Todd Kauffman and Mark Thornton talk to us about their rockin’ new show Grojband, which premieres on Cartoon Network this month.
You would think that after working on one of the most popular animated shows of the past few years, Todd Kauffman and Mark Thornton would be taking some time off to rest on their laurels. Not these two. Two of the creative forces behind Tom McGillis and Jennifer Pertsch’s beloved Total Drama series, are back at it again this summer with a clever new show that promises to be another huge crowd-pleaser.
Their latest baby is called Grojband, a Flash-animated toon which follows the musical misadventures of 13-year-old Corey Riffin and his three best buddies. After coming to the conclusion that they can’t come up with good lyrics to save their lives, Corey realizes that he can use his older sister Trina’s diary as an amazing source of inspiration. Thus he sets out to give Trina even more teenage angst to feed their artistic pipeline.
So how did they come up with this sticky concept?
“The idea of doing a show about a garage band always appealed to me, but it didn’t have the magic nugget that I was looking for,” says Kauffman during a phone interview from the studio. “So it basically sat in my head for a while, until I came up with the premise of our lead character’s sister and her diary. What if she leaves her diary out and it contains the lyrics that make a hit song?”
Kauffman, who grew up with two sisters of his own, says he presented the idea to industry veteran and Fresh TV president Tom McGillis, whose many credits include all the Total Drama shows as well as Stoked, 6Teen and My Babysitter Is a Vampire. “He really loved the idea and fell out of his chair!” he recalls. Before long, Teletoon, FremantleMedia and Cartoon Network all came on board.
“We’re thrilled to be collaborating with Fresh TV on what will be our third co-production together, and the first animated property to develop from our partnership,” says Bob Higgins, senior VP of FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment. “Grojband is freakin’ hilarious and will provide all Cartoon Network viewers with huge laughs, great musical elements and offbeat and quirky characters.”
Since the duo had a lot of experience in using Adobe’s Flash software to produce their shows, they decided to continue relying on it for Grojband.
“We’ve been working in Flash ever since it came out,” says Thornton. “It helps us keep the animation here in Canada; the crew is all here at the Elliott Animation studio and we can all work together on the production. There’s no time difference, and we know the software ourselves and can make revisions to refine the animation.”
Thornton and Kauffman, both graduates of Toronto’s well-regarded Sheridan College, say they have a huge amount of respect for their Cartoon Network idols, artists like Craig McCracken, Maxwell Atoms and Genndy Tartakovksy, who paved the way for the next generation of toon auteurs with shows such as Powerpuff Girls, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy and Dexter’s Laboratory.
“We try to put everything we’ve learned from them over the past 20 years in Grojband,” says Kauffman. “We even pay homage to movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, breaking the fourth wall or having characters that speak backwards, etc. We’re also huge fans of Clone High. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, they were doing what we really loved about 10 years ago.”
Of course, the duo really hit the TV toon jackpot during their time on Total Drama, Fresh TV’s popular series that captured lightning in a jar by marrying animation with the reality TV competition trend and tween humor.
“We loved interacting with the fans of the show,” says Thornton. “We had quite a lot of views on the show blog, but when it hit Cartoon Network, the traffic went from 200,000 views to 2 million in a very short time. We loved how passionate the fans are and seeing how they dressed up as characters from the show at Wizard Con and Fan Expo in Toronto. That’s why we would read their comments and incorporate their ideas and feedback in the series. I think people fell in love with the characters. Because we actually got rid of the main characters, it really hit a chord with the fans.”
By the way, Thornton and Kauffman want everyone to know that they’ll be exploring all kinds of musical genres and styles on their cool new show. “You’re basically covering everything,” says Kauffman.
“Cowboy, rock metal, yodeling, elevator music, pirate sea shanty—we even make up our own genres! The show is all about music, after all!”
Grojband premieres on Cartoon Network on June 10 at 5 p.m and will air Mondays thru Fridays in the same timeslot.