Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Brandy & Mr. Whiskers that Wasn't

Brandy, an upper crust pure breed, is shipwrecked in the Amazon jungle with Mr. Whiskers, a  bunny used for science experiments.  
Does anyone out there remember a show called Brandy & Mr. Whiskers?  No?  It ran from 2004 to 2006 on The Disney Channel.    Last night, I came across some forgotten design work I did for that show at this time of year in 2002.  I was freelancing then, and Disney TV Animation hired me to design characters for the show, in its early development stage.   Barry Blumberg was in charge of DTVA then, and instructed me to come up with something really far out, maybe some mixed media stuff, like the photo collage elements I used in Redux Riding Hood, which DTVA produced and everyone loved but didn't love enough to release on DVD.  

Roughs for Mr. Whiskers.  I had his skull be removable, with a marble rolling around inside.  I also had an electrical outlet implanted in back of his head.  
At that time, Disney had figured out a way to get character designs cheaply.  They dangled the creative freedom carrot in front of an artist, then offered them a flat fee for the work.   They had the upper hand, since there were so many out of work artists after David Stainton nuked the feature animation division.  I took the job, first because I needed the money, and second, I thought it could be a fun project and potentially a long term gig.

I knew that if I could get the job done in three weeks, the money would be decent.  I did a first pass.  Barry's notes were "Take it further. More far out."

I had Mr. Whisker's head come off on occasion, literally not screwed on tight from all those lab experiments.  Barry's said  "Take it further.  More far out."

I tried adding textures by scanning leaves and fabrics.  Still, Barry said "Take it further."

An Amazon snake character, I had her wear a doll's dress.
I designed Amazon monkeys look like Teddy Roosevelt.  Roosevelt did a tour of the Amazon which nearly killed him.  I thought it would be just a strange little reference to history.  
At this point, I had worked not three, but eight weeks and faced another two weeks of work searching out the meaning of Barry's elusive, esoteric note.  At last, I told Barry, "I can't afford to work for you anymore."

Barry assured me I would be compensated for the extra work, and had me call Jay Fukuto, the money guy.  I knew Jay from way back on A Goofy Movie - he's a truly good guy, a no-drama executive.  But he offered me only an extra two grand.

I said, "Jay, for the time I've put into this, I can make more working at Target."

Jay understood, but that's all he would offer.  As much as I enjoyed working on the project, I had to walk away from it for financial reasons. As it turned out,  I not only left the project, but the State of California as well - a great, life changing move.  Thank you, Barry Blumburg, for your vague notes, and thank you, Jay Fukuto, for not offering me more money.


PS: A few years later, I looked up the show out of curiosity.  With Barry's note of "Take it further.  More far out." still in my head, I had to see what the answer was.  What was this super far out show?  It was this.....


  1. Do you like the final product. I know I loved it growing up.

  2. The original design for Mr. Whiskers looks like Roger Rabbit.

    1. not even close. and i can say Mr.Gary will agree