‘Craig of the Creek’ Creators on the Inspiration for Cartoon Network’s Adventurous New Series

     March 30, 2018

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Emmy-nominated co-creators Matt Burnett and Ben Levin are bringing Cartoon Network’s new comedy adventure series, Craig of the Creek, to audiences everywhere today. Based on their original short featured in Cartoon Network Studios’ award-winning Artist Program, Craig of the Creek follows best friends Craig, JP and Kelsey as they explore their neighborhood creek, a boundless, kid-run world full of colorful characters that fosters new imaginative adventures every day. I’m happy to say that the new series absolutely captures the nostalgic experience of playing outside with your friends and is an imaginative show that will transport you back to your favorite childhood watering hole. Don’t miss it!

I had a chance to chat with Burnett and Levin, who earned their three Emmy nominations as head writers on the critically acclaimed Steven Universe before shifting gears to showrun this new series. The duo has been writing and animating together for more than a decade and teamed up while living in New York City to found the independent animation studio, For Tax Reasons. With Craig of the Creek, Burnett and Levin have an absolute hit-in-the-making that I hope resonates as much with viewers of all ages as it did with me; it’s a series that deserves a long run to see just what Craig and his pals get up to over the course of their childhood. Time will tell if Craig of the Creek finds its audience, but for now, see what inspired the creators to bring it to life:

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Image via Cartoon Network

Since Craig of the Creek is a brand-new show, how would you describe it to potential viewers in just one sentence?

Craig of the Creek is about three best friends, Craig, Kelsey and JP, who spend their afternoons in the suburban wilderness known as the Creek, a patch of woods where kids can play and explore a world of their own!

How did the idea for Craig of the Creek come about, and how did the two of you end up co-creating it?

We have been working together for over 10 years, and our first project was a web series called “Ronin Dojo Community College DX.”  It was about three teenaged LARPers who were looking to escape their mundane world by dressing up in cardboard armor and carrying around foam swords, and bonding over anime references.  Which is similar to how we bonded.

One of the other things we have always bonded over are our memories of being kids on the East Coast (Ben in Maryland, Matt in South Jersey).  We each grew up near a patch of woods that seemed like an endless, unexplored wilderness where we could go to escape from the rest of the world, but, in reality, were not exactly endless.  You can actually stand on one side of Ben’s version of the Creek and see the street on the other side of it.

When we had a chance to pitch a show to Cartoon Network, we realized our old stomping grounds would be perfect for a younger, more idealistic version of the Ronin Dojo characters – the Creek would be a place for all kinds of kids to be free to celebrate who they are.  Craig, Kelsey and JP evolved from there, created to inspire kids to adventure out and find a place in the world to make their own.

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Image via Cartoon Network

What are your own personal favorite childhood “creek memories” that you want to work into the show? 

Matt: I remember when we figured out how to get from a friend’s house on the other side of the neighborhood to my house through my local woods.  It was like discovering the Earth was round – we had unlocked a whole new method of traveling the neighborhood. We were so proud that we had found this shortcut between our houses that, when you consider we had to walk instead of riding our bikes, probably took 20 minutes longer than just sticking to the streets.

Ben: One that always sticks out is one of my expeditions into the sewers – which inspired the story in the pilot. I remember waddling into a storm drain with my friends, single file, with our feet on either side of the tunnel so we didn’t get our shoes wet.  I was in the back of the line when someone in the front shouted that they saw a raccoon.  Everyone about-faced and suddenly I was in the front, with everyone screaming for me to run.  We made it out, and it became clear that there was no raccoon.  But we all agreed the danger was real.

In the few episodes I got to see, I spotted references to some childhood classics. How much of this story is based in recognizable nostalgia versus giving Craig and his pals their own original mythology to play in?

We definitely pull from our own childhood as inspiration for the show, but we try to let that nostalgia only serve as jumping off point to create something new and weird.  Being a kid is something everyone has to go through – we want to tap into those universal feelings and stories, and elevate them through the animated world of the Creek into epic tales of kids building their own mythology.

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