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Aaron McGruder Interview

Creator of 'The Boondocks'


Aaron McGruder, creator of

Aaron McGruder, creator of 'The Boondocks'

Cartoon Network
Huey Freeman from

Huey Freeman from "The Boondocks."

Cartoon Network
Garden Party -
Cartoon Network

Xzibit did the show as himself, which was a lot of fun. Quincy Jones was on the show, and it was one of those momentous occasions when a legend walks into the room. He was great, and I was really thankful he showed up. It was really surprising that most of the people we called actually showed up, because you think they're not going to, but they do.

Q: Do you think people will focus on the "n" word a lot?
A: Yeah, they will, but you know, it is what it is.

Q: But you don't think the focus is warranted?
A: Why are we still asking the question since so many shows have used it? I wonder if we get cancelled, and then next year, there's another show with "nigger," are we gonna be talking about it again? Granted, we'll say it a lot. But I feel like it just is what it is. It's the way people talk.

Q: You developed the show for network TV, but ultimately ended up on Adult Swim.
A: Yeah, Adult Swim prefers funny. The show for Fox was very sitcom-y and very structured. From a storytelling perspective, it was almost as confining as the strip. When it was all said and done, it wasn't that good of a show, and we knew it was never going to air.

It's really hard to make things funny. There are a million ways for them to be unfunny and sometimes you have to hit a pretty exact mark, especially when you're talking about race and politics. Cable is the only place where you can still be honest and actually have fun. And Adult Swim has been supportive throughout the process.

Q: Has Adult Swim given you any restrictions?
A: There really hasn't been anything that they've said I can't do.

Q: What are the challenges of taking it from the strip to an animated series?
A: Mostly, it has to do with having a lot employees who complain and want time off, rest and lives. There's no time for that in the animation business. It's like painting a picture with moving brushes that want to talk back.

I spent five years working alone and became a very antisocial and unfriendly person. That's just how I'm used to working, so there are always unfortunate people who now have to put up with the insanity that up until now has only been inflicted on me. I'm just not good with others. I don't work well with others. I'm not nice.

Q: It's hard to give up some of the control?
A: It's tough, because it can't be a committee. It's a personal vision, yet it can't be done alone. People have to give up time and so much of their lives to do it. They're looking at you going, "You're getting rich off of this one day. It's just a job for me. I'm going home." And you can't be mad at them for going home.

Fortunately, I have found enough people who are willing to sacrifice a lot of time, and the show looks really good. Being a cartoonist is an isolated job and most cartoonists are standoffish, isolated people. It has been a dramatic transition to go from being alone to having all of these actors, producers, artists and writers. It's just a lot to manage.

Q: Do you think you'll have any backlash for calling people out?
A: I hope not, because that would be unpleasant. There'll be people who get angry, sometimes people don't take jokes well. R. Kelly might find this all incredibly funny. I don't think so, but I'm hoping. Oprah won't be mad, because she's not visually represented in any way, and that's important to stress. R. Kelly will be mad.

Q: Describe your animation process.
A: The script is written, then designers design the characters, props and backgrounds. Board artists draw the show, and then actors record it. We put it together in an animatic, a rough, ugly version of the show made from storyboards laid out over the dialogue track. I sign off, and it's shipped overseas. It obviously takes a long, long, time, but those are the big steps. It's about a year from when the episode is written to when it will air.

Q: Is there anything about animation that you don't like doing?
A: Shipping the show so far away, because at that point you lose some control. I wish the studios animating it could have a closer relationship with us. The two Korean studios we have do a wonderful job. I just wish we could walk down the hall and work with them. In animation, there are a lot of people and long distances for one performance, and you don't know what you will get until it's almost too late to go back and change it.

Q: Do you think this could be a live action show?
A: No, I would never have sold it as a live action, because that would be really bad. Some properties you can do that with and some you can't. I don't think you can do The Boondocks in live action.

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