A Q&A with We Bare Bears Creator Daniel Chong
By Elise DeVoe
We Bare Bears is the latest original animated series from Cartoon Network Studios – the shorts development program behind Cartoon Network hits such as Steven Universe, Uncle Grandpa and the Emmy-winning Regular Show (not to mention the Over The Garden Wall miniseries).
In advance of We Bare Bears' series premiere July 27, we asked creator Daniel Chong a few questions about his new series, including what it's like developing a series from a short and what to expect from the new comedy.
Watch Chong and voice stars Eric Edelstein, Bobby Moynihan and Demetri Martin introduce the series in the video below, and then scroll down to read our Q&A.
TW Blog: Tell us about your new series We Bare Bears. Where did the idea for a tech-savvy trio of Bear brothers come from?
Daniel Chong: Sure! The show is about three Bear brothers (Grizzly, Panda, and Ice Bear) trying to integrate into human society. They live in the forest and trek over to the city to mingle. People don’t freak out at the sight of them, but don’t really enjoy their presence either. The show takes place in the Bay Area, and it felt appropriate that they would be heavily involved in tech culture. It was also a way to isolate them more from the world, as technology can sometimes do, which would be another obstacle for them.
The We Bare Bears series was developed from a short. What was that process like?
It was really smooth, especially considering I did all of it while living in the Bay Area. I liken the experience very much to when I made short films in college on my own. I came down occasionally for certain landmarks, but I mostly developed on my own, and corresponded with the executive team through emails.
Talk about your experience working with the Cartoon Network Studios Global Artists Program.
The studio was nothing but supportive and on board with the tone and sense of humor from the beginning. They gave great notes and feedback through the process, and trusted me to implement and interpret their thoughts through my storyboarding. Their understanding that ideas can change in every step, and being flexible to that filmmaking aspect was key. The network is the most comfortable with “board driven” shows, meaning the storyboard artist resolves a lot of information and dialog, so they don’t mind waiting for that step to see what happens. As a storyboard artist myself, that was very liberating, and didn’t slow down the creative process.
What can kids (and their parents) expect from the new series?
Hopefully something they’ve never seen before! Our visual style is simple and a bit of a throwback, but we focus on strong characters and storytelling – a sensibility instilled in me at my time working at PIXAR. We never set out to make a show for just kids, but a show that all ages will love and appreciate. The combination of cute/simple designs with more complex and modern stories will help relate to anyone who’s willing to check the show out. We also have episodes where we see the Bears as little babies struggling to find a home – and if that can’t win you over, we can’t help you.
What do you like to watch? What are your influences?
We watched a lot of Seinfeld, Broad City, Peanuts animation, and Aardman shorts as reference – which are all things I love. I’m a huge Wes Anderson, PT Anderson, and the French New Wave fan. I read a lot of comic strips growing up, like Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield. I adore AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.
I also watch a lot of basketball, so expect to see the Bears playing pick up once and a while. Note: They aren’t very good.
We Bare Bears premieres July 27 at 6:30/5:30C on Cartoon Network.