Jon Heder sounds like he’s in agonizing pain as he keeps grunting and groaning.
Joel Trussell and Noah Z. Jones are only a few feet away, but they don’t seem worried about the distressed outbursts. In fact, they keep asking Heder if he could do more.
That’s the life on the set for voice actor Heder, who is in a small recording studio where he’s providing the vocals for Pickle, one of the starring characters in the new Disney XD series “Pickle and Peanut.” The show is the twisted creation of Trussell and Jones, who have put together a series that looks like the dreams of a 3-year-old after he has eaten a pickle and peanut butter sandwich just before bed. The animation is a mix of traditional, nontraditional and live action.
Pickle and Peanut (voiced by Johnny Pemberton) are best buddies who end up on a lot of weird adventures during their last year in high school in a fictional suburb of Reno.
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Why a pickle and a peanut?
“It’s the alliteration,” Jones says. “It almost doesn’t matter what they are. It’s who they are. We have told the writers we don’t want pickle and peanut jokes.”
As far as the world is concerned, these are just two kids.
Noah Z. Jones
While the recording session is standard, the animation is unique. The series uses a mix of animation styles made on a shoestring budget to highlight the show’s offbeat and quirky humor.
“Our starting point for the show is that if you have seen something a million times before, what can we do with it that’s different and surprising,” Jones says during a break from the day’s recording schedule. “We try to zag where other people zig. We have found a lot of success by keeping an audience on their toes.”
The executive producers have found success through shows such as “Almost Named Animals,” “Fish Hooks” and “Yo Gabba Gabba.”
They will go to almost any length to make sure the visual elements they are putting on the screen are different. Both slipped into a tiger costume for a visual joke that only lasts a split second. But, they would rather go to all that trouble than fall back on what has been the norm in animation.
Jones says it starts with trying to produce a show that makes he and Trussell laugh.
“The show finds its tone as we are putting together,” Jones adds. “We start doing the gags and Truss is like, ‘That’s not it. That’s not it. That’s not it.’ Then I know that’s not funny.”
They never let a joke get through they know won’t get a laugh.
Even the audition process to find the right voices was different. All Heder was told was that he would be playing a pickle. He didn’t even know if he was a dill, bread and butter or gherkin.
It’s not often an actor gets to channel their inner pickle to voice a character.
“It’s not straight up my talking voice, but it wasn’t super charactery,” Heder says. “In my head, he’s so visually different and interesting. I like playing characters that are so different.”
I finally realized this was a crazy, wacked-out series when we saw an early version of the first show. I was like ‘WOW.’ Then I got to see what the full story could be, all the weird voice overs and other stuff, and realized this was trippy. It is awesome.
Heder knows the animation world well. Although best known for his big-screen breakout roll in the offbeat comedy “Napoleon Dynamite” and other live-action performances in “Blades of Glory” and “The Benchwarmers,” Heder has done voice over work for “Surf’s Up,” “Monster House” and Disney XD’s “Star vs. The Forces of Evil,” “Uncle Grandpa” and “The Legend of Korra.”
‘Pickle and Peanut’
- 9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 7, Disney XD