So… now it can be told! “MallNation” is that secret project I’ve hinted at, which I have had the absolute pleasure of working on with my buddy Michael DeForge over the past year. It is (was?) a cartoon show that got optioned by Cartoon Network last summer and that Michael and I developed with them during this past year.
As of last month, development has ended on the project - Cartoon Network is unfortunately not going to move forward with making the short and series. So after talking to CN folks, Michael and I now want to share a taste of it with our friends :)
MallNation is a show about the entire student body of an elementary school living together inside a shopping mall - sort of our weird version of “Freaks and Geeks” meets “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” The show is centered on three siblings who band together to navigate roaming gangs of school cliques, escaped pet shop animals, and other strange surprises while building a cooperative kid nation within their new home.
It’d take a much longer post to go into Jules (the older sister), Mira (the middle sister), and Davy (the little brother), but I became extremely fond over the past 12 months of these three kids - and the realness of their sibling relationships.
The best part of the process of collaborating with Michael was riffing on the various students and cliques, the shops they would inhabit, their clothes, their dumb personalities and jokes. We came up with around 10 major “cliques” and a dozen or so characters, along with their connections, crushes, competitive streaks, and turf rivalries among them — all of which are seen through the eyes of the three siblings. My favorites from the extended cast are:
- Sanjay Lash: tiny and energetic leader of the Mall Monitors, a group of self-appointed do-gooder kids who miss the authority of adults. He and the goth-emo gang that hangs out in the arcade clash often.
- Aiden Wildberry: overgrown 5th grader who tends the garden in the mall’s food court, which is fed by sunlight coming down through the broken mall atrium. He has a crush on Jules.
- Ke-Gong Liu: A happy-go-lucky strongman who hangs out with the jocks. He’s a year older than Jules and speaks five languages, since he transfered from a weird Singaporean school system.
I remain totally in love the world we created, and am very grateful to the folks at Cartoon Network for the awesome opportunity to build something like this. I’m curious to see if perhaps we’ll get a chance to do more with some version of it (or another show) someday in the future.
My personal thanks again to our friend Phil Rynda, who pushed us in the early stages of the project, to Katie and Curtis at CN for their support and guidance navigating the ropes, and to our friends like Calvin Wong, Lisa Hanawalt, and Ian Jones-Quartey for their suggestions and pep talks. And to my wife Jane for all the support along the way :)
And most of all, my thanks to Michael for being the most creative, sweet and hard-working collaborator a dude could ask for.
(*To note: All the concepts, stories, and designs in this post were created by Michael DeForge and Ryan Sands, and drawn by Michael DeForge.*)
♥ LOVE LIVE MALLNATION ♥