After over two years of writing, recording and rendering, Brent Butt launches Corner Gas Animated Monday night at 8 p.m. on the Comedy Network.
A one-time Sheridan school of animation student (albeit for about a week; after which he committed to stand-up), Butt has been extremely hands-on with this project. Wife Nancy Robertson says he was often out in the garage editing as well as approving (and adding to) renderings while communicating back-and-forth from Vancouver to Toronto’s Smiley Guy studios.
One of the stories he’s told me over the past year or so stuck out because it made it sound as if the original live-action series almost ended up as animated as this new version.
I asked the 51-year-old comedian if he had considered adding a new, more cartoon-ish character to the Dog River cast, something along the lines of how Hanna-Barbera gave The Flintstones a space age spin with the late-season addition of the Great Gazoo.
The pixie-like character, voiced by the late, great Harvey Korman, was an alien who floated about making pithy comments. The TV ‘toon factory was famous for “borrowing” ideas from live-action sitcoms from the ’50s and the ’60s. Somebody there must have been hooked on My Favorite Martin.
Butt told me that, way back when Corner Gas was first brought to CTV (it premiered in 2003), one of the network executives pitched the producers on the notion of adding talking goats in the live-action comedy.
“We were flabbergasted,” says Butt. “How do you respond to that?”
That b-a-a-a-d idea was never acted upon. Corner Gas, however, often used cut away gags to punch through a joke with a dose of fantasy. One involved guest star Kiefer Sutherland having a testy moment with his mother (played by the actor’s real-life mom, actress Shirley Douglas). Supposedly still living at home in Canada, the actor best known as TV’s Jack Bauer screams, “Dammit mom, I told you to knock!”
“He tapped into something there,” says Butt, still chuckling at Sutherland’s total commitment to the gag.
The new, animated series has allowed Butt and the writers more licence to really ramp up the occasional burst of fantasy. Look for a scene, for example, where Wanda (Robertson) fights a werewolf in Brent’s brain, or another scene of a unicorn battling a Sasquatch.
“We looked but could never find a unicorn for the live-action version,” says Butt.
Read more about the new Corner Gas Animated here at this CP story I wrote picked up by The Toronto Star.