Fox has been a leader in television animation for decades mostly through the continuing success of “The Simpsons.” Whether it be the yellow-hued residents of Springfield or the characters on “American Dad,” “Family Guy” or “Bob’s Burgers,” the common element has been family.
One of Fox’s new shows this fall season is a semi-animated offering from the network, “Son of Zorn.” Once again, it looks at family matters, but this time through a mix of the animated Zorn (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) and his real-life family that includes Cheryl Hines as Zorn’s ex-wife. It debuts at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, on Fox (Channel 26.1).
Zorn has spent so much time defending his island nation of Zephyria that he has missed seeing his son, Alan (Johnny Pemberton), grow up. The barbarian decides to put his bloody war aside for the time and try to get closer to his son.
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“Zephyria exists on Earth. It’s an island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean that’s an all-animated, fantasy-warrior, barbarian island and everybody in the world has an awareness of this place,” Eric Appel, executive producer, says. “It’s almost like the world of Harry Potter. It’s the real world, but it exists in this world of wizards and stuff, and there are people who have a knowledge of that.”
Producers have created the world a lot like that of the 1988 feature film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” in that Zorn is animated but no one in the real world seems to notice. They’re so oblivious to the premise of the comedy that the animated charters can have sex with those in the three-dimensional world.
Hines admits she finds herself attracted to Zorn. Keep in mind this is an actor who spent more than a decade working with Larry David on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
The program is designed to show what happens when a family living in the typical guidelines of the real world clashes with cartoon thinking, where death and destruction are as natural as a nosy neighbor.
The craziness will come from the cartoon elements, while the producers and writers will attempt to keep the series grounded through the live-action parts.
Making it all work puts a lot of pressure on the real-world part of the cast. Tim Meadows, who plays the fiancé to Zorn’s ex-wife, found it weird to spend long hours talking to an X on a lighting stand.
The odd design meant preparation work was more vital than usual. The table reads – where the actors go through the script for the first time – were the best way for the actors to hear Zorn’s voice that so when it came time to do the scene without him being there, they knew how to react.
It’s more difficult than you would think. Pemberton had a headache the first three weeks of filming.
“At the end of the day, I would have a headache because it’s just so hard to do both. To think of Zorn being there and also where I have to be and what I have to say. It’s like doing two shows at once,” Pemberton says.
Artemis Pebdani, who plays the executive who gives Zorn an office job, spent the first few weeks only acting with Zorn. She recalls how when she finally had a scene with Hines, it was shocking to look into someone’s eyes.
New and returning shows for Sunday, Sept. 25
- 7:30 p.m. “60 Minutes,” CBS (Channel 47.1)
- 7:30 p.m. “Bob’s Burgers,” Fox (Channel 26.1)
- 8 p.m. “The Simpsons,” Fox
- 8 p.m. “Once Upon a Time,” ABC (Channel 30.1)
- 8:30 p.m. “NCIS: Los Angles,: CBS
- 8:30 p.m. “Son of Zorn,” Fox
- 9 p.m. “Family Guy,” Fox
- 9 p.m. “Secrets and Lies,” ABC 9 p.m.
- 9:30 p.m. “The Last Man on Earth,” FOX
- 10 p.m. “Quantico,” ABC