The Little Billy Indiegogo is now “InDemand”, which means pledges are still being accepted—indefinitely! Be sure to swing by the campaign page to see what it’s all about and claim some rad perks for pledging your support.
I’ve only recently been introduced to Chance Raspberry and the world of his fantastic cartoon kid, Little Billy. But in that short span, I found that I had been enjoying his work for YEARS – he’s a lead animator on The Simpsons. The other thing I learned quickly, is how well he fits right in at the Strange Kids Clubhouse: he was a child of the eighties, fueled by sugar and cartoons, and he’s definitely one of us.
Growing up with Tourette Syndrome, Chance had a unique glimpse of the world. This, coupled with his years of animation, led to the creation of Little Billy – and MAN, we could not be happier about that! This cartoon isn’t simply going to bring light to the issues of neurodiversity – which is huge, of course. It’s also set to be one of the most fun outings an eighties kid could have without a time machine! So, let’s talk to Chance about this bowl of awesome sauce…
ELEVATOR PITCH TIME! THE HEAD OF PROGRAMMING FOR *INSERT YOUR FAVORITE CARTOON CHANNEL HERE* WALKS IN AND YOU HAVE A SHORT TIME TO TALK HIM INTO LOVING LITTLE BILLY. START YOUR UNBRIDLED GUSHING…NOW.
Chance Raspberry: Little Billy is the ultimate ’80s cartoon and world’s first and only animated series about neurodiversity, special needs, and the power of being different! When the series begins, Billy Harper (Age 4) has not been diagnosed with anything yet. He’s simply the quintessential ’80s child who loves Count Chocula and Yummy Mummy, Saturday morning cartoons, after-school playtime, neighborhood tricycle rides, forts in the woods, TGIF, fruit snacks, Ecto Cooler, and everything else that made being a child in the ’80s so great…with one exception: Billy is the most hyperactive child in the world!
For the most part, everyone (except Billy’s parents) see him as a problem child who’s just “acting out” for attention or breaking the rules for fun. In reality, Billy is completely unaware that he causes trouble. He just has so much pure, fearless, untamed energy that not only is he unable to control it (yet or all the time), but he’s also totally oblivious that his abilities (speed, volume, etc.) border “super-human” due to this energy! By the end of the pilot script and with a path of innocent, unintentional destruction in his wake, Billy is finally and officially diagnosed with a rare neurological condition called UHS (Ultra Hyper Sensitivity.)
The basic definition of UHS (which is a fictitious neurodiversity I created just for Little Billy as a universal representation of/for the entire neurodiverse community) is: A chemical imbalance in the human brain resulting in maximum levels of excess Adrenaline, intense sensitivity to audiovisual, sensory, and emotional triggers, and in extreme cases, super-human amounts of energy and ability. The condition resembles and embodies the symptoms of (but not limited to) Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, OCD, and at times, Autism and other neurodiversities. Like Tourette Syndrome, many symptoms and characteristics of other neurodiversities tend to accompany those of UHS.
The important thing to remember and enjoy is that none of this is apparent or matters to Billy. Despite all the hype surrounding his behavior and the fact that it sometimes lands him in places a child has no business being, all Billy wants to do is play with his toys, watch his cartoons, draw his dreams, and be a 4-year-old ’80s kid. Billy just wants to be himself and live his life. And he does!
HOW MUCH LITTLE BILLY DO YOU HAVE PLOTTED OUT IN YOUR HEAD? DO YOU HAVE DEFINITE EPISODIC TALES IN MIND, OR DO YOU START WITH MORE OF A LOOSE STRUCTURE OF CHARACTER MOMENTS AND BUILD THE STORY AROUND THOSE?
CR: Conceptually, I have all 13-14 half-hour episodes of Season One outlined in writing. The fully fleshed out pilot script is well under way and I’ve started outlining episodes for a Season Two. I pretty much just go with the ideas that come to me and start writing them down and playing when they do – even if I haven’t completed my previous idea yet. Eventually, everything starts coming together, connecting, and making sense, and I’ve found that the issues or plot holes usually get filled in much better when this extra time/deviation is spent on (or away from) them.
At this point in time, I’m focusing on just a small, manageable piece (or even moments) of the overall pilot/series story in the form of this short animated film. That’s what the Indiegogo is for. Once I have further funding beyond this, my goal is to afford a crew that can help achieve much larger bulks of animation production work at the level of an industry studio. This would allow for a full pilot to be produced in a timely, realistic way (working alone at this level of quality, it takes me about one year to produce one minute of animation…and according to fellow professionals I’ve consulted about this, that’s actually on the faster side for one person.) With the required 12-24 drawings per second per moving object, animation of any kind (2D or 3D, paper or computer) is just a TON of work that takes a TON of time! All that funding, manpower, and larger body of content are what this animated short will hopefully lead to.
FROM THE PILOT AND THIS WAVE OF MERCH, WHERE DOES LITTLE BILLY GO FROM HERE? (‘CAUSE I’M READY FOR A FULL SERIES, A TOY LINE, 8-BIT GAME, AND MORE COOL TEE DESIGNS, AND…)
CR: With the money raised from this Indiegogo, I will be launching Little Billy’s first product line and comic strip series. Right now, that is the T-Shirt series (with more designs on the way SOON – I want and have ideas for more, too), the sticker set, and the official series poster. The comics will debut online at LittleBilly.com with announcements leading up to each release. This is also where the first animated short funded by the Indiegogo will air/stream. From there, I hope to produce additional short cartoons/footage and comic strips as I expand Little Billy’s content library, reach, brand, and product line. Ultimately, I would love to independently fund and produce a full pilot episode in the half-hour PrimeTime format to pitch/sell to one of the streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu, or, to one of the major networks like FOX, Nickelodeon, or Cartoon Network. Having a finished proof of concept makes that process much more cut-and-dry and gives the creator somewhat more leverage to make a better deal (or just walk away and hold out for that golden opportunity – even if that’s to continue producing the series independently.)
These are all VERY big dreams that require a lot of money and man/woman-power to accomplish, so I’m charging this goal head-on everyday with everything I’ve got! So far, I’ve written, directed, and fully animated everything myself with input from other great artists, writers, and musicians.
This is why crowdfunding and/or investors are so important to a project like this – it keeps it out of Hollywood/studio hands and allows me, the creator, to keep and maintain ownership, profits, and most important, creative control (which is crucial to a project championing a tough, tender, and often controversial subject like neurodiversity.) It’s too easy for networks and censors to “play it safe” and not really tackle the issues directly and honestly for fear of offending or not being “politically correct.” I am not willing to let this happen to Little Billy, which is why I’m not pitching it and why I’m doing everything myself until I can find and/or afford capable talent to join me. Now, after 5 years of public progress and nearly 15 years of development before that, the adding of new pro talent is finally starting to happen. I can’t wait to see and share what Little Billy becomes with these great new artists on board!
SINCE THIS THING IS A LOVE LETTER TO THE EIGHTIES…LET’S TALK FAVORITES. IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, PAINT ME A PICTURE: WHAT WOULD BE THE BEST HOUR OF TV IMAGINABLE (YOU COULD MASH UP ANY TWO HALF HOUR SHOWS), WHAT CEREAL WOULD YOU BE SPILLING ALL OVER THE CARPET, FEETY PAJAMAS OR REGULAR, AND, OF COURSE, WHAT TOYS WOULD BE SURROUNDING YOU?
CR: OH MAN…that’s a great and tough question to answer! If we’re talking animated TV shows only, I’d say Duck Tales and The Real Ghostbusters because that combo would perfectly round out and fulfill my love of adventure, horror, humor, fun, spooky, heartfelt, triumphant, goofy, silly, weird, suspenseful, and epic that all seemed to be more present in content of the ’80s, which is what made the content and the decade so great! For live-action TV, it would be Perfect Strangers and Three’s Company. It’s tempting to throw Tales From The Crypt in there, too, but I didn’t really get into that until the ’90s when I was a bit older (even though EVERY trip to the video store from about age 4 on included a visit to the Horror section where I promptly found at least 2-3 titles I was forced to put back. lol)
I’ve always just gravitated toward the suspenseful or “dangerous”, which is apparently the kind of bedtime stories I used to ask for – “Tell me something dangerous!” lol And of course, this is ALL going into the plot of Little Billy. Speaking of TV/bedtime, feety pajamas for sure! Cereals would be Coco Puffs, Golden Grahams, Honey Nut Cheerios, Kix, Trix, and Cap’n Crunch. With the toys, I’d have to have those toys in the Little Billy trailer with me (My Pet Monster, Teddy Ruxpin, and Glowworm) – that scene is a slice of real life from my childhood. If I could add any toys to that list (and I plan to greatly in future animated footage), they would be Castle Greyskull, my Nintendo NES, my Boglins, Lite Brite, and Pound Puppies! *laughs*
THIS HAS OBVIOUSLY BEEN A PASSION PROJECT ALONGSIDE YOUR DAY JOB AT THE SIMPSONS. DO YOU EVER PICTURE HOW LITTLE BILLY MIGHT FIT IN WITH THE CREW FROM SPRINGFIELD? OR FOR THAT MATTER, IF HE WAS INSERTED INTO ANY OF THE CARTOONS YOU GREW UP ON?
CR: Imagine if 1940s Bugs Bunny, or better yet, spastic Daffy Duck suddenly stepped into The Simpsons universe – no shift in animation style or acting – since The Simpsons is based in reality, the characters would lose their minds at the site of a talking duck their size walking upright, talking, and bouncing around like a lunatic! This contrast is HILARIOUS to me and is basically how I plan to animate and tell the story of Little Billy…only in a world where everyone moves in that very rounded, fluid, volumetric, and dynamic style of Golden Age “cartoony” cartoons, Billy is the extreme! Even the other cartoony cartoons don’t know what to do with or make of him when he gets going.
This is pretty much how I imagine Billy interacting with The Simpsons world – maximum contrast. I actually have a drawing somewhere of Billy in the Simpsons style that I can dig up and include with this interview. So yes, I’ve definitely thought about what the hybrid or crossover would look like. Fun times! I even asked Fox to let me animate one of the guest couch gags to introduce the character where the family runs in and Billy is just sitting on the couch surrounded by their demolished living room and they all just look confused. Unfortunately, politics and precedent stands in the way of stuff like that. But it’s always fun to plan, dream, and do it on your own!
TELL ME ABOUT A BIT ABOUT YOUR MUSIC, AND YOUR PAST WITH JACUZZI FIEND. DO YOU FIND TIME TO PLAY ANY LIVE SHOWS?
CR: Jacuzzi Fiend was my first band ever back in high school (1996-2000.) We were a melodic punk band (now referred to as skatepunk or pop punk) with power metal influences and nuances. We called ourselves “speed-emo”. We recorded 2 albums between 1997 and 1999. The band split up in 2000 when we all went off to different colleges or moved away, but we are all still amazing friends and keep in touch. We all still love music and writing/playing if and when we can. I tried to get all the guys together back in 2010 for a reunion album I had written including some of the songs I started writing over a decade earlier while we were still together that never got recorded. It was in the works for a while but eventually, it became clear that everyone was too busy or far away to make it work.
With their blessing, I ended up finishing and recording these songs and some new ones myself with one other band member, Ryan Mckendall, who now scores the original music for Little Billy. This album, Old Souls…Young Hearts, was finally released under the band name Chance Raspberry on Leap Year (Feb 29) 2016 as a 10-song Special Edition CD/USB with 4 Bonus Tracks. It’s on Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby if you want to check it out and pick up a copy. So are all the Jacuzzi Fiend albums. OR, you can pledge to Little Billy’s Indiegogo at the $17 tier level for a CD or USB copy!
SPEAKING OF MUSIC, DO YOU HAVE A SOUNDTRACK THAT PROVIDES THE FUEL FOR YOUR CREATIVITY? ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC BANDS/ALBUMS/SONGS THAT HELP YOU ALONG?
CR: Great question! There definitely is! The bands that inspire me the most are ’80s AOR rock and metal bands like Journey, Honeymoon Suite, John Cafferty, Stan Bush, Boulevard, Dare, etc. but at the same time, I equally love the hair metal bands (Def Leppard, Ratt, Poison, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Winger, Y&T.) I also love epic power metal bands like DragonForce, Secret Sphere, Helloween, Dark Moor, Labyrinth, Heavenly, etc. And yes, the ’80s pop/rock like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, The Cars, Prince…basically ALL ’80s music! There’s a lot of great new artists today replicating that metal or synth sound of the ’80s as authentically as ever and I love them, too – Mitch Murder, Gunship, 80s Stallone, Miami Nights 1984, and Zombie Hyperdrive to name a few.
FINALLY, THE SIGNATURE STRANGE KIDS CLUB FINALE QUESTION: WHAT’S THE STRANGEST THING YOU CAN REMEMBER FROM YOUR CHILDHOOD?
CR: Wow, that’s a tough one – it’s hard to choose. I was/am a STRANGE kid! Well, I escaped from my daycare when I was 3 or 4 – like PRE-preschool. This story is actually one of the main landmark turning points of the Little Billy pilot. The real life version of the story is that I didn’t like school or being away from my parents as a kid with Tourettes (major separation anxiety) so at some point during recess/outdoor playtime, I wandered away from the councilors long enough to get out of their sight…and I found the main gate to the school. I either figured out how to open it or someone had left it ajar just enough for me to squeeze through. I was loose! FREEDOM!! So little 3/4-year-old me just started wandering down the open city street. Alone. (Insert modern-day parents’ heads exploding here!)
I got to the end of the block before I realized I had wandered FAR and I: A. didn’t want to get lost (at least I was that self-aware/preservative) and B. I REALLY didn’t want to get in big trouble, which I realized I was pretty much already in. About that time, WAY down the street, I saw one of the councilors erupt through the gate looking for me. She started waving frantically and I knew I “had been found” which meant they had been looking for me, which meant I had really broken the rules! I think that was the first of many expulsions I faced in the nearby years that followed…but those and the rest of this one are stories for Little Billy.
THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO CHAT WITH US, CHANCE. ANY FINAL REMARKS?
CR: Thank you so much and thanks a million to Rondal and John at SKC for this rad interview! It’s been a pleasure and a lot of fun. Here’s hoping for more soon! Please check out Little Billy on Indiegogo at to find out what happens and visit the Little Billy online shop.