Most of us grew up watching cartoons, but there came a point in life when we eased ourselves out of the habit and moved to grownup things like dramas, trashy (yet entertaining reality shows), and fascinating documentaries. Recently, there has been a shift back to cartoons as the new shows took on a more adult approach wrapped in the colorful world of animation. One of the shows that I’m excited to catch is Cartoon Network’s Apple & Onion, which tells the adventures of, well, Apple and Onion, two characters who move into the big city. The show is created by George Gendi, who also worked on The Amazing World of Gumball and Sanjay and Craig. I got to chat with Gendi, who shared with me how the show got started, the development process, and deeper meanings. I also got to talk to Apple here.
Where did the idea for the show come from?
The story of Apple & Onion came from a story that my older brother had written about an apple who leaves his tree and the countryside to follow his dream and eventually become a tree in the big city, essentially bringing life to the city. I decided to make this into a pitch for a cartoon and gave Apple a friend named Onion who’s a spring onion and the reason for doing so is because Apple is short and round and Onion is tall and thin, one is red and one is green, they complemented each other well. I also decided that if Apple& Onion are food then all the other characters should be food as well.
What is the difference between the series and the original short?
The first difference is the visual style, we redesigned the characters to make them cuter and the backgrounds have also been redesigned so the overall look is different. The second difference is the natural difference between pilot and production, you have more time to develop the show and it organically changes. It’s more light-hearted and appeals more to children.
What can you tell us about the two main characters’ personalities?
Apple and Onion are like the human brain, Apple is the right hemisphere of the human brain and Onion is the left hemisphere of the human brain.
Apple is creative, impulsive, instinctive, happy-go-lucky. He’s very enthusiastic, he doesn’t have a filter and is sometimes a little too enthusiastic for his own good, but he wants the best for his friend and the people around him, he’s just naturally that way.
Onion shares many of the qualities of Apple in that he wants good for himself and his friends in the world around him but he’s more introverted. He’s a bit more self-conscious and not as ready to jump into things as much as Apple is. He’s more analytical, logical and plays on he safer side but his sense of humour is absurd.
Together they make a perfect team because you’ve got one really outgoing character who loves to do everything and then you’ve got the other slightly introverted character who loves the absurdity of the other character and together they have fun adventures.
What is Apple and Onion’s relationship like?
Apple and Onion are best friends. Apple is more of the natural leader but sometimes it would make more sense if Onion was the leader but they’re both happy the way it is. They complement each other in a good way, Apple has the extroverted, creative way of approaching the world and Onion has more of an analytical, logical way. Together they are like the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Why is the backdrop a city?
The backdrop is a city because that was the initial setting in the original story that my brother had written. It is also because the show is a ‘fish out of water’ story, Apple and Onion are naive and their out of water would be the big city.
Why are all the characters food?
It wasn’t initially to do with food, it was just an apple because that was the way the original story was written by my brother but when I came to invent all the other characters it made sense that they were food and when I started to create other characters like Hot Dog and burger, it made sense for these other characters to be, not necessarily junk foods, but processed or manufactured to represent more sophisticated, city-dwelling characters, because Apple and Onion are natural and organic which is representing that they are pure and innocent.
In the series, Apple and Onion meet characters who are completely different from themselves? Why is that? Is there a message behind this?
As the protagonist of your own world, everyone you are going to meet is different from you. Apple and Onion have been made to be the different protagonists to the whole world so it’s important to see how they interact with people who are different from them. By having them interact with people who are completely different we show that there is a humanity which is
shared amongst everyone, every single human, no matter how different they are. It’s important for us to be aware of this if we are to succeed and do as well as a species as we can.
Do you have anything in common with Apple and Onion?
I have a lot in common with Apple, who I am also the voice for. He is a version of me without the filter and self-awareness or consciousness and with more of an unbridled enthusiasm. Through him, I get to be the version of myself that society stops me from being, in a sense. He gets to be enthusiastic without worrying about the consequences and that’s what is funny about him.
How do you come up with the ideas for the episodes?
We start by thinking what would be a funny goal that Apple and Onion would want, for example, if they want to go on a trampoline or a hot air balloon ride and then we think about the problem that’s going to get in the way of this. Once you’ve got the problem then you can think about the ways in which they can overcome this problem, and at the same time lots of
ways which they can fail at solving the problem. Finally, we will imagine one last attempt, something that they do differently to try and achieve their goal and then we’ll have them either achieving their goal or something greater.
How long did the development process take?
Seven years. I originally pitched the show in 2011 and we developed the show with Cartoon Network EMEA during which we made a five-and-a-half minute short and an eleven-minute animatic.
In 2013, we started producing a pilot with Cartoon Network Studios which was released on YouTube in 2016 and we then started entering the pilot into festivals and it was picked up by Cartoon Network for series shortly after. In 2017 we began production for the show and the series premiered in 2018.
Are there any messages or deeper meanings in the show?
A lot the show is to do with sacrificing what your goal is for a greater goal. In a few of the episodes, you will see that Apple and Onion are after a certain thing and when they reach the point where they can finally get that thing they find that there’s a greater thing that they can achieve.
I’m not necessarily trying to put a message in every episode that I write but sometimes there is a message and other times the message will be in the way the characters act. The way I would like the characters to act is a way in which I would be proud to act myself if I was them. So in a sense, when there isn’t an obvious message you still get the representation of a way to be which I think is a good message to children.
Are there autobiographical elements to the show?
One autobiographical feature is that Apple has decided to do the same thing that his parents did, which is to leave their home and go to a new place and see what life has in store for them. This is the same as myself. My father left Egypt to move to England taking an opportunity through an open door and then I moved to Los Angeles to make Apple & Onion, which is the same as what my father did. When I came to write the backstory for Apple, I wrote the same backstory as myself.
Do you prefer to write or to draw?
Currently, the thing I am doing the most is writing because it’s really important to me that what is at the core of the animation is solid. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how good the drawing is, the animation is or how pretty it looks. If it just looks pretty and there’s nothing underneath it then it doesn’t make a difference. The writing is not the most important part but it has to be right for everything else to work. I do love to draw but I do it less than I would than if I was a storyboard artist or a designer but that is the nature of running of a show.
Can kids learn anything from the show?
I think kids can learn a lot from Apple and Onion, watching the way they act and the hopeful attitude they have about life, as well as showing how things go well for them if they have good intentions in their heart.
Does the show have an appeal to families and adults?
I think if the teenage characters act in an interesting way it will be interesting to everyone, just like if you’re an adult and you see a child acting in a way that’s funny then it will be interesting to you and if you’re a child and you’re watching a grandparent doing something funny then it will be interesting to you.
Why should we watch Apple & Onion?
You should watch Apple & Onion because I believe it will make you feel good not just because it’s funny but because you get to see nice things happening. A lot of us are just used to hearing about the bad news but here we get to represent the good side of life and I think people go to art to see that.
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