Dr. Toon: The Animation Critic's Art - Post-Mortem
Not to blame is Bento Box, the Burbank studio entrusted with the show's animation, design and the look of its characters. James McDermott deserves work on a better series, and based on his character designs, should get it. The animation utilizes Toon Boom software to considerable advantage. There is a taste of McDermott's earlier work on King of the Hill, but the characters are more advanced in design, with angular eyes and the ability to convince us that the dialogue matches the character's inner state. This is due to the flexibility of facial expression, one of the problems with King of the Hill.
If only that were enough to save this blighted series.
There are lessons to be learned from Allen Gregory for both critics and future developers who hope to pitch a hit someday, as well as for studio executives, who often seem to have the longest learning curves of all.
First: Experience counts, especially in animation. Whatever track record Hill, Mogel and Paul had in live-action film, they were uniquely unsuited to make an animated series, and proved it. I do not doubt that they could have a productive bullshit session and come up with a viable idea for an animated series, but that is the point at which they should have recognized their inexperience and limitations and turned the idea over to someone who knew better.
Second: A memo to Fox. A big name does not guarantee a blazing hit.
Third: Have some conception of what you truly want your show to be. If you want a show about an arrogant kid getting his comeuppance, wanting to be liked, and compensating for his insecurities, don't claim that you really intended to make a show about "awful, awful people" who revel in their emotional sadism and are never punished, learn anything, or suffer consequences.
Fourth: Another memo to Fox: Have some patience and don't force said inexperienced people (including the neophyte writing team) to play over their heads. There is no reason this project couldn't have gone into development at a more auspicious time. You, as much as Hill, got exactly what you deserved.
Fifth: Is this show congruent with any sort of genre, target audience, or with the cultural context of the times?
Sixth: Did you populate your show with characters anyone could rightfully care about?
In the end, black eyes for everyone involved. As with most tragedies, it began with hubris, and none of it had to happen. I do not especially enjoy writing pieces like this one, and I wish Mr. Hill and company better luck in the future. Still, autopsies must be performed, and in the arena of media it is you, the critic, who must wield the scalpel.
Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman is a longtime student and fan of animation. He lives in Anderson, Indiana.