Following the premiere of Allen Gregory at Comic-Con International in San Diego, the cast and creators of Fox’s new animated sitcom met with the press to offers some insights into the series’ evolution, characters and influences.
Creators Jonah Hill, Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel were joined by cast members French Stewart, Nat Faxon and showrunner David Goodman for a roundtable discussion marked by frequent laughter and behind-the-scenes stories.
"The show is about Allen Gregory, one of the most pretentious 7-year-olds the world has ever known,” Paul explained. “He has two, doting gay fathers and, in the pilot episode, he has to public school for the first time with kids his own age, and he just finds that disgusting."
He said the series is, at its center, "about a kid who does want to fit in. He wants these kids to like him."
"He is just like everybody else,” Goodman added. “Please like me' is at the core of everything. There is a fun meanness to the characters, but, again, there is heart to it and you understand it.”
On the subject of boundaries in television, and Fox's history of challenging those boundaries, the creators said they hoped to carry on that tradition. "We want to push them," Mogel said.
"We push those boundaries as much as we can within the voice of the show," Goodman said.
The humor of Allen Gregory is, at times, more subtle than what audiences have come to expect from the network, and the audience seemed to respond well to the quicker, more character-driven jokes. "We love the smaller, subtler kind of stuff, and that's why we wanted it to be more human and look the way it looks," Paul said.
When discussing the look of the show, Mogel point to The New Yorker as an influence. "We just wanted to do something a little different that felt a little more cinematic in moments," he said.
"There is something lyrical and whimsical about it," Stewart said of the animation. "It's different."
"It's unlike any other of the animated shows on television," Goodman said, invoking his history working on Family Guy and Futurama, and pointing out how dissimilar and realistic Allen Gregory felt by comparison.
"That's what separates this from the other, animated shows on Fox,” Faxon said. “It does have heart and it does have relationships that you do sort of care about -- more so than, say, Family Guy or one of those.”
Hill pointed out that The Simpsons was known for its storytelling and attention to character, and said he hoped Allen Gregory could reach similar heights.
"That I created a show that is on after The Simpsons is all I need for the rest of my life," he said. "That Homer will be on and then you'll watch our show is, like, beyond a childhood, crazy dream."
"We have been working on it for so long, it's cool to hear people laugh at it," Hill said of the premiere panel experience. "This started in Jarrad's apartment with a blank sheet of paper to now being here, at Comic-Con, showing it and talking to you folks about it. That, to me, is something really different and special and cool."
Hill said he had a lot of love for Comic-Con, and even had a chance to walk the exhibit floor before the panel. "It was your normal Comic-Con experience with 20 bodyguards making sure no one looks at you or touches you," he laughed.
Hill praised the cast of Allen Gregory, and said he couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the supporting characters. "They got what we were trying to do,” he said. “From the first recording session, they got who their characters were."
"These guys have ad-libbed a ton of stuff that has made it into the show," Hill said of Stewart and Faxon, who play Allen’s fathers.
When asked what they liked about voice acting compared to traditional, screen acting, Faxon was quick to say, "Being able to be hungover." Hill laughed and added, "Not shaving, wearing pajamas."
"You're usually in and out in an hour and a half," Stewart said.
"It's just the coolest group of people," Hill said. "It would be a damn shame to not be able to continue it."
Hill also talked about the character design for Allen Gregory. "It was impossible to get him cute enough. I'd go on the Internet and type 'adorable kid,' he just couldn't be cute enough. We wanted, when he said something horrible, to juxtapose that with how cute he is."
Stewart was quick to add, "Now, if you're ever in trouble with the police, they'll go to your computer and find 7,000 searches for 'adorable kid.'"
Allen Gregory premieres Oct. 30 on Fox.