This past week, Steve Kaplan and I toured part of Disney TVA/Yahoo. And what they hey is Disney TVA/Yahoo? It's part of Television Animation that is not headquartered n Glendale but located near the Burbank-Bob Hope Airport. One of the shows there is getting rolled out this weekend:
This weekend marks the official debut of Disney's latest animated comedy adventure series Penn Zero Part Time Hero - about a regular boy who inherits the not-so-regular job of dimension-hopping part-time hero. ...
The things you need to know about Disney TVA is, it long ago stopped being under Disney Feature's wing and now exists inside the protective aura of Disney Channel.
And no Disney animated series gets on cable these days until it's been focus-grouped, animaticked and tested to a fare-thee-well. The Channel hierarchy wants to be sure the show (whatever it is) will succeed with its targeted demographic.
So any new candidate will have been analyzed, massaged, and massaged again before it flies with its (hoped-for) audience. The Channel wants winners that will roll beyond a Season One order, that will last through three or four cycles and become and "evergreen" that makes money for Diz Co. over the long haul.
Testing, coupled with generous prep time, is the way Disney Channel has worked on product for a long time. Sofia the First, in work for a year, started life as a special that scored big numbers with the moppet set. The 7D, now launched on its second season, had a long gestation period with lots of testing (and producer Tom Ruegger told me how challenging ... and nerve-wracking ... that was.)
Sam Levine, Penn Zero's co-creator (along with Jared Bush) described some of the development twists and turns taken by their series:
Originally the show was one story per 22-minute episode, and it was changed to two 11-minute stories. It doubled our design load and the amount of work we had to do. But it ended up becoming double the fun. Our directors have to think about each story as a separate genre, our composer Ryan Shore has to create music for each world. First it’s a Zombie world, now it’s a Clown world, then it’s a Western. ...
Whenever you see a Diz TVA series roll off the development pipeline, it's worth knowing that the route it takes to get out to the wider world is long and involved.