The cast and crew of Cartoon Network’s The High Fructose Adventures of the Annoying Orange descended on Comic-Con International with their special brand of comedy as creator/star Dane Boedigheimer, TV show co-creator Tom Sheppard, producer Gary Binkow, Cartoon Network’s Conrad Montgomery, voice actors Tom Kenny, Rob Paulsen, Justine Ezarik and live action performer Toby Turner discussed the show, its origins on YouTube and sitting still to record their roles.
“We’re here to talk produce of all kinds,” said voice actor/moderator Tom Kenny before showing fans a sizzle reel of Orange guest stars including “Weird Al” Yankovic, The Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and actresses Olivia Wilde and Jane Lynch. Afterward, Kenny quipped, “The take away: some celebrities look great without makeup and others do not!”
Conrad explained why the show attracts a certain caliber of quest stars. “There’s a lot of love for the Annoying Orange. There’s a lot of celebrities that want to be fruits,” he said.
“It’s easy when they have kids who watch the show,” added Kenny.
Turner interacts with some of the guest stars, but often records his segments entirely alone. In one episode, he played a “Gandalf-y” character, taking a full three hours to put all the gear on. Once they recorded the scene as written, he wanted to know if he could dance around in the costume. All of it fell off, and dancing became part of Nerville’s routine. “I often dance until all my clothes fall off,” he said to a cheering crowd.
Recalling his audition, Turner said the process took a long time because he kept telling his agent that he was not interested. He came in on the very last day and doing the “exaggerated thing on do on my Toby Games channel” won the part of Nerville, the show’s lone live-action character.
“Toby showed up on the very last day [with] no script,” Boedigheimer added. “It hasn’t changed. He still comes in without his script. We are shooting five episodes at one time, so it’s easier just to hand him the stuff then.”
Kenny credited Boedigheimer, Ezarik and Turner for making YouTube a go-to destination for content. Asked if that helped Boedigheimer turn to fellow YouTube producers to perform on the series, Ezarik said she stalked him on Twitter once she heard the web series was making the transition. Fairly certain the results were successful, she said, “I’m a passion fruit, and she hasn’t died yet.”
Sheppard said he and Boedigheimer went back and forth with various ideas to sustain the concept when translating The Annoying Orange four-minute shorts into twenty-two-minute episodes. “I pitched a terrible idea, then I called Boedigheimer up with this idea about this weird guy with a fruit cart and went from there.”
Going back to the origins of the Orange, Boedigheimer remembered he was in “the Oklahoma of California” and doing any spare online work he could get. The first Annoying Orange video was just one of many talking fruit videos on his YouTube channel.
When Kenny asked why he chose fruit as the characters for his work, the creator joked, “I had a dark childhood.”
Both veterans of many, many cartoons, Kenny asked Paulsen about the differences working on Orange versus recording for more traditional animation. The main difference is a simple one — the production actually shoots the actors’ mouths so they can be superimposed onto the fruit. “You have to keep your head very still, and they draw dots on my lips and nose. It’s interesting, but it comes out great,” Paulsen explained. For Kenny, it is especially difficult to sit still, and the producers had to attach a ball to the back of his chair to aid him in keeping motionless.
According to Boedigheimer, Orange is a culmination of dealing with a lot of annoying people lacking social graces in his life, but he also credited Looney Tunes and other classic animation as inspiring both the web and Cartoon Network series.
Talking about how the process of making a network cartoon varies from their web content, Ezarik revealed her jealousy of the shows editing bays and staff as she handles all the editing for her YouTube channel.
Kenny called the production an “endless avalanche” from his point of view. Sheppard said they fumbled around at first, but streamlined and found people who could handle four or five different things at once. Binkow said several post facilities told them the way they planned to work could not be done, but the production found a manageable workflow. He also thanked Cartoon Network for allowing them to make it happen.
“When [the web series] started taking off, I starting getting all these offers [to bring it to TV],” Boedigheimer explained. “I knew I needed help and settled with Gary and The Collective because they’d taken [fellow web series] “Fred” to the movies. I thought it would cool to take it to TV and it happen.”
“We also started throwing tennis balls at his head,” Binkow joked.
Kenny asked Sheppard if he really made one of the celebrity guests cry during a recording session. The producer tried to deflect the question. “I don’t remember seeing you on that reel,” he joked.
“It wasn’t so much crying as they were in an emotional state,” he finally admitted without revealing the identity of the tearful celeb.
During the fan Q&A, the panel was asked that most burning of Annoying Orange questions: is Marshmellow a boy or a girl. “In season five, we’ll reveal it,” Boedigheimer said, though the panel considered times the character has been referred to both as “she” and “he.” A fan also mentioned a time Marshmellow’s father referred to the character as his son.
Another fan asked the panel what their least favorite fruit was. Binkow was quick to say his was the cumquat. Conrad deflected.
Ezarik mentioned that she just tried some passion fruit. “It’s not good!” she admitted. Sheppard’s answer: “All fruits except the ones I make cry.” For Turner and Kenny, it was the papaya while Boedigheimer decided on the pomegranate.
“I try [papaya] a couple times a year to make sure I still hate it,” joked Kenny.
Asked if Orange and Passion will get married, Ezarik suggested it would be another season five episode while Sheppard teased, “We have a song coming up that might address that.”
Turner fielded a question about the group’s favorite episode. “I like the one where I’m in a giant robot and shooting missiles at everybody,” he said. “I liked ‘Avocadotar.’ I saw what it was like to sit still [for recording]. It’s tough.” Binkow mentioned he enjoyed the episode in which Nerville sings about a Doom Turtle; a one-off joke in a future-set episode that spawned the recurring character, prompting Sheppard to grab a nearby guitar and accompany Turner in an acoustic rendition of the Doom Turtle song to close out the presentation.