The bombastic British superspy rodent called Danger Mouse may be on nostalgia listicles everywhere for its ’80s heyday, but at Comic-Con International 2015, the dry-witted cartoon revealed a very new face, diversified ahead of its Netflix revival — and a lot of new cast came along for the ride including HBO stars John Oliver and Lena Headey and longtime cartoon counterpart Count Duckula.
Gathering on Sunday afternoon were a panel of creators behind the all-new Danger Mouse including executive producer and head of UK network CBBC’s development Sarah Muller, writer and comedian Ben Ward and rights holder FremantleMedia executives Bob Higgins and Chapman Maddox.
“I was just old enough that Danger Mouse was not in my childhood, but as we’ve been making this, I’ve seen how passionate the fanbase for this is,” Higgins explained.
Muller said the challenge of recreating the show was that today’s young audience is very sophisticated and with an almost endless supply of media options at their disposal. The response to such a market was to make the new series appeal to older comedy fans as well as the core kid market. Ward explained that saying, “The original show as a game-changer because it respected the audience. It was as funny for adult as it is for kids, and I think we’ve continued that. Think The Simpsons meets James Bond…it’s going to reward you as you watch. And like The Simpsons and Family Guy, it’s going to have a great sense of humor that adults can appreciate, but it won’t be the kind of thing you can’ show a kid on CBBC or Netflix.”
Ward added of changes from the original to the new Danger Mouse, “Things have changed. We’re at a different pace now, and there’s a lot of diversity in the world, but there were no female characters in the show.”
Both those tracks — high comedy and a more diverse cast — were unpacked as the panel went along. The creators explained that the risk factor is particularly high in Britain. “I am exactly the right age for Danger Mouse and grew up with it,” Ward said. “To understand how much we love him in Britain, we put him on a stamp. There are only four people on stamps in the UK. We’ve got the Queen, Winston Churchill, Father Christmas and Danger Mouse.”
Maddox said it was his job to make the show work in both the UK and the US and so he assembled an international group of writers who have worked on series from Bob’s Burgers to Futurama to Teen Titans Go! alongside the BBC staff in order to “make this hodge podge writing staff…and there’s obviously a big difference between British humor and American humor, and we’d have the British writers punching up American scripts and the Americans punching up British scripts. There was a great interchange of ideas to make the show.”
Ward said in the UK the series is thought of primarily as a comedy show while in America it’s thought of as an action show, and “I think we’ve gotten the best of both worlds and put them together. It’s something just as funny as the original for the British audience and just as exciting for the American one.”
Maddox added, “We can’t just make the same show again…and one thing we really agreed on was that the biggest element we agreed had to be in there was the relationship between Danger Mouse and Penfold. We want that buddy comedy element to be the thing that makes this shine.”
Muller explained, “We tried to bring that rigor to every part of the process.” She said that they interviewed every animator, voice actor and creative position on the show and pitched them hard on meeting the comedy standards the core writing team had for Danger Mouse. “I like to think that this is one of those rare shows where everyone has put in something unique and brought this perspective.”
Part of fulfilling that mission comes down to bringing comedic voices to the show. But aside from Alexander Armstrong in the lead role and Kevin Eldon as trusty sidekick Penfold, the cast for the show will include famous names like Stephen Fry as Colonel, and the producers on the panel announced that John Oliver would also be joining the series playing the revived villain Doctor Crumhorn and Lena Headey as the new character Jeopardy Mouse.
“[Crumhorn] will come in towards the end of the season and may or may not have some connection to the new villains we’re introducing earlier in the season,” said Maddox. “We’ve saved him up for a big moment in the season,” Ward said of the recreated character from the later years of the original show. Ward added that he knew the Last Week Tonight host on the comedy club circuit, and they were all part of a generation of British comedians who grew up on the show and now have come to work on it. “The excitement is all a bit childlike.”
As for Headey’s new Jeopardy Mouse, the female addition to the show is the greatest agent from the CIA who considers herself better than Danger Mouse in all ways. “It opens up this whole world of comedy,” Ward said, noting that the competition between Jeopardy and Danger Mouse. Muller said she was gratified to be at a con in a community where more and more women fans are taking part, and adding more female characters like Jeopardy has been something that “absolutely makes me proud and excited to introduce new aspirational female role models.” Ward added that no one on the show is a token character.
On that front, the show will also include The Descent actress Shauna MacDonald as a now female version of Professor Squawkencluck — the Q-like character who was a minor part of the original series. “In a sense, this isn’t a female version of the previous character but is a completely new character whose name is an homage to the original character,” Ward said. Rounding out some of the regular players will be Greenback’s henchmen Stiletto — voiced by series narrator Dave Lamb — along with another new character called Pandaminion.
The team rounded out the panel by announcing that similarly cult famous British cartoon star Count Duckula will appear at some point in the series, but there’s no chance of a cameo by Bananaman.
The series is in production on 52 episodes set to debut in 2016, and Ward said, “Usually when you make so many shows, there are a few duds in there, but I really don’t think we have any.” Muller and Ward said that the producers have met with the men who made the original series and have received their blessing — including original writer Brian Trueman who’s stopped by in the new show’s writer’s room from time to time.
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