Big City Greens returns to Disney Channel this weekend for a wild set of episodes: one based on Dungeons & Dragons, the popular tabletop role-playing game, and a musical. Both aren't entirely outside of the norm for the show from creators and executive producers Chris and Shane Houghton, but they are both still big swings for the fences. ComicBook.com had the opportunity to speak with the brothers ahead of the premiere about everything from the recent Season 3 renewal to D&D and, oddly enough, Reel Big Fish.
In addition to the new episodes, a digital soundtrack titled Big City Greens: Don't Think, Just Sing!, is now available on Walt Disney Records. It features six tracks from the show, "Stuck at Home" and the five songs from tomorrow's episode. Here are the titles and loglines for the two new episodes set to air tomorrow, February 6th, from 9AM to 9:30AM ET, straight from Disney:
"Mages & Mazes" – When the kids play a role-playing game at Remy's, his rules lead to conflict.
"Okay Karaoke" – When the Greens go out for karaoke, Tilly struggles to decide what genre of music will best express her true self.
Big City Greens is currently airing the last of its Season 2 episodes on Saturdays. As noted above, it has been renewed for Season 3. You can check out all of our previous coverage of the popular animated show right here. And keep reading to check out our full interview with the Houghton brothers!
The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
ON THE SEASON 3 RENEWAL
ComicBook.com: So first and foremost, congrats on the recent renewal.
Shane Houghton: Thank you.
Chris Houghton: Thank you.
SH: Oh, yes. Very exciting.
CH: Season 3, third time's the charm. This one's really going to work. This season, there's something you didn't like in Season 1 or 2, this third season's where it's at.
You're turning it around.
SH: [laughs] We're finally getting our act together.prevnext
ON MAKING A MUSICAL
How did you come up with a musical episode? What were the steps from start to finish there? What was the genesis of this?
SH: Oh yeah. We really got a good taste of writing songs for Big City Greens when we did our musical Christmas special, "Green Christmas," last year, and it was so much fun. We wrote, I think we did seven songs for that half-hour episode and we thought, "Let's do it again, but this time we're going to do five songs in one 10-and-a-half minute episode," which is maybe... I don't know. I mean, we might've set a record for the amount of songs crammed into one single episode. We had just a ton of fun writing songs and we thought we came up with this great story.
Rachel McNevin is one of our staff writers, she came up with this idea of setting the Greens in a karaoke place where they can sing songs. But Tilly is the one character who is searching for a song that needs to fit her personality. All the other Greens are able to find a perfect song that totally encompasses who they are, and Tilly doesn't know exactly what that song is for her so she is kind of looking out for that. Chris, do you want to tell him a little bit about the types of songs we have in this episode?
CH: We kind of do a deep dive into what each character, which type of music each character likes. So when, for instance, Bill Green sings his song, it's this country song about his truck. But when Cricket and Remy get up on the karaoke stage, they sing this crazy loud pop song that's just all about the... Basically the EP is named after, I think, their refrain is "don't think about the lyrics, don't think about the beat, just dance along to get on your feet." Something like that, where they just like... That's their version of what good music is. We cover a kind of punk rock with Nancy Green, some silly, old-timey music for Gramma. And then fans will get a special surprise for the song that Tilly eventually chooses to represent her.prevnext
ON WRITING SONGS AND TILLY
You wrote all of the songs in the episode?
SH: So we wrote the songs with... There's plenty of people who contributed to writing these songs. Rachel McNevin did the first pass on the lyrics, Chris and I contributed to the lyrics as well. And our composer, Joachim Horsley wrote all the music for the episode.
So what is it about Tilly that she really had do something special for the episode?
SH: So Tilly is searching, and Tilly's a very complex character. She's very unique and she really marches to the beat of her own drum. All the other characters have, when we were even just brainstorming this episode, all the other characters have kind of genres of music that they fit into pretty neatly. And when we got to Tilly, there was no one genre of music that really summed up who she was. That ended up becoming the whole plot of the episode, of Tilly searching for what kind of music actually represents her as a person. And we don't want to give anything away with the ending of the episode, but Tilly finds what that is and is able to sing a song that accurately represents that in a nice little twist.
CH: There's almost something, maybe we're striking a chord that I know I have experienced when someone asks me, "What's your favorite type of music," that usually elicits a certain flop sweat in me. Because it's hard to kind of nail down sometimes your favorites or the things that represent you because... Yeah, we kind of tie these things to our identity in a way, I think. And Tilly's the type of character that really gives things a lot of thought. She gets really hung up with trying to find a genre and a song that really fits her.prevnext
ON MUSICAL GUESTS
Now, it's not just the Greens in this episode. Correct me if I'm wrong, but we've got some big name guest stars here. Aaron Barrett from Reel Big Fish as the Ska Guy and Macy Gray as Kara Karaoke. I guess I have two questions about those: how and why?
SH: [laughs] Fair questions. That's great. So we have this musical episode and we knew we had to get some musical guest stars in this. We were looking for -- Kara Karaoke is the owner of this karaoke bar. And we needed somebody who could do this like... She's kind of this chill, kind of Zen, song master who has this very philosophical view of what songs can be for people and how they represent who they are. And Macy Gray, we just thought would be a really funny choice for that and she came in and totally nailed it. And she even sings a little bit on Tilly's song, which was a real treat. As does Aaron Barrett, who I am just a huge Reel Big Fish fan and saw them in concert really early on in my life. And just that concert-going experience with Reel Big Fish was just a big one for me. And Chris, you were there too, right?
CH: I was going to say, it was great to reunite with him. Our first meeting was about 15 years ago in a back alley after the show. And this time it was in a recording booth at Disney. But really, very two extremely similar hangout sessions.
SH: And Aaron Barrett was, you know, he's playing a Ska Guy, a very stereotypical Ska Guy. He totally got the joke, he played into it. He's really funny. And then he sings a little bit in Tilly's song as well, which was just a real treat for us.prevnext
ON BIG SWINGS AND WHAT'S NEXT
Now, again, with this combined sort of D&D-flavored episode and musical episode, for a show like Big City Greens, those are some pretty big swings I feel like. Obviously, the show has experimented before, but with these sort of off your bucket list, so to speak, what's your pie in the sky? What do you want to inject into Big City Greens next?
CH: That's a good question. I think with some things, the D&D episode, for instance, there's inspiration that definitely came from the crew for that story, a lot of us played D&D together, or outside of work. So was only natural we'd want to do an episode where Cricket would be introduced to this very loosey-goosey type gameplay. But then there's also this more creative struggle of like, "Wow, there's a lot of D&D episodes out there, and how can we make ours a little different?" So we tried to inject this kind of Filmation 1980s He-Man take.
So whenever we go into the D&D game, we have this very kind of He-Man/G.I. Joe flavor to the visual look of it, which is a fun way to just kind of switch it up and hopefully make our D&D episode stick out. So we like to try different creative challenges for ourselves, even the karaoke episode and the D&D episode being paired together. They're kind of similar in that creative challenge approach. Like Shane said, "Can we make an episode with five songs in it," or, "Could we do a D&D episode where every time you're in the game, it looks like a Filmation episode?" And I think this deep into the series, giving ourselves those creative challenges keeps things fresh. Not only for us, but hopefully for the audience.
SH: We have, in Season 2, at the end of our last batch of Season 2 episodes are airing right now. And by the time Season 2 is completed airing, that's like 60 half hours, which is 120 different episodes. So we've written a lot of stories and we've explored a lot of different areas. And now that we're later in our series run, like the end of Season 2, and now that we're writing Season 3 we've set a very clear foundation for what the show is. And now it's all about just exploring, doing fun stuff, doing weird stuff, and just really pushing ourselves to see what kind of wild and entertaining ideas we can come up with next.
CH: That's always the creative challenge of like, "Oh gosh, we'll try to skate the line." And then we reel it back. And, but yeah. It's a fun line to skate.prevnext
There's been a good deal of Big City Greens, and you talked about laying the foundation, but is there ever any pressure that you sort of set the bar pretty high for yourselves when you're writing these new episodes?
SH: I think so. I think-
SH: Yeah. Every time we're in the writer's room, every story you write is a story that you can't tell again. It's like you've done that. You've crossed it off the list. So we have set a high bar, but that's part of the challenge, is how do we keep topping ourselves? And I think what we've found, as these episodes show, is the way to top ourselves to do a D&D episode and cram five songs into an episode.prevnext
Is there anything else you would like to say about Big City Greens, the musical episode, the renewal, the overall deal with DTVA?
CH: Well, we're really excited for our very first album to drop on, let me see, let me see. I think you've got it February--
SH: February 5th.
CH: Thank you. February 5th, Saturday. Or no, 5th is it?
SH: Right. Friday, February 5th, the album, or the EP drops through Walt Disney Records. And then on Saturday, February 6th at 9:00 AM, the episode "Okay Karaoke" premieres on Disney Channel.
CH: Synergy, baby.
SH: Also, we're super excited to be continuing our relationship with Disney TV Animation through our overall deal. We've just had some amazing supporters of Big City Greens and us as creatives. And we're just excited to continue through Disney.
CH: Yeah, absolutely.prev