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Will Carsola and Dave Stewart Talk ‘Mr. Pickles’

The creators of Adult Swim’s new serial-killing dog animated series discuss their particular brand of canine hijinx and mayhem.

Dogs will be dogs. Even the cute and cuddly ones will eagerly snack in a cat box given the opportunity. But thanks to Will Carsola and Dave Stewart, we have a new animated series, Mr. Pickles, where our fine canine friend is actually a violent serial killer. Yes my friends, the times, they are a changin’. Set in the old-fashioned town of Old Town (you read that right), the series centers on six-year-old Tommy Goodman, his family and his sweet and loveable border collie, Mr. Pickles, truly a boy’s best friend, but with a penchant for humping, mutilation and murder.

I recently had a chance to talk to Will and Dave about their creative process and how they got their new animated comedy on the air. The show debuts this coming Sunday night, September 21st, at 11:30 pm (ET and PT) on Adult Swim.

Dan Sarto: Congrats on the new show. You’re one of the exalted few who actually get a new show made and broadcast.

Will Carsola: Thanks a lot. We’re excited. We’re also naked. Is that weird?

DS: I’ve seen many things in my day so nothing really phases me. Under the circumstances, it’s not that odd actually.

WC: I don’t want to make it awkward for you.

DS: I appreciate that. We’re good so no worries. So why don’t you tell me about the genesis of the show. Where did the idea come from and what was your path to getting the show on the air?

WC: It started with a little animated short pilot idea Dave and I had that we pitched to Adult Swim. They loved it and asked us to pitch some other ideas as well. They asked to submit five ideas, a paragraph each, from which we’d make one as a pilot. So that’s what we did.

Dave and I sit back to back in an office and we have write-offs. We each write for 10 minutes and then read back our ideas. We just try to make the other person laugh. There’s no pressure as to whether or not it’s a good idea, a joke or a show idea. One of the ideas that came out of those sessions was Mr. Pickles. The original idea was to do a Lassie-type show, with an old-fashioned setting, where the hero dog is really a serial killer who commits all these crimes to get fed pickles, because he loves pickles.

That idea then turned into a bigger idea and then a bigger idea. It’s changed a little since we first came up with it. It’s come a long way. It’s still inspired by Lassie. But it’s no longer set in the 1950s because we struggled trying to put some of the characters we wanted into that historical setting. Now the premise of the show is set in current times, though we still have a meeting of the old and the new.

Dave Stewart: Our main family is a bit more old-fashioned than the rest of the town. They live on an old farm. They have an old 1950s style phone. But the world around them has been taken over by the modern age.

DS: How did you go about creating the show’s characters?

DSt: Well, first we wrote and eventually came up with several ideas. Once we got to the idea of a dog and the town, Will, who designs the show’s characters, began to work on some drawings. Since I’m not an artist, it’s always fun for me to watch as he begins showing me different sketches. “Hey, what do you think of this?” We do some of the voices on the show. [Saying to Will] Don’t you base some of the designs on the voices?

WC: Yah. The way I design characters is we come up with a voice first and then I’ll draw the character over and over and over until it becomes a real person in my head. Once the voice fits, I can see this character doing anything. At that point, it’s done.

DS: You’ve brought to the show a certain visual and comedic style. Who is your audience? Who are you hoping will watch this show?

WC: Toddlers and old people. This is probably the show for them.

DSt: I’d have to disagree with Will and say that it’s for anyone from 48-60 years old.

DS: Well, that’s quite an upwardly mobile demographic. And a core audience for Adult Swim.

WC: Honestly, there are two answers to that question. The best way to write comedy, truly, is not to worry about who it’s going to appeal to. If you’re laughing, and the people you’re working with are laughing, there are going to be a lot of people out there who will laugh with you. It will find an audience. With that said, I think our show may appeal to a little bit larger demographic than what Adult Swim normally has. We have a bit of sitcom element in the show as well as stuff that appeals to younger people. Even though Mr. Pickles is a bit of a crazy and aggressive show, its touches on underlying social issues. As you get older, you appreciate more when people make fun of those issues.

DSt: There’s a bit of something there for everybody.

WC: The show has two sides to it. One is the old-fashioned innocence of the family, and their stories. Those are more 1950s sitcom style stories. But then you have Mr. Pickle’s storylines, which are just horribly terrifying but fun and brutal and violent and twisted. The show balances both of those threads.

DS: Overall, what have been the greatest challenges bringing this show to air?

WC: The most challenging aspect has been the lack of time. The editing process probably takes the most amount of time. I’m really involved in the editing and it’s often really hard to find enough time because I’m so involved in so many other things going on with the show. That’s been the biggest challenge for me…finding enough time to finesse everything.

DS: Have you gotten any pushback from the network with regards to the show’s mayhem and violence?

DSt: We haven’t seen that yet but we do expect some. And there are going to be some angry moms and certain groups who probably won’t want a show like ours on the air.

DS: Certainly you can never please everybody. But from a creative standpoint, within Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, have you met any resistance to your ideas for characters or storylines?

WC: Yes, that sort of thing has happened. They’ve said, “You can’t do this” or “You need to change this.” Rather than changing the idea, we just find another way to use that idea that they approve of, which has always seemed to work. But Adult Swim has basically let us do whatever we’ve wanted to do. They’ve never said something was way too violent or over the top. They’ve pretty much said, “Yah, we love it. Run with it.” It’s been a great experience.


Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.                                 

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.