Interview: 'Harvey Street Kids' EPs on Depicting Childhood, Strong Female Characters, & Boy Band Supergroups

Harvey Street Kids makes its debut today, bringing a colorful, female-led world to Netflix audiences everywhere.

The DreamWorks Animation series follows Dot (Kelly McCreary), Audrey (Stephanie Lemelin), and Lotta (Lauren Lapkus), three best friends who protect the other kids on Harvey Street. The inagural season sees the three girls go on an array of charming adventures, which range from dealing with new kids and birthday parties to creating new holidays and meeting a supergroup of boy band members.

It's a feminist, spunky, and genuinely delightful series, which brings the Harvey Comics world that originated in the 1940s into a new era. In preparation for the series' debut, spoke to Brendan Hay (Robot Chicken, Star Wars: Detours) and Aliki Theofilopoulous (Descendants: Wicked World, Phineas and Ferb), the showrunners of Harvey Street Kids. They spoke about adapting such a unique piece of source material, what they hope audiences will take away from the series, and what other comic books they'd love to bring into animation.

--- What would your elevator pitch for Harvey Street Kids project be? If you were trying to get people to watch this show, how would you describe it to people?

Brendan Hay: I would look at it as: Our show is all about the time in childhood between when you get out of school, and before you have to go home for dinner. It's like this magical time on the block or in the park or wherever it is, where kind of, kids rule. It's a kid society and all kind of shenanigans, hijinks, etc. happen safely within a kid's dynamic. And that's what we have a lot to play with. Or the other way that we talk about it is: it's how you remember childhood, not necessarily how it literally happened.

Aliki Theofilopoulos: What childhood felt like.

Hay: Yeah.

What drew each of you to this project?

Hay: For myself, both Aliki and I actually we came on this project a little later. The origin of it was it's a bit of a passion project for one of the development VPs at DreamWorks, Beth Cannon. She was the one who kind of sat and realized that these characters were kind of owned by DreamWorks and not really being used. And she wanted to have fun with the whole Harvey Street Kids characters, Little Audrey, Little Dot, and Little Lotta.

So, she had been trying to get this going for a while, she worked really well with this one writer and they ran with it, developed a take on it. And then after all their stuff, they reached out to Aliki and I, ready to go into production. And they were like, "We have this idea for a show, here's kind of the elements. What do you want to make out of it?" And then when they sent it to me, I just immediately liked everything about it. It was a case of the original characters, and these modern takes on them, were very distinct.

I loved that it was three distinctly funny female characters, and a chance to do a character driven cartoon cartoon, in the sense that it could really be cartoony. There hasn't been a show like that in a while. There was that great run in the early 90s of shows like Hey Arnold and Ed, Edd, and Eddy and stuff like that. Or even Pete and Pete, which is a little different. But those kind of shows, a chance to do a show like that, where it's really just kids being kids. It doesn't have to be high concept, didn't have to have a ton of plot, it could really just be character driven. And these girls are just such funny and interesting characters to put in the front of it. So, that's what pulled me in.

Theofilopoulos: Having been in our industry for 20 plus years, I just kind of have the thing that I had always wanted to create a cartoony cartoon, lead by cartoony, comedic, female characters. And so this was finally the opportunity to get to make something like that. And coming from an animation background and being a real classic animation fan, I was excited to kind of combine all of my loves. My love of classic, traditional animation, my love of classic characters. But also wanting to tell courage, modern, updated stories with these girls that felt fresh and felt relative to kids today.

So for me, when DreamWorks first presented the idea for me, and I saw the early design and early take on it, I just jumped at the opportunity. I couldn't wait to get my hands dirty and just get busy.

Hay: I will say also the team that did the designs was also a huge appeal. There had also been some early design work, and specifically the work by our art director Peter Emmerich. It's just, it was gorgeous, and a show that doesn't look quite like any other show currently being made. So, to get to dive in and play with all of that was just too much to ever pass up.

harvey street kids netflix
(Photo: DreamWorks Animation / Netflix)

Since these characters had been around for a long time, what was your research process like? Did you look at any of their older appearances or the old comic strips, and did that influence this adaptation?

Hay: A little bit. For myself, I will admit, I actually probably just read maybe a handful of comics about each character. I went down some very deep rabbit holes online, kind of learning about them. But it really was, I wanted to make sure I was getting the core of the characters. I wasn't worried about getting a literal updating so much as, "Alright this seems to be who Audrey is, and what makes her funny and that's what I want to carry with me."

And also doing a little bit of looking at the supporting cast of, "Oh that's a funny character. We should use that." But then it tends to actually not look back at it further, because I wanted to still make sure that it was our show and kind of our own modern sensibility. I didn't want to be too tied to what it was before.

Theofilopoulos: Yeah, it was taking the essence of who the main characters were and pushing it and fluffing it and making kind of our own version of what that would be. And then choosing, again, our current take on it. Keeping the history in mind, but not at all doing a retelling.

Audrey was always kind of the spit-fire character, and we pushed that even further. And Dot, I always loved Dot, but we took that and made it part of her personality that she's a little bit obsessive, and she's precise, and loves to analyze things. She loves science. Lotta in the classic version, she loves food. She definitely loves more than just food now. She's very passionate and buoyant and has a passion about all things wonderful and yummy in life. So, that's kind of the extent of it for us. We also did include some of the classic characters, but we added a ton of our own and sort of moved forward from there.

Hay: One of the things that was great about the old style and some of these characters is they are very relatable to just about anyone's different personality. But in terms of the look of the characters, it wasn't the most diverse cast. So, one chance [we had was] to make it relatable to everyone. Especially since Netflix is world wide, we want any kid who's watching this anywhere to be able to see themselves on screen. So it was trying to open up the diversity of the cast.

Theofilopoulous: That was really important to us.

Kind of tying into that, how does it feel to kind of have this series be so heavily focused on female characters, and different types of female personalities? And to kind of show that sort of diversity within the animation world?

Theofilopoulous: For me, that was personally the most exciting part. Because I felt like for so long, there are so many shows that have included a female character, but the extent of their personality was "the female one". And so now, we have this amazing opportunity to take these three deeply different female characters, and really push that to the extreme. And let who these characters are truly drive the stories in the way that many male characters have. And the part that I really is, I had always said "I want to develop strong female characters." And a lot of times, that has meant "Strong female characters have a sword and fights bad guys."

And not to say there's anything wrong with that, I love strong female characters who have swords and fight bad guys. But I think that that's also leaving the Liz Lemons and the Lucille Balls, that aren't these blah boring perfect strong characters. They're strong in who they are, it's clear who they are. And that was the part that was really exciting for me to do on this show.

Since your series is kind of based on comic, if you had the ability to take on a project about another comic book character, what project would that be and why?

Hay: Oh, I could go on and on on this. One of my immediate dream project would be an animated adaptation of Nextwave by Warren Ellis and Stewart Immonen. That's just one of my favorite, funny superhero comics in general. It's just so funny and inventive and hilarious.

I also would love to, I know obviously there is the Hulu series right now, but I would love to do an animated adaption of Runaways. That was always one of my favorite books of the last 15 years. Really any Brian K. Vaughn series, any of his stuff. Yeah, so I mean I could literally just keep going on and keep rattling off.

Theofilopoulous: Yeah, I'll let our lover of comics give an answer on that one.

Hay: Yeah, there's just a million. But Nextwave and Runaways are probably the two most. Oh, you know one... I would also love to do Ambush Bug or like a Blue Beetle/Booster Gold comedy. There you go.

You guys obviously have a really awesome cast of voice actors, but who would be your dream person to join the cast of the show?

Hay: That's a good question that I have not given any consideration to. I will say that thankfully, we've gotten a lot of our dream cast. My early dream for this show was, we put together a boy band that we just reference in the first episode and the early episodes. And at that point I thought, 'It would be really cool to put together a boy band super group to voice this group.' And we actually got to do that.

Theofilopoulous: We got actual boy band members in our cartoon boy band. I think at the time when we were thinking "This is part of Lotta's character that she loves boy bands", and that was very fitting in her character. And we referenced it, there's a poster in her bedroom and all that. But this became this whole big thing, where the boy band really just was in our show. So we've gotten to work, now with [New Kids on the Block's] Joey McIntyre and [Boys II Men's] Shawn Stockman and [NSYNC's] Joey Fatone and [98 Degrees'] Nick Lachey in our Harvey Street world created boy band.

Hay: Yeah, no it could not have been a better dream come true with that. We had so much fun. And I do think, though, I have one other answer. If any other voice star from another show, I wouldn't mind having Dan Mintz from Bob's Burgers bring Tina on to our show. We think that she would get along with our girls.

Theofilopoulous: That's a fun idea. Our cast has been such a dream. It's hard to really answer that, because we've had such incredible talent on our show. whether they are well known on camera actors, or veteran voice over actresses and actors, we've just been really lucky with the kind of talent that we've had in our world, that it's almost something that I haven't really thought of.



The first season of Harvey Street Kids is now available on Netflix.