Pickle and Peanut Bring Surreal, Realistic Friendship to Disney XD

(Photo: Disney XD/Todd Wawrychuk)

Like many animation duos, Joel Trussell and Noah Jones introduce themselves on the phone as the “deep baritone” and the “higher-pitched, more nasally sounding one.” It’s the same thing you get when talking to Phineas and Ferb’s Dan Povenmire and Swampy Marsh, or Penn Zero’s Jared Bush and Sam Levine. You also get something else from the duo behind Pickle and Peanut, Disney XD’s new utterly nutty yet strangely relatable new comedy cartoon – instant laughter. Talk to them for a couple of minutes, and you’re sure to be rolling on the floor. “It is required – they purposely pair us up by our voice qualities,” Jones joked right away. It’s a simple line, and I had to pause my transcription a few times to hear it over the laughter.

“Are you guys sure you know what you’re doing?” Jones mused when he realized Disney was taking them seriously. He went to the company while working on Fish Hooks for the primary Disney Channel with “just the basic idea.” Trussell was brought in soon after, and the pair “meshed really well” from the start. “We never thought this would be an actual series,” Jones said.

While they may not want to mention competitors by name in a PR-setup interview, there’s a feeling to Pickle and Peanut that may make viewers think of Adult Swim more than a Disney network, even the ever-so-slightly edgier Disney XD. That’s exactly what friends, coworkers, and even some executives told the pair during early development.

“You’re pitching this in the wrong place,” Trussell said was a common refrain. “We know, we’re just trying to have a good time,” was all they’d respond.

The animated series, with a bit of live action thrown in mostly to mess with people, is actually a simple tale about two teenage boys having a normal friendship. They just happen to be a Pickle and a Peanut, as voiced by Jon Heder and Johnny Pemberton. The show reaches into levels of madness that typify the teenage experience. They’re scatterbrained, they think everything in their lives are massive moments, and they make zany adventures out of the most mundane of activities.

(Photo: Disney XD/Todd Wawrychuk)

“The reason we were able to do this at Disney, despite the insanity, is that our show is built around this very real friendship… between a Pickle and a Peanut,” Jones said. He again acknowledged the insanity of it, but noted that the friendship was most important. “We wanted this to feel like a real, teenage boy best friendship. We didn’t want them high-fiving and saying dude or bro. We wanted this to feel really real and authentic. Then we surrounded that real relationship with a whole ball of madness.”

The “real foundation” was important to Trussell as he came into the project, as well. He loves when Adult Swim shows are “avant garde for avant garde’s sake,” but they wanted this show to be one that kids could care about. “We had to make characters they could directly relate to.”

Disney obviously has some more boundaries than the adult animation block at Cartoon Network, as all of their programming is still intended for younger-than-adult audiences. Jones sees that as a fun aspect of doing the show there, though.

“It’s fun to have a boundary to tip-toe up to,” he said. Trussell agreed, saying “I felt like I understood what Disney TV was, and coming in able to test those boundaries and see what we can get away with is fun."

(Photo: Disney XD)

To that end, they’re allowing themselves only “one fart show per season,” Jones said with a laugh. “We want to zig where everybody else zags.” They don’t want it to be a “poopy-farty” show, after all. They conceded, however, that they do have a pimple on a butt in the first episode that gains sentience. "Well when you put it that way..." the duo said falling once more into laughter, clearly having fun.

Pickle and Peanut might not actually be their respective foods. “They’re simple boys, and simple shapes,” Trussell said. “They see themselves as different from everybody else,” added Jones. The characters are in that post-high school and pre-college phase where most kids don’t have a lot figured out. Their small town home makes them “rely on each other” for courage, strength, and entertainment, of course.

Sometimes, that means they’ll have a massive fantasy adventure, and sometimes, they’ll just be trying to jump a ramp with a bike.

“We don’t want to be limited in the kinds of stories we tell. We’ll have an episode where they’re communicating with ghost girls from other dimensions,” Jones said, “Then we’ll have one where Pickle just wants to learn how to swim.”

(Photo: Disney XD/Todd Wawrychuk)

One of the stranger aspects when you first watch the show are the lines by “Mr. Whispers.” These come in alongside or in place of sound effects, or to underline moments in the show that the creators think are funny.

“When we first did our storyboard, we were just being stupid, and if we felt like something didn’t read in our drawings, we would reinforce it. ‘This is supposed to be a frame of action here,’ so we would show the frame and say ‘Action, Action, Action, Action!’” Trussell told ComicBook.com. “It always got a laugh, so we built on that and it evolved into what it is in the show, letting you know how you’re supposed to feel.” The pair fell apart into laughter trying to explain it (Joel Trussell is also credited in the show as Mr. Whispers), with Jones finally resulting to, “It’s because we’re not really good at our jobs” in between laughs.

(Photo: Disney XD)

Alongside Mr. Whispers, the slightly off-putting live action moments in the show are just about “keeping things unexpected,” Jones said. “We like it seeming a little lo-fi and scrappy. It’s the idea that Pickle and Peanut have a hand in everything,” Jones said. “It’s like when we’d make home movies as a kid,” Trussell added. That results in random little clips of live action that include masks and puppets and whatever else they find lying around. “For 20 bucks, how can we make this work?” is what Jones asks their live action director. “A month later you’re dumping shaving cream on someone’s face, and it’s magic. It’s Disney magic!”

“There’s a lot of stuff I can’t wait for people to see because it’s surprising and weirdo,” Jones teased. “Some of the live action stuff will leave people scratching their heads and laughing,” he promised.

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“We’re sweet boys. Make sure you write that!” Jones concluded. “Yeah, we’ve got some surprises,” Trussell said.

Pickle and Peanut airs Mondays at 9 pm ET/PT on Disney XD!