Hi there, my name is Joe Meyer, and I’m a cartoonist. This is my first real interview, so I’ll just tell you the story of how I got here (don’t worry; it’s a pretty cool story). Like many of you, I was enthralled by Chowder and its unique animation style, colorful cast of characters and vivid, humorous storytelling. Enter Matt, he runs this site. He became a Chowderhead recently, and he asked me, ME, if I wanted to interview the creator of Chowder, C.H. Greenblatt. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? So Matt set it up (bless his heart), and here we are. So by the end of this interview, you should know who makes an excellent chili pie and who makes a mean grilled cheese.
Part the First
What’s your favorite band that you don’t think a lot of people would have heard of?
C.H. Greenblatt: Super Furry Animals.
What, if anything, is on any particular wall (your choice) in your domicile?
C.H. Greenblatt: A reprint of the teaser poster for the original Invisible Man movie.
What’s the strangest thing you own?
C.H. Greenblatt: A plush/stuffed butthole character.
What is your favorite game?
C.H. Greenblatt: World of Warcraft I gotta stop.
What sort of pie do you enjoy?
C.H. Greenblatt: Hot Apple
What is the most boring thing you’ve ever experienced?
C.H. Greenblatt: The musical Rent.
If you could name a child anything in the world, what would it be?
C.H. Greenblatt: Turbo Max!
What would be a better weapon, a gun that fires dogs or a gun that fires cats?
C.H. Greenblatt: Cats, because the dogs might just lick you.
Part the Second
How did you come up with Chowder, and how did you come of with the (cat/rabbit/bear) hybrid that he is?
C.H. Greenblatt: : Most of my ideas start as doodles, and I keep refining them in my sketchbooks until I get close to what I feel is a solid idea. The first Chowder drawings were a cranky old wizard and a little kid who kept his face hidden between his hat and his collar. I kept playing with them and evolving the characters until they got closer and closer to where they are now. I just wanted Chowder himself to feel like a squeezy little stuffed animal without being any particular breed. The world of Marzipan is supposed to be filled with all these weird creatures and people, so that’s why he’s a hybrid.
What were your influences on Chowder, and how did it influence the unique look of the show?
C.H. Greenblatt: I wanted it to feel like the Saturday morning shows I watched as a kid. Almost all of them are pretty terrible if you watch them now, but when I was young, they felt really colorful and alive, like they all existed in their own magical worlds. I wanted to recreate that feeling of taking you somewhere exotic and new, fun and silly. I think you could definitely point to Dr. Seuss, Groo the Wanderer, The Muppet Show, and Pinwheel (a show way back on Nick) as some definite influences.
Oftentimes it would seem that the networks seem to want to cannibalize their past successes by duplicating the styles of animation (John Kricfalusi, for example). Was it hard to sell the unique look of Chowder?
C.H. Greenblatt: It wasn’t hard to sell the look. It was hard to sell the concept. The network was worried about two things: They felt the show looked kind of young based on the designs. And they felt like it was going to be a “recipe-of-the-week” show. So I had to convince them that the humor played older and I had to show them the stories were about the characters, not about what they cooked.
Why does Chowder wear his pants on his head?
C.H. Greenblatt: Because it’s funny looking.
How involved are you in the making of the show? While you work on the episodes, what’s a typical day like?
C.H. Greenblatt: I’m involved in every single aspect of the show. A typical day involves me running from person to person, approving outlines, storyboards, artwork, voices, acting, music, and editing. And all of this is for multiple episodes at once, so I have to retain all the details about every episode in my head. It’s very draining.
How are you able to do the static patterns (Chowder’s clothes, Shnitzel’s skin texture) in the animation?
C.H. Greenblatt: We create a pattern that’s a full screen image. Then we fill the parts of the character that we want it to show through as a guide for the overseas animation studio (they’re in China). With the digital ink and paint software they use, they basically make a hole in the character that moves over the pattern.
With Nicky Jones and Liliana Mumy (the voice actors for Chowder & Panini) being kids like their animated counterparts, what are your future plans for the characters (without giving too much away!)? Will the characters age, or will you use new voice actors when Nicky & Liliana grow older?
C.H. Greenblatt: Most animated TV shows don’t have a very long lifespan. If we’re lucky, we’ll be in production for 5 years. I would really like to keep using the same actors if possible. They’re both extremely talented. If they change a little, then I’m fine with letting the characters age a little. If Nicky gets a super deep voice, I might have to rethink it.
What can we look forward to seeing in Chowder in future episodes?
C.H. Greenblatt: The episodes are getting much funnier. It took us a few episodes to really find a good dynamic between the characters and push the comedy, but the newer episodes are really silly. We’re doing a few half-hour specials as well.
Artists tend to put a bit of their personalities into their characters, and I can see how this is true with my fictional comics, so how much of you is in Chowder, and some of the other characters?
C.H. Greenblatt: A lot of myself is in this show. I think people who know me can definitely see little bits of me in all of the characters, and in the kind of comedy we do. I think the best shows usually have a good chunk of the creator embedded in them.
Was it your idea to include the live-action/stop motion animation & puppets? Will we be seeing more of the puppets in future episodes?
C.H. Greenblatt: I wanted the stop motion animation from the beginning. It was really important to me that we use all sorts of animation, not just 2-d. It helps set Chowder apart from other shows and reminds people that animation comes in all sorts of forms. The network is still scared of the puppet stuff. They think it’s too kiddy. That’s why you don’t see the puppets on the credits anymore. But we’re still making them.
How good are you as a chef? What would be your specialty?
C.H. Greenblatt: I can cook pretty well. My dishes aren’t pretty, but they taste good. I cook an excellent chili pie.
C. H. Greenblatt, in addition to being the creator and executive producer of Chowder, he also wrote, storyboarded, and did voiceovers for SpongeBob SquarePants & The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. You can checkout his blog at: nerdarmada.blogspot.com. You can find Chowder at cartoonnetwork.com. If you want to look at Joe Meyer’s comics, they can be found here: webcomicsnation.com/joemeyer
Some fan-art by Joe Meyer: