TV URBAN LEGEND: The Amazing World of Gumball was originally going to be about a school for rejected cartoon characters.
Typically, in the world of animated television, there is a basic accepted type of character design. Everyone in The Simpsons, for instance, are just cartoon versions of normal humans (although, one of the members of the Simpson family was originally supposed to be MORE than human). And when shows DO have different types of characters, they’re usually explained, like how Princess Bubblegum made all sorts of strange creatures in Adventure Time (and just the general post-apocalyptic feed of the show explains all the various mutated characters).
In The Amazing World of Gumball, however, there are ALL sorts of characters and there isn’t really an explanation for why they all just live on the same world with each other…
Characters are just different because they are different. We don’t mean like how Gumball is a cat and his sister is a bunny. That’s normal enough, since Gumball’s parents are a cat and a bunny. No, we mean stuff like how Gumball’s girlfriend is a peanut with antlers. Or how he is friends with a cloud person, a ghost and a banana. That’s just bonkers.
And, sure enough, there is a perfectly good reason for this – they were not invented as part of the same show!
No, the show’s creator, Ben Bocquelet, had worked drawing characters for various projects (mostly commercials) for years and he had them in his portfolio. The French-born British animator was hired by Cartoon Network for their European development department, to help people pitching the network to develop their pitches better. However, while there, they said that employees could also pitch the network and Bocquelet had an idea to use the rejected characters for his various commercial pitches over the years.
He explained to ToonZone:
I started looking back at the characters that I created for commercials. It was a big mash-up of 2D, stylized 3D, realistic 3D and even stop motion. I lined them up and the result looked varied and unusual. I really liked the idea of a show without graphic unity. All these characters had been rejected, they had no purpose. I found that quite endearing. I integrated them in the photo of a schoolyard and was quite excited with the outcome.
I pitched a show about a remedial school for hapless rejected cartoon characters set up in the real world. Daniel Lennard, who is in charge of the development studio, wasn’t convinced. He thought that the concept was too sad and that it wasn’t very cool to make jokes about remedial schools. I have to admit that in retrospect he was quite right. It felt like a mild cartoon version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the concept naturally lent itself to pessimistic and mean spirited stories. But he liked the look of it and encouraged me to pitch a different show with a similar design approach.
Yeah, the remedial school aspect of it probably was a bit harsh. Anyhow, he went back and redeveloped it as a family-based sitcom about Gumball and his family and friends and voila, a classic animated series was born!
That whole “mish mosh” approach is also shown in how the series mixes animation with live action backgrounds…
I love when happy accidents work out beautifully!
The legend is…
Thanks to Ben Bocquelet and The Huntsman from ToonZone for the information!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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