I am proud to be secure enough with myself to admit, even though my girls are 17 and 19, I can be caught watching Disney Junior on occasion. Sure, it’s part of my job, but with shows like the new Vampirina, it’s hard to turn away. The talented cast is backed up with a brilliant mind. The same one behind Disney’s hit Doc McStuffins. I think you will clearly understand why in this Vampirina Executive Producer Chris Nee Interview. We got a break from all things Marvel during the #ThorRagnarokEvent to talk about this fun new show.
Vampirina Executive Producer Chris Nee Interview
What’s your secret to writing or crafting shows that both adults and children enjoy?
I would say that I think it’s incredibly important because what I want to do is bring families together to watch shows. And I think those shows that so actively alienate the parents create the separation in the enjoyment. For me, for whatever reason, I have a great ability to remember what it felt like to be a kid and that’s obviously what I’ve tapped into for twenty years working in kids TV.
I think one of my secrets is often when you ask someone who works in kids TV exclusively, who are you writing for they’ll say, ‘the kids.’ And I know that’s the right answer, but I’m writing for myself. I’m trying to make myself laugh, and I’m trying to work out my own stuff and remember my childhood. Remember those feelings and write the world that I hope we can live in, but I’m really writing for myself. I’m also a mom so, I certainly know what it’s like to want your kid to watch shows that the music is something you can stand ’cause you’re gonna watch it a lot.
And you, know, maybe there’s a couple of jokes for you, but everything needs to work for the kids first. But, if I give you guys something that’ll make you laugh along the way, I think it’s a great way to kind of make it a universal experience.
So, if you’re writing for yourself, which character are you relating with the most?
I will say I really love Gregoria. Gregoria and Demi I added to the cast because obviously, the books are such, a huge inspiration, but there’s a lot that’s not there in terms of building out a world that you can tell X amount of stories every week. I really wanted the comic relief, and I really like the intense specificity of character, and you can see that on Doc [McStuffins] where everyone’s really solidly who they are.
I wrote Gregoria for Wanda [Sykes] having no idea she would say yes. That character was the biggest leap of faith because she’s a very cantankerous character for a preschool show. There were moments where I had to say, ‘I promise you it works in my head, it works in my head.’ It’s gonna be her with this voice and Wanda’s voice is Wanda’s voice. And there’s no missing that–.’
The character works for me. I have so much fun writing her. And Demi is delightful to write for, and then Vee for me is, I’m always writing my own experience through her. And we got so lucky with Isabella [Crovetti].
— Isabella Crovetti (@isabellacramp) October 1, 2017
Can we talk about her singing voice?
The songs you hear now, she was probably eleven years old when she first came in to sing the songs that are coming out now. The first time we worked with her, she came to a big recording studio where there were orchestras and some of the greatest albums you’ve ever listened to recorded there. And she walked into the middle of it, and she actually stopped and said, ‘I need to warm up.’ And I was like, ‘oh this kid’s a pro.’
Vampirina “The Ghoul Girls/Game Night” (11:00 – 11:30 A.M. EDT) “The Ghoul Girls” – Vampirina’s favorite band, The Scream Girls, comes to stay at the Scare B&B and help Vee and her friends overcome their stage fright. “Game Night” – Vee invites her friends over for family game night and teaches them some of her favorite Transylvania games.
Like, in a good way and then she just opened her mouth, and we could have taken the first take. She’s a Broadway level singer who happens to live in LA, and we get to take advantage of that. Obviously, I really like Broadway, and I put a lot of music in my series.
One of the things that you talked about a lot is kind of being yourself, is there ever any plot line for the parents to kind of come out a little bit more and show themselves as vampires as well?
I mean, they will continue to show themselves to the people who know, but we will definitely have episodes. Doc was really a community that formed a family, and her family is hugely important, but we don’t spend as much time on the family ’cause it’s all about Doc and the toys. I love this family, and I love seeing a family that feels really real to me.
In animation sometimes, it’s hard to have characters touch each other. And so, just the amount that the parents hug each other like you actually believe that they’re together which sometimes you don’t in weekly animation. A lot of that, honest to god, has to do with who you get to voice the characters, but it’s hard to have physical contact. We got so lucky with the cast; there’s just such a warmth to the family.
So, we will keep playing that, and we’ll also meet some of the extended family. It has been announced that the grandmother is played by Patti LuPone. I was a New York Broadway kid, grew up on Broadway and again, I don’t want to date myself, but I saw Evita twice in the original run with her. And getting to cast her in a role is just amazing. Yeah.
I see this recurring girl power theme. Is that a deliberate thing? What kind of inspires you to take the storyline that way?
Yeah, I think it’s just, we have had a lot of boy lead characters. Like when Doc came around, Doc could have been either, and I felt really strongly. I mean the story with Doc is that I created it for my son, but I made her an African American girl. I really believed that was the representation that mattered. We didn’t need another boy lead character, and I was still making it for my son, and I believed that he would still care about the character.
And that I could do both things and that it was more important to shine a light and bring representation that we know is sorely lacking on the screen. So, it’s definitely something that I feel passionately about, and that will always be the case. I mean will there be a next character that’s a boy? It certainly could be a boy. It’s just these two; I enjoy being able to bring out what I know girl characters can be, which is anything and everything.
Vampirina is very different, yet her friends accept her right away. That’s cool.
Thank you. For me what the show is, it feels very 2017 to me. It is a show where we say, ‘she is different, and sometimes that’s hard to be friends with.’ We’re not saying that she isn’t different, we aren’t saying that everybody’s the same and there’s never stuff isn’t being conveyed as a conflict because we’re coming from different perspectives. In fact, we’re saying that’s exactly what this is, and yet you can still be friends. It’s important to be friends and to see each other from your perspective.
It’s done very well.
Thank you because there was a period where there were people who were like, ‘is she whiny?’ I was like, ‘she’s all of us.’ And Poppy’s such a great character ’cause she’s such a good friend, but it’s Bridget who struggles every single time. And yet, she loves her friend, so she’s gonna keep facing the stuff that’s hard for her to get there. And you know, honestly, we need a little more of that in this world, facing the stuff that is different. We have a huge country that’s really different.
And maybe the only way that we’re gonna get someplace is to say, ‘you’re different from me but let’s hear each other, and I still want to be your friend through it. We can still find common ground, and I think for me, that’s what this show is about.
The kids are picking up on it too.
Want to see what Vampirina is all about? Check out this full episode!
Set in a Pennsylvania neighborhood, the series stars Lauren Graham, James Van Der Beek and Isabella Crovetti as the Hauntley family, friendly vampires who have recently moved from their home in Transylvania. The stories follow Vampirina (aka “Vee”) as she faces the joys and trials of being the new kid in town including making friends and attending a new school in the human world. Along the way, Vee learns that it may be easier to blend in with her peers, but it’s more valuable to celebrate the qualities that make each individual unique.
VAMPIRINA (Mondays and Fridays on Disney Junior)
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*I was invited to the #ThorRagnarokEvent where Disney Junior gave us a look at Vampirina. All opinions are my own.