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When the resumes of the panelists include Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, Comedy Central’s Drawn Together and a webcomic about an ax-wielding cop written by a 5-year-old, you can bet the final product will be unique.
The WonderCon Anaheim presentation for Fox’s Animation Domination High-Def (ADHD) allowed fans to see a sneak peek at the weird world that will occupy the Saturday late-night timeslot beginning in July, with a special focus on the much-anticipated Axe Cop animated series.
As the lights went down in the ballroom, the screen next to the stage lit up with a series of images culled from the ADHD web channel. If anyone in the audience had any illusions that this new programming block would be in anyway similar to Fox’s Sunday night Animation Domination, they were quickly dispelled as rapid-fire clips played from the popular web shorts. Once the brief trailer was over, the ADHD team took the stage to talk about the show that will occupy the old MAD TV time slot.
Nick Weidenfeld, head of the late-night programming block, introduced the rest of the panel: executive producers Matt Silverstein and Dave Jeser, ADHD creative director Ben Jones, lead character designer and director Chace Conley, and Ethan Nicolle, co-creator of the hit webcomic Axe Cop. Weidenfeld, who left Adult Swim amicably, said he was enticed by the opportunity at Fox to create a new studio that had a presence online as well as on television
The studio is busy churning out the three shows for the July 27 premiere, which include a mix of sketches in addition to the previously announced Axe Cop and High School USA. They’re also creating shorts for the web full of “jokes, jokes, jokes” and a new GIF that will premiere each day. Weidenfield said he likes having the staff work on the GIFs as a “daily experiment in creativity.”
Once Weidenfeld gave the brief introductions, the audience was treated to a trailer for Axe Cop (below) featuring characters and moments fans of the webcomic will recognize — Flute Cop, Axe Cop’s Pet Dinosaur Wexter, Hitler and of course Dr. Doo Doo, who closes the trailer by promising, “I’ll make the great Axe Cop poop himself today.”
Weidenfeld heaped praise on the work of Silverstein and Jeser, and asked them to talk about the talent lined up for the show. As announced in January, Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation stars as Axe Cop, joined by Megan Mullally, Patton Oswalt, Ken Marino and Peter Serafinowicz. Guest stars include Breaking Bad alum Giancarlo Esposito and Jonathan Banks, Tyler the Creator, Rob Huebel, and Community creator Dan Harmon.
“All the big celebrities called us,” Silverstein joked.
The key to the series, he said, is to “tackle the material like it’s serious.” Jeser added that, to series co-creator Malichai Nicolle, “Dr. Doo Doo is a real bad guy.”
Understanding that component, Jones said it was important to find “the most serious artist dudes” trained in the anime style. The appeal for such serious artists, Conley said, was the chance to “draw T-rexes with Gatling-gun arms.” Nicolle chimed in that, while he had to create almost a character a page for the Axe Cop webcomic, the ADHD design team does it “far better.”
Weidenfeld likened the show to The Princess Bride in tone, with a serious take on fanciful material. Jeser added that the difference between the two properties is, “Malichai doesn’t like girls. Girls are all on the dumb list.”
While Weidenfeld said there is an attempt by the staff to inject the show with positive female characters, Malichai’s distaste for girls has a bit more of an effect as he’s still actively involved in the creation of episodes However, Silverstein said there is some “ “Frankensteining of his ideas to make sense.”
The process involves phone calls with Malichai, in which the now 9-year-old talks through ideas with the staff. Jeser added that sometimes, “He thinks we’re idiots for asking.” Silverstein said sometimes the boy’s ideas are genius, such as his explanation for the motivation of Bad Santa: He wants to “kill God and become Jesus.”
To add the appropriate feel, Malichai recorded the first few lines of narration for each episode. Weidenfeld added that when he was having trouble with the lines, he’d put on aviators and “nailed it,” before adding that like regular talent Malicahi could also be temperamental, refusing to perform until he was ready.
Weidenfeld then opened the panel up to audience questions.
Silverstein’s daughter Poppy walked to the microphone stand to ask her father about his favorite character, which he said is Flute Cop. “He’s always trying to make sense of Axe Cop,” he said. “Like me.”
ADHD premieres Saturday, July 27 at 11 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.