Get ready for your new favorite summer block party obsession! DreamWorks Animation Television’s new Netflix series Harvey Street Kids brings classic characters from Harvey Comics to life in the modern era. Audiences get to join Audrey, Dot, and Lotta as they get into all sorts of misadventures on their block from “school’s out” to sundown, and sometimes even later. It’s a fantastically fun new show that pays homage to both the iconic characters that have been around for decades as well as 80s and 90s classic cartoons like Ed, Edd n Eddy, Nicktoons fare, and The Powerpuff Girls. Harvey Street Kids might just be your new go-to source of animated neighborhood shenanigans! You can read my review here for more.
I had a chance to chat with Executive Producer Brendan Hay (Dawn of the Croods, Robot Chicken) and Supervising Producer Aliki Theofilopoulos (Descendants: Wicked World, Phineas and Ferb) about their process of adapting the characters and finding their core leads in Lauren Lapkus, Stephanie Lemelin, and Kelly McCreary. We also dug deep into the animation of this show and how they settled on the final look. And it might surprise you to find out, but Harvey Street Kids features an original Boy Band comprised of Joey McIntryre (New Kids on the Block), Nick Lachey (98 Degrees), Joey Fatone (*NSYNC) and Shawn Stockman (Boyz II Men), so of course we talked about how that all came together. But first!
Check out our exclusive clip to get a glimpse of Harvey Street Kids and a strong sense of the core cast of characters, followed by our interview:
What’s a kid to do when it’s raining and you can’t play outside?! Let Lucretia show you the way. Hide inside when Harvey Street Kids comes to Netflix June 29!
For folks who might not be familiar with the Harvey Comics, what’s your one-sentence pitch for Harvey Street Kids?
Brendan Hay: Our story editor, Mike Yank, had my favorite summary of our show: “Kids live on a block.” Full stop. We are a wonderfully [high]–concept show, it really is. The more sincere one-sentence is, “This is the time of day in a kid’s life between being finished with school and not yet going home for dinner.” It’s about that part of childhood where it was just a kid society and the fun and shenanigans and all their experiences that happen in that time.
Why Harvey Comics and why the Harvey Girls in particular?
Brendan Hay: I think it’s two-fold: The very practical answer is, there’s an executive here at DreamWorks, Beth Cannon, and this was her passion project for a very long time. She was the one who brought these characters to Aliki’s and my attention. There had been another writer who she drew up some of the takes on it with, Emily Brundige. So it was a case of being already in flux once Aliki and I came in.
But, once we started playing with the characters, what really spoke for me about these Harvey Comics characters is, at their core, these are three really strong, really funny female characters. And it’s just nice to be able to take that and run with it. We try our best to honor the original core of the characters while also updating them for modern times. They just paired so well together, the three of them: Audrey, who’s almost feral in her 110% enthusiasm for everything, and Dot, who is so precise—in the comics, she’s obsessed with dots so we expanded it so that she’s obsessed with everything, be it science or fashion—and Lotta who, again, in the old comics, was defined by always eating things, but also she was the kind of wonderful, oversized personality in all fronts, from being super-strong to being super-cheery, so we just decided to embrace that she has a passion for everything. They’re three very specific types that lend themselves very well to comedy.
Aliki Theofilopoulos: For me, the draw was, when the studio first presented the project to me, I had worked on the Mickey shorts for a while, and particularly I had done the Minnie short, and I loved that we got to envisage these old sensibilities. Being a big cartoon fan, a true fan, that I really loved my experience of being able to visit a classic character in a new, modern way. So working with Harvey Comics characters felt like that to me. But on top of it, working 20 years in this industry, I really, really wanted to work on cartoony female characters that were three, distinctively different types of characters, that it wasn’t going to be a show where there was “The Girl One” where her “personality” was the girl character, but that there were three, completely different cartoony girl characters. That was something that I really wanted to do and felt like I hadn’t done before, so that was a great opportunity to have a chance to do that.
How difficult was it to bring the 1940s characters into the 21st century? How much freedom did you have in doing so?
Hay: Thankfully we had a lot of freedom. This was a case where we could kind of just get a sense of what we wanted to keep and then treat them as original characters, in a good way. Although it was always to not forget the roots—keep Audrey’s personality, keep all three of their underlying personalities—otherwise, they’re kids today. We wanted to make sure that anything that they were dealing with would be relatable and we wanted to increase the diversity of the cast and things like that. So not just the three core girls, but we also bring a lot of the support cast from the comics into the modern era also; most of our supporting cast has its roots in Harvey Comics. Similarly with them, we wanted to make them more diverse, but each one of those characters also retains the roots of why they were funny and interesting in the 40s, which thankfully is something that’s just kind of universal. The funniest one of all, to me, was Lucretia, who’s a supporting cast member, but even in her old appearances in the 40s and 50s she’s a fangirl. Even before the term existed, she was just the friend who was super-impressed with Little Audrey. It’s fun to know that there’s a universality and timelessness that exists to these characters, regardless. As long as we keep that, it really did feel like everything else would be what a kid show would be today with kids we’d want to put in it.
Theofilopoulos: The great thing about this show is that the characters are so clearly defined. I always say, you could pick up a script with all the names blacked out and you would know exactly who was saying each line. Because these characters were so defined and so clear, we could kind of give them any scenario or situation and let them run with it because it was just fun, a fun thing to push to the extreme. It was something that its roots began in a classic way, but we were able to take it and push it to this whole other level that was updated and more extreme.
Hay: It’s funny that you mentioned Ed, Edd ‘n’ Eddy and those other shows because we’ve been wanting to go back to the character-driven comedy of the late 80s, early 90s, which was like Hey Arnold! or Doug or, slightly different, but Pete and Pete. Going back even further, Peanuts is on that spectrum, too, and the original Harvey Comics. There’s this great tradition of character-based cartoony cartoons that hasn’t been done in a while; this is a chance to get to do that, and specifically do that from a female perspective.
Theofilopoulos: And I have to say that, on the art side, that became a part of the show aesthetically. We wanted to go back to more of a traditional style of animation in the sense that the characters are three-dimensional-ish, they’re squash-and-stretch-y, they’re traditional. I came from a traditional animation background so I really wanted to bring that into what we were doing, so there is a true nod to the history of cartoons.
How much of the storytelling was pulled from the comics themselves and how much was inspired by either your own childhood memories or by modern kids’ experiences?
Hay: A lot more of the latter. To my own knowledge, I think there’s only one spot that actually goes back to the original comics.
Theofilopoulos: Yeah, one or two, at most. The comics were really used more as a point of departure.