This week, the Nickelodeon series adds a new character with the magical talking dog Sparky (voiced by "T.U.F.F. Puppy" and "South Park" actor Matt Taylor). Series creator Butch Hartman wanted to introduce us to his dog magic-practicing new addition to the cast of "The Fairly OddParents," holds forth on the character's mysterious, dark past, and how he hopes to bring the show one step closer to "The Simpsons" with the March 23 episode.
Sparky is introduced in this week's episode, “Fairly Odd Pet,” when world's worst pet owner Timmy--he's banned from all of the local pet stores--jealous that everyone else in town has a pet but him, wishes up a herd of cats, subsequently having to adopt a dog to chase away the felines.
Previous attempts to introduce magical critters to the series have backfired in the past for series hero Timmy, who would typically have his magical guardians conjure up some kind of animal that would simply wreak havoc throughout the episode before having to be disappeared (along with all of his other ill-fated, impulsive wishes). "The main thing with 'The Fairly OddParents' is that with magic, you can have anything," Hartman muses about the theme of the series, "but once you have that, what's the drawback? What's the problem? It's like Superman, almost--you have to give him a Kryptonite." Hartman says for his series, that Kryptonite is that fact that it's possessed by dumb people whose magical endeavors tend to spin wildly out of control.
"I love adding new characters to 'The Fairly OddParents' because it really expands the show," Hartman tells me, saying that when he initially created the Nickelodeon series, his dream was for it to grow into something like "The Simpsons" where the plots could encompass an ever-growing cast of secondary characters. "Now Sparky's great because kids love animals, Timmy Turner loves animals, I obviously love animals and we don't have magical animals on the show."
Like "The Simpsons," the focus of the series has changed gradually from one main character (Timmy) to one of the peripheral characters, Cosmo and Timmy's dad Mr. Turner (both voice actor Daran Norris). Hartman laughs when he says that both characters form a trio of idiocy with Carlos Alazraqui's Mr. Crocker, giving the series its heart of lunatic, dim-witted comedy. "Even though we have a show about magic, anyone can do anything we need them to--like Timmy's dad can pull out a pistol," Hartman says about the show's surreal sense of humor. The more clueless the character, Hartman tells me, the more comedy that can come from it.
Hartman says not to expect world-changing magic in line with the chaotic wishmastering of Cosmo and Wanda; instead, Sparky will possess "dog magic," allowing him to conjure up bones, fire hydrants, and the like. Some of his misadventures include afflicting Timmy's hometown with magical fleas and wishing himself into a real boy (out of jealousy that kids seem to get all of the attention). "He doesn't really add much magic-wise, but he does add a lot character-wise." The character is modeled after Rick Moranis' Louis Tully character in "Ghostbusters," a hangdog (no pun intended), hard-luck type who means well but is kind of a doofus (voice actor Matt Taylor even drew inspiration from Moranis for his performance).
"We also wanted to give him something of a shady past," Hartman says, "No matter where we go or what we do, Sparky's either been there or done that or knows a guy who's done it," Hartman joking about a line from an upcoming episode hinting that if you needed to make a quick move to Mexico, Sparky could hook you up.
You can meet Sparky when "Fairly Odd Pet" premieres Saturday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m. (ET/PT) on Nickelodeon!