I’ve been a fan of the folks behind Cyanide & Happiness for a long time and was excited to learn that the creators were teaming with Octopie – the studio behind Tommy Wiseau and Brock LaBorde’s Spaceworld – on a new web series called The Stockholms. Upon hearing the premise of a never-ending hostage situation, I knew I had to find out more about this wild and outlandish comedy. So I was elated when I got the opportunity to interview producer Adam Nusrallah via email. Here, we discuss the origins of the show, who his favorite character is, and much more!
What was the genesis of this project?
The Stockholms was the creation of one of Explosm’s writers, Mike Salcedo. Mike has a webcomic called Bigfoot Justice which involves a lot of one-off gags. The Stockholms was originally an idea for one of his comics based around the concept of, “What if a hostage situation went on forever? Where would the story go from there?” The concept was so broad and funny that it could go in many directions, which is why it was too large of a story to tell in just a comic format. That’s where Octopie came in. We were approached by them to potentially collaborate on a project together, so we thought of what pitches we had and presented to them. We felt The Stockholms met both of our styles of animation and humor in the best way and thus, The Stockholms was born.
What made Octopie the right partner for The Stockholms?
We felt Octopie was the best partner for The Stockholms because they really understood the humor and heart of the show. Octopie is an animation studio themselves, so they really knew how to communicate with us on what expectations could be met when creating a short format show like this. We felt as though we were always on the same page with the direction we wanted The Stockholms to go and that really showed that Octopie had the same vision we did. We’ve worked with a lot of different studios on different projects and I can honestly say that Octopie was the smoothest and one of the most enjoyable partnerships to work with.
What’s a moment from working on The Stockholms that stands out to you?
There are so many stand-out moments to choose from, but if I had to pick, I would say it was when we were recording Episode 6, which is the musical episode. We have a lot of incredible actors on this show and one of them is Christopher Sabat, who you might know as, Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z and a lot of other anime shows. Chris plays a big part in the musical episode as the main act and we had way too much fun recording his lines for the musical number, especially since his improv is hilarious. It’s always a blast to be in a recording session ‘cause it’s just a bunch of grownups in a room yelling nonsense into a microphone and getting to call it a job.
The show is incredibly inventive. How would you say it stands apart from other web series?
A lot of web series animation tends to live in short format spaces. Animation is hard and expensive without the proper resources, so it can take a long time to create a show. I think what makes The Stockholms stand out is the humor and familiarity we already have with Cyanide & Happiness, where we are known for being edgy and testing people’s limits, but adding that heart back in.
Mike Salcedo had a very clear vision of what the tone was going to be for the show, so it’s very self-aware of what it is and doesn’t try to be anything more or less. With The Stockholms, you’ll still experience our shocking twisted humor while still [saying], “Aww,” to many heartfelt moments. You might even cry.
Which character was the most fun to work on and why?
That’s always one of the hardest questions to get asked for any project cause you get so close to everyone and [everything] on a show.
If a gun was to my head, I would probably say Ned the Negotiator would be my favorite character out of the show. I feel like I identify with him the most. Ned is always trying to do his best but never crosses that line of wanting to push a boundary too far. As a producer on shows, it can be a hard line to walk when you are also close with everyone you work with. You have to be the backbone of seeing a project get from point A to point B but also be that support system with your team both in their departments and emotionally if needed. I always do my best to make the pipeline process as fun and as smooth as I can with my role. Ned approaches things the same way and we get to really watch him grow into his own with [self-discoveries] and what makes him happy, just like I do each and every day.
That was probably a lot deeper of an answer than you wanted; my bad.
I like Ned.
What did you learn from Cyanide& Happiness that you brought with you to The Stockholms? Similarly, what did you learn from The Stockholms that you will take with you to your next project?
Cyanide & Happiness has been around for a long time now with hundreds of shorts and 4 seasons of a show. Because of that, we’ve created a formula that really works for us, and I think that helped us find our baseline for The Stockholms. One of the hardest things to be is funny all the time. Getting into a headspace like that can be the difference of hours or minutes just depending on the day or situation. Thankfully we have a very funny team of staff writers that have been doing this for a long time. That allowed us to look at The Stockholms as a simple idea and say, “What if..?” then just throw things at the wall until things began to stick.
We learned a lot from The Stockholms too, both creatively and technically. Creatively, I think we found a happy medium between having dark humor and finding the heart in a story. Telling a show like this and being able to focus on a more episodic series as opposed to a one-off short allowed us to focus on building a world and truly getting to know the characters that live in there.
Technically, because this was a much different style of a show from our norm, we actually created a new production pipeline process for it. We actually created a lot of finished art assets before we had the main points of the story outlined both in the script and in animatic/storyboards. That’s a little bit of putting the cart before the horse, but in this specific case, it worked out really well for what we wanted to achieve with the time we had. That opens up doors for other possibilities as far as what we can do for future projects.
Is there an overall plan for the show?
The Stockholms will be a 10 episode series and will live on Octopie’s YouTube channel. Episodes will be released every Thursday at 9am PST or 11am CT, starting Thursday, July 30th of this year.
As far as future plans for The Stockholms, I think they will have a great home with Octopie and I hope we get to visit those characters again.
What are you working on next?
I’m currently stacked with a bunch of projects thankfully. One of my larger ones now that The Stockholms is released is getting our Cyanide & Happiness Point and Click Adventure Game, “Freakpocalypse,” out for everyone to play this summer! It’s the first time that Explsom has made a game in-house and [they] have been working on it for several years now. All of the art and animation that will be in the game will be from our same artists, writers, and actors from our studio. It’s another world where we got to build upon the Cyanide & Happiness universe with a lot of familiar faces and places from our shows and shorts. So I am very excited to share that with everyone once it comes out.
We want to thank Mr. Nusrallah for his time and look forward to seeing more from The Stockholms every Thursday!