This was the FIRST EPISODE we produced! As I’ve stated before, we started with a few simpler stories before making the “first” episodes and this one is indeed very simple. We wrote it to be a linear, self-contained opportunity for the characters to act the way they are supposed to act and the world to be the way it’s supposed to be. It mostly takes place in the plaza, giving our designers an opportunity to build up a cache of experience and artwork leading up to everything’s true first reveal in “Let’s Be Heroes”. Because this was the first episode, there are some things going on visually that chose to not carry over into future episodes but are fun to see here. It’s like our “Doug Can’t Dance”! Or our “Tommy’s First Birthday”! Yeah, you get it.
After making the pilot and all those shorts, we weren’t really sure what an 11-minute episode might actually look and feel like. Ian and I boarded two unproduced episodes between the pilot and the series, but a lot had changed since then. After seeing Mira and Geneva’s first pitch, we were completely energized. It’s a real show! It works! They were the first to set the tone for the comedy, action, and especially the characters.
Presenting Joe Cuppa
Believe it or not, this is a very personal episode for me. During our summer 2015 development time, Ian and I spent a number of days building out the world by creating dozens of characters and their backstories. A lot of them came from the crowd shot in the original pilot. Here is proto-Cuppa (and Crinkly Wrinkly, and Dogmun!)
I suggested giving him a Rodney Dangerfield-esque lounge lizard persona, something I find inherently funny. In 2010 I had co-written a feature length screenplay about a character like this trying to live a normal life while being physically unable to speak in anything but Dangerfeldian quips and one-liners. Nobody wanted to fund that movie for SOME REASON, but I was able to infuse some of its spirit into this story. It was Dave Tennant who decided Joe Cuppa should specifically speak in coffee puns, and Erin Shade who conceived the hilarious extended slapstick sequence at the end.
This episode has a clear example of why it’s so fun working on a board driven show. I had written this bit in the original premise, which I thought was SO FUNNY-
Then at Stevie and Danny’s board pitch, I was blown away by how far the concept got pushed. My line worked fine as a dialogue joke, but it became something much more imaginative and visual. If you’ve seen the episode, you know what I’m talking about!
We’ve Got Pests
Pests is a super old idea! Ian and I first started meeting to talk about Lakewood Plaza Turbo in 2013, and one of the story pitches I had was that the Plaza gets infested by tiny 90s platformer mascots. In 2015 we wrote our first outline, which was completely different. It was still an Enid story, but it was all about her trying to be a cool employee and not care when things went wrong at the plaza. We felt pretty good about it and moved on. When time came to hand the episode out to board, I realized we had taken a lot of these themes and tackled them with more depth in “You Have to Care”, which we had just finished outlining. So with just a few days to go before handout, we re-broke the entire story to cover different thematic territory.
The main thing that held between all versions is the ending where we see the pests grow and change over many years thanks to Enid’s words. It’s one of my favorite ideas we’ve ever put into the show, and Danny did an amazing job making this a standout sequence in the series.
Fun fact: another secret internal document we use is called “Illegal Words”. It’s a list of words, phrases and terms we have required ourselves to avoid. Items on the list vary from cliches, soon-to-be-dated slang, pet peeves, overused jokes, etc. For this episode we decided to open pandora’s box and allow the pests to say some of these illegal words. Whether this was good satire or a grievous error is up to the viewer. It was an experiment we will likely never try again!
Legends of Mr. Gar
As we started figuring out where we were going with the season, having outlined episodes like “Face Your Fears” and “Plaza Prom”, we realized we were spending a lot of our Gar time on his nervousness around Carol and were missing a big showcase of his amazing hero power. Because we were working pretty far ahead, we were able to very quickly write up this story and hand it out ahead of those other episodes to keep Gar in balance. Ian came up with the initial concept and we had a lot of fun dipping into the backstories of the characters. The opening scene is actually heavily cannibalized from one of our 2014 unproduced development boards, and Skateboard Nerd’s explosive final fate is based on a cut scene from one of Ian’s Secret Mountain Fort Awesome episodes!
This episode has more hilarious wand weird moments than I can count. I love that we were able to do such a fun digression with an unconventional structure this early in the series. Dave’s visual gag of Gar walking out from behind a shelf that looks like his body… legendary. Haewon’s sequences of young Rad.. incredible. Crinkly Wrinkly’s tall tale… fact or fiction?!
ALSO Jake and Mint Potion did incredible work on this episode. They completely blow us away every week, but I especially loved their variations on Rad and Enid’s character themes here.