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HAILEY’S ON IT! - “Catching Felines” (Disney) SCOTT, HAILEY
Photo: Disney

Interviews

‘Hailey’s On It!’ interview with the creators: Showing how anyone can do great things

Nick Stanton and Devin Bunje discuss their new animated comedy adventure, Hailey’s On It!.

Hailey’s On It! is a new animated comedy-adventure arriving to Disney Channel this week. It follows the titular risk averse teen who spent her life creating an extensive to-do list. One day she is told that she must accomplish every task on her list in order to save the world. Hailey sets out on her mission to check off one activity at a time accompanied by her best friend Scott taking her outside of her comfort zone. The cast includes Auli’i Cravalho and Manny Jacinto as Hailey and Scott respectively.

We spoke with creators Devin Bunje and Nick Stanton about their upcoming series. The pair have an extensive history working on family projects, but Hailey’s On It! marks their first foray into creating and executive producing an animated show. The duo take us behind the scenes of the development process and preview what viewers can expect.

AIPT: Nick and Devin, your new series, Hailey’s On It! is geared towards younger audiences. You’ve worked on Prince of Peoria, Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything and Zeke and Luther in the past. What about working on series catered to this age group do you find most interesting?

Devin Bunje: I’d say what’s most interesting is how sophisticated you can actually be with some of the humor. We found that when you try to make jokes just for a kid, they don’t always land. But when you try to come up with things that you find funny, and our writers’ room full of hilarious writers, if they all find it funny, it usually works for everybody. It’s not just for the kids, it’ll work for the whole family that is watching. We’ve enjoyed the fact that we can come up with shows that both adults and our own kids both enjoy watching. 

AIPT: Despite your work on the previously mentioned shows, those were all live-action. I know you’ve written for the medium before, but Hailey’s On It! is the first time you created or executive produced an animated series. What are things you’ve learned or taken away from this new experience?

Nick Stanton: A few things. Just a respect for everyone on our crew and just how talented they are and what they bring to the table. Live action is great. We’ve had really great experiences in live action, but we’ve always loved animation. There is just so much you can do because the world really opens up. You can tell stories that go to an old west town and then you go the beach the next day. You can have a little robot smart phone teddy bear that can go with you on your adventures.

That was very freeing. Just working with such talented artists. We’re really amazed. To call out a few, Howie Parkins is our co-executive producer; we worked with him on Emperor’s New School as well and he’s such a pro. Cat Harman-Mitchell and Leslie Park are our episodic directors. It’s their first time as directors but they’ve just grown so much. To hear them pitch the story boards and see an episode come to life and seeing all they bring to it has been super rewarding.

It’s definitely different. We’ve had to shift gears. Our last show was in front of a studio audience so you get immediate feedback. You get a big laugh or sometimes you wouldn’t. You don’t really have that in animation because the process is so much longer, but we try to approximate that as much as possible with table reads and the storyboard pitches and stuff like that. It’s been a great experience.

Hailey's On It creators Nick Stanton and Devin Bunje
Nick Stanton (Left) and Devin Bunje (right) Photo: Craig Sjodin/Disney

AIPT: Hailey’s On It! has an interesting concept. You have this teenage girl who has a pretty conservative approach in life where she doesn’t like to try new things. Then she receives a mysterious guest from the future telling her she needs to complete her “to-do” list in order to save the world. How did both of you come up with the premise?

Bunje: It sort of started with that scene you just referred to. We were kicking around ideas for what would be a really fun, engaging start to a show. We thought, what if this crazed professor from the future shows up with literally two minutes to explain all the most important stuff that’ll happen in the future but they kept getting side tracked with things that weren’t important like the professor seeing old things she remembered from the past and Hailey wanting to know if taco Tuesday is still a thing in the future.  Being able to talk about the future sidetracks these super important two minutes they have.

After we we’re thinking about that, who would that character be? We came up with the idea what if Hailey was this very relatable risk averse teenager who discovers that not only can she do great things, but she will. She is destined to do that in a way. She does that in the future, but now something has come to complicate it and she has to really focus to get these things done the ways they’re supposed to be done. We just thought it would be great thematic series of showing that anyone can really make a difference in the world. If you take every little task day by day one at a time anyone can do great things.

AIPT: I’m pretty excited for my son to watch Hailey’s on It! because of its representation. Since we’re Filipino, I like how many of the characters are Asian and Pacific Islander. We might even connect on another level since we live in San Diego and Oceanside is only a stone’s throw away. With regards to the characters’ ethnicities, did you always have that in mind or was it something that happened once you started putting together the voice cast?

Stanton: It happened once we put the cast together. Really, with Auli’i and Manny, they were our top two choices immediately and they just jumped off the page. After we knew we had our cast in place, we tailored the characters’ backgrounds to the actor, with Auli’i in particular.

Representation is super important to me too. My boys are half Asian. It makes the world feel more real and for them to see characters that look like them. They love Scott. He’s so funny and cool and falls but says cool things and skateboards. To see them connect with him as a character has been really cool.

AIPT: Just a follow up, in the few episodes I’ve seen so far, there are a few references to Hailey’s heritage but they’re more subtle. From her dad or even the clever names of her siblings, Dwayne and Johnson. Because the leads are people of color, do you plan on exploring either Hailey or Scott’s culture in any of the episodes?

Bundje: Yeah, we do. I’m not sure exactly which ones you saw, but we definitely dive into it a little more. Especially with Kai’s culture and background. We get a little more into Scott later in the year, and we’re planning even more as we’re sort of developing beyond that. What we really love is not only do we have a great diverse cast living in this great diverse world and it’s created by a super diverse crew, it’s really the best way to tell stories that are universal.

Literally, everybody can relate because everybody can see themselves somewhere in the world. We try to bring in authentic elements and things for each specific character, it’s that combination of them all that makes the best representation of what our world can be. And it’s a world worth fighting in our minds which is a theme that we like for it as well.

hailey's on it  - “The Beginning of the Friend”
Photo: Disney

AIPT: One of the bigger things on Hailey’s list is kissing her best friend, Scott. How does that affect their relationship throughout the course of the season? You know Scott comes off as happy go lucky and maybe sometimes oblivious to things.

Stanton: We thought it’d be interesting to do a kid’s show where the relationship is sort of like Jim and Pam in the first season of The Office. Their best friends who might become more than friends. It’s kind of a sophisticated idea for a kid’s show but we thought kids would really relate to it. Their relationship, without spoiling anything, really does evolve even throughout the course of the first season. It’s not a series that resets every episode.

Obviously, in the first episode, Scott starts dating Kristine and that complicates the relationship. But in some future episodes, Scott and Hailey’s relationship takes some different turns. That’s been really fun because it’s almost like writing for a new show when the relationship dynamic changes. We were really excited to do that and grow the characters and grow that relationship between Hailey and Scott.

AIPT: I’ll leave you on this. Previewing the upcoming season, is there anything on Hailey’s list that you all found pretty crazy to explore?

Stanton: There’s a lot. Yeah, there’s a lot of list items.

Bundje: There’s a lot. I don’t know if we have a favorite. A lot of the fun ones that I found are things that her and Scott always wanted to do together. We had one where it’s beyond a Barney kind of show that they watched as kids but they find out it’s cancelled. They have to figure out a way to get the people back onto the show and then they can be in the audience to watch it or something like that. Whenever we have one where Scott and Hailey can be those really close best friends doing something fun together always makes me smile.

Hailey’s On It premieres Thursday, June 8, on Disney Channel.

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