A Wander-ful adventure on Disney Channel

The Fresno BeeSeptember 10, 2013 

GLENDALE — For years, Craig McCracken — the man behind the animated series "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" and "The Powerpuff Girls" — would find himself doodling a bulbous-headed character in his notebooks. It wasn't until the animator met former "30 Rock" actor Jack McBrayer and heard his laid-back Southern drawl that the endless drawings became the central figure for a new Disney Channel series, "Wander Over Yonder."

"I am always looking for an actor or actress who kind of embodies the personality of the character," McCracken says during an interview at the Disney Television Animation building. "Jack has such a positive spirit and is so friendly. Hearing his voice and applying it to that drawing, all of a sudden this character came to life."

The new comedy follows best friends — the eternally optimistic intergalactic traveler and constant do-gooder Wander and his quick-tempered but loyal steed, Sylvia. They travel the cosmos and stumble into adventures that often include battling the infamous Lord Hater and his army of Watchdogs.

Along with McBrayer, the voice talent includes April Winchell as Sylvia, Tom Kenny as Commander Peepers and Keith Ferguson as Lord Hater. McCracken knew they were just the right talent for the job.

Veteran voice actor April Winchell loves speaking for Sylvia, the voice of reason in the show.

"Wander is very naive and only sees the good in things. He can get into a lot of trouble that way," Winchell says. "She's a little more cynical. She's his protector."

McCracken and his team put together the adventures by deciding what aspect of Wander's personality will be examined in an episode.

"We try to drive all the stories based on something about the character," McCracken says. "Then you decided what would be the best location to have that situation happen. The characters always come first. What is interesting about this series is that each episode gives you a little more insight into who this character is. There isn't a big arching story to the series, but each episode tells you a little more about Wander or Hater."

These stories are delivered through McCracken's style of fast edits — there are more than 60 different backgrounds (the number usually painted for three full episodes) in the show's 45-second opening sequence — and explosions of pure color.

The appreciation of rich hues comes from McCracken's days working at the Hanna-Barbera Studios. From the earliest days of the company, Hanna-Barbera artists used backgrounds that were mostly large plains of color both as a way to accent the characters and to be cost efficient.

"It's just another tool you have in your tool box to tell the story," McCracken says. "The use of color is a way to make the show look very rich on the screen."



"Wander Over Yonder": 9 p.m. Friday on Disney Channel



TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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