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Niki Yang’s Empowered Fantasy ‘Yoyotoki’ Energizes Amazon Pilot Season

Refreshingly anchored by a girl adventurer, and written by that animation industry rarity — a woman — Yoyotoki: Happy Ears! is an Amazon Studios pilot worth voting and fighting for.

“I wanted to make a character who is vulnerable, but not a saggy tear bag,” Yoyotoki creator Niki Yang told Cartoon Brew. “How many times have we stood in front of the mirror, wishing we were somebody else? Yoyotoki has, but she doesn’t let that overwhelm her. She would rather explore the world around her, and seek out who she really is.”

Niki Yang.
Niki Yang.
The world will learn more about the versatile Yang if Yoyotoki’s pilot wins the hearts and minds of viewers of Amazon Studios’ fall 2015 pilot season, and is greenlit for further development. After serving time as an artist for, among others, Fanboy and Chum Chum, Family Guy, Gravity Falls, and Clarence, as well as writing and voicing episodes of the similarly surreal Adventure Time, Yang is ready for the spotlight. For that focus, she has chosen a heroic young fox and her two companions, a fantastically elastic gummy bear named Steak and a sloppy pig named Hotwings, to lead Yoyotoki’s magical adventures into Internet television.

Yang explained to me the setup for the show: “Yoyotoki was raised with cell phones, computers, and all of the other gadgets and trappings of modern life, but her parents soon got tired of the rat race and decided to move to the countryside, where they encountered a tornado and found themselves in a strange land called Mytholopia, a beautiful world filled with waterfall farms, rainbow forests, and desert canyons. My inspiration was my 12-year-old niece, who is somewhat insecure about who she is. I’d like to encourage kids to be comfortable with themselves, because they are wonderful just as they are. They just can’t see it yet.”

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Yang’s conception of Yoyotoki: Happy Ears grew, as all of her ideas do, from doodling; in this case, “a big eared fox with a playful smile and sincere eyes,” she said.

From there, the pilot snowballed into a show that is as “crazy and weird and surreal and insane” as the others that come from Yoyotoki’s production studio, Titmouse, studio co-founder Chris Prynoski told Cartoon Brew.Yoyotoki: Happy Ears has all that, a main character with heart who really cares about her friends, and all the fresh styles you’ll certainly enjoy,” he explained, as the voting period for Amazon’s current pilot season drew nearer.

Co-produced by Amazon Studios and Titmouse, with animation from Saerom Animation in Seoul, South Korea — “My hometown!” cheered Yang — Yoyotoki: Happy Ears is an accessible but still surreal experience for viewers of all ages. Like Adventure Time before it, Yoyotoki offers multiple levels of humor and meaning across demographics. Unlike Adventure Time, however, it’s not primarily aimed at the dudebros.

In that respect, Yoyotoki remains an animation outlier, even amongst Amazon’s deserving pilots, which range from Moonbot’s sweet but strange The Numberlys to Cartoon Saloon’s smart and satrirical Eddie of the Realms Eternal.

“You should watch it because it’s bananas,” advised Prynoski. “Did you ever see your eyes high five each other?”

  • I wish I knew about this show sooner, the artwork looks interesting to see as an animation. It’s currently unavailable on Amazon right now.

    Is there a website for it to learn more about this show, besides Amazon?

  • Joel

    Oooh, sounds awesome! I can’t wait to see it! ^U^

  • Fried

    Yoyotoki just feels like another rehash of Adventure Time. Nothing really refreshing about it. I would hope the first bold line of the article wasn’t about how the show is created by a girl, thought maybe CartoonBrew would stop putting emphasis on that when even Daron got annoyed about CB’s coverage on Star Vs. pinpointed that, but at least the remainder of the article is solid.

    Personally, I would be more interested in Eddie of the Realms Eternal.

    • James STanley

      Is it the similar style that’s putting you off? BTW what is this “Eddie” show you speak of? If I remember correctly, it might be one of the animated shows Netflix has got planned. right?

      • Ernesto Jose Narvaez Osorio

        Its another Amazon Pilot Nominee.

    • adrian dalen

      yeah, i must admit i am not too impressed by it either.

    • Partyrama

      she just said its not gonna be like adventure time also it looks nothing like adventure time

    • Julian

      In response to the first line about the show being created by a woman… That kind of callout is an important part of our conversation about how our shows and media are made. It is a sign of a healthy democracy that not only values but elevates the achievements of women from decades of systemic oppression within the industry. When people of color are given the opportunities to succeed, I will praise their efforts, not to fill a quota, but to send a message. Their stories matter.

      Any opinion on the show and its style is of course always welcome. Just know I’ve seen too many men create shows that range from great to awful to not promote the efforts of a woman of color who by her gender and race is already at a disadvantage in this industry. Excited to see the show’s development.

  • Mister Twister

    Wait… so it hasn’t won yet? A bit too early to celebrate then.

  • Mashed Potato

    I’m getting more Harvey Beaks vibe out of Yoyotoki, bizarreness notwithstanding. I personally favor Everstar.

    My gut feeling tells me Amazon higher ups are gonna bump Yoyo real hard to catch the 2016 wave of furry movies and media, nipping at the consumers of Zootopia, Sly Cooper and KFP3.

  • Jimmy McKee

    Lily The Unicorn had great animation and that lost to another dark telling of the Oz books
    If ya want this show go to Amazon.com/pilotseason and vote by 5 star review bomb it

  • UsaMiKo

    Not sure how I feel about the design, but I’ll give it shot. The best pilot design wise however, is Eddie of the Realms Eternal. That’s got my vote at the moment.

  • While not bad whatsoever, there was nothing new that “Yoyotoki HappyEars” brought to the table for me. I can see myself watching this from time-to-time, but I have to admit that I’m not gunning for the show to get the greenlight from Amazon in the same way that I want “Danger and Eggs” or “Eddie of the Realms Eternal” to make to series.

  • Max C.

    I’ve placed my bet on Danger & Eggs, which looks like it could it nicely beside Cartoon Network’s programming because there’s virtually little difference. It’s just as funny and quirky.

    I’m also supporting Eddie and the Realms Eternal just to give Cartoon Saloon a chance. The animation is better than any show I’ve seen get outsourced to Korea, although I wish the script was just as good.

  • Ernesto Jose Narvaez Osorio

    LOVED IT! I even liked it better than Adventure Time for some reason.

  • Ernesto Jose Narvaez Osorio

    I did check out Eddie of The Eternal Realms and it does look a lot cooler. But I hope they both win somehow…