Disney Channel is about to launch the new animated kids series Big City Greens from co-creators/brothers Chris and Shane Houghton. The network is so jazzed about the new show that they’ve already renewed it for a second season ahead of its debut this coming Monday. And it’s easy to see why. The animated series does a solid job of delivering fish-out-of-water laughs alongside some good, old-fashioned heart, making for a refreshing story that has one foot in the country and one in the city.
Big City Greens is, as the Houghtons’ own show recipe goes, “Two parts funny, one part heart.The majority of everything you’re watching is fun, fun, fun, but at the core of it, there’s always this emotional center, something that is truthful or that resonates with people. That’s what we aim to do in every episode.” I chatted with the Houghtons about the inspiration for the series, the story they aim to tell, and what’s ahead for both Season 1 and Season 2.
The voice cast is Chris Houghton as Cricket Green, Artemis Pebdani as sweet Gramma Alice, Marieve Herington as quirky older sister Tilly Green and Bob Joles as hard-working father Bill Green. The guest voice cast includes Emmy Award-winner Jon Hamm as store manager Louis; Emmy Award-nominated Raven-Symoné as news reporter Maria Media; GRAMMY Award-nominated Busta Rhymes as a wise fish; Danny Trejo as bodyguard Vasquez; Academy Award-winner Jim Rash as waiter Ted; Paul F. Tompkins and Lauren Lapkus as city hipsters Justin and Val; Andy Daly as Officer Keys; Scott Aukerman as a radio DJ; Griffin McElroy as a pepper merchant; Paul Scheer as supermarket manager Chip Whistler; Zeno Robinson as Cricket’s best friend, Remy; Lorraine Toussaint as Remy’s mom, Rashida; Colton Dunn as Remy’s dad; and Anna Akana as café barista, Gloria.
The series premieres with a week of new episodes rolling out daily, Monday, June 18th – Friday, June 22nd, as part of Disney Channel’s GO! Summer. After the debut week, new episodes will premiere throughout the summer on Monday and Wednesday mornings at 10:00 a.m. EDT / PDT. See what the Houghtons had to say about it our interview below:
How would you sum up Big Bity Greens in one sentence?
Shane Houghton: Big City Greens is about a country family that moves from the country to the big city.
Chris Houghton: That’d be the one sentence.
Shane: If we couldn’t go any further than that I’d stop right there.
Chris: It’s a telegram, I would imagine; there’s only so much space.
What particular childhood inspirations did you draw from for this show?
Chris: We grew up in a little town in Michigan. As far as influences go, we didn’t have cable TV, so we really drew a lot from newspaper comics. We loved ‘Calvin and Hobbes’, ‘FoxTrot’, ‘The Far Side’; those really shaped our sense of humor early on and what we really liked. Comics are really character-driven and I think everything Shane and I write is character-driven, so there’s a lot of influence there. Also, a lot of sitcoms like Family Matters and Boy Meets World.
But for the show specifically, we drew a lot of inspiration from the people we knew growing up. So Chris’ character Cricket is based on Chris; Bill, the dad, is based on Chris’ father-in-law, who’s actually named Bill; Gramma Alice is actually based on our Grandma Alice, who’s kind of a sweet-and-saucy lady; and Tilly was based on an amalgamation of 4H girls and neighbors that we knew growing up.
I get a strong ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ vibe from this as well; is that fair to say?
Shane: I’ve never seen Beverly Hillbillies.
Chris: I think it’s more of a coincidence.
Shane: We grew up in the country: Dirt roads, corn fields, we had farm animals, we had a pond that we swam in, our nearest neighbor was like a half-mile down the road [and] you couldn’t even see their house from our house. So we were very secluded and we were very envious of all the kids who lived in town.
Chris: Yeah, not even in the city, but in town. They had sidewalks! They could walk down to the gas station and buy a candy bar whenever they wanted, and that just seemed like a dream to me. Pampered life.
Shane: Eventually we both moved away from home to go to college and we both went to big cities. There was a bit of a culture shock there. It was like, “Oh my gosh! Everything’s different. Where are the farmers?” We had a moment of adjustment. Hopefully it’s a very relatable feeling but when people move, they’re looking to establish a new home and what that means. Especially in Los Angeles, where we live now, there are tons of people who’ve moved from different places, so we wanted to capture or bottle that feeling of leaving home and looking to establish roots in a new place. What does that feel like? It’s a very lonely feeling but hopefully…
Chris: It’s also exciting.
Shane: Yes, lonely but exciting. Hopefully you’ve got your family there to support you. And that’s what’s happening to the Greens.