INTERVIEW: Ryan Crego of DreamWorks TV’s “Home: Adventures with Tip & Oh” – Animation Scoop

INTERVIEW: Ryan Crego of DreamWorks TV’s “Home: Adventures with Tip & Oh”

DreamWorks Animation’s Home: Adventures with Tip & Oh is the studio’s latest spinoff series to one of their blockbuster features. Home, which was released last year, earned nearly $400M worldwide and starred the voices of Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin and Jennifer Lopez.

Adventures, which is available on Netflix starting Friday July 29th, picks­ up where the film left­off, as the lovable alien Oh moves ­in with human girl Tip, her mom and cat (named Pig) in Chicago. Executive Producer Ryan Crego told me about working on the series, as well as his feelings on the upcoming big­screen return of DWA’s most iconic character.

Jackson Murphy:​ You’ve been living in the animation world ­ mainly at DreamWorks ­ for a long time. What were some of the shows you watched at “Home” when you were younger that made you want to get into animation?

Ryan Crego: ​My dad used to pull­out old 8mm films of Cecil the Sea Sick Sea Serpent and Heckle and Jeckle when I was little, so I remember that being some of my first memories of going, “Oh my God ­ this is special.” I grew­up in the 90s: a whole lot of “Tiny Toons” and “Gummy Bears”. The shows that started to hit me as I was shaping my personality and the kinds of things I wanted to do in animation were “Dexter’s Lab” and “The Powerpuff Girls”, and that’s when I think I was developing as an artist. They were funny, colorful and beautifully designed. I digested everything cartoon when I was young; I would draw constantly. If it was a cartoon I was probably watching it and trying to draw it.

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JM: ​“Home” came­ out in March 2015 and this series is premiering on Netflix now. How soon after the movie was released was the series green lit?

RC:​ Before the movie was released. I actually ended­up working hand­in­hand with the film’s director and producer. Thurop Van Orman, who developed the show with me ­ the two of us actually came in on the back end of the movie and we ended­up working with them and really discussing a lot of things about the characters. There was a cool collaboration as we were developing the show. I’m not sure if it was “greenlit”, but we were certainly in development as the movie was getting wrapped­up. DreamWorks and Netflix have been developing this really great relationship, and I think they saw “Home” as one of the films that had a real potential to develop a world beyond the movie.

JM:​ The show is in hand­drawn animation, not CGI like the movie. Was going with that style a difficult decision to make?

RC:​ In a sense, it was critical to my involvement on the show just because I really connect with pushed animation ­ and I think for TV it’s a little more freeing when you’ve got the ability to draw. With CG, there’s a limiting ability to that part of the production. When we’ve got our hand drawn world, we can go explore space…and we don’t really have to negotiate with production. And, stylistically, I really am a big fan of pushing cartoon expressions. We break the mold. We break the character model. We’re very expressive, and it’s a storyboard­driven show, so we rely on our board teams to bring those expressions in the vain of “SpongeBob” or “Adventure Time”.

JM: ​The heart of the film and this series is the friendship between Tip and Oh. What will kids get most out of their relationship?

RC:​ There’s a really great acceptance between these two characters. They take each other for better or for worse. They’re best friends but they’re also siblings, so they’ve got this unconditional love for each other. What I saw in the movie was two characters that really needed each other. But in a lot of ways they’re opposites, and they come together and embrace each other for everything positive and everything negative.

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JM:​ Another reason the “Home” movie worked were the songs. How do the songs in this series enhance the stories?

RC:​ We’re incredibly lucky that we were able to cast such talented actors. Rachel Crow (who voices Tip) was 16 years old when we first auditioned her. She’s now 18 and this phenomenal young woman who’s funny, talented and has a voice that takes the breath out of a room when she’s singing. Once we cast Rachel, it became so evident that we needed to do music within the show. And Mark Whitten (the voice of Oh) has more of a Broadway, theatrical presence when he sings. We have this great dynamic between the two characters that’s very special. And the music is very influenced from the music in the movie ­ using the pop/dance vibe of the Rihanna and J­Lo stuff. As a storytelling tool, in my mind it works best when we can use music to communicate part of a story. And sometimes we use it in a montage­type sense where we can collapse a pretty fair amount of emotion and story into a 45­second song. And there are times we just do it for fun!

JM:​ Oh has so many great lines. I’m sure the writing team must have a fun time coming­up with all the unique and quirky things for him to say.

RC: ​Yeah, absolutely. The dialogue captures the innocence of Oh’s character. He means so well, but [sometimes] he has no clue. It’s the comedic gold underneath this series ­ having this character who’s figuring things out for the first time, and as an audience that’s a really fun way to be involved in a show. Kids are going to go, “Oh, I don’t think that’s right ­ but he’s doing it!” There’s a light, fun quality to that ­ watching a character who’s so sweet who, and means well, but missed the mark a little bit.

JM:​ No one would’ve guessed five years ago that Netflix would be the source for so much great, animation content, especially for DreamWorks. Is it different watching your finished product on a tablet and computer screen instead of going to the movies or turning on the TV?

RC:​ We’re keeping up with the times, I guess. As a filmmaker, you hope that it goes on a nice 4K, 60+­inch screen in everyone’s homes and everyone gets to appreciate it. But the reality is, it’s gonna end­up on a lot of phones and tablets ­ and probably while kids are waiting for the dentist. That’s kind of the era we live in. What’s important is that the story works and that the
show is funny…no matter how big the screen is. [However], you miss something when you’re watching it on a phone, I think.

JM:​ You’ve been a part of several projects involving a certain green ogre, including “Shrek Forever After” and a couple of the holiday specials. So ­ I have to ask ­ How do you feel about the announcement of “Shrek 5” coming in 2019?

RC:​ It makes me very happy. I actually hadn’t heard the announcement. I love Shrek. For me, Shrek was the place where I really learned who I was as an artist and where I got to learn how to craft stories. It’s nice to take a step back from something like “Shrek” and come back with a fresh approach. I’m looking forward to anything “Shrek” that comes­out in the future. In the event that…there was an opening on “Shrek 5” I would look at it. But right now my heart is with “Home”.

Jackson Murphy

Jackson Murphy

Jackson Murphy is a movie critic and entertainment columnist. He is the creator of the website Lights-Camera-Jackson.com, and has made numerous appearances on television and radio.
Jackson Murphy
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