How Netflix's Controversial Big Mouth Won Over Titmouse

Big Mouth has become one of Netflix's most critically acclaimed animated series and even earned an Emmy Award nomination for its second season. The series even pushed the boundaries for the ever ambitious animation studio behind it, Titmouse. Titmouse Founder and President Chris Prynoski spoke with CBR about the development of the show.

The series initially met with controversy over the frankness of its subject matter. It focuses on a group of tweens entering puberty, and takes specific aim at the adolescent experience. It's disarmingly honest, approaching topics such as consent, sexuality and hormones with a frankness that most television series would never attempt.

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Prynoski, whose studio produces such series as The Venture Bros. and Black Dynamite, revealed the drive that went into the show and its willingness to bluntly confront taboo elements. Early in the series, a gag sees the preteen character Andrew stark naked. "The show creators fought long and hard," Prynoski said, "and we were involved in the discussion about how to present this. How do we do this... we couldn't do this in live-action. In the very first episode, we have a close-up of a boy's genitalia. It's like, that wouldn't... you have to be real sensitive."

"I think it was [about] trusting the room to find the right tone," he continued. "I knew Andrew Goldberg, and I knew of Nick Kroll's sense of humor, although I didn't know him personally. I knew Andrew was from Family Guy, so I knew what we were getting into. It's going to be like 100 jokes a minute, a bunch of dick jokes. We can do that."

As the show progressed and became more assured in the topics it would tackle, Prynoski was delighted at how the characters grew. "At the first table read, I was surprised by how much heart there was to the characters. I was surprised by how much I cared about the characters."

"So I was like, all right, let's see how it goes," Prynoski recalled. "And then the second episode was even better! And after the third episode, the director of the episode was at the table read... and I was like 'man, this table read was so good. You better not fuck this up!' That's probably not a great thing to say at a table read to the director. Probably made him nervous. It's hard to make a bad script into a good episode, but it's actually surprisingly and frighteningly easy to make a good script into a bad episode. It's like, you have to be on it the whole time, otherwise it can crumble away and make it bad."

Much of the most recent episode of the series, "My Furry Valentine" explores that concept with Andrew becoming increasingly possessive of his crush, Misty. Gaining awareness in these moments is something everyone has to go through and it's important moment of self-discovery. Prynoski recalled his own experiences, saying "what happens to me sometimes is that you'll have these stories that you tell throughout your life, and then as an adult... it's been ten years since you've told that story and now you're like, "Oh, I'm the asshole.' When I told this story when I was 19, I was the hero. But now, in my 40s, now I'm clearly the bad guy.'"

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Big Mouth earned its Emmy nomination for Outstanding Animated Program for the episode "The Planned Parenthood Show". Reflecting on the positive critical reception to the episode, Prynoski noted how Titmouse had never received as much outright praise for one of its series. "Most of the stuff we've made, certain types of people like it," he said. "It doesn't usually get high-brow acclaim."

"I directed this movie a couple of years ago called Nerdland that premiered at Tribeca, which is a more classy film highfalutin festival... after it ended, everyone was politely clapping. And then we premiered it at Annecy in France, this big animation festival where everybody was screaming and throwing stuff. And I was like, 'man I wish this had been our premiere.' I guess what I'm saying, we don't always get appreciate from the fancy people. And even the fancy people liked this one!"

The third season of Big Mouth arrives Friday on Netflix.

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