There are a ton of podcasts out there, but finding the right one can be difficult. In our column Pod Hunters, we cover what we’ve been listening to that we can’t stop thinking about.
Earlier this summer, HowStuffWorks released a fantastic podcast miniseries called Drawn: The Story of Animation, which takes a close look at the history of cartoons, and how we went from the classic Warner Bros. stable of characters to the latest hits like Rick and Morty. It’s a well-researched, engaging podcast to binge on, even if you’re just a casual fan of cartoons.
Over the course of 11 episodes, host Holly Frey takes listeners through a wide range of elements that make up a finished cartoon, and collectively, tell a broader story about how your favorite animated show comes to life. There are episodes on the roots of animation and the creation of classic characters like Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse, the relationship between cartoons and merchandise, the world of voice actors work, and quite a bit more.
Along the way, she interviews a ton of familiar voices — Seth Green, Rebecca Sugar, Billy West, Tara Strong, and many others — who bring in their insights and views of the production of the cartoons for which they’re best known. Listening to the entire show, it’s an enlightening series, one that helps shed some light on some of my favorite cartoons, and the industry as a whole.
Drawn came out of a desire to explore the podcasting world, Erik Resnick, Cartoon Network’s senior vice president for business development, told The Verge. “There’s been an increased emphasis on, how do we get to our fans?” he explained, noting that they’ve successfully launched some dedicated podcasts for shows like Steven Universe in recent years. Drawn specifically arose when representatives from both Cartoon Network and HowStuffWorks met at a podcast up-fronts conference, and realized that they’d each been wanting to work with the other: Cartoon Network was looking for a polished producer, while the people at HowStuffWorks had always wanted to do something with or about Cartoon Network. Resnick explained that after the meeting, they sat down and brainstormed some ideas, ultimately settling on a broad look at the story behind animation that would appeal to a wide audience of kids and adults.
The partnership between HowStuffWorks and Cartoon Network was also useful when it came to conducting research. Resnick notes that they were able to draw on the company’s archives and interviews for the podcast.
Frey, a longtime cartoon aficionado, and co-host of the podcast Stuff You Missed In History Class, tells The Verge that she jumped at the chance when asked if she’d be interested in hosting. She was more than a casual animation fan: she says that she and her husband were married in a movie theater known for hosting an animation festival, and she worked at Cartoon Network for three years and later worked on the network’s MMORPG, FusionFall.
Once Frey had signed on, she put together a massive spreadsheet, and laid out a list of ideas. She didn’t want to go show by show or person by person, because “that would be a bit limiting.” She instead wanted to “get to the broader scope of what people inside the industry think about a variety of different things.” That list became the topics that she covers in the show, including voice acting, women in animation, sound effects, and music.
From there, they began reaching out to people in the industry. Some interviewees were selected for their expertise on a particular topic, “but I always wanted to leave enough of an opening that we could get surprises and end up with people that maybe we hadn’t thought of for a particular topic on that show,” Frey says. “For example, talking with Jackson Publick [the pseudonym for Venture Bros. co-creator Christopher McCulloch], I did not anticipate that he’d have a great story about looking to Bugs Bunny as a hopeful thing in the wake of 9/11.” In all, Frey and her producers ended up with nearly a thousand pages of interview transcripts, out of which they whittled what would become an 11-episode run, including a bonus episode afterward with some additional interview segments.
Frey says that, for her, one of the biggest takeaways from the podcast was the sense of “just how much community there is within the animation industry, and how there is this sort of kinship” among everyone involved, noting how positive everyone she interviewed was about each other’s work and about the industry as a whole. “It really did start to feel like the most magical industry anyone could ever want to be in.” That said, she notes that one of the series’ main challenges was to strike the right balance between appreciation and shining light on the industry’s issues, like women’s fight for representation and recognition throughout the animation industry’s history.
Sadly, Frey says that the 11-episode run was a one-and-done for Drawn; there’s no plans “for the foreseeable future” for further seasons. That single season, however, is one loaded with information, and it’s well worth giving it more than one listen to take it all in.