This weekend marks the official debut of Disney’s latest animated comedy adventure series Penn Zero Part Time Hero – about a regular boy who inherits the not-so-regular job of dimension-hopping part-time hero. A whole slew of premiere episodes appear today, and tomorrow on Disney XD, Disney Channel and even on iTunes. It’s regular berth will be Mondays at 7:30 p.m., ET/PT on Disney XD from here on out.
The show follows Penn Zero (voiced by Thomas
Middleditch of Mike Judge’s HBO series Silicon Valley), and
his best friends Sashi (Tania
overqualified part-time sidekick, and Boone (Adam DeVine), an under-qualified part-time wise
man, as they zap to other dimensions to fill in for heroes in need. Each
mission takes the team to unpredictable epic worlds where they must battle evil
part-time villain Rippen (Alfred Molina) and his part-time minion, Larry (Larry Wilmore). Lea Thompson (Back to the Future) has a recurring role as Penn’s
Among the guest cast you’ll hear, as characters popping up in other dimensions, are: Garry Marshall, Beau
Bridges, Sigourney Weaver,
Sean Astin, Wanda Sykes, Jason Alexander, Diana Rigg, Paul
Reubens, Maria Bamford, Elizabeth Henstridge (of ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), and Adam West (Batman).
I asked creators Sam Levine and Jared Bush five questions about the show.
1. Where did your guys come from… to pitch this show? What’s
Sam: I’m from Long Island New York, went to NYU Film
originally, moved out to LA and ended up at Disney Features. I found my way to Disney TV developing some
stuff. One of the execs, Jonathan Schneider, thought I should meet Jared who
had some ideas similar to what I was developing.
Jared: I grew up in Maryland outside of Washington DC. Went
to Harvard and every thesis I was supposed to write on a novel, I wrote about
movies and television – which they really did not appreciate. I moved out here and did work in live action. In 2011, I began kicking around this idea of a character
jumping to different worlds and, as Sam said, Jonathan got us together – we met
at Mo’s (in Toluca Lake) – and Penn Zero was hatched over meat loaf and an
2. Explain the concept of the show to me – the parents? They
Sam: There is some mythology to the show. We’ll discover
over the course of the first season is that Penn descends from a long line of
“part-time heroes” – he did not know that growing up. His parents ended up
getting trapped in the most dangerous world imaginable. His parents got stuck
there – they didn’t come home one night from whatever their “fake job” was, and
on top of his parents not coming home
he found out that saving-the-world is now his
job – and to just enjoy it.
3. Is there a story arc to the first season?
Jared: Yeah, but we didn’t want to serialize it so that one
episode led to the next. There are four tentpoles throughout the seasons that
propel the story forward, we learn more about each character, we learn more
about the situation..
4. Every episode has the characters in a new location, new sets, different
costumes and even the main characters are redesigned. How has that impacted the
schedule, the workload?
Sam: Originally the show was one story per 22-minute episode,
and it was changed to two 11-minute stories. It doubled our design load and
the amount of work we had to do. But it ended up becoming double the fun. Our
directors have to think about each story as a separate genre, our composer Ryan
Shore has to create music for each world. First it’s a Zombie world, now it’s a
Clown world, then it’s a Western. We have an episode coming up, Cereal
Criminals, a universe populated by cereal mascots. Joe Moshier did the initial
character designs and Tim Moen is our show designer – both have done a terrific
job on making the show as appealing as it is, whatever world we go to.
5. There’s an improv feel to the dialogue. Is that the case?
Jared: Our cast are great improvisors – but we designed the
show so the dialogue feel very organic and natural. We have a script-driven
process but we let the cast go – we have to take advantage their skills. Our
storyboard artists – including Adam Henry one of our directors – they also have
a pass to make the show as funny and visual as possible. We aren’t precious about
detail – we just want the best show.