Disney XD is taking a bold step away from the gentle and sweet territory of its usual brand into uncharted waters. Edgy waters. Waters swimming with … a pickle… and a peanut.
Starting Monday, Sept 7, Disney’s slightly off-kilter sibling, Disney XD becomes home to Pickle and Peanut, an outrageously bizarre series created by Noah Z. Jones (Fish Hooks) and developed by Joel Trussell (Yo Gabba Gabba!).
While chatting with actor Jon Heder and comedian Johnny Pemberton, who voice the tasty foodstuffs, the topic drifted from the Disney animated classic, The Aristocats to the super dirty comedy standard, “The Aristocrats,” to the fine art of boiling peanuts. After we all stopped laughing, we talked about the show.
Heder admits, “I’m a big animation fan. I watch my fair share of animation, but I also studied it in college and I’ve voiced animation before.” In fact, Heder reveals that if he were to create his own cartoon, he might make something with a similarly bizarre aesthetic. “I’m really proud of this project, and I’m really excited for it to come out.” “He shares, “So much of this show envelops the things that I like. I like the humor, I’m really into animation, I really like the art style; if I were to make an animated show, this is the kind of show, I would be making.”
Pemberton adds, “I will say that I’m not proud of a lot of things, but I’m proud of this.”
Pemberton, who starred in the films 21 Jump Street and its sequel 22 Jump Street likes the freedom of animation. “It’s just really fun because you get to be imaginative and there’s nothing there at all, it’s just you.” He adds, “You get to close your eyes and talk and maybe lie down on the floor and they’ll adjust the mic for you. It’s really jut like a dreamscape.” Laying down while working? Sign me up!!
It’s not very often that an actor gets to trail blaze a new anthropomorphized foodstuff, so Heder had a lot of fun finding the appropriate voice for his gherkin. “I think it’s safe to say that I’ve never seen an animated pickle. I knew that the logline was, ‘It’s about a pickle and a peanut and their misadventures,’ and you could think this is a toddler show. But because it’s so random — especially those two foods together, a pickle and a peanut — it gave me the sense that there is no rhyme or reason in this pairing and that’s what the creatives wanted to get.” So with the freedom to play, Heder focused on the perfect voice — or sound — for Pickle.
“There is no real study on the wheelhouse of pickle voices. I remember they wanted to do my natural voice, but with a little but of a dumbness to it, which wasn’t too hard. And so, we just played around with it until we found something that gives it a roundness, since he is a big old, fat pickle. I don’t know; we just played with it until the voice matched the look of the character. It sounds warty, ‘cause he’s got warts.”
For Pemberton, finding a voice for Peanut wasn’t nearly as method. “I just talked,” he says. “I just talked, and I think I was really tired at that time. I went in there and I was reading a weird book about prison and I just talked in my voice. That’s the thing, for me, a peanut is not much of a character. It’s just me with energy; it’s me if I cared about things. So basically, a peanut is me when I care.”
Since Jon and Johnny have lent their voices to snacks, they’ve found no aversion to consuming their namesakes. As captured in this hilarious exchange.
Me: So are you too weirded out to eat pickles or peanuts?
Johnny: Not at all, in fact it’s the opposite. I find it more enjoyable. In fact, I’m making some pickles right now.
Jon: You are? Are you fermenting them right now?
Johnny: I just made some sauerkraut, and I’m about to do these pickles here soon. I’m doing some quick-pickles now, but I’m going to do some real pickles soon.
Jon: That’s weird; I was just about to boil some peanuts.
Johnny: Are you serious? I love boiled peanuts!
Jon: My wife loves them; I’ve never had them.
Johnny: They’re the best.
Jon: Are they squishy? When you boil them, are they squishy?
Johnny: Not squishy, they’re kind of like pasta. I’ll say al-dente, but they’re so good! You can’t get ‘em outside of the south.
Totally bizarre, highly informative, and really funny. Kind of like the show.
I sat down and watched clips of the series with my two boys, ages 6 and 8. They’re often my animation co-pilots and they loved the show from the first bars of the theme song, which is outstanding.
Then again, my kids will watch the “Epic Happy Birthday Song” (not created by the folks at Pickle and Peanut, but with the same bizarre and irreverent humor) a dozen times in a row and die laughing every time.
Disney XD has realized that there is a magical zone in animation that appeals to kids and young adults and they’re capitalizing on it with Pickle and Peanut. When we watched it together, my 6 year-old laughed, “This show is nuts,” without a shred of irony. My slightly savvier 8 year-old has essentially memorized both episodes after one viewing and has dropped into conversation, “Jam some in your mouth hole,” and “I punched their bodies.” He’s obsessed. I’ve already set our DVR for Disney XD, Mondays at 8pm, Central time (9pm Eastern and Pacific).
The series premieres with the episode “Greg/ Gramma Jail.” In “Greg,” Pickle lends his new pimple friend Greg to frenemy Lazer in hopes of landing an invitation to his cool party. When they realize Lazer has no intention of returning Greg, Pickle and Peanut must save him.
In “Gramma Jail,” Pickle and Peanut accidentally get sweet, elderly Mam Mams arrested and have to break her out of “gramma jail” before inmate Psycho Cyclops can get to her.”
So far, Pemberton likes what he sees; but says, “I don’t know how it’s for kids. I laugh at the show, I think the show is super-smart, really funny and like, to call it edgy … it’s beyond that. I don’t understand how the distinction is made what age something is for. It’s as interesting to me as it would be for any kid. ”
Heder sagely explains. “This channel has an audience, and they know that their audience is young kids, particularly young boys. I think anybody has the dream of making a show that appeals to a much bigger audience. There’s a sweet spot, between the ages of 18-25 where you get that college-age student watching this show. It’s ironic and it’s weird, but it’s cool and it’s funny. I was watching these shows then I was that age, like Ren & Stimpy, and some of those weird shows you’d find on early Adult Swim. It appeals to us as adults and also appeals to the child within us.”
I suddenly feel like I’m in an awesome C-level college class that is a mash up of child psychology and pop culture. Professor Heder continues, “I think kids will appreciate it because it isn’t really in-depth stories; it is stuff that they can get and wrap their heads around. There is an episode about a haunted couch and it eats people. You can tell that to a kid and they’ll say, ‘Oh, that sounds cool and interesting.’ But it’s got enough wackiness and off-kilter jokes that adults will get it, or at least, cool adults will.”
Pemberton adds, “Kids are underestimated. I think people think that kids are dumber than they actually are.”
Disney XD has released a sweet featurette that is too good not to share. It’s below. The duo is a big fan of the series’ bizarre live action shots and hope to someday be able to be seen in the shows. “We’re hoping,” says Heder. “But we have to get past all of the SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild) rules so that Johnny and I can get a piece of that live-action screen … maybe in Season 2. If there’s gonna do a close-up of Pickle’s mouth, I want it to be my mouth.”
“Yeah,” added Pemberton. “If you sucked on a jar for 20 minutes.”
Heder agrees that his own built-in audience will likely have the same reaction to Pickle and Peanut as my boys. I can’t wait to watch it with my kids; my kids are right at that age… I have a 6 year-old boy so he’s just getting to that Disney XD mark of appreciating for some of that weirder stuff, so it’ll be fun to watch with them.”
They are looking forward to having a little fun on social media too. “I don’t know if I’m going to be too literal,” says Pemberton. “I may take pictures with hamburgers and maybe other condiments and other side dishes. Maybe sauerkraut and almonds.”
Maybe I’ll find some pickled radish,” says Heder. “We’re going to get deep with this.”
Pickle and Peanut > Disney XD > Mondays at 9pm ET/PT beginning Sept. 7
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