Johnathan Brendle writes for Bleeding Cool…
Bleeding Cool’s Johnathan Brendle (dressed as Spider-Man) sat down with Nickelodeon’s Butch Hartman, creator of shows like The Fairly OddParents and Danny Phantom, to catch up on his recent projects, including his new show, Bunsen is a Beast!
Johnathan: We want to talk about your new show, Bunsen is a Beast! I heard you conceptualized it back in 2009 but this show hadn’t premiered until January of this year…
Butch: I did, I drew this drawing of a little boy facing a beast, like they were facing each other. I was going to make it a children’s book and the name Bunsen is a Beast!, I’m not kidding, just popped into my head and it was really funny and it kind of sat in my room for a little while and I made it into a poster and I brought it to Nickelodeon and sat it in my room and one day, about four or five years later, the head of Nickelodeon came in and said “hey, what is that?”. I told him what it was and he said “let’s start developing that!” So, one thing led to another and we had ourselves a cartoon show after about two years.
J: Is that similar to how shows like Danny Phantom or The Fairly OddParents started out for you?
B: For Danny Phantom, The Fairly OddParents was doing very well and the head of Nickelodeon took me to dinner and said “hey, we want to do moreThe Fairly OddParents” and I said, “Great!”. Then, he goes “what else do you have?” and I said “ahh, I have this new show called Danny Phantom” and he said, “let’s make it”. That’s what I want to tell everyone out there. If an opportunity presents itself, be ready. If he asked if I had anything else and I said no, Danny Phantom might not exist today. If you’re an artist or a writer out there, always have an extra idea because you never know when those times are going to come up.
J: Surely, it’s hard to draw comparisons because each of your shows are very different, but how has Bunsen is a Beast! Done in comparison to your other successful shows?
B: Well, they are very different shows but the experience is the same and the writing process is the same but the characters are different. It’s like Bunsen and Mikey, the two characters, are going to act different to a situation than Danny Phantom would or Timmy Turner would. It’s about learning the rules of your show and what works for those characters.
J: Do you develop characters for a certain voice or do you have to find the person for your character that you’ve created?
B: When you come up with the drawings of the characters first. We decide what they’re going to look like and what their style is and then we start casting the voices and find actors and sometimes, we have a really clear vision on what the voice is going to sound like and other times, somebody comes in and surprises us.
J: You went to school here in California (CalArts in Valencia, California) but came from Michigan. What sort of changes did you see in how your life influenced your work after going from one place to the other?
B: The mindset in California is way different than the mindset in Michigan, for sure. I just hang out with everybody in the entertainment industry now and that’s a very different mindset from most people in the Midwest where there’s not much of that industry. Out here, we all draw and write and that’s where we make a living.
J: Who would you say are your biggest influences as far as drawing and writing?
B: Oh wow. Walt Disney is a huge influence and I think Chuck Jones and Stan Lee, for sure. I think those three guys are three of my biggest influences.
J: Have you ever had a chance to meet Stan Lee?
B: I’ve never met Stan! I’d love to meet him.
J: Well, you’re in a good place! His influence here at San Diego Comic-Con is definitely apparent.
B: Well, I hope that maybe I’ll run into him. He’s a pretty old dude but going strong and he’s influenced a lot of my love for comics and now, comic book writing. In fact, I just came out with a comic. It’s called 3 O’Clock Club. It’s about a group of kids who go to a high school where something weird happens every day at 3 o’clock. Throughout the comic series, they learn why and how this is happening. It’s a five issue series from Lion Forge Comics.
J: I’ll definitely be checking it out! I feel like a good way to learn more about someone is to look at their recently watched list on Netflix. If I went on your Netflix, what would I find there?
B: I think you’d probably see Forrest Gump. I love it! I also just watched a Captain America 3-D CG animated movie that was just uploaded.
J: You’ve been in this for a while now. Do you still feel the magic you felt when doing The Fairly OddParents while working with newer projects?
B: I do really feel the magic. Every day I wake up, I have to deal with a blank page. I have to fill this page with something entertaining every day. Sometimes animation can feel like a job but I love to do it. If you love what you do, it’s not work.
J: Well, it was wonderful talking with you, Butch.
B: Johnathan…Spider-Man, nice to meet you.
Check out his new show, Bunsen is a Beast! on Nickelodeon and his new comic, 3 O’Clock Club.