We love Disney XD and their wonderfully wacky animated series. We’ve already talked about Wander Over Yonder’s sweetly surreal visuals, Star vs. the Forces of Evil’s progressive power, and the goofy fun of Future-Worm! (Which says nothing of the intricate conspiracy of Gravity Falls, which we dissect week after week.) And now there are a couple of new oddballs to add to the already overstuffed cavalcade of cutting-edge cartoons: Pickle and Peanut.
This new show features, as you can imagine, a Pickle (voiced by Jon Heder) and a Peanut (Johnny Pemberton) who get into a series of comic misadventures. They’re dreamers, and they have a distinct sense of the world as a place more fantastical than it actually is. The animation style is in keeping with this sensibility, combining traditional animation with live-action embellishments. The mixed media approach creates a feverishly heightened, giddily excitable feel for the series, which recently premiered (new episodes air at 9 p.m. on Mondays).
We were lucky enough to chat with Noah Z. Jones, who created Pickle and Peanut and Joel Trussell, who developed the show. We talked about where the show came from, the series’ decidedly off kilter design aesthetic, and whether or not Tom Hanks could show up in a future episode (he worked with Hanks on an animated web series in 2012).
Where did the idea for this show come from?
Jones: During Fish Hooks, I was working on another pitch for Disney and I realized as I was working on it that if I got locked into working for those characters for the next few years, I’d probably go a little crazy because it wasn’t that interesting. So I talked to the VP of development and I said, “I don’t want to work on that, I want to work on this.” And I brought in Pickle and Peanut. It was a couple of food-based characters that I created because I liked the way pickle and peanut sounded together. That was the pitch that I sold to them and they brought Joel on pretty quickly after that to develop the pilot.
How did you develop that initial idea into the series? And how did you come up with the aesthetic?
Jones: What everything is founded on is the idea that Pickle and Peanut helped create the show. So it’s through their filter. I was really interested in doing a show that captured the spirit of your late teenage years when you’re trying to figure things out. You’re not sure who you are or what you want but you have your best friends in the world and they’re your favorite people that you could hang out with. When they brought Joel on, I was really excited, because he shared the vision of capturing that spirit. And we both had a similar vision for the aesthetic of the show.
Trussell: I’m really good at low-end, gritty aesthetics. I’m good at making things clunky. I’m trying to think, when I came on, Noah had already established Pickle and Peanut, their relationship and a little bit of their world. And I came in and we built it out from there. We came up with how to further visualize the world with live action stuff and how we wanted to make this show a little different.
Jones: We wanted to do something that stood out from the rest of the TV animation crowd. Where other shows have beautiful skies and big billowy clouds, we want to have telephone lines and power transformers invading the shots and airplane trails crisscrossing the skies. It’s not to be dirty and gross, but it just speaks to the world of our show.
Trussell: You can take those elements and make them visually appealing.
A lot of the shows on Disney XD take this kind of extreme approach to aesthetics. Is it fun to be a part of this new crop of shows?
Trussell: Oh for sure. We didn’t know what Disney XD was going to evolve into at the time, since it felt like it was still an experimental kind of playground. I think it’s a new era and a new design aesthetic going along with Disney XD. We’re excited about what’s happening with Disney XD right now.
What were you guys touching on when you created the series and as you continue to create new episodes?
Jones: The thing that has been the most inspiration for us is just looking back at when we were teenagers and the really bad decisions we made, to take from those memories and turn them into funny stories. That’s why the world is lo-fi. Pickle and Peanut live in a small town outside of Reno. We picked it because Joel and I both grew up in places that were not the nicest, most palatial suburbs. It’s fun to tell stories that take place within that world. We have really cool drainage ditches that Pickle and Peanut hang out in, just because when I was a kid, that’s where we’d hang out.
Trussell: Pickle and Peanut live in a world with low resources. We picked a suburb of Reno, Nevada, because there’s not a lot to do there and Pickle and Peanut, despite having low resources, are still able to entertain themselves. From a design aspect, shows like early The Simpsons, like how they looked like they were shooting from the hip a little bit and everything seemed uncalculated. Some of that is in our show.
Joel, you worked with Tom Hanks on an animated series. Is there any chance of getting Tom Hanks to work on Pickle and Peanut?
Jones: He could be himself.
Trussell: I would love to have Tom Hanks on the project. Are you kidding me? But he’s probably long forgotten my name.
There are so many crazy characters in Pickle and Peanut. Where does something like the foot-faced girl come from?
Jones: When we did the pilot, a lot of it was me and Joel trying to crack each other up. So we sat there for two months, throwing every gag and every joke we had at it. A lot of them survived but a lot of them were dead along the way. They weren’t as funny. We like keeping the audience on their toes with this show. That’s why the live action stuff works so well. You’ll see things like foot-faced girl throughout the show. Most of the characters that populate our world are normal people. So when you do see a foot-faced girl or a Champion Horse or a pickle with arms and legs, that stands out. That was a very conscious decision. We don’t want everything to be weird and wackadoo.
Trussell: This isn’t a hard and fast rule but it kind of feels like Pickle and Peanut, even being a pickle and a peanut, is how they visualize themselves. They feel different than most people. I think that’s where some of that stuff seeps in. Not that we’ve ever analyzed it.
If you need even more silliness, Pickle and Peanut airs on Monday nights at 9 p.m on Disney XD. Be about it.