NYCC 2012: China, Il interview with Brad Neely and Daniel Weidenfeld

At New York Comic Con this year, China, Il was in attendance with its creator Brad Neely and executive producer, Daniel Weidenfeld. You can watch the video below which features their interview, or/and you can just read below for a basic gist of what went on. The official synopsis for the show is that, “Frank and Steve Smith are brothers who teach in the history department of a state university in China, Il. They also happen to be legends in their own minds who will often sacrifice facts, lessons and syllabi for the sake of being awesome. China, Il, created by Brad Neely, is a reverse Animal House where the teachers are crazy and the students just want to learn.”

What is China, Il really about?

Daniel Weidenfeld: At its core, it’s reverse Animal House, that’s where we stated from, where the teachers are crazy but the students just want to learn. And as we expanded the second season into half hours, it’s now a lot more, like how the students are crazy too: they have their own personalities. They might not like being at the school but they are unique and they’re fucked up. (He was a bit hesitant in saying that, you can watch the video for some dialogue that goes on before the interview).  You know, like Hannibal Burns plays a student now, you got Ryan Flynn, who’s a great actor, and Chelsea Peretti- like we have a bunch of characters now that are going to make the show bigger than just the teachers.

Brad Neely: We’re trying; you know we didn’t grow up watching a whole lot of television. (Watch the video for Brad to explain he never heard about movies before)

While the Prester Brothers and Baby cakes are your most recurring before the actual show started and there’re always new characters, have you ever thought of just starting something completely original?

Brad: Well yeah, and I’ve done that here and there, trying to make other TV shows for other places, but it wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m doing my dream,” but more of, “I’ll guess I’ll try it.” When we first started talking to Adult Swim about it, what TV shows to make, we said, “Are we going to make a TV show? I guess.” We kicked around other ideas, just coming back to these old characters and well maybe we haven’t explored them farther enough. I do feel that way, but I feel like we do that within China, especially since we’re expanding to 22 minutes, we’re drawing the show out. We have like 200 characters that have names and complete animated turnarounds, and 20 of them have voices- I really am creatively satisfied as far as character generation.

How far is the craziness at school going to go?

Daniel: They [the students] recognize how bad it is, they’re not scared anymore. Like, in the first season, since we didn’t have time for it, they were acting as “diapers” for the audience, saying things like, “Oh, this place is crazy.” We’re going to use them as our surrogates; no one wants to go to this school. So now what we’re doing is giving these students their own personality. There’s Hannibal who’s this star athlete, Chelsea is this really pretty surfer girl.

And do you relate to any of these characters? Do they relate to you when you were a kid?

Daniel: I mean, the brothers are like two sides of you.

Brad: Yea, I mean, I do the two brothers’ voices, Baby Cakes’, and I feel like Pony- since Baby Cakes and Pony are students, which is a little bit more obvious this season, but yea, I relate to those four people. I feel like they’re not four halves of me but 4 instances of me, a behavior that might be mine or actions that might be mine.

Do you have any skeletons in your closet?

Daniel: I can’t ride a bike.

Brad: I didn’t know that. I don’t ride bikes.

Daniel: I don’t because I can’t. I fell a lot and I don’t like falling so I gave up. I didn’t use training wheels, I used a real bike. I mean, I can ride one, but I’m just not good at it and I’ll fall and I’m not good at it that way.

Will more and other characters that have not been used previously in your work filter into China?

Brad: Oh we do that all the time.

Daniel: You can tell, like part of the 200, there’s characters like this one lady, Lemon Drop.

Brad: People from the early shorts are showing up. Like in 11 minutes, we have a tightly narrative show, so it’s not a “hodge-podge”, so when you’re telling real tight stories, it’s hard to be like, “And here’s this wacky dude.” It all has a reason to be there, but it’s larger now so it’s more possible.

Daniel: Kenny Winker was a character and now he’s back.

Who comes up with the names?

Daniel: It’s all this kid.

And what do you do?

Daniel:  I don’t do anything, I’m not even here.

Can you swim?

Daniel: That’s a weird one, now you’re getting deep.

Brad: In unnatural bodies of water. . .  interspecies swimming is not my thing

I just wanted to comment that Washington was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in my life.

Brad: Unfortunately I don’t own the property anymore, but that was one of those things that I really would hate to harm it in retrospect, by trying to make something out of it now. I like trying to think that it’s its own thing- its great and I love it, but thank god I wasn’t able to explore it further.

You can watch the interview here and go to their Adult Swim website here too.

Catherina has been writing since she was 14 years old- screenplays, movie reviews, sports stories and anything in between. Living in New York City, she can tell you any fact about any movie. She writes screenplays in her free time and is a huge Kevin Spacey, Tina Fey and Quentin Tarantino fan. You can contact her at catherina@theyoungfolks.com