Thanks to Cartoon Network, we got the opportunity to make a phone interview with C. H. Greenblatt, the creator of Chowder and Harvey Beaks, about his new series, Jellystone, which recently premiered on HBO Max.
Many well-known classic cartoon stars are starring in Jellystone. What is the difference in making such a series as Jellystone and in making a series based on totally new characters, like Chowder?
Everyone has expectations and feelings for classic characters. When you introduce a new character, I think people come out a lot more open, and think “what is this thing?” and discover and find out more about the character as they watch it. When you bring that classic character, immediately it brings back old memories, and their memories are usually things they like and recognise about that character, and anything different pushes against that at first and over time, but eventually it pushes through. So, knowing that I had to deal with that, the approach that I took was, I had to first think about, how much do I want it to be like the old show versus how much do I want to change and it’s not that I want to change things for the sake of changing them,
I had to approach it as if I was designing this show as a new show, like a “Chowder”, like my own thing, and these weren’t old characters, these are brand new characters, I would think how would I write them, how would I draw them, and I think that’s the only way I personally can get it to it.
Rather than approaching it as a creation of an old show I had to approach it as making a new show, with old characters. So when I had to it, I had to break them down to their pieces, I had to pull them apart, and say what is the valuable core inside of each character, what do I keep, what’s the best part of what everybody loves, that I love in Yogi, in Captain Caveman, and in Huckleberry Hound, and in Top Cat, and in Jabberjaw, and what I need to add to it, or what I need to change to it, to make feel more modern, and make feel as if I can connect to it, know that kids today can connect to it, and sometimes it needs keeping a lot. Like with Yogi, he’s very similar, his voice is the same, the overall design aesthetic is the same, and the personality is the same, the only difference is, he now has a job, as a doctor.
In Jellystone, many Hanna-Barbera characters show up in one common setting, and everyone has their own role. What led you to the decision of making Huckleberry Hound the mayor, or Yogi Bear a doctor?
Once I started to think of it as a city, it makes sense that everybody had a job, because I wanted to see them working and living, and wanted to see them interacting, and to meet people. You need people to a job, otherwise, I had to create all these other new characters to be working in the city, and so I think early on, I had the idea of Yogi being a doctor, it seems funny when it popped into my head, because he thinks he’s so smart, as doctors do, so it kinda works, plus he’s the worst person you want operating on you. Boo Boo can be a funny nurse, so Yogi can be a funny doctor.
I felt like Huckleberry is more of a cornerstone, he represents Hanna-Barbera to me than any other character, even Yogi, and he was like the first character. So it would make sense, that he would be the guy who loves Jellystone more than anything, and to give the idea of a southern, easygoing, gentle guy, I like the idea that he deal with chaos and craziness happening in the town, but with an even temperament, he doesn’t get stressed or flustered in a big way, and I thought that would be a funny contrast dealing with those problems in very slack, easygoing way. Once we started to do that, like every character, is like, okay, well, I have this character work at this place, who would be good for that, so you start casting the characters in different roles.
In the recent decade, many classic cartoons have got rebooted, some of them with higher success, and others with lower success. Do you think Jellystone will be a successful reboot, and why?
Well, I hope it will belong to the successful reboots, I feel creatively, we’re very successful, we did what I wanted to do. I can’t control how the show is received, how many people watch it. All I can control is to give this show what it needs to succeed and set out what I needed to do on it, and my goal was to bring back these characters, make them lovable, make them interesting, make people care about them, make them fun again, make them seem modern and relevant, and I feel like, I was very successful at that. Whether or not, I don’t know how to judge success anymore because ratings keep changing, and with streaming, who knows. Most of the feedback has been very positive from people who actually watched the show. People think it’s funny, people like the different takes on the characters.
Will the success of Jellystone lead to more series based on classic Hanna-Barbera characters?
I would really like if we did more episodes of Jellystone, because we have a ton of ideas. We would love to bring in all the characters, I would love everyone to show up eventually. When I was developing Jellystone, I was also developing the superhero characters, as a more action-oriented realistic style show, where you would see characters like Blue Falcon, Jonny Quest, Frankenstein Jr, Mighty Mightor, The Impossibles, The Herculoids, and you can have that whole side of it, in it’s own superhero universe, so there might still be a chance for that to happen at one point.