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Creating A Cartoon for TV: Shadi Petosky of Danger & Eggs

by Grace Bonney

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When I was around 8 or 9 years old, I used to break out my ruler to create perfect grids on paper. I would fill those grids with imaginary characters and stories that I always hoped to one day bring to life in the form of a cartoon TV show. I never followed that dream through to reality, but thankfully, one of my favorite people did: Shadi Petosky.

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Born in Montana and now based in Los Angeles, Shadi runs a media studio called where she and her co-workers do interactive programming, design, animation, illustration and scripting. It’s also where the brand new animated show, , came to life. I’ve been following Shadi’s work for a while and was thrilled to see that she was writing and developing an animated show for Amazon. That show, is about D.D. Danger and her friend, a giant egg named Phillip, and the adventures they pursue. I love it not only because it’s funny, but because it has a strong female character and friendship at its core. Even though I’ve aged out of the typical weekend cartoon age bracket, I love the pilot of this show so much and wanted to hear more about how it came to life and what it’s like to work full-time on a dream project like this. Thankfully Shadi had a few free moments to talk in between promoting the pilot of the show, and today I’m excited to share her interview here. You can check out the pilot of and follow the show’s updates via #dangerandeggs on social media. xo, grace

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Image above: Shadi, Aidy Bryant and Mike Owens

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Why did you decide to start your own business, versus work for someone else?

When I first hit the town with my portfolio all of those years ago, I had such a hard time getting a job at agencies. I’m from the mountains of Montana and my single mother joined the Air-force to get out of Montana support us. My resume was terrible; I worked in fast food, no college, gaps of joblessness and homelessness. I got so many lectures from older white men…

I applied at a place and they asked for a portfolio. I didn’t have much of one, so I sent them a tour rider mostly copied from the Rolling Stones’ rider demanding velour furniture and 12 bottles of water with the labels out. They hired me and I started working on Target projects. I had manipulated my way into my jobs but had a really hard time sitting and working all day. Later on I found out I had this autoimmune disorder called psoriatic arthritis. So I would work infrequently, which made me a good freelancer, then I just kind of got too busy and started partnering with people and we started hiring people.

Can you remember when you first learned about your field of work? How did you discover what it was and how you knew it was what you wanted to do?

I’m still not sure what it is. It’s more falling than driving sometimes. I like to write and tell stories. I did comics for a while. We started working on Yo Gabba Gabba! through our design connection Jesse Ledoux; working in Preschool TV was never a plan but it opened tons of doors. I started writing and selling shows with partners. Designers Vincent Stall, Dave Hagen, and now Mike Owens. I don’t have an agent or manager or anything, just a lot of advocates and I’m pretty funny during a pitch. I tried to get hired writing for live action shows, but it didn’t work. I’d like to make indie films. My studio still does design and websites and things like that. I guess I say yes a lot. I’m still not sure I’m not going to be broke tomorrow so I take on a lot of work.

Tell us about : what inspired the show and how did it come to life?

I wanted to produce some indie short films when were were working and design projects and Mike Owens, our animation director, showed me the egg character, Phillip. I gave him an origin and changed him a bit and Mike liked it, so we found this awesome improv troupe in Minneapolis called Splendid Things to improv and do voices. That short went to some film festivals and they loved the characters, so we worked and reworked it over six years into a kid’s show.

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What is the process of creating an animated show? Could you walk us through the timeline and what goes into it?

Oh, woah. I feel embarrassed. We did this with traditional animation so it takes A LONG time to make something that’s only 11 minutes long. From the time Amazon said they’d option it to the airing, it took 18 months. A lot of development and then seven months of hardcore pilot-making. It’s pretty linear, the way we did it. I wrote and rewrote the script, passing it around to Mike, Aaron, and Amazon, consolidating notes. I did 11 drafts, which isn’t bad. Then Mike did a storyboard, about 1,200 drawings. Then I direct the actors, and acted in this one. Then I cut the audio track into what’s called a “Radio Play” then the storyboards are timed to that and given some motion. This is called an animatic. Then Mike does what’s called a Exposure Sheet. Which is is like every movement an animator will have to make written on a grid. I write everything that happens in a shot on the storyboard frames. “Water continuously flows, bird flies near camera blurred by limited aperture, squirrel looks around.”

People draw all the props, additional characters, effects etc. and put them into model sheets. This is all tracked on a reference sheet– what goes into each shot. Then it’s hand animated on paper. 200 scenes, 14,000 drawings. It’s inked and colored digitally. Then composited. Then we go into SFX, Music, Retakes and a final mix which is just a couple hours of “can you make that bird a LITTLE bit louder.” Then we deliver a gazillion different versions then have to do legal wraps, financial wraps, tax rebate wraps. It’s process-intensive.

How did you choose who would be the voices of your main characters?

With Phillip we pitched the show with him — his voice sold the show. He was constantly worried he’d be recast for Tom Cruise or whatever but we were like, “NO EVERYONE LOVES YOU!” For our other lead D.D. we knew we wanted an adult comic/improvisor and watched YouTube videos of people we liked with our eyes closed.

We loved Aidy Bryant but felt like there was a zero percent chance she’d do it and we were wrong. For Duncan, I cast myself and hoped no one said anything about it. I heard later that some people were crabby about it but I did okay. Michael Ritchie was another shoe-in as Eric’s comedy partner. He’s just so versatile and makes everything funny.

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What is the most difficult part of what you do?

Writing jokes and sticking with them after hearing them 500 times. You have to remember and have complete faith in that first time you laughed at it. You’re working for months and months with no feedback.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in getting up and running?

To cut off defeatist thoughts immediately. To spring into action vs. anticipation or perfection.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?

I’m sure my anxiety has taken a toll on my health. Otherwise I don’t know, it’s been 11 years. I don’t remember life or possibilites before. I don’t have much patience, I lost that somewhere.

Can you name your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in work so far?

That’s working on  — it was such a dream in so many ways. There is this weird feeling we all have that we’ll never work on something that all-around great and fun again.

What’s the first app, website or thing you open/do in the morning?

NOTHING! Get up, shower, go to work, then hit that endless to-do list. If I waiver at all, I find myself three towns over trying some ice cream I heard about or something. No one is really holding me accountable day-to-day. I’m perpetually single. I can disappear and no one says anything so I have to go directly to work or I just — won’t. I try to print out my to-do list at night because I’m kind of manic with no filters. In the morning I’m more anxious and hesitant so I need specific instructions.

What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss or running a business that isn’t obvious?

Showing up. Working hard isn’t hard. It’s when you trick yourself that you don’t have to work hard anymore and then you end up with cash flow problems that are difficult to get away from. No one is telling you anything. I don’t know if my career in Hollywood is just getting started or on its last legs or in-between. I always assume in-between.

How can people watch and support ?

It’s all about sharing on social media than watching all the way through and writing a positive review on the Amazon site. You can watch the pilot without a prime account on . Thoughtful reviews matter more. Also, fan art is really good. Tagged #dangerandeggs. Thank you!

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