***This article originally appeared in the April ’23 issue of Animation Magazine (No. 329)***
Animation fans know David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim as the talented husband-and-wife creative team behind the popular plush toys UglyDolls, which were originally launched in 2001 and inspired the 2019 CG-animated movie. This month, the duo is back with Bossy Bear, a delightful new animated series based on Horvath’s book series for Nickelodeon. With animation produced by Renegade, the brightly-colored 2D show follows the adventures of two best pals — Bossy Bear (voiced by Jayden Ham), a very enthusiastic extrovert, and Turtle (Jaba Keh), a thoughtful introvert. The voice cast also features real-life couple Lance Bass and Michael Turchin as Tyler and Greg, parents to Ginger (Beahlen Deacon), Bossy’s squirrel friend.
Eryk Casemiro, Nickelodeon’s executive VP of global series content, remembers when Imagine Kids + Family’s producers Stephanie Sperber and Elly Kramer Posner pitched the project to him back in the summer of 2019. “We instantly fell in love with the property,” he says. “At its core is a classic buddy comedy in which we saw a great opportunity to redefine the word ‘bossy’ in a more positive light.”
Posner notes, “It was really clear to us that this was an opportunity to showcase two besties — one an extrovert and one an introvert and to celebrate how both qualities can be positive and should be celebrated. The development came together unusually quickly and we pitched the series to Nickelodeon in late June/early July of 2019.”
When they created Bossy Bear and his colorful world, Horvath and his wife were inspired by their lives in Seoul, their family in Korea and their home away from home in Los Angeles. “So much of our time is spent between Korea Town and Sawtelle Blvd in L.A.,” says the writer-producer. “We hope audiences will feel at home with Bossy and Turtle, perhaps learn something new, laugh and — well, mostly laugh!”
Horvath says he loves everything about the new show, from what audiences can see on the screen to how it was crafted behind the scenes. “Sun-Min and I were so fortunate to be able to collaborate with the incredible teams at Imagine and Nickelodeon and can’t wait for everyone to experience Bossy Bear,” he tells Animation Magazine. “This is the best possible version of what we envisioned with our original books and limited run toys produced so many years ago, and the experience has been a true gift.”
The show creators love the dynamic between Bossy and Turtle, and the show’s take on extroversion and introversion, from Bossy leaping head first to Turtle thinking things through. “I’m not so sure being less loud in comparison to Bossy’s big ‘out there’-ness is introversion,” says Horvath. “but I can certainly identify with needing to be alone to recharge. If that’s introversion, I move between both characters modes all day. We’re also very excited for everybody to experience Gran Gran and her perfect kimchi mandu!”
Casemiro believes there are two important qualities that make Bossy Bear stand out in the busy children’s animation landscape. “One is the Korean influence that celebrates cultural touchpoints that Korean families will recognize,” he says. “Another is the bold color palette that evokes a K-pop sensibility.”
Posner adds, “The series is incredibly eye-catching with its unique design language and bright color palette. These are also seven-minute episodes, which you don’t often see in the U.S. The stories are so incredibly funny and heartwarming, and the music is just amazing! I apologize in advance for the earworms. The animation was produced with Renegade Animation, and we could not have asked for better partners. They did an incredible job of bringing the characters to life and we are so lucky to be working with them.”
The show’s visual style closely follows Horvath’s instantly recognizable book illustrations. “Adapting book illustration into animation is never easy, but the design team has done a fantastic job of translating David Horvath’s unique illustrations,” says Casemiro. “Every frame emulates Horvath’s line style, shape language and bold color choices. And as I mentioned, the color palette is really bold and exciting.”
He points out, “It’s often much harder to develop a new series from an existing IP than it is to develop an original. And it’s even harder to develop a children’s book into a series as there is so much more character and worldbuilding needed for 100-plus episodes than can possibly be contained in a 32-page book. All this worldbuilding must emulate the DNA of the source material and stay on a certain pitch. In the case of Bossy Bear, we were so fortunate to have David and Sun-Min involved so we didn’t have to guess at author’s intentions.”
Horvath says he’s very thankful of the team at NHK Japan who put his first animated show on the air 15 years ago. “They’re my heroes now that I realize how unlikely any of that was to ever occur in the first place,” he says. “Stephanie Sperber and Elly Kramer are my major animation heroes and have been incredible collaborators. So much of what’s wonderfully grounded about our project was thanks to Imagine and the team at Nickelodeon. Chris Meledandri was also a major influence on me during our formative years with UglyDolls in regards to the importance of relatable characters, compelling stories and vision.”
Anything Is Possible!
Horvath adds, “Given how difficult it is to even get one pitch with a major studio during one’s lifetime, I realize what a miracle it is to have had a chance to fail at any of it, and appreciate the time I am able to operate within it with high regard. I think it’s an exciting time, both for creators like Odd1sOut, doing it all on their own, and for large studios. It feels like, for the first time in a long time, the rules are out the window and we can accomplish anything again!”
Casemiro, whose long list of credits includes Rugrats, Poppy Cat, Olivia and The Wild Thornberrys, also believes that there have never been more talented, diverse interesting voices in the kids’ animation landscape, whether it’s for big theatrical releases or Instagram posts. “With so many diverse artists comes diverse storytelling that helps to push the boundaries of visual storytelling,” he notes. “But it’s also a difficult time for our industry as the traditional broadcast, cable and streaming platforms struggle to command a lion’s share of an audience to create new hits and earn profits that traditionally have funded more risky and innovative projects.”
Hopefully, Bossy Bear and his friends will open the door to the next generation of fun and innovative shows for family audiences all over the world.
Bossy Bear premieres on Nickelodeon on March 6 at 11 a.m. Check out a sneak peek below: