I got the following fan-created item on May 13, 2000 at the Museum Of TV and Radio (now known as the Paley Center For Media) in Beverly Hills. A few folks (super fans of the show we were about to see) were handing them out to everybody as mementos from the event. I've taped it up in every office and cubicle I've ever inhabited, and now I post it for you...
For those of you who think that William McKinley High is the fictitious school from the television show "Glee" you're correct. But not for the purposes of this blog. McKinley is the name of the high school in "Glee," but their mascot is the Titans and their colors are red and black (as opposed to the green viking). If you think McKinley is the school from "The Wonder Years" then congratulations! You're also sort of right. Except my bumper sticker is actually from another show. This bumper sticker is a reference to the amazingly amazing television show, "Freaks and Geeks!" By the way, if you're wondering, "What's the deal with all the McKinleys?", you're not alone. According to Judd Apatow, William McKinley's name "was the only president's name that was legally clearable."
I've been friends with the fun folks at The Paley Center since 1997 when I drew pictures for kids at their International Children's Festival. Because of that, I've had the privilege of attending a number of sold out events, one of which was a special screening for the public (along with the cast and crew) of the final six unaired episodes featuring a live Q & A with both Paul Feig and Judd Apatow.
FUN FACT: The special screening was one of the only times they ever publicly showed the episode, "Noshing and Moshing" using the song "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" by Neil Young. For me, that song was used so well in the show, that when the episode finally made it to air in the summer, it was jolting (not to mention disappointing) when the Dean Martin's song, "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You," played instead of Neil Young. Unfortunately, they couldn't get the licensing rights to the song which is too bad because it made that particular scene really poignant and memorable.
By now, you're probably thinking, "So how does 'Freaks and Geeks' apply to Van's career in animation?" Or you're thinking, "I could go for some Cheez-It's right about now." Either way, I'll tell you (as you enjoy your mid-blog snack).
It was during Judd and Paul's panel, that I was inspired to pursue a career as a writer. I don't remember exactly what they said, but I remember how they made me feel (exactly like the Maya Angelou quote!). They made me want to write about my life experiences in a way that touched audiences the way they did for me. It wasn't that long before I started on the Christmas Special of Johnny Bravo and the subsequent fifth season. Not only did I write two Johnny Bravo holiday specials (my first full-on scripts), but I also ended up writing almost half the episodes of the 13 episode order. After that, I wrote several full length features (both animated and live-action) not to mention several other television scripts. And I haven't stopped since.
And because I was such a fan, I had to spread the gospel of F & G. Since I had all the episodes recorded on VHS tapes, I brought the uninitiated into the fold by having weekly screenings at Cartoon Network. On top of that, I was still casting and recording episodes during these marathon screenings so, of course, I had to get some of the actors from the show to do voices!
First off, was Samm Levine in the episode, "Back From The Future."
Back Row: Pete Oswald (Production Assistant now working character designer), Danny Strong (actor, Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Samm Levine (actor, Neal Schweiber), Jeff Bennett (actor, Johnny Bravo), Amanda Foreman (actor, Felicity), Craig Bartlett (creator, Hey Arnold!)
Front Row: Robert Serda (recording engineer), Collette Sunderman (VO Director), me, Dee Bradley Baker (actor, Perry The Platypus)
The next actor I got to work with was Biff Tanner himself, Tom Wilson!
Back Row: Jeff Bennett (actor, Johnny Bravo), Tom Wilson (actor, Coach Fredricks), Collette Sunderman (VO Director), Catherine Cavadini (actor, Blossom on Powerpuff Girls), Tara Strong (actor, Bubbles on Powerpuff Girls), Lea Salonga (actor, Miss Saigon), Lou Fagenson (composer)
Front Row: Pete Oswald (Character Designer), me, Diana Ritchey (Line Producer)
Both actors were a joy to work with and it was fun "Freaks And Geeks" bonding with them. It was Tom that told me that they did some commentaries playing their actual characters for the upcoming DVD release. If you haven't heard it yet, it's pretty awesome.
Finally, as a treat, before I end this post, I thought I'd elaborate on my number 3 "cool thing" and share a few of the items that went up on Ebay after the show was cancelled. I didn't have the money to buy them, but I'm positive that these items were bought by true fans who gave them a good home.
So, to reiterate, I don't have any of the actual items, but I downloaded the low-res facsimiles of them from Ebay back in 2000. Now, without further adieu, I give you...
3.1. THE LEISURE SUIT
Does it look familiar? Maybe if you saw it in context...
BILL: I heard my mom say to her girlfriend, "Any guy with feathered hair is foxy."
3.2 CINDY SANDER'S CHEERLEADER OUTFIT
BILL: Sam, don't worry. It's just a game. I mean, I'm good at Mouse Trap, and you're really good at Kerplunk.
SAM: No. No no no, it's not that. It's just this thing with Cindy. She's kind of, she's kind of boring.
SAM: It's weird hanging out with her friends. And, I mean, all she ever wants to do is make out and stuff.
NEAL: I'd kill to be that bored.
3.3 SHIA LABEOUF'S VIKING MASCOT COSTUME
If you were the one that bought this item on Ebay, please write in and let me know. I'm just curious because I wouldn't even begin to know what to do with it.
3.4 TWO PICS FROM THE FAMILY ROOM
In the words of Neal Schweiber, "Friday night - always a good night for some Sabbath." So until next time, shine on you crazy diamonds!