Interview with Butch Hartman:
March 30, 2006; part 3
Thank you so much for talking with us today!   We tremendously appreciate your time!  :)  ~Z.
Show history, continued

Zcat6:  Tying in with that, was Nickelodeon's first impression of the show?  Did Nick directly insist on any specific changes before they would accept the series?  If so, what were they, and was it difficult for you to veer from your original vision to accommodate them?
Butch Hartman:  After I thought of the idea in February 2001, I just started doing random sketches and stuff on my own at home. We were so busy making Fairly Oddparents that I didn't think I'd have enough time to do anything else, much less an entirely different series. So I didn't really even mention it to anyone after I told Bob. I told Steve Marmel, too. He would later be majorly involved in the writing of the series once it got going, but, in those early months it was just me and my pencil doing drawings and basic development stuff at my home studio. It was in this phase that I came up with the whole look of Danny's costume - black jump suit, white boots and gloves - and the "white hair" look. The first time I mentioned the idea of the show to the Nick execs turned out to be one of those classic Hollywood moments. It's now October, 2001, and I had been asked to dinner by two of the top execs at Nickelodeon, Albie Hecht and Kevin Kay. Great guys. These were the guys - at that time - that made all the huge decisions for Nickelodeon. Well, Fairly Oddparents had really been doing great on the air - praise the Lord - and they were taking me out to not only treat me to a nice meal, but to tell me they were picking up 20 more half hours of Fairly Oddparents! Wow! That made for a very exciting dinner, let me tell you. I don't even think I ate anything after that! To top it off they said, "Hey, got any other ideas?" Whoa. This was a big moment. I had Danny Phantom in my head, but I wasn't really prepared to talk about it and I had no idea they were gonna ask me this. What do I do?? Well, I did the obvious - I held my breath and dove in. So, with really nothing more than the cool name I'd thought up, and a few drawings (which I didn't even have with me, I had to describe them!) plus a few other character ideas - best friends, parents, etc. I told them about the show in about 30 seconds. There was a pause and then Albie - the big boss - said, "Can you have the pilot episode done by March?" That was it. It was sold just like that in a restaurant in October, 2001. I was floored. Then they asked me, "So…got anything else?" Whoa. This was getting even cooler! I actually DID have something else. I had been toying with the idea of taking the character of Crash Nebula from the Fairly Oddparents and giving him his own show. I originally wanted him to be the macho, adult character we see him as in Fairly Oddparents, but I wanted him to drive an outer space school bus. He was going to be the best, bravest space school bus driver ever and drive alien kids to and from the Space Academy. So I told them, "Yeah, I have this other idea called 'Crash Nebula"…etc." And they bought that, too. Wow. More FOP episodes to do, and two pilots sold in one night. Pretty neat. And it was all based on the fact that Fairly Oddparents was doing so well. They knew they could trust me and my awesome crew to deliver more quality product to them. The moral, kids? ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST!!
          So…that's the first part. Danny was sold as a pilot and I had to make it into a show now. Which meant hiring a whole new crew of people to work on it. Remember, FOP was going strong at this time and I couldn't really pull too many people off of that to work on this. But a lot of key people from FOP really stepped up and helped. Bob Boyle with the brilliant color styling and art direction and Steve Marmel in the writing.  Work proceeded for a few months until January 2002 when Margie Cohn - another Nick exec - and Kevin Kay - met with me and told me that Nickelodeon didn't just want a Danny Phantom pilot…they wanted six half hours of "Danny Phantom". Holy Mackerel! This was huge news! Now we were officially making a series! This means we had to stop everything and regroup. We were making Danny into a series now and we really had to be aware of the progression of the characters and the expansion of Danny's world. So work commenced on building the Danny Phantom universe: Amity Park. Fenton Works. His friends, his family, what specific powers he had, etc. (Keep in mind, we were still making Fairly Oddparents at the same!) Everyone involved was awesome. We brought on character designers Shannon Tindell and Steve Silver. They pretty much came up with all the main character designers except for Danny. That was mostly me, then Steven Silver jumped in and we finalized it together.  Then Shannon left and character designer Ben Balestreri was brought in. He really helped move things along, too. Everyone else involved worked really hard to make sure that - even though we were making two series' at once - both series got a 100% commitment from everyone.


Character development
  
Zcat6:  How were the individual characters originally developed? Did they start out very differently in either name or appearance?  If so, what were the reasons for the changes?
Butch Hartman:  I think a lot of this has been answered already, but I'll fill in some of the holes. I wanted Danny to have an older sister because Timmy Turner was an only child. And I thought that by giving Danny an older sibling he would feel less in control. Like he's "not the boss" at home. Parents, older sister, etc. That would give him a real reason to totally dig being a super hero. Having power for once. I named the big sister "Jazz" after a character in John Byrne's early '90's comic book "Next Men". I always thought that was a cool name. Tucker Foley came about as a best pal for Danny because, since Danny was from a science family, and would have ghost powers, too, giving him ultimate knowledge of all things techno would be too much for him. He'd be sort of totally invincible, you know? So we came up with Tucker. And his name comes from combining the last names of Chris Tucker and Axel Foley- Eddie Murphy's character from "Beverly Hills Cop". Hence: Tucker Foley. Sam was always meant to be a sort of "dark, mysterious" girl pal to Danny. Someone who knew all about the supernatural world Danny suddenly found himself thrust in. Like I said earlier, we toyed with the idea of giving she and Danny a psychic link, but it was squashed because, again, we didn't want to give the characters "too many" unique talents and abilities. Danny had to be the special one in the show.
  
Zcat6:  What was the early timeline like in the progression of getting the show debuted? That is, when was it that you first pitched the idea to Nickelodeon, when did the character design take place, when was the show contracted, when was the first episode written and recorded, etc.?
Butch Hartman:  First pitched in October, 2001, bought as a pilot. Picked up for six half hours in Jan. 2002. Then developed, developed, developed and developed some more until - believe it or not - Jan. 2003 when we actually started recording and storyboarding episodes. Also, this show was a different format for me. Fairly Oddparents is a 22 minute show that has two 11 minute, stand alone episodes in it. Danny Phantom is a 22 minute show that tells only one story per episode. Plus, it has continuity. Meaning, if we introduce a character or story line, or discovery in episode #...oh, let's say nine, then we have to continue that character or discovery through the rest of the series. Like when Jazz discovered Danny's secret identity, for example.


'Danny Phantom' and all its related characters are the exclusive intellectual property of Butch Hartman and are owned by Nickelodeon.
Butch Hartman Interview copyright 2006, Zcat6 of the Danny Phantom Online Forums. All Rights Reserved.
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