Monday, March 5, 2007

A Tale of 3 Cities (or it was the Baa-st of times)…

I’ve posted two reports from my recent trip to Holland, but have yet to reminisce about my favorite section of Amsterdam, the Jakob van Lennep kanal (say that 5 times fast). It was here that I rented a houseboat for a month in the summer of 1998 to work on what would become Sheep in the Big City.

This occurred a few months after my initial “pitch” in New York. While I was working on the final episode of the Off-Beats for Nickelodeon, Linda Simensky and Mike Lazzo flew up from Atlanta to hear some ideas for Cartoon Network. I’d worked on two concepts, one about a kid in space and the other about the Vice President of the US who secretly is a superhero and, not so secretly, a sheep. The joke was that, much like Underdog, no one could make the connection between civilian vice-presidential sheep and the hero.

The CN execs sat down and said, “We can’t wait to hear what you’ve got to say. Anything is possible, except two things: Space and Super-heroes.”

Left without anything to pitch, I took them out to dinner and we talked about the kind of show we wanted to make. Something funny for adults, yet kid based (this was before the “Adult Swim” block). Mike thought sheep were kinda funny, so off I went to Holland to figure out how to turn “sheep are kinda funny” into a show.

Here's the houseboat and myself at work on the floating patio.

Two summers later, I found myself in Los Angeles at the “Up Front” where the Network pitched the series to journalists and their ilk. In the intervening years I’d written and produced a pilot episode, which had been picked up for series.

Most Up Fronts are deadly dull affairs, so to spice it up I decided to bring a live sheep on the stage at the Ritz Carlton and introduce it as my co-creator. A sheep was procured (the management of the Ritz Carlton forced CN to sign some insurance papers and we were not allowed to walk on the same path Tom Sellick would use later in the day).

The animal was a star (literally, having appeared in several feature films) who bleated at just the right moments and ate the set we’d built for her.

I announced that the sheep and I shared an apartment in Brooklyn where she “wrote what she knew” while I drew (having opposable thumbs and all).

A grand time was had by all, even if the stunt didn’t help the show too much. That night at a party several journalists came up to me, believing that I actually lived and worked with a sheep.

Here’s my roommate and I at work in 2001

As long as we're going that far back, here's an interview from the following year.