Craig McCracken Interview by Animation Magazine

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Ramin Zahed of Animation Magazine just published a comprehensive interview with Craig McCracken about Wander Over Yonder.

They introduce the show as follows.

Imaginative and visually innovative toon [that] follows the adventures of Wander, a ‘one-man, karmic delivery system’ in a fantasy universe—which is also described as Bugs Bunny meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Craig then goes on to describe the conception of the character of Wander and their first meeting with Jack McBrayer, where they observe the close similarity between the character and the actor: “I would say Wander is an exaggerated, cartoony aspect of who Jack is!”

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For those of you interested in the production process and the people behind the scenes, it may be interesting to know that “being at Disney also helped us attract a lot of great talent. We have Dave Thomas and Eddie Trigueros directing the show and Alex Kirwan is the art director. It’s a great group of people.”

As brony, I also very much approve of Craig’s observation here: “What I love about Wander is that he is earnest, nice, friendly and really positive. There are lots of characters in the media that are dark, brooding, mean or cynical. I kind of got really tired of the tragic hero, and the idea of creating this positive character really appealed to me.”

Craig describes the show as “surreal, silly, and sweet,” and the humor as “gag-driven [and] fast-paced.” He lists influences from Looney Tunes,The Yellow Submarine, Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python animation, and “a wonderful series from Croatia, made by Studio Zagreb Film, … called Professor Balthazar.”

I’ll quote his description of the animation process in full:

We are doing all the preproduction, writing and the boards here at Disney TV studio here in Glendale, and then, Mercury Filmworks in [Ottawa] Canada helps us with the animation. They use Toon Boom Harmony for the digital animation. The tools they’ve developed from Harmony produce this fun, fluid animation, which is totally blowing us away. It’s amazing what we can do with Harmony as far as the level of animation goes. We wanted to bring in a lot of visual humor, because there are a lot of shows out there with characters just standing around talking to each other. We wanted a real animated cartoon, and I’m very pleased with the high level of digital animation we are getting.

imageIn terms of music, he highly praised The Two Man Gentlemen Band, who “nailed it” with their audition pitch. We can apparently look forward to a lot of music as “it was a given that music would play a big role.” He used to term this music “sci-fi bluegrass” and “sci-fi jug band” in 2012, but now rather describes it as having a “unique sci-fi junk band feel—banjo, kazoo, simple, silly and playful sounds that evoke the spirit of Wander.”

What also inspires confidence is that “Disney TV … really embraced the idea of doing creative-driven shows, trusting an artist that has a real vision for the show and really let them run with it.” Hasbro is primarily a toy company, a problem that Disney doesn’t have, so that the focus of their attention is actually on the show. Craig makes some more differentiations:

Also great are the resources they have. Because they are Disney, the money is on the screen, so they’re going to pay for a high-quality product and they really care about making it great. We have a few more check-in points here. Disney is bit more hands-on, while at Cartoon Network most of the executives were in Atlanta and we were in L.A., and there was this distance. But here at Disney, we are all in the same building and working together. They review all the scripts. We pitch every board to them. We present the animatics. We are constantly going over the show trying to make it better, step by step by step.

The style of the show, naturally is also a challenge, because “there’s no standard location on this show. In every single episode, Wander goes to a new place, a new planet, so nothing can be reused.”

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Friendship is Magic has also been described as character driven, but from the sound of it, Wander Over Yonder may be taking the idea to a new extreme.

When I pitched the show, what I wanted to focus on was that this show is not what it’s about, it’s whom it’s about. … When I was a kid, I loved cartoons because of the cartoon characters. I really didn’t care what Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse were doing. I just loved them as characters and I wanted to watch them do anything, so I pitched this show really focusing on Wander. It’s about Wander’s personality and the way he approaches his life and the situations. And it’s about [the villain] Lord Hater and the way he responds to situations.

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Finally, Craig McCracken answered three more questions of general interest, not focused on Wander Over Yonder.

You should read the full interview here.

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