Butch Hartman, creator of Fairly Oddparents: The Blast Interview
Over the past 20 years, the name Butch Hartman has become synonymous with imaginative childhood and adventurous adolescence. Since 1997, Hartman has amused viewers with his television creations, including My sponsors are magic and Danny phantom. In addition to being an animator, writer, director, producer and actor, Hartman is also the creator of the Noog Network video network, as well as the founder of the non-profit organization, Hartman House.
At last weekend’s San Diego Comic Con, Blast Magazine had the opportunity to speak with Hartman about his entertaining TV series, innovative video platform, and influential charity.
Blast Magazine: Your most recent TV series, Bunsen is a beast, premiered earlier this year. The show focuses on issues of integration and adaptation to new environments. Were these ideas based on real life experiences that you have witnessed?
Butch Hartman: Sure. I think Bunsen is a show that is accessible to everyone. Everyone has had this experience where they were the new kid in school or didn’t fit in well in a new place at first. Everyone wants to be accepted and I think Bunsen is really talking about it. I never go into shows trying to make them deep and philosophical. I just want to have a good time, but that’s the basic premise of the show. Can Bunsen fit in? How does it feel to spend time with a silly friend who is a kid like no other?
Blast Magazine: My sponsors are magic has been airing for 16 years now and the first child viewers have grown up a long time ago. What do you think it’s about the show that keeps it thriving and encourages people to come back and watch it years later?
Hartman: I think it’s the characters. The characters on this show made it what it is because it’s not just about the situation. Anyone can do a situation show, but the characters are the ones you want to keep following. When i looked Office, it took place in the most boring environment ever, an office, but I kept coming back week after week to watch these characters interact.
Blast Magazine: Among all your projects, you still managed to find the time to found the non-profit organization, Hartman House. What type of work does the organization do and what plans do you have for the immediate future?
Hartman: Hartman House is a non-profit organization that helps people around the world. We build houses, feed families, do renovations and give scholarships. We do all of these things for people who cannot do it themselves. In two weeks, we will be in Africa to install wells. We just like to help where we can. We can’t change the world all at once, but we can change it one little piece at a time.
Blast Magazine: Over the course of your career, you’ve had the opportunity to play a variety of roles, from writer and screenwriter to director and producer. Which of these jobs do you prefer and how do you think each of these positions has helped prepare you for others?
Hartman: I really prefer to draw. I love to sit and draw. I also like to write because without writing there is nothing to draw. Writing is history. When you are an artist, everyone thinks that you are just an artist. You are not. You are a storyteller. All artists are storytellers so learn to tell a story not only with your art, but also with your writing. If you can’t write, learn how and practice because you make yourself more valuable that way.
Blast Magazine: When you have created My sponsors are magic, what was your creative process like and how was it different from the process on your next show, Danny phantom?
Hartman: Quite weird parents came as a short cartoon. I was working on the Oh! Yeah cartoons show on Nickelodeon and I did 10 fully animated Quite weird parents short cartoons. They aired them on Nickelodeon and then they tested them before making a series of them. It took about 2-3 years in total. The process was a little different for Danny phantom. I was at dinner with the chef from Nickelodeon and he asked if I had any ideas for other shows. I told her I had a show in mind called Danny phantom and he was excited and wanted to do it. It was a much faster process than Pretty weird. However, after the immediate tuning phase, it took even more than 2 years to develop the show. Nothing happens overnight.
Blast Magazine: with so many episodes of My sponsors are magic already out, is it ever hard to come up with fresh new ideas?
Hartman: Yes it is. However, we do our best to keep everything fresh and different. The show has been going on for so long that the technology has even changed. In 2001 we couldn’t do a show on cellphones or iPods and now we can. Technology and advancements in the world are really really helping us.
Blast Magazine: You recently created your own technological breakthrough, the Noog Network video platform. What was your reasoning behind that decision and do you see all of your work happening there, rather than Nickelodeon, in the future?
Hartman: Yeah. The Noog network was created because I want to create my own original programming all the time. Nickelodeon can’t do all of my stuff because they have to buy things from other people. Since Nickelodeon wasn’t going to buy everything, I figured I would. I create all of my own original cartoons, live shows, and video games on Noog and constantly add new things. I am the one to make the decisions so that I can add new things when I want. I’m just limited by my own imagination and time is a bit of a factor. I can’t do it all on my own, but I’m slowly putting together great staff to really turn this network into a powerhouse.
Blast Magazine: Since you’ve had a pretty amazing career, what would be your best advice for someone interested in pursuing a career as a writer or artist?
Hartman: Never stop and never give up. If you stop, it’s all your fault. There’s no reason to give up and say you can’t do it because I’m living proof that you can. Every show I’ve had on TV started with one drawing before anyone else believed it. You have to believe in yourself and in your work. You also need to keep going and be nice to people. Never be a primadon because the person you’re rude to today might be your boss tomorrow.