A Chance Interview with The Simpsons Animator, Chance Raspberry

 

Another collaboration with innovative animator, Chance Raspberry…

 

Telling his story and more about Little Billy here in an exclusive interview with words and pictures.

 

 

So it was with great excitement for me when Chance Raspberry agreed to an interview with myself about his work to date and his latest project, Little Billy. This wonderful inspiring lead character layout artist on The Simpsons  – and animator for Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends (2005) and of The Simpsons Movie (2007) –  is currently seeking funding to create his autobiographical cartoon Little Billy Little Billy is a unique cartoon character, in that this 4-year-old cartoon has special needs, as he has a rare fictious neurological condition.

Chance himself has Tourette’s Syndrome and he is donating 10 to 15% of the funds raised for this project to The Tourette Association of America charity, a worthy cause. This cartoon, also written by him is based on his experiences growing up in the 1980s. And as you can see from the video above there are many, many amazing pop culture references to this time. More about his project can be read in my blog’s first post about this project, here.

And if you want to be a part of this exciting project, here’s where you come in. By buying some of his wonderful exclusive perks which accompany this series. you can help this project get off the ground and donate to a good cause at the same time. There’s everything from stickers to t-shirts, to The Simpsons exclusive posters some wonderful Little Billy themed merchandise. However this promotion stops on the 16th December so click HERE or on anywhere you see Little Billy in this post for your last chance to snap up these once in a life time goodies. They are a wonderful Christmas present for all your family. What’s not to like! And pictures of  just some of these items as shown throughout this post.

And now on with that interview…

 

Little Billy

 

Tell me about Little Billy…

Little Billy is the ultimate ’80s cartoon and world’s first and only animated series about neurodiversity, special needs, and the power of being different! When the series begins, Billy Harper (Age 4) has not been diagnosed with anything yet. He’s simply the quintessential ’80s child who loves Count Chocula and Yummy Mummy, Saturday morning cartoons, after-school playtime, neighborhood tricycle rides, forts in the woods, TGIF, fruit snacks, Ecto Cooler, and everything else that made being a child in the ’80s so great…with one exception: Billy is the most hyperactive child in the world!

For the most part, everyone (except Billy’s parents) see him as a problem child who’s just “acting out” for attention or breaking the rules for fun. In reality, Billy is completely unaware that he causes trouble. He just has so much pure, fearless, untamed energy that not only is he unable to control it (yet or all the time), but he’s also totally oblivious that his abilities (speed, volume, etc.) border “super-human” due to this energy! By the end of the pilot script and with a path of innocent, unintentional destruction in his wake, Billy is finally and officially diagnosed with a rare neurological condition called UHS (Ultra Hyper Sensitivity.)

The basic definition of UHS (which is a fictitious neurodiversity I created just for Little Billy as a universal representation of/for the entire neurodiverse community) is: A chemical imbalance in the human brain resulting in maximum levels of excess Adrenaline, intense sensitivity to audiovisual, sensory, and emotional triggers, and in extreme cases, super-human amounts of energy and ability. The condition resembles and embodies the symptoms of (but not limited to) Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, OCD, and at times, Autism and other neurodiversities. Like Tourette Syndrome, many symptoms and characteristics of other neurodiversities tend to accompany those of UHS.

 

The important thing to remember and enjoy is that none of this is apparent or matters to Billy. Despite all the hype surrounding his behavior and the fact that it sometimes lands him in places a child has no business being, all Billy wants to do is play with his toys, watch his cartoons, draw his dreams, and be a 4-year-old ’80s kid. Billy just wants to be himself and live his life. And he does!

 

As he’s 4 years old in the beginning of this series, will we see Billy get older on-screen?

At this time, I have no plans to make Billy age directly within the primary narrative/story arc of the series. There is one birthday episode where Billy turns from 4 to 5 because birthday milestones are an important part of growing up (which is something Little Billy aims to touch on honestly, aggressively, and intentionally as much and as often as possible.) That said, Billy will likely remain perpetually 5-years-old (the Golden Age), although we will likely see him younger or older in flashbacks and flashforwards.

 

Tell us about the other characters we’ll meet in Little Billy.

I’ve intentionally created a fictitious neurological condition for Billy so that he can/will serve as a symbol or icon for all neurodiversities and the entire neurodiverse community. That being the case, Billy parents are both products of a time when many/all of the these conditions and diagnosis did not exist yet. Therefore, while at times they both may possess hints or traces of neurodiversity (especially Billy’s dad, Preston) they have never been diagnosed themselves and just view these quirks as a natural, normal, perfectly acceptable part of life.

In addition, many of Billy’s friends and other supporting cast of the show possess existing neurodiversities, including Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, OCD, Autism, and Down Syndrome. Even physical conditions like Cerebral Palsy, Paraplegia, and more will be featured and represented, both in comparison and in contrast to those who are perceived by society (and themselves) to be “normal”…whether they really are or not. After all, who is normal? WHAT is normal?! lol All these very specific varied personality types directly fuel and influence the overall story of the series – they’re not just there to be spotlit or bandwagoned.

 

I spotted a lot of great pop culture references in the trailer, will you have some retro guest stars from this time in the show?

Yes! That’s the plan!

 

 

Who would you like to guest star if you could have 3 of your ’80s influences? Why?

I had actually met and was in touch with Corey Haim for this reason (to be a main or guest-starring voice on the show) before he passed away a few years back. Actors I would love to work with on this and am hoping to get involved as regular/recurring voices, guest stars, or on some other level include Michael J. Fox, Keanu Reeves, Corey Feldman, Sean Astin, Winona Ryder, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Matthew Broderick, and Kevin Bacon to name a few. And it doesn’t stop there! I’m hoping to extend Little Billy’s ’80s arsenal to the soundtrack as well. I’m in touch with John Cafferty (Eddie And The Cruisers) and am actively reaching out to Stan Bush and other ’80s music icons.

 

There’s also a TON of bands from the ’80s that never got big but whose music is as good (or better) than the mega hits of the day – I’m hoping to expose and showcase this music in Little Billy. I’m also reaching out to and hoping to work with some new artists who have mastered that trademark sound of ’80s synth and rock like Mitch Murder, Gunship, 80s Stallone, Zombie Hyperdrive, and Miami Nights 1984. I’d love to do the same with the actors and get some great unknowns to play some or all of the starring characters! Stranger Things got it right doing that – all the great, timeless movies and stories from our ’80s childhoods introduce us to actors we don’t know from other things and that’s how/why we fall in love with their characters so hard! It’s why those movies are still king and so herald (and remade) today.

 

Will you have a comic book to accompany the series?

Yes! The comic will debut online in the near future (2018) in strip form like the comic series we grew up reading and loving in the Sunday paper (when that was a thing.) lol To many of us, it still is…or at least the tradition of it is still alive and well in our minds and hearts. What’s cool is that many of the most successful animated projects from the ’60s through the ’80s were invented and started as Sunday Newspaper comic strips like the Charlie Brown (Peanuts) holiday specials and movies.

 

It was only fitting and too perfect that they also made the SUNDAY strips, Garfield and Mother Goose & Grimm, into SATURDAY morning cartoons! They made Bloom County into a Christmas special, which was AWESOME and I know we ALL wanted a Calvin & Hobbes special, movie, or series! We never got that…BUT…just maaaaybe we’ll finally see Calvin & Hobbes animated in glorious living motion for the first time ever in a Little Billy episode (I want to take things I/we WISH we had in the ’80s and our childhoods and make them REAL/accessible in Billy’s world.) So we’ll see. 😉

 

I think this series will help raise a lot more awareness for kids about just why other kids may be different from them, what ages do you think this series will appeal to?

I think the series will appeal most to tweens (ages 8-12) and their parents who grew up during this time period and long to share all the great stuff they/we had (and DIDN’T have) back then with their kids. That said, it’s hard to put a target or limitation on Little Billy’s audience. The Looney Tunes style humor and execution of gags, dialog, and story points will appeal to kids of all ages, especially the young ones (ages 3-7 who still love silly, zany, outrageous hijinks or seeing fast, loud, big actions. That’s Billy’s forte!

 

However, seeing how Billy’s wild behavior shifts perspectives and effects the world around him, namely teachers, parents, and other adults/kids (AND how they react to and learn from him) will appeal to a much broader audience – there is limitless potential and possibility for story, exploration, and adventure here. The dialog is being written for both fun-loving kids (and kids at heart) as well as young and older adults who enjoy, get, and appreciate more sophisticated, emotional, highbrow/high-concept humor, story, and writing that is at times risqué or with some double entendre, but always witty, sincere, honest, and most of all, REAL and from the heart!

 

The Simpsons

 

Tell us about your favourite episode that you’ve worked on…

My favorite episodes to work on are ALWAYS the Halloween specials (Treehouse of Horror!) You get a lot more extreme stuff to do like harsher, more angular staging and composition of the shots (ex. severe up or down shots) and much more opportunity for broader, wilder acting. Plus, things are just more edgy/violent, cartoony, bouncy, and animated in those episodes most of the time because FOX likes to spend a little more time and money on the annually awaited and celebrated Halloween episode — as an animator who loves drawing/animating cartoony and more extreme, that’s a real Halloween treat (pun intended!) lol Anytime I get to have fun animating Bart or Homer doing some great acting is always a bonus for me, too.

 

When you work with guest stars on the show, as an animator do you meet them before making their animation counterpart.

I wish! lol To be honest (BTS moment here, guys), we never see the voice actors. In fact, we never see the actors, writers, or even Matt Groening. Matt used to come by the old building (the series has moved buildings 4 times in its 30 years…that we know of lol) but only once in awhile and the only way we knew he had been there would be that some of our posters we’d hung up for everyone to sign now suddenly had his signature and a doodle of Bart or Homer on them. WAY cool! lol The animation department has its own wonderful building in Burbank, CA, USA that I/we really enjoy and appreciate, BUT, it would be nice if all the writers and voice actors got to congregate together in the same building and interact from time to time. I think that communication between all departments would make the writing, animation, and overall execution and outcome of the episodes that much better.

Since this is the last Simpsons question, here are just a few more fun facts about the show that aren’t well-known: Each episode takes 9 months to produce from script to screen, so there are literally thousands of people working all the time to keep about 10 episodes in production at the same time at all times. The Simpsons is the only animated TV show left in America to do Layout (the first/key phase of animation production where we actually draw the key poses of animation) “in house” in their own FOX studio – none of FOX’s other shows do this. Until recently, The Simpsons was the last show on American TV to still record a live orchestra for its score – this stopped in either 2016 or early 2017. The series was still produced completely traditionally on paper until 2010. It was one of the last shows to switch from hand-painted cels to digital color in 2002. Today, after all our work is hand-drawn into the computer using Wacom Cintiqs and Toon Boom Harmony, every drawing we create digitally is shipped to the South Korean animation studios, PRINTED BACK OUT ON PAPER, and still inbetweened and cleaned up traditionally, by hand, ON PAPER before being scanned BACK into the computer for digital color and final editing. Hardcore!

 

Stan Lee

 

I noticed in an interview you worked with him, tell me more about that…

Haha, well I’m not sure exactly what that interview said, but I wouldn’t say I worked “with him.” I was an intern on some of his animated projects when Film Roman was producing them (and still producing The Simpsons – now Fox Television Animation took over and does it all.) It was a lot of fun, though! I got to see all the artist drawing the characters and talk to them about animation without having TOO much responsibility as an intern. lol It was fun and I learned a lot about drawing, production, lingo, and the animation industry that helped me eventually get hired on as a full-time Simpsons animator.

 

Which superhero would you like to immortalise in cartoon form and why?

That’s a tough one! I love Flash because he’s fast (almost as fast as Billy.) lol 😉 But there are so many! If I had to choose ONE it would probably have to be one of the ’80s (super)heroes like Cobra or Kung Fury. Do they count? lol Aw, who cares – they do to me!

 

And finally whats next for Chance Raspberry and Little Billy?

With the money raised form this Indiegogo, I will be launching Little Billy’s first product line and comic strip series. Right now, that is the T-Shirt series (with more designs on the way), the sticker set, the official series poster. The comics will debut online at LittleBilly.com with announcements leading up to each release. This is also where the first animated short funded by he Indiegogo will air/stream. From there, I hope to produce additional short cartoons and comic strips as I expand Little Billy’s content library, reach, brand, and product line. Ultimately, I would like to fund and produce a full pilot episode in the half-hour PrimeTime format to pitch/sell to one of the streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu, or, to one of the major networks like FOX, Nickelodeon, or Cartoon Network. These are all VERY big dreams that require a lot of money and man/woman-power to accomplish, so I’m charging this goal everyday head on with everything I’ve got! So far, I’ve written, directed, and fully animated everything myself with input from other great artists, writers, musicians.

 

This is why crowdfunding and/or investors are so important to a project like this – it keeps it out of Hollywood/studio hands and allows me, the creator, to keep and maintain ownership, profits, and most important, creative control (which is crucial to a project championing a tough, tender, and often controversial subject like neurodiversity. It’s too easy for networks and censors to “play it safe” and not really tackle the issues directly and honestly for fear of offending or not being “politically correct.” I am not willing to let this happen to Little Billy, which is why I’m not pitching it and why I’m doing everything myself until I can find and/or afford capable talent to join me. Now, after 5 years of public progress and nearly 15 years of development before that, the adding of new talent is finally starting to happen. I can’t wait to see and share what Little Billy becomes with these great new artists on board! Please…stay tooned! =)

 

And just one more question… If you could get any child star from any decade to play Little Billy in a live action version of your cartoon… who would you pick and why?

That’s a VERY difficult question to answer! lol It would probably be either Wesley Ivan Hurt who played Sweet Pea in the 1980 Popeye film with Robin Williams, OR, Hank Johnston who played Gunther Beckman, the cross-eyed kid in the 1993 Dennis The Menace movie. These are two of the cutest kids I’ve ever seen on film, but I’d really have to look back through the entire history of cinema to get a real answer. lol I prefer exhausting my options when I can or unless the choice is blindingly obvious. I’m going to try and do the voice of Billy myself because he’s very specific and MUST be just the right kind of adorable and cute.

 

There’s an amazing character I LOVE from the first Golden Age of animation (1930-1950) named Little Cheeser who’s a SUPER cute baby mouse voiced by Bernice Hansen – this character is pretty much what I want Billy to sound like. If only I could get young Bernice from back then to do Billy’s voice for me now. She died the year I was born. Hopefully, I can find someone out there (or get close enough to this voice myself) to do the character justice. This is one of the funnest parts of animation and creating – the journey and joy of exploring, experimenting, and finding your lightening in a bottle!

So here’s hoping Chance gets this funding and this series gets made, so as we can learn more about special needs and let children and adults with a number of conditions feel they are not alone.  As Chance puts it so well,

Meet Billy Harper…the most hyperactive child in the world! As the sun sets over 1980’s suburban America, the decade that gave rise to Generation Rx is about to come face to face with Patient Zero. Hand-crafted by a lead Simpsons animator with Tourette Syndrome, this series and its creator, Chance Raspberry, invite you to be yourself, embrace what makes you “you”, and rediscover the heart, adventure, and magic of your ’80s childhood like never before with Little Billy, the world’s first and only animated series about neurodiversity, special needs, and the power of being different. If you’re not like the other kids…he’s just like you!”

And remember to tune in for a review here on that first episode as there is more than a chance you’ll be seeing more of this wonderful animator on Realweegiemidget Reviews!

 

A wee disclaimer and personal thank you to Chance Raspberry for asking me to write this post. Financial compensation was not received for this post. A sample perk was gifted from Chance Raspberry, and all opinions expressed here are my own. I would also like to add that Chance kindly personally agreed to me using these videos and pictures of him and his work in my blog.

If you are involved in the entertainment industry and would like to be featured or promoted here, please drop a line to me via my Contact Me Page.

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