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Moriarty Sneaks A Peek At NBC's New Animated Series FATHER OF THE PRIDE!!

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

It’s been a busy month here at the Labs already, and it’s only getting busier as the fall movie season gets underway. Normally, I leave the Coax side of the site in the capable hands of Hercules The Strong, but from time to time, I see something that I feel like reporting in on. For example, Dreamworks Animation invited me out to their Glendale campus last week so I could meet some of the creative team behind the scenes on their first venture into prime-time CGI animation. Last year, a number of journalists were shown a full day’s worth of previews of upcoming projects from the animation division, including A SHARK’S TALE, OVER THE HEDGE (my favorite at the time), MADAGASCAR, and FATHER OF THE PRIDE. There was nothing finished enough from the series to show to us back then, which isn’t really surprising. Each episode of the show takes nine months to produce, and they’re just now getting to the finish line with their first batch of episodes.

As a result, when I sat down with Jonathan Groff and Jon Pollack, I was the first person outside the studio to see a complete show. Groff and Pollack are executive producers on the series which was created by Jeffrey Katzenberg and developed by Groff. They explained the origin of the show to me, saying Katzenberg was doing some business in Las Vegas, and he ended up spending a great deal of time around Siegfried and Roy. Katzenberg found himself particularly amazed (and amused) by the extent to which the animals used in the show are pampered and treated almost like humans. Because of his friendship with the magicians, he was able to get them to agree to let him create a TV show about these animals. Siegfried and Roy are characters on the show, but it’s very much not about them.

Instead, the focus is on Larry, voiced by John Goodman, and his family. Larry’s a white lion who pretty much stumbled into a showbiz career. His wife Kate (voiced by CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM’s Cheryl Hines) is second-generation show business. Her father, Sarmoti (voiced by the great Carl Reiner) was one of the original headliners in the Siegfried & Roy show, one of the first lions they brought from Africa. Sarmoti doesn’t have much respect for Larry, and he constantly rags his son-in-law about his work as well as his parenting of teenaged daughter Sierra (voiced by Danielle Harris) and his nine-year-old son Hunter (voiced by Daryl Sabara).

There’s a huge supporting cast, too, that I got a glimpse of, including Snack the Gopher (Orlando Jones), an activist lobster that they rescue from a restaurant tank (Danny DeVito), a pair of muscle-bound warthog brothers, and, of course, Siegfried and Roy themselves. Julian Holloway and the always-hilarious Dave Herman voice the magicians, and one of the coolest things about the show is the way these two are depicted. You’d think that because they officially sanctioned the series, they might be treated with kid gloves, but they are played as deeply eccentric loonies, pampered and pompous and self-indulgent and hysterical. I saw one full episode and bits and pieces from several others, and Siegfried and Roy consistently made me laugh out loud. In particular, there’s one episode where they’re trying to defend Las Vegas against the creeping influence of mom-and-pop values that surprised me with each new gag.

Another surprise is the tone of the show. I expected something like SHREK... family entertainment with just the slightest of nods to an adult audience. Instead, this is the inverse, an adult comedy that would be appropriate for families with older kids only. Even the guest appearance by Donkey (a very funny cameo by Eddie Murphy) is played in a very different way than anything from SHREK. This is Donkey behind the scenes, when he’s not making family movies. It’s pretty damn funny across the board, and I suspect that the longer it’s on the air, the better it’s going to get. As Groff and Pollack walked me through the various episodes, it was obvious that they’re having a hell of a time. They sound a little shocked at what they’re getting away with, deeply pleased by the support they’re getting from the studio and from the network. They’re going to air on Tuesdays at 9:00, just before SCRUBS, and it feels like a good match. NBC is working hard to make sure that people know this isn’t for kids. Don’t expect something as blisteringly foul as SOUTH PARK, but it seems more gleefully naughty than THE SIMPSONS or KING OF THE HILL.

The show looks great, and if this is an experiment to see if they can deliver feature-film quality CGI on a weekly basis, consider it a success. There’s a rich palette to the show, and the character work is strong and funny. I saw part of an episode involving Roy’s long-standing one-sided feud with Matt Lauer. In the scene I watched, Siegfried tries to stop Roy from attacking Lauer, and a magic duel erupts. It’s as visually arresting as any of the animated films I’ve seen in the theater so far this year. I like the character designs, too. They’re warmer and less exaggerated than the work in SHREK, particularly where the humans are concerned.

Overall, I think FATHER OF THE PRIDE could be a welcome addition to the world of prime-time animation for grown-ups. I have to say, I think we’re living in a golden age for animation freaks. We grew up on the stuff, sure, but looking back at most of the fare we had available to us in childhood, it only works if viewed through the beer goggles of nostalgia. Right now, thanks to ADULT SWIM and Matt Groening and John Kricfalusi and Seth McFarlane and a number of other smart, individual voices who seem to love what they’re doing, there’s almost too much to choose from. It’s a wonderful position to be in as a fan. I’ll definitely tune in to see what Groff and Pollack and their talented team of writers and directors are up to when FATHER OF THE PRIDE hits the air next month.

I really do have a ton of things I want to get to this week for you guys, like script reviews of the shooting draft of THE FANTASTIC FOUR and the newest John Sayles draft of JURASSIC PARK 4, as well as reviews of MEAN CREEK, THE BROWN BUNNY, and the newly-reworked THX-1138. All that plus a DVD column or two means I’ve got to get busy. Until then...

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 16, 2004, 2:33 a.m. CST

    I wonder if Roy being mauled will feature in an episode

    by where_are_quints_hobbit_set_reports

    hard to muster much enthusiasm

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 5:01 a.m. CST

    smart, funny, different.......... not a good sign.

    by CarlosTheDwarf

    So I'm guessing this lasts a good 6 or 7 episodes.... If it was on Fox, I'd guess 3 or 4... I hope this show works, because the previews so far are funnier than most shows on the air.. But then again, Freaks and Geeks had the same thing going for it..

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 8:42 a.m. CST

    I was thinking that they might have renamed the two magicians

    by TimBenzedrine

    I mean, everyone knows it's S&R, but it's hard not to be reminded of the whole mauling incident.

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 1:23 p.m. CST

    I don't know

    by 007-11

    Even if this is a great show, even if it somehow finds a good-sized audience, I don't think this show will make it. Why? It takes 9 months for 1 episode.

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 2:19 p.m. CST

    those lions look a bit...padded

    by scrumdiddly

    how do they always manage to make animated lionesses kinda sexy? that's not right

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 3:32 p.m. CST

    this show looks unbearable

    by beamish13

    damn I wish DR KATZ and DUCKMAN were out on DVD

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 3:33 p.m. CST

    can someone finally cancel THE SIMPSONS?

    by beamish13

    maybe make that long-rumored LIFE IN HELL show?

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 4:44 p.m. CST

    "Each episode of the show takes nine months to produce"

    by Waterson

    Better get to work on S2, just in case.

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 4:58 p.m. CST

    Sounds exactly like something Katzenberg would think up.

    by Christopher3

    "Hey, I was just in Vegas with my second wife's kids this weekend... How about a CGI sitcom featuring a family of talking white lions? Let's get John Goodman - he's always good for TV. And the larged-mouthed shiksa from that HBO show. I always liked her."

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 5:10 p.m. CST

    Little known fact about the mauling --

    by Toonimator

    The tiger was jealous, because the show, in development (if not full-on production) at the time of the incident, features a white lion family as its stars... rather than the white tigers for which S&R are so well known. Okay, maybe not, but that's my story and I'm stickin to it. The show might be funny, but it's mighty painful on the eyes.

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 6:33 p.m. CST

    Early Cancel...

    by FNORDcinco1

    Good thing Herc didnt review this thing it would have never made it to air date...

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 6:40 p.m. CST


    by Bouncy X

    simpsons take 6 months to produce 1 episode and they've been doing fine so i dont see that being a problem

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 9:41 p.m. CST

    The promos say it's tv's first prime time cgi show. Lies! Chea

    by FrankDrebin

    The promo also mentioned TOY STORY, trying to make people think this is a Pixar production. Dreamworks did the same thing when the first SHREK movie was released--they actually had the nerve to advertise, "If you liked TOY STORY, you'll love SHREK." Shameless.

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 9:57 p.m. CST

    sounds like it could be decent...

    by evolution1085

    who knew nbc was capable of making a decent show besides scrubs

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 10:02 p.m. CST

    <cough> Fish Police <cough>

    by Mr. Smegma

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 10:05 p.m. CST

    I said FISH POLICE

    by Mr. Smegma

    Edward Asner.... Georgia Brown... Tim Curry.... Hector Elizondo... Gil Gerard... Robert Guillaume... Buddy Hackett.... John Ritter...... JoBeth Williams..... Jonathan Winters.... Couldn't miss either. Blow me Katzenberg. No! Wait......

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 10:32 p.m. CST

    if this isn't one of the first 3 shows cancelled...

    by Fantomex

    i'll eat my shoe.

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 10:38 p.m. CST

    Could be the next CAPITAL CRITTERS!

    by Bryan

    I think this show looks terrible, but I didn't like Shrek so what do I know. People like that kind of blandly unfunny, ugly looking crap now, I guess. It's the style. Anyway, I would like to respectfully disagree with Moriarty's statement that we are living in a golden age of animation. Yes, Adult Swim has exactly two great shows (Sealab 2021 and Harvey Birdman) but both seem to be past their prime (Sealab mainly because the voice of Captain Murphy died, so maybe they will regain their footing, I don't know.) The Simpsons, likewise, is still funny but not as funny as it used to be. Justice League is a lot of fun so far this season, but has never been as good as Batman always was, which would go against that golden age theory. Did they stop making Samurai Jack? I think they did. Animated features, as previously noted, are not at their greatest moment in history, with the obvious exception of the Pixar films. (Shark Tale?! Are you people serious?) Seth McFarlane - I don't get that at all. I can see how people can get past Family Guy being such an unimaginative retread of the formulas already done to death on The Simpsons and Pinky and the Brain (of all the things to copy, for crying out loud). But I cannot for the life of me understand how people can stand to look at that atrocious sub

  • Aug. 16, 2004, 10:41 p.m. CST

    It's Hollywood Dog meets The Jackie Bison Show!

    by Bryan

    Oh yeah, and I was going to say that King of the Hill is still great, but people forget it even exists. And then I forgot to mention it. Which sort of proves my point.

  • Aug. 17, 2004, 7:08 a.m. CST

    You're kidding me, a Sigfried and Roy show gets coverage, but no

    by TheTARDIS

    What's this site come to?

  • Aug. 17, 2004, 1:21 p.m. CST

    It may be a golden age for animation freaks (as YOU say)

    by TimBenzedrine

    But it sure is a crappy time to be an animator (Unless you happen to live in Korea or India)

  • Aug. 18, 2004, 5:13 a.m. CST

    that review was so gay, MY ass hurts

    by JT Kirk

    Come ON! Everything NBC has thrown our way in ads has looked as unfunny as it gets and the CGI artwork appears flat and dull. I know, I know, it's "just" a TV show and not a feature, but if they're going to bother citing Shrek as their selling point, they could at least try to use CGI hair instead of just flat textures - I can get that quality on my Playstation. Plus, they don't want it to be a family show so they give it a name nobody but an 8-year-old and someone's ultra-vanilla grandparents would find even remotely funny, while the key demographic just hears "animated kiddie show". I gotta go with the group, this show looks like one of NBC's cancel-quick shows, especially since animation plus name-brand guest stars has to equal psychotic budgets that NBC will be afraid of even if the ratings are GOOD. ------ ------- The worst part though, frickin' NBC has given their best sitcom the Tuesday 9:30 slot with this piece of tiger... excuse me, "lion" feces as its lead-in. Scrubs is the only show that could hold their ready-to-crack precious Thursday nights together now that Friends is gone, the Apprentice isn't a fucking sitcom and will lose its appeal (especially since The Donald is getting fired from his own businesses, nothing like learning at the feet of a guy who can't keep a job at the place that's fucking named after him), and "Joey" is promising to be very, very awful. So, Scrubs will suffer in the NBC hate slot (but hey, it's a perfect lead-in to the 19 Law & Order or Dateline they're cranking out) until it dies a horrible death trying to pay Heather Graham's salary while garbage like Joey will get a guaranteed 2 years no matter how few people actually watch it. ------ ------ I swear, NBC and Fox should be banned from airing freshman series without some sort of UN oversight committee ensuring they don't continue to break the Geneva convention with this torturing of their new series and the loyal audiences they garner. What makes people take pilots to these 2 these days, masochism?

  • Aug. 19, 2004, 6:53 a.m. CST

    Is it me or does the Olympic promos for Father of the Pride CG s

    by FD Resurrected

    I hate the first Shrek movie and The Family Guy because of damned stream-of-consciousness contrivance passed as hip and funny, and I expect to hate this destined piece of shit show. Pop culture lameness rules the television wasteland.

  • Aug. 19, 2004, 10:42 a.m. CST

    Lots of funny stuff on "Adult Swim"...


    "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" is great... but unfortunately, it's only for those who can appreciate surreal, abstract and absurdist humor. "Harvey Birdman" & "Sealab" are great for similar reasons. The thing that makes it hard on the "Williams Street" shows though, is that all three of the above-named shows seem almost to revolve around studio "in-jokes" that are probably quite familar to the crews and hardcore fans of these shows, but potentially alienating to newcomers. That said, "Venture Brothers" is also hysterical. And what's so wrong with "Family Guy"? Seriously, some folks have nothing better to do than knock the animation? It's funny, unrepentant, and memorable. "Simpsons" stopped being important a few years ago, and "Futurama", while quite a good and harsh satire, was way too mean-spirited and misanthropic for the average viewer. "Pride" looks like crap, though. I give it maybe 2-3 eps before it gets shitcanned...

  • Aug. 24, 2004, 1:25 a.m. CST

    It does seem pretty funny, for the most part

    by Ribbons

    It's hard for me to tell, because I thought "Stressed Eric" looked funny until I saw it, plus they have a handful of episodes to cut-and-paste their promos from, but this is encouraging news. I think some of the ideas are pretty clever, although the dialogue could use some work. That has the potential to shape up as time goes by, though; that is assuming that they get to make more episodes. Oddly enough, the one joke that really fell flat to me was the one in which Roy gets pheromones sprayed onto his face and promptly humped by a monkey. I suppose it could happen under certain circumstances, but the laugh seems kind of cheap to me, I don't know. Maybe Siegfried and Roy are funny in the show, but they've got to have something better than that. If I have time I'll check it out.

  • Aug. 24, 2004, 3:18 p.m. CST

    hey beamish

    by Homer Sexual

    You don't like the Simpsons, don't watch it, you know? Why would you care if it gets cancelled or not? There are a lot of Simpsons haters out there who say the show has sucked for the past x-number-of-seasons. That is their right. The ratings are still strong, so unless the cast revolts, it's got a couple more years left. But this thread is supposedly about that Tiger show, not Homer, Marge & Co. As you can see from my ID, I am rather sensitive to anti-Simpsons commentary. ps. I agree with the poster who said it's hard to get past the drawing on Family Guy, especially the father's chin. That show is kind of funny, but it's such a rip-off, it's amazing!