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…
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.)
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.
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?
Will you have a comic book to accompany the series?
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?
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!
Tell us about your favourite episode that you’ve worked on…
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!
I noticed in an interview you worked with him, tell me more about that…
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?
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?
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.