Animated Shorts: Craig McCracken - Back to Foster's

Quite honestly, it’s been way too long since there was a new episodes of Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends. Creator Craig McCracken and Cartoon Network remedy that situation today with a new Foster’s movie, subtitled “Destination: Imagination.”

The movie starts off with the Home discovering a mysterious box at their doorstep. Chained every way possible, the box comes with a note stating that the box should never be opened. This tweaks Frankie (Grey DeLisle) to no end, and she wants to open the box in the worst way. On the other hand, Mr. Herriman (Tom Kane) feels the note absolutely must be obeyed, and his it placed in the attic.

Not that the box is the only dilemma. Herriman’s treatment of Frankie has lately bordered on the truly abusive. The young lady is near her absolute end; physically, emotionally and mentally. What happens because of this is probably one of the most edgy, darkest chapters in Foster’s history, spearheaded by stellar performances from the aforementioned DeLisle and Kane. “Destination: Imagination” is also one of the best and—well--most imaginative chapters, ever.

Series creator Craig McCracken has a few things to say about this latest chapter in the Foster’s canon. While we were at it, we asked the busy man about his new title of at CN’s recently created Cartoonstitute. Here’s what he had to say:

Newsarama: What was the inspiration for “Destination: Imagination?”

Craig McCracken: We wanted to tell an adventure story, send the gang on a fantastic quest. Something imaginative and out there that couldn't happen in the regular world of Foster’s. Also we really liked the idea of a friend being a whole world and not just a sentient being that you hang out with.

NRAMA: This has to be one of the most "edgy"--for lack of a better word--Foster’s ever seen. Was it intentional that you have so much conflict going down, particularly between Mr. Herriman and Frankie?

CM: I hope edgy is a good thing in this case. You know it all boils down to telling the story in the most honest and sincere way. Since the series began there has always been a contentious relationship between Frankie and Mr, Herriman and we wanted to explore that story in a real and truthful way. When we start a show one of the first things we think about is tone, is this a goofy one, is it a serious one, whatever it may be we stay true to that tone. This one had some higher stakes so we let it naturally unfold that way.

NRAMA: Bloo seems to be more obnoxious than his usual self. Much more demanding and self-centered. Any reason for this?

CM: That's always the trick with Bloo, we try to never make him malicious. He never consciously tries to hurt anyone. But sometimes he can ride that edge pretty close. With the Frankie/Herriman/World story carrying so much weight we saw Bloo and the gang as a chance for some humor.

NRAMA: How would you describe World?

CM: The idea with him is that he was created with the sole purpose of having his creator hang out with him inside the world. When his creator wasn't there he felt he had no purpose, his existence had no meaning. Ed Baker, one of our storyboard artists, suggested that we make him a kid, which I think really made all the difference in this story. It let him be more emotional, to not understand the bigger picture, to be confused and vulnerable and like a like a kid, to throw a fit when they don't get their way.

NRAMA: One person who never seemed to have gotten the credit she deserved is Lauren Faust. What can you tell us about her?

CM: Well for one I think Lauren is so awesome that I married her! She has been with Foster’s since the moment I had the idea, she was the first person to hear about it and contribute to it so Foster’s is as much hers as it is mine. Where as I tend to go goofy and silly Lauren is the consummate storyteller. First and foremost she focuses on the emotional story, what feelings or needs are driving the characters to do what they do. I've learned from her that it's this element that makes characters truly come to life and resonate with audiences. Without a doubt Foster’s would not be the show it is without Lauren. Gush, gush, gush, what can I say? I love my wife.

NRAMA: Is this the last Foster’s? If so, why? If not, what's in the future?

CM: No. “Destination Imagination” is not the end of Foster’s. We actually have more 1/2 hour episodes that Cartoon Network has yet to show. I believe they plan to air those sometime in '09. So, yes there's more to come.

With Foster’s I wanted to make a fun, character driven show that the whole family could enjoy. Kinda like the Muppet Show was to me and my family when I was a kid. From what I've gathered from people who watch the show it seems like we have done just that. I have no ability to judge the success myself, I just try to make the best show I can, as honestly as I can. Though I was just previewing music for one of the episodes today and I found myself laughing out loud and still enjoying the characters as much as I did in the beginning. It makes me feel good that even now the show still holds up, I don't think we ever jumped the shark.

NRAMA: How are things going at the Cartoonstitute? What can you tell us about its agenda and anything we should be waiting for?

CM: I got my start in the industry in the What A Cartoon shorts program where I was given a chance to do my own thing, to make the kind of cartoon I always wanted to see. Cartoon Network got five series out of that program which I think is pretty successful. When the network came to me asking how we could generate new and original content that could be contenders for new series the only option in my mind was to initiate another pilots program like What A Cartoon. So we created a truly artist driven environment that has little to no executive interference. What this does is give the creators a chance to show us what they have in mind before a project gets hit with tons of notes. It's a very pure and raw development process but it's also turned out to be very exciting and fruitful one. By letting the creative be creative we are seeing a lot of new fresh ideas, cartoons with styles and humor that we've never seen before. I'm really excited about what could come from these pilots!

NRAMA: What about yourself? Anything you're working on we should keep an eye out for?

CM: Well, I'm heading up the Cartoonstitute for Cartoon Network. Though that doesn't mean I've halted my creative output. It's always been a dream of mine to be a published cartoonist so recently I've been working on translating my ideas with the hope of them seeing print someday. There's something pure in publishing, your words, your drawings, that you can't get from film.

Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends: Destination Imagination makes its debut on Thanksgiving at 8:00 p.m. eastern. That’s after an all-afternoon Chowder marathon and a Thanksgiving episode of Camp Lazlo entitled “A Thanksgiving Carol.

NETWORK-PROVIDED HOLIDAY GIFTS START TODAY

The holidays are upon us. That means various TV networks are airing a ton of special programming between now and the new year. There definitely are some true treats, both old and new, that will offer entertaining alternatives to It’s a Wonderful Life.

In this column we’ll run down what Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon have to offer. Don’t be surprised if there are some turkeys to carve into, as well. Expect more as they arrive.

Cartoon Network

• Thursday, Dec. 4

8 :00 p.m.: Chowder: “Hey, Hey it’s Knishmas” – ‘Tis the season and Marzipan City is stirring with anticipation of Knish Krinkle’s annual visit. While the townsfolk are out buying Knishmas Trees and stealing kisses under the Gristletoe, Chowder is worried that he may not get the holiday gift he’s been dreaming about. And if Mung doesn’t make the best Schmingerbread house ever, there’s no hope for a happy holiday! Will Mung be forced to buy a dish from Ms. Endive? Will Knish Krinkle leave loads of gifts or just leave in a fit of rage? Encore presentations: Sunday, Dec. 7, at 10:30 a.m.; Sunday, Dec. 21, at 11:30 a.m.; Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 4:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Thursday, Dec. 25, at 9:30 a.m.

• Sunday, Dec. 7

9:00 a.m.: Tom & Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale – On a cold Christmas Eve, the Mouse Family is bulldozed from their underground home. Skip and Squeek sneak out of bed and into the living room to discover the real meaning of Christmas. Repeats: Tuesday, Dec. 9, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 21, at 8 a.m.; Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 8 a.m.; Thursday, Dec. 25, at 1 p.m.

10:00 a.m.: What’s New Scooby-Doo?: “Ho! Ho! Horrors” – Scooby and the gang must spend the night in Winter Hollow, the snow-logged town terrorized by a headless snowman. Repeats: Sunday, Dec. 21, at 5:30 p.m.; Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, Dec. 25, at 8:30 a.m.

11:00 a.m.: Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer – Expands on the song of the same name. Repeats: Monday, Dec. 8, at 8 p.m.; Tuesday, Dec. 16, at 8 p.m.; Thursday, Dec. 18, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 21, at 6 p.m.; Monday, Dec. 22, at 9 p.m.; Tuesday, Dec. 23, at 9 p.m.; Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.; Thursday, Dec. 25, at 10 a.m.

NOON: 6teen: “Deck the Mall” – Caitlin tries to get everyone psyched for Christmas but the whole gang is too wiped out by the Christmas rush to get into the mood. Then they get locked inside the mall after closing.

• Friday, Dec. 12

8:00 p.m.: Batman: The Brave and the Bold: “Invasion of the Secret Santas!” – Batman and Red Tornado fight to stop Fun Haus’ Yuletide crime spree.

• Saturday, Dec. 13

4:00 p.m.: Bah Humduck: A Looney Tunes Christmas – As the owner of the Lucky Duck department store chain, Daffy Duck plays a modern-day Scrooge who has a lesson to learn about the meaning of Christmas. Repeats: Sunday, Dec. 21, at 9 a.m.; Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 12 p.m.; Thursday, Dec. 25, at 7 a.m.

5:00 p.m.: Camp Lazlo: “Kamp Kringle”– A meteorite falls on Santa’s workshop, and the jellies try to cheer up the big man by taking him to Camp Kidney for some fun and relaxation. Repeats: Sunday, Dec. 21, at 10:30 a.m.; Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 2 p.m.

6:00 p.m. Olive the Other Reindeer – Olive the dog travels to the North Pole to help Santa Claus, and one of Santa’s reindeer breaks a leg. Olive the Other Reindeer, a one-hour feature, is created by Matt Groening. Repeat: Sunday, Dec. 21, at 4:30 p.m.

• Sunday, Dec. 14

9:00 p.m.: In Search of Santa Penguin princesses Crystal and Lucinda go on the adventure of a lifetime in this animated feature. When a sleigh bell mysteriously falls from the sky, pure-hearted Princess Crystal is determined to prove it came from one of Santa’s reindeer. She and Lucinda, set off on a daring journey to the North Pole to find Santa Claus.

• Monday, Dec. 15

8:30 p.m.: Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends: “A Lost Claus” – Mac & Bloo question the reality of Santa Claus and set out to prove his existence scientifically. Repeat:. Sunday, Dec. 21, at 11 a.m.; Wednesday, Dec 24, at 4 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.; Thursday, Dec. 25, at 9 a.m.

• Wednesday, Dec. 17

8:00 p.m.: Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas – The Chuck Jones directed classic. Enough said. Repeats: Sunday, Dec. 21, at 8:30 p.m.; Wednesday, Dec 24, at 7 p.m.

• Sunday, Dec. 21

6:00 a.m.: The Powerpuff Girls: “’Twas the Fight Before Christmas” Princess, Townsville’s greediest little girl, plots to trick Santa into turning her into the fourth Powerpuff Girl. Repeats:: Thursday, Dec. 25, at 6 a.m.

7:00 a.m.: A Johnny Bravo Christmas – Johnny Bravo goes on an insane sleigh ride to deliver his Christmas wish list directly to Santa. With Donny Osmond! Repeats: Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 1 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

7:30 a.m.: Ed, Edd n Eddy’s Jingle, Jingle, Jangle –Ed and Double-D, try to convince Eddy that Christmas is about spreading cheer, not greed. Yeah, right. Repeats: Sunday, Dec. 21, at 3 p.m.; Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 3:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.

10:00 a.m.: George of the Jungle: “Jungle Bells/The Goat of Christmas Presents” - Ursula fails to bring holiday cheer to the jungle. Later, three time-traveling goats teach George the true meaning of Christmas. Repeats: Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 1:30 p.m.; Thursday, Dec. 25, at 8 a.m.

NOON: Casper’s Haunted Christmas – Casper’s in high spirits until Kibosh, supreme ruler of all ghosts, decrees that Casper must scare at least one person before Christmas Day or be exiled. Repeats Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

2:00 p.m. .: The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: “Billy & Mandy Save Christmas” Grim takes Billy & Mandy to the North Pole, to discover Santa has been turned into a vampire. Repeats: Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 2:30 p.m.

3:30 p.m.: The Legend of Frosty the Snowman – When Frosty blows into chilly Evergreen, he’s shocked to learn that the kids don’t know how to ice skate, pack a snowball or even use a sled. Now it’s up to Mayor Tinkerton’s son Tommy to save his dad and the town, with a little help from his new friend, Frosty.

7:00 p.m.: Doogal – Doogal, a candy-loving mutt, must prevent the evil sorcerer Zeebad from freezing the Earth forever.

• Wednesday, Dec. 24

6:00 a.m.: Krypto the Superdog: “Storybook Holiday” – Kevin learns a lesson about the importance of family when he and Krypto are transported to Storybook Land.

6:30 a.m.: Baby Looney Tunes Christmas: “Taz in Toyland” – When Granny gives him a new toy clown, he guards it ferociously in Taz in Toyland. “Christmas in July” – The kids pretend it is Christmas to surprise Lola.

NICKELODEON

Naturally, the entire Nick family of channels has a ton of holiday-oriented shows in its own right. Then again, this is a column devoted to animation. That said, this column is only listing the appropriate ones. Check your favorite web site or other TV listing service for the live action shows.

• Monday, Dec. 8

8:00 p.m. The Wonder Pets! “Save the Nutcracker!” (premiere) - It’s Christmas Eve and a Mouse King emerges from a picture book and steals the Wonder Pets’ Nutcracker present from the classroom.

8:30 p.m. Dora the Explorer “A Present for Santa.” Repeat.

• Tuesday, Dec. 9

8:00 p.m. The Fairly OddParents “Christmas Every Day” Repeat

8:30 p.m. The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius “Holly Jolly Jimmy” Repeat.

• Wednesday, Dec. 10

8:00 p.m. SpongeBob SquarePants: “Patchy the Pirate Presents the SpongeBob SquarePants Christmas Special” Repeat.

8:30 p.m. The Fairly OddParents “Christmas Every Day” Repeat.

• Thursday, Dec. 11

8:00 p.m. Repeat “Holly Jolly Jimmy” & “Patchy the Pirate Presents the SpongeBob SquarePants Christmas Special”

• Friday; December 12

8:00 p.m. Fairly OddParents “Merry Wishmas!” (premiere) - Timmy wishes every kid could get one magical coupon for the most-wanted Christmas gift they didn’t. Suddenly “Wishmas” explodes into a bigger holiday than Christmas, and an out-of-work Santa moves in with the Turners.

• Saturday, December 13

9:30 p.m. The Fairly OddParents “Merry Wishmas!” Repeat.

Expect more listings in future columns, starting with Nick Jr.

NEXT COLUMN: Some holiday feasting from CH Greenblatt and Chowder.

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