‘Big City Greens’: Houghton Brothers on Season 2, Their Musical Christmas Special, & More

     November 15, 2019

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Created and executive produced by brothers Chris and Shane HoughtonBig City Greens follows mischievous and optimistic 10-year-old Cricket Green who moves from the country to the big city with his wildly out-of-place family—older sister Tilly, father Bill and Gramma Alice. The hit Disney series returns this Saturday, November 16th at 9:30am for the start of Season 2.

Yesterday, we shared a clip from the premiere with you, along with a tease from the Houghton Brothers about all the excitement to come this season. Now, we’re happy to bring you the full chat as part of the continuing Saturday Mourning Cartoons podcast series. The Houghtons bring us up to speed on what they’ve been up to since last we talked, tell us about the changes coming to the Green Family’s world in Season 2, and even tease their musical Christmas special. Listen above or read along below!

First of all, for folks who may not be familiar with Big City Greens, how would you describe the series?

Shane Houghton: Big City Greens is basically an animated sitcom about a country family that moves up from the farm lands to the big city. We get to follow Cricket Green and his family. Cricket is kind of a mischievous and curious kid who gets into lots of trouble and learns a few lessons along the way. He’s also voiced by my brother Chris Houghton.

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Image via Disney Channel/Craig Sjodin

Chris Houghton (in Cricket’s voice): That’s right! And we’ve got Cricket live in the studio right here! {Back to his normal voice] Sorry, he sometimes possesses my entire being and I am but a slave. Anyway, I’m back. This is Chris. Yeah, kids often describe the show as “weird, but good weird,” and I really like that review.

Shane Houghton: Yeah, me too.

I feel like kids have to be the most honest reviewers that you’re going to get.

Shane Houghton: Yes, they can be brutal. It’s “weird, but good weird” is great.

Chris Houghton: We’ll take it.

Chris, when you get to talk to fans, do they always ask you to do the voice? Are they surprised when you have kind of two different voices?

Chris Houghton: Yeah, it’s funny because… Well, there’s a couple of pieces to that. One, I sometimes forget I do the voice of Cricket. I say that because it’s like Shane and I wear so many hats in the show. We’re doing so many things and just wearing our producer hats to shepherd and write these episodes to get them through the pipeline. And so the voice of Cricket is just one of many hats, and so it’s been this kind of revelation of like this super power I now have where when I meet kids, I get to do the voice.

And what’s funny is they either have one of two reactions: They’re either amazed and really, really happy about it and it’s kind of weird, or it’s so weird for them that they can’t really comprehend why this adult man sounds like their favorite cartoon, a little country boy that they watch on TV and there’s like this weird disconnect. So I tell them to close their eyes or I’ll go behind a curtain or something and do the voice and then they’re like, “Oh yeah, now I hear it.” Yeah it’s either wildly entertaining or just melts their brain and it’s, yeah, too weird for them. But it’s great. It’s such a very cool part of this job.

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Image via Disney

How has the reaction been to the first season? What’s the momentum like going into the premiere of season two?

Chris Houghton: Great.

Shane Houghton: We’ve had a lot of fans reach out to us, which is always a real treat. We’ve actually had some physical letters sent to the studio, which is amazing.

Chris Houghton: I feel like the only people writing letters are little kids and grandmas, and it’s so crazy. We had little packages sent to us and fan art, tons of fan art.

Shane Houghton: We have a whole hallway in the studio that we’ve lined with a fan art, and you have to walk down it to go to the bathroom. So everybody walks down that hallway a few times a day, and it is inspiring and exciting to see all that fan art pour in, and it’s energizing for the crew. Everybody just gets pumped up by it. And so for season one, we established the core family, we got them moving into Big City and they’re discovering their surroundings.

We had a big moment that we were building up towards around two thirds of the way through season one, when the mom comes back. She was in jail and so now we’ve introduced a new family member to the core cast. And then now in season two, we’re kind of expanding that and we want to reintroduce Nancy, the mom, into the family and kind of rebuild their relationship with the mom, the kids. And then, we’re going to take them out into the world of Big City even more. And the world just gets a little crazier, a little bigger, a little more wild, and season two is going to be really fun. I’m so excited for the fans to see.

Is there anything you can tease about some of those new challenges?

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Image via Disney

Chris Houghton: Oh yeah, definitely. We’ve now written over a hundred episodes of Big City Greens, which is insane to think about. They’re not all out on TV yet of course, but as you write more and more episodes, I think it’s easy for things to get weirder in the world of the show. In season one, we spent a lot of time establishing the family, establishing the characters and the relationships and everything. And in season two, we’ve gotten to play a lot more and really kind of poke and prod our characters and put them in weirder situations and see how they react to this or that. So it’s been a lot of fun.

Shane Houghton: We’ve got Grandma posing as a swamp witch to try to scare away all of her neighbors. We have Remy getting brainwashed by a YouTube influencer. Gloria, the barista at the at Big Coffee right next door, gets stuck in an elevator with the Greens for a whole episode.

Chris Houghton: Cricket, accidentally, basically shaves his head and has to run and get the assistance of Jonathan Van Ness to fix his hairdo, which is weird worlds colliding. We’ve got so many cool guest stars coming up. We’ve got Cheri Oteri as playing this new kind of villainess character we have in the show named Gwendolyn Zapp and she’s kind of like a bizarre inventor from Silicon Valley, kind of Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, just kind of a little kooky, but with lots of money working in tech.

We have an episode that we have to animate a bunch of it in CG. It’s a video game episode, and so we get to see the greens rendered in a 3D animation. Cricket goes feral in one episode, which is really wild and fun. There are so many just really weird and interesting ideas. It is everything that season one was, but amped up. It’s funnier, it’s sweeter, it’s got it all. Yeah, and I’m, I’m not saying this to be like, “Ooh, this is a good sound bite”, but it is a good soundbite. I’m actually really surprised and very happy that we’ve been able to tell some of the stories and that Disney’s allowed us to go so crazy and weird and funny, if you’ve liked to see the one, you’re really going to like season two.

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Image via Disney

Oh and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our Christmas special. We have a half hour episode that takes place during the holidays and it is a musical. We have seven songs and everybody in the Green family sings and it is really insane, Christopher Lloyd guest stars. There’s some stop-motion animation in it.

Shane Houghton: We really pull out all the stops for the Christmas episode and it is going to be good.

So for that special, was that your first time singing? Were other people in the cast, were they excited to sing? Was it a little daunting?

Chris Houghton: Oh yeah. Well, both Shane and I are really big musical theater fans. We were in the drama department together in high school, and same with a lot of our cast. They were all, well obviously, they’re professional actors unlike us, who are just trying our best to pretend.

Shane Houghton: Surprisingly, most of the cast had some sort of musical background, which we did not know, but we were… we should’ve found that out before we decided to make a musical. It really worked out. So Chris, as Cricket, sings and Chris and I are both pretty musical and we grew up in bands and playing various instruments. Marieve Herington, who plays Tilly, worked as a jazz singer for years and she would travel around and do jazz gigs. So she has an incredible voice, which we just showcased in a short that just went out, “Broken Karaoke” where she sings…

Chris Houghton: She kind of raps.

Shane Houghton: A kind of rap kind of parody of the Disney Descendants’ song, “Queen of Mean.” She does a spin and does the Queen of Nice.

Chris Houghton: Bob Joles, the guy who plays Bill actually worked at Disney World in the band that like comes out and plays as a tuba player, so he’s got a musical background. He also did like some music copyist work, and probably Artemis [Pebdani], who voiced Grandma was the least musical, but she was great, and the Grandma bits are really fun.

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Image via Disney

I’m definitely looking forward to that, but I’m glad you mentioned Random Rings because I’m kind of curious how they came together. Where did that idea come from? And they’re so much fun to listen to, I’d imagine they’re a blast to make. So how did that all come together?

Chris Houghton: Yeah, they are. It’s a special project where it is literally as much fun to make those as they are to watch. Okay, one day I was trying to entertain myself and I decided, again, I have this new superpower of doing Cricket’s voice, and so I get calls from telemarketers and stuff and I always like to mess with them. And so, I started using Cricket’s voice and calling people and goofing off, and then I thought, “Hey, what if we actually did this in a legit and professional manner?” and made a little short. Seeing Cricket and Tilly, at first we were calling them prank calls, but we realized that they aren’t really pranks, it’s really just seeing Cricket and Tilly’s take on the world in different subjects. So we were able to work with Disney, and they really accommodating to figure out a way to make these little calls and we then edit them down and they just get weirder and more fun.

There’s a new Shorts department run by Gino Guzzardo, who is doing great, and Broken Karaoke is the other one where they sing. And Marieve, the voice of Tilly, when she was singing, she said that was the hardest record she’s ever had because it was so funny and weird that it was hard for her to sing straight and not just laugh throughout the whole thing.

I love how you guys have kind of leveraged all these different platforms to be able to get different pieces of the story out there and explore different angles of your characters. So Disney+. has that changed anything for your production process? Or is it just good to have another outlet for your show out there?

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Image via Disney

Chris Houghton: Yeah, well we definitely have some fun ideas in the pipeline, but yeah, we liked creating any type of content where our viewers can spend time with the characters. So we’re really excited to see what we can do within Disney+ and see what new ways we can tell stories and explore the Greens’ perspective on life and Big City.

Shane Houghton: We’re hoping Disney+ will be a way that maybe a new audience can discover the show. If people don’t have Disney Channel but they’ve maybe seen clips on YouTube, we have a lot of clips on YouTube that have kind of blown up and if for whatever reason they don’t have access to Disney Channel, Disney+ is just another way to discover the show. So yeah, we’re very curious to see what happens with that.

Chris Houghton: Yeah. Yeah, we are too. I think it’ll be really cool and fans have been asking for a long time and it’s going to be big.

In addition to Season 2 , Random Rings, and Broken Karaoke, what else is in the pipeline for you guys?

Shane Houghton: Yeah, so season two is going to be a total of 30 half hours, so that will be 60 eleven-minute episodes starting on November 16th, and then we’ll be airing in chunks of for the next foreseeable future. So that’s been the main chunk of our time. We’re still working on a lot more short form content as well, so there’s more Random Rings coming up. I think there’s 10 more?

Chris Houghton: Yeah, we’re doing a lot more Random Rings and even trying to switch up the format a little bit that I think viewers really like. And like Shane said, playing around with putting stuff on YouTube, it’s cool. It’s a different medium. We get immediate feedback, a lot of our fan base is on YouTube and it’s been a great way to introduce the show to new audiences, but then also give people who have been watching the show and they write in, “I’ve seen every episode five times”. Well then here’s a new thing that’s attached to Big City Greens, but it’s a little different. So we’ve got a lot more short form YouTube stuff coming and other projects that we can’t quite talk about.

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Image via Disney

It’s probably way too early to ask this question because it feels like the series is just gathering its own momentum and there’s still a lot of stories to tell, but do you both have an endgame in mind? Do you have a specific way that you would like to see the story either conclude eventually or transition into something else?

Chris Houghton: Yes, we do have an ending in mind for the series. It’s something that we’ve been working towards and that we want to tell at some point, but we’re not ready to do that just yet, but we are working towards something. So hopefully though, we’ll have plenty of chances to tell lots more stories before we get to that ending.

I want to say thank you so much for the season two premiere, which I absolutely adored. It may surprise you to learn that one of my favorite characters was the Kludge because I drive a Jeep that was made in the previous century and it’s still going, so it just does my heart good to see that the Kludge is still with them.

Chris Houghton: That’s great, that’s great. I feel like everyone’s got a Kludge in their life or, R.I.P., had a Kludge life at one point, so that’s great to hear. Take care of her.

Shane Houghton: Yeah.

Big City Greens returns to Disney channels on Saturday, November 16th at 9:30am.

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