Animator Chris Savino is celebrating his 25th year in the
industry, having worked on such shows as The Powerpuff Girls, Dexter’s
Laboratory and The Ren and Stimpy Show (in various capacities such as storyboard and layout artist, producer and director). Now as creator, producer and director “The Loud House” is his
first original creation. Having grown-up with nine siblings, Chris seems like
the perfect person to tell this story of a boy having to deal with life – and
Today, as we’re talking, is the exact day marking your 25th anniversary in
Chris Savino: Thank
you so much. I think there’s no better celebration than having a show that’s
going to be launching on Nickelodeon. It’s perfect timing.
JM: We’ll get to
“The Loud House”, but first I have to ask about the shows you grew-up watching
that got you excited about getting into the world of animation.
CS: We had some
repeats of “Rocky and Bullwinkle” and all the Jay Ward shows, “Underdog”,
“Popeye” and some Looney Tunes. I loved cartoons, loved watching them, but I
think it was the comic strips that really spoke to me. That was our form of
entertainment – the daily newspaper and the Sunday paper with the color
funnies. That was the thing I wanted to do – have my own comic strip. We had
reprints of Peanuts and Pogo around the house, and I always read them, and Mad
Magazine, I’ll throw that in. I knew that people made cartoons, but I didn’t
realize it could be a job that I wanted to do, and I didn’t realize there were
schools that taught it until my senior year of High School.
JM: The main
character in “The Loud House” is an 11 year old boy, Lincoln Loud, who has five
older sisters and five younger sisters, and he’s presented as sort of the
outcast of the bunch. Did you model some of him and the elements of the show
after Peanuts and Charlie Brown?
CS: I think the
esthetic of the show, because it has that Sunday comic feel to it – and we all
would agree that the Peanuts Specials hold something near and dear to our
hearts – and so controlled and so evenly paced. Of course we’ve changed and now
need more stimulation when we’re watching these things. If you pitched a show
and said you wanted it to be like the Peanuts Specials everybody would say “No,
No, No, that doesn’t work anymore.” But if you’ve got strong, funny characters
and you know you’re going to get humor at some point in the storytelling, or
chaos or comedy or slapstick, then you can take breaks, pauses and let a
character really look like they’re thinking about what their problem is and
what they’re going to do about it.
JM: “The Loud House”
started through the Nickelodeon Animated Shorts Program. How did that work?
CS: The Shorts
Program was great! I was at Disney for five years, and when Jenna Boyd (then
executive in development) made me an offer to come over she said one of the
great things we do is the Shorts Program. So my contract stated that I got to
pitch three ideas and they would pick one. And they picked the big family idea.
The original pitch was rabbits – a boy rabbit with 25 sisters (because rabbits
multiply and I thought that was a funny joke). It was just about the chaos of
navigating a literal sea of sisters. I wanted to do a funny animal, since I had
just come off a human-based show at Disney (“Kick Buttowski”). And it was Jenna
who suggested that they be human. She felt my chances would be better to get it
sold. And she was right. We adjusted the
number of sisters down from 25 to 10, and everything started falling into
JM: The storylines
are very grounded, especially for an animated series. You’ve got episodes
dealing with hand-me-downs, sitting at the adult table instead of the kids
table, and getting that last slice of pizza. Were these based on things that
actually happened in your life – growing-up with 9 siblings?
CS: The good thing
is that, because the storylines are relatable and grounded, everyone can input
with “this happened to me as a kid”. The writers and I – we’re all throwing
ideas out there. So, to say the show is autobiographical may be incorrect, but
you get this authentic feeling from the show that these situations are coming
from actual experiences. There’s the feeling that there’s no way we could have
made this up. A lot of times we’re digging deep, asking the question: what are
the things that a kid has to go through when they’re young that are not only what
someone with a lot of siblings can relate to but someone with NO siblings can
relate to – those universal ideas?
JM: How challenging was it come up with 10
different girl characters, each with their own distinctive style?
CS: Jenna said
something early in development that I was so happy to hear someone say – “It’s
not about pink vs. blue, it’s not about boys vs. girls, it is about characters
vs. characters. For the short they had to be pretty much one-dimensional. The
great thing about having such a wonderful group of writers on the show is that they’ve taken
those characters and made them real, multi-faceted, living, breathing
characters. Being able to do multiple episodes we started to tell stories
through their point of view. It’s still Lincoln’s episode, but they’re the ones
who have the problem in the story that needs to be solved.
JM: And I’m sure it
was crazy coming up with all the different names.
CS: Originally when
they were rabbits they were all “B” names, because that was the only letter
that had that many female sounding names. Once the show became human I began
pulling from my life. My five sisters are all “L” names and all 4 letters. And
those are the first five: Lori, Lisa, Lynn, Luan and Lola. I only needed five
more and, oddly enough, those five names existed in my life, and with the four
letters. I had a wiener dog named Lola, my mother-in-law had a wiener dog Luna.
Lucy and Lily were two names my wife and I had picked if we ever had a girl (we
didn’t, we had three boys), and then Leni was taken, in early develop, from
Lennie in “Of Mice and Men”, because of the characteristic that she doesn’t
know her own strength but is super sweet, which was ultimately changed, and I
changed the spelling to Leni to match the 4-letter thing. If you want to
pin-point something that I actually pulled from my life it’s those names.
Characteristics? No – my sisters aren’t quite like that, but they appreciate the
use of their names. It’s something for them to, hopefully, brag about.
JM: You also
co-wrote the opening and closing theme songs. So many shows these days have
very quick theme songs or none at all. How important was it to you for the show
to have a musical element?
CS: Very important.
Growing-up I remember shows gave at least a minute to an opening title song,
and that just set-up the whole show for you. I love themes songs, and we only
have 30 seconds to sell that. I wrote to ton of lyrics and the geniuses – the
people who wrote the main theme – took some of those lyrics, worked-in some of
their own, and I think made a song that is absolutely an earworm. More people
tell me that that song is stuck in their heads all day long. To which I say –
“Yes!” If you’re singing it then maybe you’ll want to watch it.
JM: I’m sure a dream
come true for you as well was to go to Comic Con and represent the show. What
was that experience like last year?
CS: I try not to
think about it because I’d probably pass out. It is overwhelming if I really
stopped to think about the notion that something you’ve been working on for two
years with a talented group of people is finally going to be out on the air and
people are going to see it.
JM: “The Loud House”
is 37th Nickelodeon animated series.
CS: Wow! You’re
making me sweat now.
JM: Out of the other
36, which is your all-time favorite.
CS: I has to be one
of the early ones. I should say “Ren and Stimpy”, because John Kricfalusi
(Creator) gave me my shot in animation and I’ll thank him to the day I die. But
I have to say “Rocko’s Modern Life.” It was like the Wild West – these young
people making cartoons and figuring it out as they went along. Nickelodeon was
a young network and didn’t have as much at stake as they do now. We were just
making cartoon to make ourselves laugh, and trying things. There was a carefree
environment. There’s a feeling, watching that show, that there was an unbridled
passion for what everybody was doing. I think I was 20 at the time. We just threw
things at the wall to see what would stick. It was a period in cartoon history
– at least the last 25 years – that felt like a new age of cartooning. There
hadn’t been a show like that before.
“The Loud House” premieres Monday, May 2 at 5pm ET on Nickelodeon,
with new episodes every weekday throughout May.