Pop quiz! How many Australian superheroes can you name off the top of your head?
For most audiences in the United States, the roster of Australian comic book characters likely begins and ends with the villain known as Captain Boomerang, despite the Marvel and DC catalogs boasting a litany of crime fighters. and villains from the Land Down Under.
Hulu is looking to change all that with its new animated series — koala man (now streaming) – which revolves around Kevin Williams, an ordinary suburban dad and slightly incompetent Aussie vigilante who’s just trying to do some good in his quiet hometown of Dapto.
It’s not always the easiest thing in the world to do when you’re just a mortal battling Outback musician-cannibals and Lovecraftian horror from another dimension. The project hails from creator Michael Cusack, whose YouTube short “Koala Man” caught the attention of rick and morty‘s Justin Roiland, who ended up as the show’s executive producer.
“I was coming to LA more and more and putting on shows, and it made sense to develop that into a family sitcom,” Cusack, who also voices the marsupial-inspired benefactor, tells me on Zoom. “Make him like Homer Simpson, the father of an Australian family – and try to fit in with the other shows like the futuramasthem The Simpsonsthem King of the Hills. But do it the Aussie way and give it a superhero twist.
The end result was something “decidedly Australian,” says Demi Lardner, the voice of Koala Man’s power-hungry teenage daughter Alison.
American viewers with little or no knowledge of Australian culture will get a crash course in everything from show bags and handball to tall poppy syndrome, the Great Emu War and the common use of the dreaded word. vs.
“I really wish I could say the word ‘c**t*’ more when I’m in America. So if you could handle that, that would be really nice,” Lardner jokes. here.”
“I grew up watching The simpsonsCusack says. “They were American and I still understood it, even though some words I didn’t understand because they were specific to American culture. I just thought, ‘Why not try the other way?’ »
While many US-based studios and producers often attempt to make “foreign” projects more digestible for North American consumers by requiring the addition of relevant American characters and references, koala man did the opposite.
“Our goal has always been to improve what Michael does and never flatten his point of view. Never say, ‘Oh, that’s too Australian’. Oh, that’s too weird,” says Dan Hernandez, who co-developed the series alongside his writing partner, Benji Samit (the duo are known for their work on The tick and Detective Pikachu) and Cusak. “We felt like we had this really special, unique person and the three of us who were developing this together can merge all of these things into something that had the potential to not only be hilarious but also tell a really good story of superheroes in a long way.”
The driving force behind the writers’ room, Samit continues, was not to shy away from concepts and storylines that might seem alien to the rest of the world. Rather, the unique facets of Australian life and attitudes offered a way out of the tropes and arcs that were killed by The simpsons and family guy. “All Australian stuff is this untapped well of good ideas. Every time something uniquely Australian was said, all of the American writers were so excited, wanting to know more and see more.
koala manThe unwavering commitment to represent Australia has attracted an incredibly high level of Australian and Kiwi actors who have agreed to be part of the voice cast: Sarah Snook, Jemaine Clement, Rachel House, Hugo Weaving, Miranada Otto and even Wolverine himself — Hugh Jackman . The x-men alum in particular steals the show as the aptly named Big Greg, Kevin’s boss on the Dapto City Council and a former nature host clearly inspired by the late Steve Irwin.
“We always knew we wanted Big Greg to be the most Aussie man alive,” Hernandez says. “We thought it was important to connect Kevin with someone who was sort of effortlessly heroic and macho and all the things that Kevin secretly wishes he was, but isn’t. So that’s where the character of Big Greg comes from. And then we said, “Well, basically, we just want to write Hugh Jackman.”
“[We knew it was] a long shot,” says Samit. “He loved it and he was excited and he got on well with Michael. He was just excited that something so quintessentially Aussie was being done and he elevated everything we wrote and made it so much funnier .
Cusack attributes the dynamite voice to good old American optimism. “They’re kind of aiming for the stars,” says the creator. “They thought we could have the biggest Australian actors and I was like, ‘No, we can’t. We’re not going to be able to have them’… I’m not used to collaborating or directing actors of this caliber, so it was a complete learning curve for me. But they elevated the show.
“Some of the best actors in the world have agreed to participate in this crazy show,” concludes Hernandez. “It only emboldens us. If we’re lucky enough to get into Season 2… who else could we have? … We all want the Lord of the Rings discard.”
Being listed among so many names makes Larnder feel the effects of the aforementioned Big Poppy Syndrome. “It’s so weird…I’m listed among a lot of famous people [and] I expect to be completely hated by some of my peers.
The eight episodes of koala man are now streaming on Hulu.