Allen Gregory: Jonah Hill's Love Child
“Allen Gregory wasn’t too bad in that regard. We had the flexibility to move eyebrows around, contort faces and get the right expressions – we did a lot of that in the pilot. That’s the beauty of sending those files to the people at Yeson; they work off our actual drawings – and we draw quite cleanly. You get those expressions just right and they would come back like that, which is great.”
Perhaps AG’s greatest challenge is to make its pretentious, self-centered star a sympathetic character that viewers will want to spend time with. “I've learned through experience of playing different characters,” says Hill, “some of them whom are jerks or whatever, that when you play a character who is pretentious or obnoxious in any way, it's important to knock them down a peg. Right when you can't take it anymore, their rudeness or something, to make sure they are really knocked down a peg emotionally, and you see the insecurity that causes that kind of behavior.”
At least once during every episode Allen deals with such a moment, but usually manages to quickly bounce back to his precocious self. “One particular thing we do to help Allen is make him as small as possible,” Derriman explains. Wherever possible we have just the crown of his head just running along the top of a table. We also use lots of down shots and extreme close-up shots which Andy and Jarrad are always keen for.
“There’s only so much you can do when you’re working with dialog. It’s definitely a more restrained animated show, it’s definitely dialog-based. A lot of the challenge is in blocking a scene, the staging as opposed to having to do a big action sequence. A lot of the stuff in Bob’s Burger’s is pretty full-on extreme action stuff. It’s definitely a different beast in that way.”
Should Allen Gregory prove successful and go onto a long run, Goodman promises the youngster won’t be softened up. His apparent attitude might change according to his needs at any given moment, however. “He can be nice and charming, depending on what his agenda is. You meet people like him all over the place,” says Goodman. “In Allen’s case he’s pretentious, but vulnerable. He’s arrogant and aggressive to cover his insecurities.
“He’s seven years old and he wants to be liked.”
Seven Allen Gregory episodes are being produced for initial run, and scripts are now being written for the back six. “Leaving Family Guy was a big decision,” Goodman adds. “I’ve worked on so many shows that never made it to a second season. We don’t know yet whether Allen Gregory will be a success or a failure, a noble failure.”
Joe Strike is a regular contributor to AWN. He has written about animation, sci-fi and fantasy entertainment for the New York Daily News, Newsday and the New York Press. Joe has scripted the Nick Jr. series Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! and taught Mass Communications at New York's St. John's University. He is currently hosting “Interview with an Animator” [animator.interviews.com], a series of audience-attended conversations with noted figures in the animation community at a variety of New York City venues, including the Paley Center for the Media, The Society of Illustrators and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. Joe can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.