Carl Jones and Brian Ash are best known for their work producing the acclaimed animated series The Boondocks, as well as the cartoon adaptation of cult-hit spoof comedy, Black Dynamite. This week, the pair are launching a new series called Sugar and Toys, a wild adult-themed send-up of classic Saturday morning cartoons, which combines animation with an ambitious live-action segment, hosted by rapper KYLE.
Sugar and Toys not only marks the return of the sort of live-action / animated variety show pioneered by the likes of Pee-wee's Playhouse, but also the first animated venture for the Fuse network, which will air the series. And with show taking some parody shots at major public figures and socially-relevant topics of today (Kanye, Trump, etc...) there's sure to be just as much controversy as there is laughter.
We here at Comicbook.com had a chance to sit down and speak with Jones and Ash about what Sugar and Toys is bringing to the table - as well as their possible involvement in the rumored return of The Boondocks (read that here).
So let's start off at the top. Let's talk about Sugar and Toys and kind of, what this show is going to be all about, and what was it that attracted you guys to make this your next animated project.
Carl Jones: "We both like sugar and we like toys. No, well, you know, Brian and I, we've worked on several projects together. We did The Boondocks and Black Dynamite and we also wrote and worked on Tyler the Creator's animated series, and so we've always had like, a love for cartoons, anime, and some of the more traditional cartoony stuff. I don't know. We've done a lot of satire, social commentary through our career and we thought of a show that could kind of give us the platform that we needed to do a little bit of both in more of a bite-sized format. You know what I mean? So we also being like, you know, fans of The Chappelle show and like, Robot Chicken and just sketch in general. We thought it would be cool to kind of see what would happen if we kind of put our minds together and were able to do some topical sketches injected within a segment with a decent amount of social commentary, f*ckery, and satire."
That answers part of my next question, because I was watching the trailers, and all about the show, and two things that came to mind based on the format of the show were this was like a black, urban version of Robot Chicken, number one, and ... It took me back to like, Peewee's Playhouse in a kind of weird way.
Brian Ash: "Yeah, well that's very... you're additional impressions are exactly right. The first two things we thought of when we were putting together the show was looking at some Pee-wee's Playhouse stuff and Nickelodeon kind of format from the '90's. And Robot Chicken for sure. We kind of always grew up watching a lot of sketch comedy shows, but one of the things that Seth Green and his team managed to do is really kind of create this format where you really jump into the sketch like at the last possible second and jump out at the first possible second. So the idea of doing a show that was really ramped-up and fast-paced was really exciting for us. Also, a lot of the shows that we'd done in the past have had very complicated visual styles, particularly Black Dynamite and Boondocks, which are shows that would take like two years to produce a season or even more in some cases. Sugar and Toys is a show that got greenlit in October and is airing in June. So, first time we've ever produced a show that is, gone from concept to airing in under a year.
"For me, the other real major influence that I was kind of interested in was, growing up I read a lot of Mad Magazine, which always kind of, you know, my first exposure to the world really was through Mad Magazines. So, before I ever saw The Godfather as a kid, I read like, The Odd Father. I always, kind of had this sort of first exposure to a lot of more adult themed stuff through humor, and a lot of cultural stuff through humor as well. Just the idea that we can also bake into a show some stuff that speaks to the youth culture of today, but also kind of speaks to some more classical themes. The idea that maybe we could, I don't know, be kind of opening up some kids, some younger viewers to shit that we're into, just felt like kind of a cool opportunity.
"But, yeah, one of the funny things was, we thought like, you know what? Let's make a show that's half live-action and half cartoons, because that would be a lot easier. We only have to make half as many cartoons. It turns out we actually had to produce two distinct programs at the same time, one live-action and one animated, so, super-fun and we love all the stuff that we do with Kyle. We love getting to do kind of fake commercials and all that stuff, but, the funny part about it is, it wasn't half of anything. It was actually just like, we got to make two shows at the same time, and that was super-fun. And got to use kind of two distinct skill sets doing it."
That's a great segue into my next couple of questions. The first one was, with a kind of ambitious concept like this, did you guys have to kind of push to get things through? ... Or was it the kind of opposite case, where they just kind of sought you out for your expertise and gave you more cart blanche or just a looser leash to kind of do what you do?
Brian: "Yeah, we've always taken the approach that it's easier to get forgiveness than permission. So, Fuse has been really cool about letting us do a lot of things in this show. I think that there are times when they might have some buyer's remorse, because we really, in some of the things in the show, we really go at certain topics and certain subjects, particularly police brutality, racism, cultural appropriation, feminism ... We tackle some of these issues in ways that I think are going to make some people uncomfortable. We're sort of fine with that. Our attitude is always that we want to portray things honestly and openly. We want to spur conversation. We want people to think, but we definitely never want to preach people what they should think, or tell people to think differently than they think. We just want to present complicated, uneasy realities and concepts and let it kind of go from there
"...I like to say we're smart, dumb motherf*ckers taking on dumb smart motherf*ckers, basically. It's sort of the class clowns with something to say, versus, people who are very sanctimonious who have very high opinions of their thoughts or things. Those are people we like to kind of challenge. People's enshrined ideas of how things are supposed to be. We definitely like to take risks. We definitely like to do the kind of comedy that we think that creates noise, that makes people a little uncomfortable, that makes people think and you know, spurs conversation."
Carl: "They got it immediately, from the very first pitch they actually got what we wanted to do. And to be honest, they constantly pushed us to make sure that we are saying something with every piece that we do. Because i think it's important to them also that we're not only being disruptive, but we're also shining a light on things for a reason. There's a purpose. You know what I'm saying? It's not just to create controversy. You know what I mean? We do have a pretty strong voice, and sometimes it goes over the line, but we don't ever really know where that line is, and we try not to think about it much or else it will affect the authenticity of what you're trying to create. If we do cross the line too far, they let us know, and then sometimes they also will say, "Hey, you can maybe take this a little further." It is kind of a push and pull kind of thing."
Just looking on the other side of it, from the animation to the live-action side. We talked about Pee-wee's Playhouse, which of course had Paul Rubin's as it's live-action host with his unique personality. But I can't remember too many adult cartoon variety shows that also have a live-action host. So, what was that process like, kind of, finding that character and establishing it, and what made Kyle, the kind of, the perfect person to kind of cast in that role and have, kind of MC-ing the show?
Carl: "So the first part of your question. This is all like experimental to us and you're right, there aren't a lot of shows to actually use as reference for tackling something like this. It was a little crazy at times. It is a lot to orchestrate. But it did come together really well and we had a really, really talented team on the live-action side and a really, really brilliant director, Nick Goossen, who, he was amazing. He really brought this thing to life in ways that we couldn't even imagine at the script stage. So that side of it was just done really thoroughly, because we had a really strong team with really great experience. And we had some real talented performers. We had Slink Johnson and... the Dormtainment guys, who are really brilliant. So it just really came to life do to all the talent.
"As far as Kyle goes, Kyle is really, really amazing onscreen. Honestly, I'm not just saying this because he did our show. I haven't really seen anybody with that kind of presence and charisma on camera since like, Will Smith was doing Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It feels a little like that, because we're kind of doing a little bit of a parody of the Nickelodeon shows or the Disney Channel. It's kind of like our kind of fucked-up version of that, but Kyle is really, really ... He comes off really, really sweet and likable, even if he's saying some f*cked-up sh*t.
"He just has this ability. It never really feels like it's something that kids shouldn't listen too, even if he's saying stuff kid's shouldn't hear. You know what I mean? And so he just has this kind of really likable/lovable quality to him and he's just a really, really great actor. I don't know if you've seen the movie, After Party, on Netflix, but he's really amazing in that. He brought his A-game and it all came together really, really well."
Is there a favorite, collectively, is there a favorite running gag you guys have throughout the show?
Brian: "Well we got like 'Hype Man.' One of my favorites. Slink Johnson who plays Black Jesus on Adult Swim was one of our cast members. He plays ... We've got this super hero called Hype Man, who's basically... How would you describe him?
Carl: "He's like Kid Capri, Fatman Scoop, and like Buster Rhymes combined."
That's a lot of hype.
Brian: "He's got like a super hero who shows up but he doesn't really interfere ever. He just kind of gets everyone involved in the scene more height. I don't know. It's kind of hard to explain. You kind of have to see it. He shows up in Episodes Two, and Three, and Four, and a couple other ones. But actually, one of the running gags that we have in here, which is a really fun one, is it was inspired by Eddie, the old show."
"We got this one called 'Ye, Yeezy, Yeesus' that's three best friends are all Kanye West parodies getting involved in different adventures. I think they have four different adventures across the first season ... including one later in the season. We have a Freaky Friday episode where one of the Ye's gets Freaky Friday-ed by Taylor Swift, so they switch bodies and it kind of turns things a little crazy. But that, and then also, for me one of the most fun things that we got to do were these live-action fake commercials that we got to do. Most of which are for toy products. So, we have ones that involve cultural appropriation Barbie Dolls. We got this one ... It's like an at-home university correspondence course for sound cloud wrappers, to learn how to become a sound cloud wrapper. But the Dormtainment guys, like them, and it's just like the funniest sh*t we've ever done. We've got a board game for girls called, Smash the Patriarchy. That's like super-fun.
"So getting to do some of these old-school toy commercials, because that was such a big part of growing up in the '80's and '90's, of watching these toy commercials. Getting to make a bunch of those ... We got one that's a Spanish language commercial for Telemundo, Telenovella play set that's like super-crazy."
Carl: "We got 21 Savage Patch Kids. Kind of self-explanatory."0comments
Brian: "We've got an episode where [KYLE] goes back in time and gets his 10-year-old self to bring him to the present day... We've got an episode where he sells his soul to the devil to get verified on Instagram. We got another one where Hype Man action figure, comes to life and Kyle and his friends have got to challenge each other over who gets to keep the cereal toy. So, you know, with the Kyle stuff, we try to do stuff that hearkens back to kind of the innocence of children's programming, but it also like, very adult, very real, very contemporary, and very vulgar in a way that we've never seen anyone do that before. But also keep it good enough to call the same before, kind of good-natured fun. I think that we pulled it off.
Sugar and Toys premieres on Sunday, June 9th, only on Fuse.