John Trabbic’s upcoming series features the hilariously comedically ‘obsessive’ and slightly illogical Parker J. Cloud, who’s misadventures as a mailman working with sea captain Angus are sure to 'deliver' even more grins than packages.
Delivering the mail - sending boxes and letters from one person to another - might sound like a less than exciting plotline for a cartoon comedy. But Middlemost Post, the first new original series Nickelodeon has produced in the last five years, is anything but less than exciting.
“When I first saw it, I immediately fell in love with it,” says Ramsey Naito, president, Nickelodeon Animation. “It’s charming, optimistic, hilarious, and awesome. And then when I met John, I equally fell in love with him because he is Parker J. Cloud. He is the character I fell in love with.”
John Trabbic, known for his storyboard work on SpongeBob SquarePants, created Middlemost Post, which premieres this July; you can giggle through 3-minute “teaser” short, Unboxing, by scrolling down just a bit. Naito’s observation of the connection between Trabbic and lead character “PJ” Cloud is spot on. While the series follows the misadventures of a young cloud seeking new employment from former sea captain Angus, now mailman for the town of Middlemost, Trabbic’s own journey of transformation provided the genesis of Parker’s character.
“It's a personal story made up of little pieces and parts of my own life,” explains Trabbic of the caricatured 2D animation. “I had a troubled past and then, when I got sober, I decided to change my life. I was coming up with ideas for a show and the idea of a cloud that could transform into anything, and it could be this reformed rain cloud, a cloud that wants to brighten people's days and no longer rain on anybody, I felt like, ‘Yes, that's my story.’”
The earnest, fluffy, flush-faced, rainbow-wearing Parker works with bearded and brawny Angus in a shipwreck that sits atop a high, snowy peak overlooking the eclectic town of Middlemost, filled with anthropomorphic rodents, robots, and more. The delivery duo is joined by their pet walrus Russell with an endless stomach and equally endless love to give.
Get ready to smile!
“When we're looking for a show, we're looking for a great, standout character,” says Naito. “We look for a character that touches your heart, makes you laugh, and makes you want to be with them in their show. And that heart and soul comes from the creator.”
“Honestly, there are a lot of parallels you could make between me and Parker,” Trabbic adds. “I was a journeyman carpenter who went through an apprenticeship and there’s also that mentor relationship between Angus and Parker. And I too have a magical walrus with an endless stomach.”
Trabbic co-executive produces Middlemost - a show that’s produced entirely from home during COVID - with long-time screenwriter Dave Johnson, who is also a featured writer on the series and describes Middlemost Post as “a series of mini-movies you can watch in any order.” “John and I both are very short attention span individuals and we wanted to create characters that could exist in any space and have anything thrown at them,” Johnson notes. “This is a super character-driven show that's really hard to explain in a one-liner. And it’s a really simple idea, about delivering mail to people. It is a boring concept on paper. But if we make it about how committed these characters are, and how obsessed they get about something, that's really what drives all of our episodes.”
He adds, “If we can get the audience to care about these characters, we can get them to care about what they’re doing, even if it’s the dumbest thing in the world. Which we love. We love extremely dumb.”
In the episode “First Delivery,” Angus, Parker, and Russell are tasked with delivering a letter to a man named “Levi Alone.” Despite clear implications of the addressee having no interest in receiving deliveries - be it the numerous “See you NEVER!!” signs or the property perimeter fence strapped with locks and barbed wire - the Middlemost Post crew force their way, braving numerous spiked and smashing “booty traps,” to help Mr. Alone not feel so, well, alone.
The teaser short also highlights the show’s hilariously comedically “obsessive” and slightly illogical behavior tendencies when Parker receives his first package. Completely enamored with just the idea of someone caring enough to send him a package, Parker, instead of opening the box to see what’s inside, spends all his time playing with the box itself.
“It's got feels, it's got emotions, it's got ups and downs, and it's got laughs,” says Trabbic. “I feel like some shows are afraid to hit those more sincere emotions. But Dave and I really strive for contrast.”
Middlemost Post has all the familiar fingerprints of a Nickelodeon animated series - 2D animation mixed with real photos, live-footage cut-aways, highly detailed close-up illustrations, a recognizable but bizarre take on the real world and, of course, ample physical comedy. “There's something there that creates wonder and being able to have my own show and tapping into that has been a dream,” says Trabbic.
Naito adds, “Back when I started my career at Nickelodeon, the studio was known as this place where we were making cutting-edge animation with first-time creators, whether it was SpongeBob SquarePants or The Fairly OddParents. And it’s been so exciting to reignite that original animation DNA with Middlemost Post. Especially since this is also a show about a character who wants to follow his dream.”
Though entirely unplanned, another parallel can be drawn between Trabbic creating Middlemost at a time when he needed them most, and the fact that Middlemost is releasing at a time when the world may need these characters most.
“I'm so excited to release the rainbow and introduce PJ Cloud to the world,” says Trabbic. “When we were developing the show in 2019 and 2020, there were a lot of difficult times. We kept saying, ‘Man, I wish people could meet Parker J. Cloud right now. He would brighten everyone’s day up.’ So, I really think releasing the rainbow that is Parker is going to be awesome. Hopefully, it resonates and just makes people smile and helps us forget about things for a minute.”
“We couldn't predict this last year, but it's been dark for everybody,” Johnson adds. “And it sounds a little corny, but you can't have the rainbow without the storm. So, we're coming out of this dark period, and we want to share this with everybody, because it really kept John and I going this last year. I’m excited for others to finally join us on this mountain we created.”
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