“Tuca and Bertie”: the origins of a Netflix original unlike any other

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Or how Lisa Hanawalt’s talking and dancing bird-women illustrate the key to balancing life’s hardships and happiness.

Lisa Hanawalt loves butt, and lying about it wouldn’t even cross her mind. The production designer of “BoJack Horseman” and creator of the new Netflix the original “Tuca & Bertie” series flaunts the butt whenever it gets the chance. There are paintings, animated gifs, other authors book covers, drawings in it own books, and she even asks listeners to her podcast, “Baby geniuses” (co-hosted by screenwriter Emily Heller), to send in pictures of their buttocks – you know, as long as they’re comfortable with that.

“I’m literally drawing an ass right now as we talk on the phone,” Hanawalt said in an interview with IndieWire.

It should come as no surprise, then, that her first TV series opens with a toucan in green shorts hitting back into the frame, before reshaping a floating purple bubble into big old loot – which she quickly and happily slaps. .

Meet Tuca, one of the two best bird friends at the helm of Hanawalt’s new show, “Tuca & Bertie”. Considering the introduction, you would think the series is just wacky fun. And it can be – absolutely – but the title has two names for a reason. Bertie comes with her own distinct, well-rounded personality, and Lisa Hanawalt combines her eponymous characters for a clever hybrid of a comedy; harness the exuberance of Saturday morning cartoons and the anxiety of a generation of adults in their 30s.

The outgoing toucan known as Tuca and the dreamy songbird named Bertie tell us all we need to know about the woman who brought each one to life – and how her enlightening insights can help viewers deal with a dark and dark world. confusing. “Tuca was inspired by me while watching a nature documentary about toucans stealing eggs from other birds’ nests,” Hanawalt said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, that reminds me of me!’ I’m so greedy for food, when I was originally drawing comics about Tuca, she was kind of like my ID card.

The character, like the bright, bubbly birdwoman herself, came from a place of delightful exuberance. While serving as the production designer on “BoJack Horseman”, Hanawalt would go home and draw toucans for fun. This version has become a series of comics for Hazlitt Magazine, and his interest in Tuca, the character, has grown steadily.

“Tuca and Bertie”

Netflix

“Right away, she was always talking about it – not like a show, just like, ‘I started drawing these toucan cartoons, and I’m having so much fun,” “supervising director Mike Hollingsworth said. “Then when they kind of squeezed her for a show, she turned to what she found so much joy in doing – creating these toucan cartoons.”

“I’ve always really enjoyed drawing birds,” Hanawalt said. “I think what I love about them is that they can be very, very cute, but they can also be a little scary and scary.”

These divided reactions to our feathered friends meant that Tuca needed a complementary counterpart, and Bertie was born from a separate corner of Hanawalt’s mind. Raphael Bob-Waksberg Has known Hanawalt since the two went to high school together in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s the one he called out for the designs behind the “BoJack Horseman” pitch, and her designs, insight and personality helped shape the show into the award-winning comedy it is today.

When the two started talking about making a new series – his series – they remembered a comic that Hanawalt had made for Lucky Peach magazine called “Planting.” The news follows a couple of birds buying their first home and the woman’s growing obsession with plants. She fills their house with a variety of greenery so much that her husband cannot find her when he comes home from work.

“The main thing I wanted to get out [into the world] was Lisa, ”Bob-Waksberg said of those early discussions about creating the show. “What does a Lisa show look like?” How do we catch his Lisaness on television? “

Hanawalt discussed the “plantation” for a conversation at the XOXO Festival in 2015. She said Bertie’s character uses her hobby to repel people. “It’s definitely something I do in my own life,” Hanawalt said during the speech, after explaining how she deals with anxiety in her day-to-day life. This constantly simmering social anxiety has made its way from “Planting” to “Tuca & Bertie” through their common character, and it’s a big part of Hanawalt’s life.

“When I’m uncomfortable it means I’m challenging myself, and if I don’t challenge myself I feel like I’m going to die,” she told IndieWire. “I was invited to a wedding in India last year and I was really, really nervous about traveling there. I am not the best traveler. I become uncomfortable. I am anxious. I am like an agoraphobe. But I went there because if I have the opportunity to go to another country and I say no, then who am I? What’s the point of even being alive?

She said she felt the same about the creation of “Tuca & Bertie”, a process initiated by her agent, friends and colleagues urging her to take the next step in her career: the designer.

“It was never my plan,” Hanawalt said. “I never really dared to plan because I’m so afraid of being disappointed in myself that I never think anything will work. When we started to develop ‘Tuca & Bertie’ I kind of accepted it because Raphael [Bob-Waksberg] and [producers] Xmas [Bright] and Steeve [Cohen] were supporting me on this journey, ”she said. “I thought we might as well give it a go because if I don’t at least try I’ll never forgive myself.”

Tuca and Bertie Season 1

Designer Lisa Hanawalt works on “Tuca & Bertie”

Eddy Chen / Netflix

Hanawalt credits a “fantastic and supportive” team around her for getting her across, noting that at the start of production she gave them her therapist’s phone number whenever “I’m losing my mind.” .

“But it turned out that they did not have [need it], “she said.” I kept it together. I certainly had days when I had to go and shed a quick tear in the bathroom – and it’s just frustration and exhaustion – But it turned out not to be as difficult as I thought. “

“It’s like you have to take on this role, you have to do it because you don’t have a choice,” she said. “I slowly, over the course of this season, figured out how to run the writers room – and I’m still not comfortable with that. It’s always really hard for me to sit in a 20-person room and say, “Well, that’s how I want it, and that’s why. I’m always afraid it sounds stupid, and that they’ll think I’m stupid, and don’t know what I’m doing, but I just had to do it. I had no choice. “

Much of what Hanawalt talks about can be seen in Bertie’s character. In the fourth episode, the only way she can muster up enough courage to leave the house is to wear safety sneakers – cloying shoes with cupcakes on their toes. At the supermarket, she is overwhelmed by the bickering of people and their clashing carts. His fears cannot always be attributed to one thing; they are not rational, but they are real.

“It’s very simple to tell an episodic story where something happens to Bertie and then she gets upset about it, but how do you show that she kind of lives in this state and that it comes and goes?” said Bob-Waksberg. “It’s not necessarily because of what’s going on in the world.”

But Bertie isn’t the only one who is anxious or confused. Tuca’s boisterous, party-loving personality can be purely positive, but she can also hide her own insecurities. On the one hand, she is an alcoholic and the root of her problem has not yet been fully explored. “Maybe she was an alcoholic because of social anxiety, we’re not really sure,” Hanawalt said. “But I wanted to show that she also has a certain vulnerability. She’s not always the most confident person, and that can be a defense mechanism in a way.

Small pieces of each character make their way into the other. Tuca gets nervous and depressed from time to time, just as Bertie can indulge in dizzying, quirky entertainment. (Just give her a few ingredients and she’ll cook your ass.) This kind of mixing and balancing helps establish why the two would be friends in the first place, just as it helps expand what “Tuca & Bertie” is. able to do. of coverage every season.

“They both started out as different aspects of my own personality,” Hanawalt said. “Of course in my day to day life I’m more of a Bertie, but I definitely have Tuca qualities – which I try to hide.”

“If you watched five hours of ‘Tuca and Bertie‘, then you started to understand who Lisa is, ”said Bob-Waksberg. “Every nook and cranny of her is explored and exposed in this show she created.”

So far, Hanawalt speaks to people in a way that other shows don’t. Reviews and Fans respond in kind, and it relates to the part of the designer who made her way into the series.

“I can’t wait to see the reaction to this feminine hilarity on screen,” Hollingsworth said. “I think it’s just a great show for this generation. With Ali Wong, Tiffany Haddish and Lisa Hanawalt, this is my “Charlie’s Angels”. It really is the right show at the right time.

A little bit of Tuca, a little bit of Bertie – or a lot of both. Finding a balance between a vibrant, carefree mind and a hands-on approach to big dreams is one of life’s greatest challenges, and yet Hanawalt has found a way to not only push himself into a healthy and successful dynamic, but to illustrate the journey on screen for all people. Sharing that kind of perspective on the seasons and seasons of TV is truly a gift, but Hanawalt can sum it up too.

“It’s tough. Life is tough,” Hanawalt said with a laugh. “But it’s also fun.”

So don’t forget to stop and admire the cigarette butts.

Season 1 of “Tuca & Bertie” is now streaming on Netflix.

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