A chat with the cast and crew of “Good Vibes”

Believe it or not, a decade or two back, MTV was pretty heavily invested in animation. There was the quasi-anime weirdness of “Æon Flux,” the high school snark-a-thon “Daria,” and, of course, Mike Judge’s epochal 1990s ode to bone-deep stupidity, “Beavis and Butt-head.” As of October 27, 2011, MTV is jumping back into the cartoon business with Judge’s retooled series about the pea-brained adolescent channel surfers. That’s not all. It will be followed by a show about a pair of actual teenage surfers, “Good Vibes,” that producers are touting as “‘Superbad‘ at the beach.”

Spearheaded by arthouse wunderkind turned doper comedy director David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express,” “Your Highness“), this flash-animated production brings a bit more sexuality to cartoons than we’re used to. Viewers can bet on plenty of boob, butt, and even penis-related humor as well as some pot jokes. Animation-wise, it somewhat resembles “Family Guy” while the content is more story-oriented and good natured. Clearly, “The Simpsons” is an influence.

“Good Vibes” stars the voices of Adam Brody (of “The O.C.”) and Josh Gad (currently tearing up Broadway in “The Book of Mormon”) as Woodie and Mondo, respectively, a Mutt and Jeff pair of teen surfer buddies learning wacky lessons in life and love on the beaches of the very fictional California town of Playa del Toro. The show also features the talents of “Arrested Development” scene-stealer Tony Hale as Wadska, a McLovin-like uber-nerd, as well as second generation character actor Jake Busey as Turk, a loutish bully of a surfer dude. Also contributing is versatile “Firefly” favorite and comic actor Alan Tudyk, who voices a number of characters, including Lonnie, an aging surf bum who dispenses pot-infused wisdom to his young admirers. The show also features veteran actress Debi Mazar, up-and-comer Olivia Thirlby and David Gordon Green cohort Danny McBride.

At this year’s Comic-Con, Bullz-Eye was fortunate enough to get together with cast members Brody, Busey, Hale and Tudyk. Also present were executive producer Green and staff writer Christian Lander, an Internet star for his now-dormant blog, Stuff White People Like. As with the show they were promoting, the sheer mass of talent on hand made for a reasonably entertaining time.

Adam Brody on his scrawny surfer dude character, Woody.

He’s the son of a [wealthy and] powerful father who’s a terrible person. He’s kind of the outcast. He’s got a very Paris Hilton-like socialite sister. [Woody's] very much against that. They have a mansion and he sort of sleeps in the hammock in the back, outside. He befriends Mondo, played by Josh Gad, who’s a transplant to this beach town from New Jersey. They’re two buddies in high school, pursuing women and waves.

Alan Tudyk on his multifaceted “Good Vibes” role.

I play [Woodie/Adam Brody's] dad, I [just now] realize. I’m the rich dad. [I forget things]. “Oh, that’s right. Woodie’s rich! Oh, I’m his dad! Awesome!” I started off just as Lonnie, a guy who lives in a van… and then little voices thrown here and there. I’m Principal Gunereal… I always say it wrong, it’s Principal Gurniel. I always give him a disease.

Executive producer David Gordon Green on the basic set-up of “Good Vibes.”

It’s an MTV brand of a half-hour animated surfing show that follows the crazy adventures of these two high school kids. We get glimpses of them on the beach, at the surf, at school, their family lives, and their relationships with each other. So, we’re really trying to make something that is outrageous and funny, yet somehow grounded in real life with identifiable characters. We want to push some absurdity, but not any more than real life really [gives] us.

Writer Christian Lander on the uphill battle that chubby protagonist Mondo faces in his pursuit of the statuesque Jeena.

It was very funny. If it were translated to human terms, Mondo would be about 3′ 8″ and Jeena’s like 5′ 9″. We always had fun in the writer’s room about that relationship. There’s no reason she would give him the time of day. He works to wear her down and make her love him… A lot of guys on the writing staff are fairly short [and] we had fun understanding the pain that he goes through lusting after this taller woman.

Tony Hale on his McLovin-esque Wadska character.

He is just a guy who desperately wants to be a part of the friendship between Mondo and Woody. He’s just a little too awkward and just never, never gets there. He’s constantly made fun of by Turk.

Jake Busey on the obnoxious Turk.

Somebody once said my character was Tommy Lee with a surfboard… I don’t play into the Tommy Lee thing with the character [though]. I’m channeling all the guys who used to beat me up when I was a kid growing up on the beach. When I saw this project I said, “I have to be a part of this. I grew up on the beach in Malibu so, shit, why should I not be that character?” [Doing Turk's voice] “Get the hell off my beach, dude, or I’ll kick your ass.”

Adam Brody, who still rides the waves on occasion, on his status as a member of a truly rare breed: Jewish surfers.

I knew pretty early on I wasn’t going to tout it as a pro surfer, but I still committed a hundred percent to that sport and lifestyle for my high school years. It’s funny because, growing up, I only knew one other Jewish person. I went to, like, no Bar Mitzvahs – none, except my own. Kicking and screaming, I went to it. I felt like it was this weird religion you had to explain to people. Then, I went to Hollywood and now I’m sort of proud of it.

Alan Tudyk and Adam Brody on being animated actors and whether they’ll be back for a possible second season.

Alan Tudyk: Somebody else animates it, so I just lay back. I don’t know, I actually think I’m fairly animated when I’m in the booth, but you never see it.

Adam Brody: You really have to be. Watching these, my one thing I would do again…I would do it bigger. Everyone [else] who kind of goes big on the cartoon, I really like [their work].

AT: And, if you invest in it, like a role in acting – try to put yourself in the situation. Even if it’s something like you’re leaving a store and you imagine that the door is very heavy as you’re walking through it. You put that in your voice. Then, a lot of funny things can come from the animators, because that throws a bone to the animators and there’s kind of an odd back and forth because there’s so much time in between. But, yeah, being an animated actor works well in animation.

Journalist: Would you come back for a second season, if there is one?

AB: Yeah, of course.

AT: I’m sure we signed contracts or something that would force us into it.

AB: That’s probably true.

AT: If we said, “You can’t make me.” They would say, “Here’s our team of lawyers to make you.”

David Gordon Green on how his first animated production fits in with a career that started with the contemplative critical favorite, “George Washington,” and has since moved on in some very unexpected directions.

You know what, I’m always attracted to things I’ve never done. Literally, when I wake up in the morning I think, “What haven’t I done [that I could do] today?” A lot of people get into putting their calling card together and then that defines who they are. For me, I’m defined by the adventure of my life. That’s what excites me. When I started talking to [the "Good Vibes" production team] about coming up with an animated show, I knew nothing about animation other than I liked to watch certain shows throughout my life. If I could try to educate myself and surround myself with really talented artists and technicians, then we’d come up with something great…

I had made the transition from low-budget indie dramas that nobody saw, to big budget crazy comedies that people would actually buy tickets to. I’m trying to work in horror movies [the upcoming remake, "Suspiria"] and documentaries and maybe, someday, a porn or two. I like to throw it all out into the ring… A reason to ring a lot of doorbells and learn a lot about what I love and hate about life.

Jake Busey and Tony Hale on jumping into voice acting.

Jake Busey: I don’t know about Tony’s history with voice work, but I don’t have a lot. I was the voice of Chevron for a while and I’ve done a video game or two but really for me this is a first. It’s a wonderful first to be a part of. To see these guys like Tony and Alan Tudyk. I’m sitting there and I’m like, “Wow, I’m in a room full of pros.” They come out of nowhere with these voices.

Tony Hale: We’re just all very mentally ill.

JB: Maybe a little bit.

TH: We’re a little tweaked.

Jake Busey on his musical sideline.

I have a band called Sons of the Lawless. The bass player and I formed the band with the guitar player. The bass player is Lee Butterfield. His dad, Paul Butterfield, was the first white guy to have an all-black [sic] blues band in Chicago in the 60s. He’s sort of a blues-rock legend and he, in fact, was one of the headliners at Woodstock. His dad and my dad [actor and tabloid regular Gary Busey] played music together. We grew up together. We play in this alternative hard-rock band. It has tones of So-Cal vibes. It’s kind of like Rage Against the Machine meets No Doubt with a singer that’s all right. We’re going at it with a Smashing Pumpkins approach. We’re real happy because, one of our songs, MTV has licensed for “Good Vibes.” It’s going to be in episode 11, I believe.

Then our latest single that we cut – looks like it’s going to be a title track in “Night of the Living Dead II,” which is being compiled right now. It’s like “Avatar” in the sense that the whole film is animated… Good stuff all around. [Note: A half hour of Googling failed to reveal that any such movie is being made. We think Busey might be referring to a possible follow-up to 2010's "Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated."]

Adam Brody and Alan Tudyk on their favorite animated shows.

AB: It’s so clichéd – no, it’s not cliched, it’s just that they’re great. “Beavis and Butthead” and “The Simpsons” and “South Park” at different times all spoke to me. Those all are still around for a reason.

AT: Warner Brothers. Old Warner Brothers. I grew up with the Saturday cartoons. They had the Bugs Bunny Hour. It was just the best. I always said, “If I ever have kids, I’m going to make them watch these, because it teaches you comedy.” It’s old vaudeville comedy. They sing vaudeville songs. Then I started to show them to my buddy’s son and they’re beating the crap out of each other… They’re violent! [In a parental voice] “You have to be a teenager before you watch it.”

AB: I also like the action cartoons. I’m partial to “Thundercats,” “Batman: the Animated Series,” “He-Man,” “Transformers.”

AT: “More than meets the eye!”

AB: You know what was cool? “Transformers: The Movie” – the cartoon movie. Voiced by Don Johnson…no, I think maybe he voiced “G.I. Joe,” the cartoon movie. [Note: He did] Both of those were pretty good actually.

AT: I love some Hanna-Barbera “Wacky Races,” man….”Stop that Pigeon.”

[At this point, the conversation degenerated into an attempt to remember the name of the "Wacky Races" bad guy who was not named Snidely Whiplash but who did hang around with a dog named Muttley. It turns out that the villain of the 1968-9 Hanna-Barbera production was Dick Dastardly.]

  

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