Casey Willis and Christian Danley are both writers for 70-30 Productions, an animation production house that has produced such classics as Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo. Their new spin-off series,"The Xtacles," premieres November 9th on Adult Swim on Cartoon Network. Casey O'Brien got a chance to talk with the writers about their new show and their lack of qualifications for their jobs.
How did you both get started in the world of animation, and in particular, "Frisky Dingo?"
CW: Christian and I both attended the Atlanta College of Art. After I graduated, I was teaching English in Japan when Christian started working for 70-30. When I returned to the states, he greeted me at the airport with a Sealab t-shirt and a smile. I thought he had the coolest job on earth. A few months later I asked him if I could try out for an internship at 70-30. That internship eventually led to a full-time position.
CD: I was an improvisor at a local theatre here in Atlanta called Dad's Garage. Matt Thompson came and saw an improv show shortly after 70-30 Productions had finished the first couple episodes of Sealab 2021. He asked me to come in and help write on a script. That was about 7 years ago.
You have both worked on the show "Frisky Dingo" and are now moving onto the spin off, "The Xtacles." What is it about working and writing for an animated series, as opposed to a live action sitcom, that you find most appealing?
CW: Because of our style of animation, we can make changes to the show very late in the process. I think that is a freedom you might not have on a live action sitcom, especially one filmed in front of a live studio audience.
CD: Working on what we'd call a "real TV show," as opposed to our semi-fake one, would probably dictate a much larger crew. Our shop is small, there are only 8 of us who make this whole cartoon. That means we all have a hand in just about every aspect of the process. The illustrators and animators comment heavily on our scripts (they are always jerks), and we offer feedback on their drawings and animations (we are always supportive). I couldn't imagine we'd have that same luxury in a larger production company.
Why did you guys decide to do a spin off of "Frisky Dingo" and how is it going to be different?
CW: Cartoon Network was interested in doing a Frisky Dingo spin-off and the Xtacles seemed like a natural choice. One of the biggest differences between Frisky Dingo and The Xtacles is the Xtacles will be taking off their helmets and you'll finally be able to see what they look like. One Xtacle did take his helmet off in Frisky Dingo but we only saw the back off his head before he was dismembered by Awesome-X.
CD: Before Frisky Dingo we did Sealab. Almost every episode of Sealab ended with it blowing up, and the world re-setting. Frisky Dingo was heavily serialized where some jokes don't payoff for 3 or 4 episodes (if ever). Our goal is for The Xtacles to be something comfortably in-between.
This new breed of cartoons with adult content is still a relatively new phenomenon. What are some of your influences in writing for this program?
CW: I like to watch The Soup and Best Week Ever and if the same joke is made on both programs I know it must be funny. Then, I steal those jokes and write them a third time because I have been told that the third time is a charm.
CD: I love television, I have watched it my whole life. Also, technically we shouldn't be allowed to write for a living, as we have no training in it. So we write television for people who grew up watching television. The jaded, cynical, and smart assed jerks who think they know everything about television, not because they went to television school, but because they've studied it all their lives just by watching. This group of people is notoriously hard to please. (apparently... they're jerks)
The show is obviously not meant for children. Do you ever have trouble getting certain jokes on the show or is there an inherent understanding when it comes to programming on Adult Swim?
CW: In Frisky Dingo we really wanted Xander Crews to say "god dammit" without censoring it. We were told there had to be a full one second pause between the words "God" and "Dammit". On that day I learned a full second is the difference between righteousness and blasphemy.
CD: Because we're on Cartoon Network there is always the potential that a kid could tune in. So they really go over our scripts with a fine tooth comb. We like to use any "offensive precedents" set by other shows as leverage to get our own offensive jokes on the air. This has varying degrees of success.