many of the sto­ry­board artists also worked on the orig­i­nal se­ries.”

The show’s writ­ers are also deeply steeped in all things To­tal Drama. Led by Mcgillis and Pertsch, the room in­cludes Terry Mcgur­rin, who voiced Jonesy on 6Teen, and Alice Pro­danou, an­other Fresh TV vet­eran whose cred­its in­clude To­tal Drama, 6Teen and My Babysit­ter’s a Vam­pire. “We do chunks of eight scripts at a time,” says Mcgillis. “There’s six writ­ers, and we don’t have doors on our board­room, so we are con­stantly crack­ing jokes and laugh­ing.”

One of the big­gest chal­lenge for the writ­ing team was the new for­mat, which was rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from the previous sea­sons. “We moved from half-hour to two 11-min­utes,” says Mcgillis. “We aged them down, but that wasn’t dif­fi­cult at all. The re­la­tion­ships are still the same. We re­moved the chal­lenge, so the game­play as­pect is to­tally gone. That used to be the main tem­plate for our sto­ry­telling, so we had to find a new way of telling sto­ries. What we found out was that the new show is re­ally a work­place com­edy. It’s all about tod­dlers stuck in the same room.”

The pro­lific Toronto-based writer-pro­ducer says the new se­ries has taught him to loosen up a lit­tle bit more when com­ing up with sto­ry­lines for the beloved an­kle-biters. “With this show, we can have aliens or weird an­i­mals show­ing up, which is some­thing we wouldn’t nor­mally do with the previous sea­sons of To­tal Drama!” Mcgillis ad­mits. “I learned to go to Crazy Town a lot more!

He adds that he was re­ally im­pressed by the show’s char­ac­ter de­signs. “Sea­son one had about 22 char­ac­ters — and all of them had this Flash-friendly style. We went up to our amaz­ing de­sign su­per­vi­sor Faruk Ce­malovic and asked him to make the char­ac­ters younger. He came back only a week and half later, and gave us eight fan­tas­tic de­signs that were cute and hi­lar­i­ous and re­ally popped. When we showed the de­signs to Car­toon Net­work, ev­ery­one im­me­di­ately got it.”

Mcgillis, who is also de­vel­op­ing a new se­ries based on wun­derkind an­i­ma­tor Joshua Slice’s Cg-an­i­mated web phe­nom Lu­cas the Spi­der, says he loves work­ing with amaz­ing, tal­ented cre­atives who love an­i­ma­tion and the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the medium. “We ac­tu­ally joke that we feel that the clock has turned back 10 years. Fi­nanc­ing is al­ways hard, but for To­tal Dra­ma­rama, both Corus and Car­toon Net­work came in with very strong sup­port, be­cause it was a fran­chise that worked for both of them. It feels like the old days again since so many of the cast and crew are back!”

As he gets ready to wrap up our Skype in­ter­view, Mcgillis notes, “I don’t want any­one to learn about the mean­ing of life from our show. I just want to make peo­ple laugh. It’s a younger au­di­ence this time, and I hope we get a whole new gen­er­a­tion of kids to laugh their butts off and learn to love these char­ac­ters!” ◆

To­tal Dra­ma­rama airs on Car­toon Net­work Satur­days at 9 a.m.; it pre­mieres on Tele­toon

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