Ben Bocquelet and Mic Graves are the minds behind the newest Cartoon Network hit, the format-bending The Amazing World of Gumball. Bocquelet is the creator of the series with Graves acting as the series director for the first show to come out of Cartoon Network’s European branch, and it was also the winner of one the Annie Awards’ Best Animated Production for Children over this past weekend—not bad for a show whose blend of 2D, 3D, and stop-motion elements and an unlikely mashup of talking animals, school humor, and strange creatures could easily be considered a gamble both technically and financially.
I spoke to Bocquelet and Graves on the eve of the awards about the show and its surprise success as we try to break down the alchemy that makes the show simply work so well.
MTV Geek: How did you guys feel when you initially heard about the nomination?
Ben Bocquelet: Really surprised. Shocked.
Geek: As the first Cartoon Network show out of Europe, what do you think it was that allowed you to sell the pitch to management in the U.S.?
Bocquelet: I’m not quite sure. We just did the show we wanted to see and the network seemed to be really for it. It was kind of a big bet because it’s a tricky show to produce and we think it’s important to make it happen.
Mic Graves: It was a big gamble because that kind of show had not been made.
Bocquelet: And [Cartoon Network] was really open to that. They have a history of pushing cartoons in a direction which aren’t necessarily traditional. And they were happy about the first idea of Gumball.
Geek: I read a previous interview where you talked about your experience in advertising informing the ideas and feel for the show. Are you still relying on that experience to define the series or has your point of reference changed somewhat?
Bocquelet: Uh, yeah, there’s definitely stuff that we decided we needed to push and some that we needed to work on. We just learned so much from the process—
Graves: The logistics are kind of different when you actually go into production. Like originally, we had Darwin as a 3D character. But then we made him 2D because the nature of making a series like that, it would have been almost impossible to have a major character be 3D.
Bocquelet: Because of the constant interaction because of the 2D and the 3D makes it very difficult.
But yeah, I think we’re finding it—keeping what works.
The Watterson family, center of The Amazing World of Gumball
Geek: Mic, how often does Ben ask you to try to get other complicated things like that into the show?
Graves: Every time. [laughs] Everything we show—I think there’s always a push to make something exciting in the show. We’ve done so many different things like a T-Rex chase. Each show is different in that respect and we want to push that, you know?
Geek: You’ve got some talented young actors on the show—have you thought about what you’ll do when the younger members of the cast’s voices start changing?
Graves: [laughs] We don’t want to start thinking about that!
Logan [Grove, who plays Gumball in the show] and Kwesi [Boakye, who plays Darwin] kind of less so. And I just think Logan and Kwesi are so brilliant, such great actors, so professional, and so pure and it would be impossible to replace them.
Bocquelet: There’s still young and in a way, I don’t think we’d try and find someone.
Graves: They are the characters now—
Bocquelet: And we can still make it work.
Series creator Ben Bocquelet (l) and series director Mic Graves (r)
Geek: Do you have any plans to try to age the show along with its audience?
Bocquelet: It’s something we’re not really thinking about right now. There’s many things we could try to keep it going.
Geek: Why do you think The Amazing World of Gumball fits in with the rest of the shows on the block in which it airs? What makes a Cartoon Network series uniquely something that should be on that channel?
Bocquelet: Well, definitely, a lot of passion goes into Cartoon Network shows. The people who create the cartoons make the shows they want to see or the cartoons when they were kids themselves. And all the good stuff comes from the extra hours that you put into it, quite frankly, and all of the ambition and the hard work.
It comes from that—the passion of the people who make it.
Geek: And are you thinking of doing some more things like your webisodes for the series to bring Gumball to new viewers or mess around with the format in the future?
Bocquelet: Well, we did the whole Internet promotional stuff and it was quite exciting and formed a kind of [secret] reward for the fans who want to see more of the fun stuff that isn’t part of the show that has been made by people that make the show. We like the idea of extending the Gumball universe into real life and almost pretending that the characters are real.
Geek: What are you guys watching? What do you enjoy in terms of animation from some of your peers and you think people should be checking out?
Graves: The Regular Show.
Bocquelet: Yeah, definitely. A lot of features that came out—I’m a big fan of Japanese animation, and I’m always a fan of whatever Studio 4? is doing or whatever Studio Ghibli is doing. We do watch Family Guy.
Geek: Well, I want to thank you for taking the time out to chat with me about the show and best of luck to you at the awards.
Bocquelet: Thank you very much!
Bocquelet: We’re going to need it. [laughs]
The Amazing World of Gumball airs Tuesdays at 7:30 PM EST, 6:30 CT on Cartoon Network.