What started out as just another web video for Dane Boedigheimer back in 2009 has built him a mini-empire, which will soon include a half-hour series on Cartoon Network.
The Annoying Orange, which debuts at 8:30pm June 11, will showcase the verbose fruit who delights in tormenting his fellow foodstuffs with his intrusive high-pitched greetings like “Hey! Hey, Apple!” It’s all profoundly silly, and Boedigheimer — better known by his online handle Daneboe — knows it.
Expanding the quickie shorts into episodes that will consist of two 11-minute segments has been a surprisingly smooth process so far, he says. It helps that there is a semblance of a plot — with Orange, Apple, Passion Fruit, Grandpa Lemon and others traveling through time on a magic fruit cart and getting into wacky adventures. Guest voices will include an eclectic roster of Michael Clarke Duncan, Jeffrey Tambor, Tim Curry, Tony Hawk, Malcolm McDowell, Billy Dee Williams, Leah Remini, Tom Kenny, John DiMaggio, Nick Swardson, Danny Trejo and Felicia Day.
Boedigheimer talked with us about creating the series, and why he thinks the concept caught on.
Channel Guide Magazine: How has it been translating The Annoying Orange into a series?
Dane Boedigheimer: So far it’s been going really well. That’s one of the questions that people ask me the most is how is this going to translate. The web videos, they’re kind of short, they’re silly, they’re only two or three minutes long. There’s not a lot of time, but the long-form stuff is really going to shine because we’re able to dive into the characters more and we can really build up the stories. A lot of times the web show isn’t so much story-driven, it’s just kind of random, happenstance things going on. So the longer-form stuff has been fun because you actually get to develop a story and characters and a plot. It’s been surprisingly easy, actually, as far as my part goes.
CGM: Have you had to change much about the characters? Give them legs, for instance?
DB: I’ve always used different devices in the show to use the characters. All of a sudden they have rocket packs, or they’re on skates, and beyond that, they can actually move themselves. They can roll around and things like that. You’ll see a lot of things like that in the TV show, and probably even developed further. We’ll come up with all kinds of things, and with the TV show they have a main human being who takes care of them, but also sells them at the same time. So I think a lot of times he’ll be a good vehicle for getting the characters around.
CGM: It seems like this show could have fit on either Cartoon Network, or on Adult Swim. Why did you decide on Cartoon Network?
DB: One of the things that always made it popular on the web was its edginess, and while we don’t want to lose that, we want to do a similar kind of thing where it’s edgy enough so that the parents will love it and they can watch it with their kids. But it’s not too edgy so kids can’t watch it. I don’t think we would want to go into that.
CGM: Are the same people involved in the videos going to be involved in the series?
DB: All the main characters are back. Bob Jennings, who plays Grapefruit; Kevin Brueck, who plays Grandpa Lemon; iJustine [Justine Ezarik] who plays Passion Fruit; and Spencer Grove, who actually does almost all of the writing for the web shows, he’s going to be doing some of the scripts for the TV show as well.
CGM: You’ve said that you intended the original Annoying Orange short as a one-off, so as much as it had to be a pleasant surprise when it caught on, has it been difficult maintaining it?
DB: Before Annoying Orange, I had just every week done a different video. I’d never stuck with any one character or style or whatever, it was just a different project every week. I always liked to work that and I could never see myself working in a serial fashion, where it’s the same character week after week. But once Annoying Orange took off and I started seeing those episodes, I found that I kind of liked it. That itself becomes a challenge —How do you keep it fresh? How do keep the audience engaged? — and being able to come back time and time again and trying to get those big numbers and make the audience happy. It’s been a fun challenge, because I didn’t expect that it would be.
CGM: I was in Toys R Us this weekend and I saw the new Annoying Orange toys. That’s got to be a thrill for you.
DB: It’s so surreal. I’ll tell you what, when we did the first meeting, the developers came in and brought the toys in and sat them down on the table — because before then The Annoying Orange had just lived on the computer, there wasn’t any physical representation of it. But once I was holding those toys in my hand, I thought, “Oh God, he’s invading the world!” It feels like that sometimes.
CGM: Is the voice all you, or is there some technical enhancement?
DB: There’s a little bit of technical manipulation there, as well, because I just speak in a higher voice, “Hey! Hey, Apple!” and then I just speed it up.
CGM: Is it kind of cool that you can be the brains behind this massive phenomenon and still walk around anonymously? Or would you prefer to be recognized?
DB: I actually like that, being a little bit more anonymous personally. When I go to things like video conferences I get recognized a lot more, but usually when I’m out on the street people don’t recognize me. I kind of like that, I see some of the other guys who are really popular on YouTube and they can’t even go to the store. They get mobbed.
CGM: Are you still planning to post a new video every Friday?
DB: Yeah, I’m still trying to hit every week. That’s the nature of YouTube and the Internet, if you don’t stay in people’s lives, if you take too long of a break, you’ll quickly fade into obscurity. You’ll see numbers drop and things like that. We really want to be able to stay relevant, so we’re going to keep hitting every Friday with a new episode of The Annoying Orange.
CGM: Why an orange? Would it have worked had it been an Annoying Apple?
DB: The very first episode I was actually going to make it The Annoying Apple and use that alliteration for the title. But then when I started animating I thought it was easier to put features on an orange than an apple and make it clear, as far as doing the special effects. That’s why I went with the orange. There’s no real reason as far as that goes, with the actual fruit. I think people like watching people get annoyed. I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about it.
CGM: Do you like oranges?
DB: Yeah, I actually do. There are days when I do get annoyed, but at the same time I can’t get too angry at them.
Photos: Courtesy of Cartoon Network