Both Bob-Waksberg and Hollingsworth (The Life and Times of Tim, Brickleberry) took time, on different occasions, to speak with Cartoon Brew about the making of the show, its dark but sincere tone, and the lighter side of bestiality.
Cartoon Brew: Can you talk a little bit about how the series was conceived?
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: It came from two different places at once; Lisa Hanawalt is an old friend of mine, we went to high school together. I’ve wanted to work with her on something for a while, and she had gotten a little popularity from drawing these characters with animal heads on human bodies. I’ve always loved them and for me this is a way we could kind of exploit our friendship, I guess you could say, use her genius for my gains. (Laughs)
The other piece of it was I had just moved out to L.A. from New York. I was very isolated and lonely and didn’t know anybody, but I was living in this gorgeous house up in the Hollywood Hills. I had a friend of a friend of a friend who let me stay in their closet, basically, in this magnificent house. I remember standing out on this deck and looking out over Hollywood and feeling like, “Oh my god, I am on top of the world. But I’ve never been more lonely and isolated.” And from that sort of sprung the idea for this character who had gotten every opportunity but still can’t find a way to be happy. And that was BoJack.
Cartoon Brew: Was it challenging coming up with a show open that captured the tone of the show?
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: We got the music from Patrick Carney and his uncle Ralph Carney. It was this gorgeous, evocative piece—we got other songs from a few different bands that were fun and light and bouncy, but we just kept going back to the Carney piece. It kind of sold you something these other songs [didn’t]. I especially think it helps for the early episodes, [which] are a little lighter and more fun [than the later ones]. You kind of watch the intro and you go, “Oh wait, there might be something darker going on here,” and you’ll see in the back half of that season that definitely plays out. The visuals are kind of the same thing; we have this amazing animator Mike Roberts who worked on the show, who only did the intro. He didn’t do anything else, he just focused on the intro and making that look as gorgeous as possible. I cannot praise him highly enough, I think he did a phenomenal job with it.
Cartoon Brew: How would you describe the role of the supervising director?
Mike Hollingsworth: I supervise the other directors; we had four—Martin Cendreda, Joel Moser, J.C. Gonzalez and Amy Winfrey—a Mount Rushmore of Flash animation luminaries. (Laughs). I consider myself a gag man in the classic sense of Mike Maltese with Looney Tunes. So basically I would pick up scripts and pepper them as much as I could with animal gags. I believe they scouted me because they felt that I had a similar sense of humor as Raphael and Lisa. That is to say that I dabble in the dangerous and dark art of animal punnery. I have a Tumblr called Stufffed Animals and it’s just all animal puns.
Cartoon Brew: Can you give me an example?
Mike Hollingsworth: Well… Raphael handles all the writing and; and between Lisa and me, we handled the… lion’s share of all the animal puns.
Cartoon Brew: In the world of BoJack Horseman, humans and animals co-exist as evolutionary equals. Were any rules established to help manage this odd reality?
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: The general rule for animals is they have animal heads and human bodies, but if there was something distinctive about that animal, we tried to incorporate that as well. We have a tarantula character who was 6 arms and 2 legs. We have like a turtle character who has a shell on his back. We have bird characters who fly, things like that.
Cartoon Brew: With all the human-animal sex depicted were there any concerns about bestiality?
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: It’s all bestiality! (Laughs) We kind of wave our hand at that at the beginning and don’t really worry about it. This is a world where interspecies have sex with each other and it’s just kind of expected and happens.
Cartoon Brew: Did knowing the entire season of show would be released all at once on Netflix change the way it was planned and produced?
Mike Hollingsworth: The thing that’s so great and so exciting about having a show on Netflix be a binge thing is that BoJack, unlike other cartoons that I can think of, is a linear story. It doesn’t reset at the beginning of every episode like The Simpsons or Family Guy; his house and all of his relationships are slowly destroyed throughout the season, and that was a unique and fun thing. It seems like something they might do in anime, but I can’t think of an American cartoon where the world keeps evolving.
Cartoon Brew: The show deals with a lot of dark themes in a more sincere way than most animated or live-action comedies…
Raphael Bob-Waksberg: [BoJack Horseman] is definitely trying for something. I think it’s up the individual viewers to say how well we succeed at it. I want this to be more sincere than maybe you’re expecting it to be. You don’t even realize it’s there when you first start watching and you gradually get sucked into it, and by the end of the season you’re thinking, “Oh my god, I actually care about these characters…how did that happen? They blindsided me.”
The entire first season of BoJack Horseman can be viewed on Netflix.com.