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Sit Down, Shut Up: It Comes From the Land Down Under

All you crazed Arrested Development fans out there who have been waiting for just a little taste of something more and can't wait for the movie can whet your appetites on Sunday when the new animated comedy Sit Down, Shut Up premieres. It's a cartoon adaptation of an Australian live-action show, and is from the AD creator Mitch Hurwitz. It also features the vocal talents of Arrested alums Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Henry Winkler, as well as some SNL talents like Kenan Thompson and Will Forte. Hurwitz and Forte hopped on a conference call recently to ostensibly answer questions from the press, but mostly ended up talking to each other. The highlights of this chaotic call are below.

Why have the animated characters against real settings?
Mitch Hurwitz: I could bluff a little bit and say we wanted to set the show in the real world, and the writing staff is made up of people that come from live action and from animation, so it expresses that mix well. But in fact, it really was just an aesthetic thing. I saw Mo Willems' book Knuffle Bunny on a shelf in a bookstore. It's all these pictures of Brooklyn and these little drawings on top of it. And then I got in touch with Mo, and he actually designs these characters. He has asked that the show not be sort of represented as Mo Willems' show, because he's like the number one picture book guy and there's a lot of inappropriate stuff for kids. There's a lot of stuff that's inappropriate I think even for Will Forte.

Do you think audiences will embrace Arrested Development in movie form?
MH:
Oh, I can't imagine that they are. But it's very flattering that people have expressed so much interest. I mean, we'll see whether it's a significant audience or not. Hey, Will, will you be in this movie?
Will Forte: Oh, I would love to.
MH: Really?
WF: Yes. Is this an offer? Let me get my agent on the line.
MH: Yes, it's an offer; and the truth is, I haven't even written it yet, so that's...
WF: Oh, I will do Kraft Service on the movie.
MH: Gosh, that would be -- no, your cooking is amazing, obviously; but also, I do feel like -- not to change the subject here -- but I do feel like, with Will Forte, that we're getting to work with Jim Carrey before he did Ace Ventura. I felt that way about a few people...
WF: Oh, my God.
MH: No, but it's true. I remember that with Steve Carell too, thinking, like, this guy is going to be huge, right? And I feel that way about Forte. And you've kept such a kind of a low profile on Saturday Night Live and now you're starting to get out there in those movies and everything. But anyway, I would love to have you. But yes, we're hoping to make this movie sometime this year, if we can get everybody's schedules lined up.

What kind of role would Will Forte have?
MH: I think Will Forte would be some sort of pet detective, and -- I really want to, just the safest path I can travel.
WF: ... pet detective school at the time, though. ... early.
MH: You know what, we have a lot of little pieces. I'm writing it with Jim Vallely, and we have all these little ideas and everything. But with the show, it's always been about tying all the pieces together, so -- none of them alone quite make a movie yet. We're still assembling the pieces.The other thing I will say, again, not to embarrass Will, but he's the only -- actually he and Will Arnett were the only two parts that I knew there was only one way to cast, because they were both in the Australia show. There was a character named Stuart and there was a character named Stefan. And Stuart just was sunny and optimistic and still hilarious, and I really couldn't think of another actor that does that.
WF: Well, I was a natural because of my accent.
MH: Because of your accent. The Australia character used to say, "Right?" No, he used to say "Great," that's what it was. At the end of the sentence he'd say, "I parked in your spot, I hope you don't mind. But I can't get my car to move; great."
WF: We should throw some of those in there.
MH: I know. I tried a couple of different catch phrases including "I've got a tic," as you'll recall. What did we end up with? Oh, I know. "I need a catch phrase." That's his character's catch phrase -- "I need a catch phrase."
WF: It's so funny hearing you say the words, because I'm so used to hearing your voice now when we'll go in to do dialog.
MH: I know. I do all the temps, because we keep rewriting, and so then we've got to put something in for the animators to draw.
WF: Mitch does amazing impersonations of every member of the cast, and sometimes it's so hard to get the schedules lined up that at the table reads, there might be three or four people missing, and so Mitch does all their voices, and they're just spot on.
MH: I know. It's a writer's dream to be like, "Try saying it like this."
WF: You honestly do a better me than me.
MH: No, I disagree. Wait -- do you realize that was both me saying that?
WF: Oh, my God.
MH: Yes. I said --
WF: I don't know who I am anymore.
MH: No, you've been off the call for like two minutes. That's how good I am.

Does the story material reflect any experience that either of you can remember from your school days?
MH: Fortunately, no. I think if anything, it's a scathing indictment of the Australian school system. There's an element of it that's kind of like Peanuts for adults. The kids in the school are almost nonexistent. They're as integral to the show as the paper products are to the show The Office. It really is just about these unbelievably immature adults, so -- I'm sure that was going on behind closed doors when I was in high school, but I actually had a good high school experience. Did you, Forte? You must have been a big bully.
WF: No. I was very nice to everyone. I had a great high school experience. But I did have a -- actually, I hope they don't read this, but -- I don't know, I mean, I guess everybody thinks that their whole high school staff are a bunch of boobs.
MH: In fairness to you, you got out of high school like, was this like two years ago ultimately, or -- I mean, you've stayed in much longer than most adults really stick around.
WF: Yes, but there can be -- their prodding could have been gentler.
MH: I see what you mean, yes.

Any other Fox crossovers planned?
MH: We actually tried to get doctor -- I don't know The Simpsons that well, but isn't there like a Dr. Nick? Dr. Nick, who talks like this, or something like that? And we tried to get like Dr. Nick to play a doctor on our show, but like, almost like there was a real Dr. Nick and he was playing a character. And we got a quick no. So, so far we've tried a couple of different things like that, like crossovers from other animated -- like, can we get the animated woman from the e-insurance ad to just play like the new assistant principal or something. Never mention that that's who that is. You just recognize her and she's playing a different role. But we have not been that successful with that yet.

Why take a live-action show and turn it animated, instead of making it live action?
Everyone kind of said, "we're interested in the idea of a show about teachers, but these characters are way too broad and way too self-centered and oblivious, and you have to rewrite it." But I will say, the short answer is, the show is very daft and silly, and Will Forte's character in the Australian show takes these pills -- and we did this in our pilot -- takes these pills and ends up inadvertently growing breasts. We think they're steroids, but he sort of is -- they turn out to be female hormone replacements and he becomes quite buxom. And that was like their big broad joke, and nobody wanted to do it live action. I mean, it's very, very tough to get your voice through the system at network television, and for good reason: there's a lot of money at stake and people are really, really worried about losing an audience and losing advertisers. And for some reason they've left this door open in animation where they're like, oh, yes, you can do anything there. You can have a big sense of humor there. But everywhere else, you really have to follow our rules. It's like still trying to find a way in to get past the system. And I think they even kind of want you to get past the system.

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