Thursday, September 01, 2022

'Big Nate' Exec Producers Dish on the Glowing Reception, Nickelodeon & Season 2

Big Nate's Executive Producers Mitch Watson and John Cohen delve into Season 2 and the biggest surprises of the show, coming soon to Nickelodeon.

Big Nate debuted earlier this year on the Paramount+ streaming service. For years, an adaptation of Lincoln Peirce's beloved series of the same name had been in the works, with various producers taking shots at the concept that never came to fruition. The latest attempt didn't just succeed in producing the story but did so with gusto -- quickly becoming a hit for the streaming service. Focusing on the titular Nate and his friends as they attend sixth grade at P.S. 38, the series plays with a unique form of animation, giving its CGI models a stop-motion quality that adds dimension to the filming, all while mixing in plenty of medium-busting gags and tricks.

Coupled with the tight writing and consistently hilarious voice acting, Big Nate has been a big enough success to be renewed for a second season -- and is making the leap to Nickelodeon proper, where it'll debut over Labor Day weekend. During an interview with CBR ahead of Big Nate debuting on Nickelodeon on Sept. 5, Executive Producers Mitch Watson and John Cohen delved into their favorite surprises throughout Season 1 and the overwhelmingly positive reception the series has gotten across the globe. The pair also looked ahead to the upcoming Season 2.

CBR: First off, congrats on the new episodes and the recent announcement of Season 2!

Mitch Watson: Yeah, thank you very much. Yeah, it was great... The response is so positive. It's been overwhelming. I mean, we've been really bowled over by it. Last time we talked to you, I don't know if the show had aired yet, and we didn't know how it was gonna be received. It was received, I think, better than we even expected. So we're really happy with it, and Nick's really happy, and Paramount+ is super happy with it, too. So we got more!

Now that there's been some distance between the start of this process and seeing how the audiences have been embracing the series, what's been the biggest surprise from your perspectives?

John Cohen: You know, it's been amazing. Like Mitch was saying, the reactions we've heard have been incredible. They've been from around the world, which has been super exciting as it's unrolled -- not just in the US, but everywhere over the last few months. It's been such an enormous success. We're not allowed to share the specifics yet, but it's been a huge, huge hit for Paramount+ and classic Nickelodeon. We're thrilled. We get a lot of feedback from people, whether it's people that are reaching out on social media or people that we talk to or run into in our daily lives, and you just hear who their favorite characters are [and] what elements of the show they love the most. It's always exciting to hear.

Watson: I'm always surprised by some of the little elements that people pick up on... One of the big comments we've gotten is a lot about the music that we've been using in the show. We use a lot of era-specific needle drops on the show, which we love doing it, but you never know how people are gonna react. That has been really great. The fact that people really took to the style of animation that we were using, shooting the thing to make it look like stop-motion, as opposed to the super fluid stuff. Then additionally, the sort of cut-and-paste stuff that we've been doing, the Terry Gilliam kind of stuff.

These... were all our attempts to try to push the envelope and do something different, and you never quite know if it's going to work or not, and even if it does work, how people are going to receive it. What's been great is that people, they sort of tapped into exactly what we were trying to do with all of that. John and I talked about it in the first time we met with you -- we wanted to evoke a sort of sense of nostalgia with the show, and somehow it worked.

The other nice thing that I will say, beyond the reception to the characters, [the positive reception] especially to Dee Dee's storyline and where that storyline ends up going -- and it goes to even more interesting places as we continue on in the series... The big worry was that Nate would be regarded as a jerk, that he would come off as an unlikable character. That's been just the opposite. I think people really have been able to... They don't see him as the jerk. They see the insecurities, which is what we'd hoped.

We put a lot of care and detail into the sets and the visual look of the world -- the kind of run-down [nature of the school], how we're sort of talking about what's been going on with public schools and stuff like that, how they've been defunded and everything. It was something we wanted to do. We didn't know people would also ultimately pick up on it, and they all picked up on it. I mean, that's been the nicest thing. We've gotten comments and feedback of like, "Thank you for somebody finally pointing out in a kid's cartoon what we're doing to the public school system." So that's been very gratifying for me.

The series has been employing a very unique animation style that allows it to be CGI but also have a weight to it that other projects in this form can lack. Last time we spoke, you mentioned how it's almost a stop-motion vibe. How do you approach physical beats in this form?

Watson: I mean, we tend to really try to make it -- oddly enough, and as weird as this is going to sound -- as realistic as possible within the parameters of what you can do on the show for kids... We tend to actually try to go as far as we can to make it not realistic because none of it's really realistic, but to make it look like, "Okay, if we're going to do something scary, let's try to be scary, and let's make it as painful-looking as we possibly can in terms of how we animate it." We do a lot of fiddling around with speeding up the timing and slowing down the timing.

It's something that I learned, probably, watching Monty Python when I was a kid. If you watch Time Bandits, which is always my favorite, when there are some punches that they throw, you can see they pull frames between when the punch started and when it landed, and we do a lot of that. We pull frames, we speed certain things up, we slow certain things down -- anything we can do to sort of make it look more [like] it's weird because, to me, it looks more graphic here...

Coming into this next batch of episodes and then Season 2, which characters are you most excited for audiences to see more of?

Watson: There's a particular character -- I don't know how much we're allowed to say, but there is a particular character that's going to be coming up soon that we're super excited about for a lot of different reasons. I think the character adds a lot to the show. It's also a character you wouldn't normally see in these kinds of television shows. So there's that... The further we get to go into the series -- we were focused primarily in these first episodes on Nate, but as we go farther, we have episodes that are more about Francis and more about Teddy and more about Dee Dee, so that's a lot of fun.

We also get to go into Martin, Nate's dad. We get to know more about his family as well... We also get to meet the families of our various kids, which I don't even know has been explored that much in the books. The great part about getting to do a second season is that a lot of stories that we weren't able to do the first season -- we were sort of setting things up still, and the studio really wanted us to [focus]. It's primarily about the four kids, but now we're able, we can open the world up even more.

Cohen: For me, the character that I am most excited for people to see where they're headed is Dee Dee. She is such a fantastic character. She is so wonderfully performed and wonderfully written, and these characters are so fleshed out, and as we've now seen... So many of the episodes of season two -- which are in animation at the moment and won't be released for a while now -- the characters are just getting deeper and more rich and so beautifully brought to life. That's been a lot of fun to get to experience from our side of things, and we're so excited for the audience to be able to see these.

We're super excited about the fact that the show is premiering on Nickelodeon on September 5 -- the fact that it's launching on Labor Day, which is great. Then it's going to be running every week on Fridays at 7:30. It's just a whole new audience that is being opened up, beyond these subscribers of Paramount+, and so we're just excited for all the new reactions that we're going to get. The thing that has been so much fun that we talked about a little in the beginning is seeing all the user-generated content.

The stuff on YouTube, the stuff and the fan art on social media -- it's amazing to see how people have not only embraced these characters, but they've adopted them, and they've started to create for them. They've started to use all of the very cool animation style that we have in this show, and they've expanded on it, and they've recorded, and they've done so many amazing things with it. That's been a thrill. It's just been a real joy and a privilege to get to experience. So we're happy.

Big Nate is now streaming on Paramount+ and will debut on Nickelodeon on Sept. 5. Try Paramount+ for FREE at

Follow NickALive! on Twitter, RedditInstagramFacebookGoogle NewsTumblrvia RSS and more for the latest Nickelodeon and Big Nate News and Highlights!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have your say by leaving a comment below! NickALive! welcomes friendly and respectful comments. Please familiarize with the blog's Comment Policy before commenting. All new comments are moderated and won't appear straight away.