In this Funkhouser installment, I rummage through a hodgepodge of television shows and films, some of which are so obscure, you might be discovering them for the first time, others, simply forgotten about, several possibly mothballed and finally a few that just vanished into the ether altogether. This is Lost and Found: Episode 6.
Pickle and Peanut may seem like an odd pairing, but it’s the result of combining two uniquely creative individuals, illustrator turned animator, writer Noah Z. Jones and art director Joel Trussell. Jones is best known for his other animated shows: Fish Hooks, which won a BAFTA award in 2011, Almost Naked Animals, and The 7D. While Trussell, an artist and director in his own right, gained notoriety for his award-winning music videos, the animated series Electric City, starring actor Tom Hanks, Mike Judge’s (Beavis and Butthead) aptly-titled series, The Animation Show, as well as his quirky animated shorts from the engrossingly-trippy series Yo Gabba Gabba which remains one of my favorite television programs of all-time.
With the exception of Animals, all of Jones’ creations have aired on Disney XD–a television channel targeting a youthful, generally male audience, but more specifically the budding tween to angsty teen demographic. Although the channel has been known to draw in older viewers too, like parental-types of course, but also some diehard UK fans from time to time. Admit it, you know you flipped your wig, when you heard former Wildcat, and current NBA star John Wall would be making an appearance on the show Kirby Buckets in February, if you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the clip.
It’s not surprising that the aesthetics and vibe of Pickle and Peanut are clearly drawing stylistic influences directly from its creators past work. The show which premiered in 2015 is entertaining, but it isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but it carved out its own space. In the past decade, the animated genre has exploded, with shows finding their respective niche and a an avid following including: Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Robot Chicken, Rick and Morty, Gravity Falls, Regular Show, Adventure Time, and Amazing World of Gumball, while at the same time being labeled as “weird” or “off-beat” by some. That label can be off-putting to anyone, i.e. older audiences, out-of-touch with their inner child, or those who prefer more traditional or computer generated animated shows with structured–beginning, middle, and end–storylines, etc. Regardless these newer shows, including PnP, are unconventional in many ways, not only because of the quirky, fidgety and excessively-impulsive narratives and irreverent humor, but also visually, where animators explore new and creative avenues, incorporating a variety of mixed media, blending photoshop, collage, live-action, even puppetry together, overtop traditional hand-drawn backgrounds. In addition to this, the main characters are solidly constructed and brought to life with some recognizable voices.
Pickle, is an impetuous, emotionally forthright naive teenager and the heart of the wanna be cool buddy duo. He oftentimes lives up to his namesake, getting himself and his best bud in some tight situations. He’s voiced by actor Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite fame. Despite being a legume, Peanut isn’t crazy, he’s cool as a cucumber, carefree but cautious, and generally more optimistic than his big green friend. His voice comes courtesy of Johnny Pemberton, a stand-up comedian, best remembered from 21 Jump Street, Ant-Man and the animated/live action show Son of Zorn.
So it’s easy to see why Pickle and Peanut draws the likes of cartoonaphiles as well as twenty-something college students, boomerang grads, basement dwellers, hipsters, lawyers, dope-fiends, and awesomely cool, 40 year-old blogger dads. That’s not to say that every show is successful in capturing the hearts and minds, as well of the attention span of its intended audience. Look no further than utterly terrible, migraine-inducing shows such as: Uncle Grandpa, Stephen Universe, Breadwinners, and Clarence as examples. Interestingly enough though, many people would add Pickle and Peanut to that list.
So what’s the dill–get it–with Pickle and Peanut, because critics are really salty–gotcha again–about the series? In fact IMDb user reviews give the show a 4.2 out of 10 stars with some calling it “ocular vomit” and “trash wanna be”. If that wasn’t bad enough, there was even a petition on change.org demanding it be cancelled with supporters citing the series as “the stupidest show ever made”, “totally immature”, and even going so far to say “its creators need to be fired and blacklisted!” Whoa, take it easy. It’s just a cartoon. I understand why many are quick to dismiss the show. At times it’s all over the place, with its zany antics, poop humor, montage parodies, meme type screenshot stills, and voice-overs which emphasize or repeat words or phrases–all things which might appeal to pre-adolescent sensibilities or maybe even our contemporary Dadaist culture at large. The most common complaint hurled at the show outside of content, is its domain. Many critics don’t feel it belongs on Disney XD–as if the Disney brand is too good to be sullied with such lo-fi, crude programming, saying it belongs instead on Cartoon Network. In the end, critics may get their wish granted, because the show’s second season is currently in limbo.
While it seems so many are quick to sour on Pickle and Peanut, my kids and I actually relish in the animated series, because it’s full of piss and vinegar, finding the show absolutely hysterical at times, and in some really subtle ways. And no, I’m not gherkin your chain!