Good Mornin’! An Interview with UNCLE GRANDPA Creator Pete Browngardt
Next week, the world will bear witness to a show that truly embraces the weird wacky world of our imagination. Created by Pete Browngardt (Secret Mountain Fort Awesome), UNCLE GRANDPA is a new series from Cartoon Network Studios that stars the eponymous character (hint: he’s everyone’s uncle and grandpa) and an equally wacky cast of talking food things, dinosaurs and monsters.
Before the show airs, however, I got the chance to interview Browngardt himself to hear what he had to say about how the show got started, the process for creating new episodes and what his favorite imaginary flavor of hotdog would be. Plus, we’ve got a few new preview images from the show.
Welcome to the clubhouse, Pete! We’ve got some snacks cooking in the back… you do like hotdogs right?
Pete Browngardt: Awesome! Ever since I saw Strange Kids Club on FB and the internets… I was like this “site is made personally for me!” And yes, like all red blooded Americans, I like hotdogs.
Let’s say, hypothetically, that you could genetically modify a hotdog to taste like any type of candy. What kind would it be?
PB: Grape Jolly Rancher.
Good selection! And if this “hypothetical” experiment were to go horribly wrong, resulting in a gargantuan sugar-dog monstrosity… Uncle Grandpa would be able to stop it, right?
PB: Uncle Grandpa can stop any monstrosity. He’d probably first distract it with piranha breath and than quickly blast it in the knees with his lazer hammer.
Good to know… *nervously looks over shoulder* Okay, now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about you. Where are you from and how long you’ve been in animation?
PB: I grew up in NY… started drawing and making animated films at a really early age. Got into Calarts and got my first job on Futurama when I was 19 [and I've] been working in animation since.
So September is a homecoming of sorts for you, returning to a character you originally worked on back in 2008. How did the original pitch for Uncle Grandpa come about?
PB: I was living and working in NYC around 2005 with my friend Stephen DeStefano. He had a connection to pitch at Cartoon Network, so we flew out and pitched a bunch of ideas… Uncle Grandpa was one of them. They like UG and I started developing it… eventually [making] the short pilot.
Was there anything specific that inspired this world of monsters and magical uncles who are also grandpas?
PB: So much to really list, but here’s [a few] things… MAD Magazine, The Far Side, Pee-Wee Herman, Tim Burton, R. Crumb, 80’s horror flicks, Johnny Ryan… and tons of other stuff.
PB: So much! I learned a ton [during] that experience from technically boarding stuff to how to tell a joke in an effective way. Also, being around such talented artists on the crew it inspired me to work harder and make the best pilot I could.
After that you started work on Secret Mountain Fort Awesome, which starred a group of monsters from the UG pilot. What led to the SMFA series being green-lit first?
PB: Cartoon Network, at the time, was really into the monsters from the pilot and asked for me to develop them more [which] became Secret Mountain Fort Awesome. But in the end everyone missed UG too much to forget about him.
Before it left the air, you did manage to give Uncle Grandpa a cameo. Did that lead directly to a new series or was it pure fan service?
PB: Probably a little of both. They really like that episode and it helped us showcase what UG could be as its own show more.
Several other characters made their appearance in that episode as well including Frankenstein, Fanny Pack, Remo and Remo’s dad. Who are some of the other new characters joining the cast in September?
PB: We’ve got a bunch…. there’s Pizza Steve, a cool dude piece of pizza with a huge ego; Mr. Gus, a big strong dinosaur straight man; Tiny Miracle, UG’s robot helper; Beary Nice, a over friendly teddy bear; Hotdog Person, a sad hotdog person and a few others too.
PB: …why do you keep looking at the kitchen?
Uh… no reason. So, what’s your process been like for each new episode, does it begin with a gag or is everything carefully planned out?
PB: All different ways really. We mostly just sit around and throw ideas out until one of them makes us laugh, [then we] start building from there.
Uncle Grandpa is sorta like Santa Claus and Superman rolled into a rainbow-flavored Fruit Roll-up sandwich, but even they have a weakness. Is there anything UG can’t do?
How did you end up as the voice of Uncle Grandpa?
PB: When I pitched the pilot storyboard I’d do his voice… people seemed to think it was funny, so I gave it a try and the network was into it.
PB: I ate some ants once.
That certainly qualifi- *Ding* Sounds like the Grape Jolly Rancher dogs are done… wait. Something’s wrong. Something’s… horribly wrong. AAAGGGHHH!!!
PB: AHHHHHHH! It’s just too much hotdog for one hotdog lover to take!!!!! AHHHHH!
Uncle Grandpa premieres Monday, September 2 at 8 PM on Cartoon Network!