"Major Flake," the brain child of Adam Cohen, class of `89, and Chris (Casper) Kelly, class of `91, is one of 10 different pilots in the running to become a Cartoon Network series, with audiences making the deciding vote online as part of "The Big Pick."
Cohen and Kelly's satirical look into the world of childrens' cereal mascots, "Major Flake" delves into the sociological evils and advertising spins of mass-marketed sugary goodness to youngsters.
Major Flake, a Napoleonic dude in a purple suit, and his sidekick, Sparkles, are spokesmen for Major Flake cereal. Major Flake loves his job and completely fails to understand why the goopy, ghastly goo that is Major Flake cereal (imagine eating white paste) is a less than popular with the kids.
"He's an egomaniac -- he thinks he can do anything and doesn't know the meaning of the word fail," Kelly said.
Sparkles, on the other hand, the absolute antithesis of Toucan Sam and Tony the Tiger, loves Major Flake cereal for one reason only -- his paycheck. Sour and cynical, Sparkles can only maintain his sugar fairy persona during their commercial takes.
To keep from being canned by Sylvia Soggy, CEO of Soggy Cereals, Inc., the Major and Sparkles have to win the public's affection for their substandard product.
Other characters include King Sweet, the pompous ruler of the cereal market, Sugar Buzz, a super-hyped up, sugar-addicted bumblebee, and Reverend Ruffage, the mascot of Moral Fiber cereal.
The creation of the pilot stemmed from Cohen's days as an advertiser for the Cartoon Network. Based on the popularity and success of his print advertisements, Cohen was approached by the network's program directors, who felt his advertisements were funnier than some of the show pitches they received, Cohen said.
When he was asked if he had any ideas for new shows, Cohen, a former cartoonist for The Daily Tar Heel, seized the opportunity. He called in old friend and fellow DTH cartoonist Kelly to collaborate on the effort.
"We were kind of looking for something satirical that hadn't been done before, and we were eating brunch, and it occurred to us that no one had done a cartoon about the backstage lives of cereal cartoons," said Kelly, a senior writer of promotions and specials at Cartoon Network.
During the 3 1/2 year process, Cohen and Kelly began sketching out ideas, writing scripts and working with animator Bob Kurtz to produce Major Flake. Using the same actors who voice Johnny Bravo and Pinky from "Pinky and the Brain," Cohen and Kelly gradually brought an entire cast of cartoon characters to life.
With the hopes that Major Flake will join the ranks of "The Simpsons" and "The Powerpuff Girls," its creators strived to make a cartoon that will appeal to both children and adults.
"We really wanted to have a show that worked on two levels," Cohen said.
Major Flake will encourage children to look into the marketing campaigns that win them over and why, while inside jokes and more mature humor will pull in an older audience.
"It's more Bugs Bunny than Mickey Mouse," Kelly said.
"The Big Pick" will be the close of the Cartoon Network's "Cartoon Cartoon Summer." Viewers are being asked to go online and choose their favorite pilot, and the pilot with the most votes will become a series.
If Major Flake is chosen, its writers probably will quit their day jobs and move on to comedic TV wonderland, Kelly said. But even if the show doesn't pan out, plans for the future are in the works. "We've got lots of other projects going," Cohen said.
To vote for Major Flake or any other pilot, head to http://www.cartoon
network.com. Clips of all 10 pilots are available.
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