Tonight, Jan 10, sees the premiere of School’s Out! The Musical, an hour-long special episode of Nickelodeon’s hit toon, The Fairly OddParents. Featuring a whopping 11 musical numbers ranging from pop anthems and rap numbers to classic show tunes, the special was a challenging labor of love for the show’s crew, led by creator Butch Hartman, who also created Nickelodeon’s Danny Phantom.
"We’ve done songs in episodes in the past, but never to this extent," Hartman tells Animation Magazine Online. "And the great thing about these songs, and I know I’m probably biased because I’m the one who co-wrote a lot of them, but they’re all really catchy. We want kids to demand, "Where can we get more of these songs!"
Hartman co-wrote the songs with OddParents story editor Steve Marmel. "Steve and I work really well together," he says. "I’m more of a pop music fan. I love stuff form the ’80s and ’60s, and Steve likes a lot of theater stuff, like Rent and Avenue Q. So it’s a pretty good mix."
According to Hartman, the song writing process came fairly easily as he and Marmel started batting around ideas. He recalls, "We needed to write a love song for Cosmo and sat down and asked, ‘What’s this son going to be about? How about how they met?’ We both just started going, ‘How about her hair? How about how stupid he is? Okay, that’s funny.’ Then we got this great musician, this guy named Moon, who can basically take these little poems that we write and make them into awesome, catchy songs. Moon is a must. He’s a very talented person."
The biggest challenge for Hartman and his team was conceptualizing the songs. He explains, "Once you have the song written, that’s one thing. But then actually making it into a small little music video is tough. ‘Kids Being Kids’ is our big, main song, so we have to fill up every moment, every frame of music with something. It’s basically coming up with a story for each song. It’s not like it’s just a bunch of people on stage just moving around and dancing and stuff, we have to fill this thing with gags and jokes and visuals that make sense and tie into the whole story."
The musical element also added a bit of extra strain to the animation process, according to Hartman. "Timing a song is a little bit more difficult than timing regular animation because you’re stuck with the beat and the tempo of the song," he says. "You have to make sure that all the stuff you want to do fits into that section of the song."
While the talented main OddParents cast members do all their own singing for the special, the producers needed additional talent to perform a hardcore rap song that a group of pixies bust out. The part was filled by hip-hop stars Method Man and Redman. "They were actually very into it," says Hartman. "They thought it was really cool. I think they’re fans of the show and were very happy to do it. We were psyched to have them." The cast was also joined by Ben Stein of Faris Bueller’s Day Off and Win Ben Stein’s Money fame, who plays the malevolent head pixie. Thankfully, though, he doesn’t do any of his own rapping.
Despite its challenges, School’s Out! fulfilled a life-long dream for Hartman, a long-time devotee of Schoolhouse Rock. "Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to do animated songs somehow," he notes. "It was a little daunting, but we’re on such a fast production schedule around here that we really had no choice but to dive in and make it. Then, once we got it done, it was like, "Wow! Look what we did!" He adds, "I think it’s really going to move OddParents to a whole new level so people can see how much fun the show can be."
Hartman and gang are finishing production on the 80th half hour of Fairly OddParents. He’s also simultaneously working on Danny Phantom, which is nearing its 40th episode and has just been picked up for 13 more. On top of that, he says he’s developing other projects. "I’ve got some stuff in the works. One’s a live-action thing and the other one’s animated," he reveals. "I can’t share right now, unfortunately, but you’ll be the first to know." We’ll hold you to that, Butch.
School’s Out! The Musical airs Friday, June 10, at 8 p.m. on Nickelodeon.