The Creators of Disney’s Kiff Share Their Inspirations for the New Animated Series

The Creators of Disney’s Kiff Share Their Inspirations for the New Animated Series

An animated squirrel in front of a refrigerator covered in letter magnets.

Image: Disney Channel

A new buddy comedy is coming to the Disney Channel and Disney+. Inspired by animated favorites like The Simpsons and DuckTales, Kiff is a new generation’s slice-of-life series in which—surrounded by friends and family in an eccentric community—two friends find adventures just around the corner.

io9 recently sat down with Kiff creators Nic Smal and Lucy Heavens to chat about the show. It centers on a spunky squirrel protagonist and her laid-back bunny bestie Barry, and takes inspiration from the people and places Smal and Heavens encountered when they were growing up.

Sabina Graves, io9: I’m excited to chat with you all about Kiff. I’ve watched a few of the episodes. I think it’s so bonkers and silly. I loved it. Can you tell me a bit about the inspiration for the show, and how you all collaborated on this concept?

Heavens: Thank you! We really just wanted to do a project that we would be filled with joy to make and that we wanted to watch. We had this the sort of kernel of what Kiff was in terms of her character and her personality, and we kind of spun it out from there—we just leaned on all of our favorite people and places, and it’s a very relatable show. And yeah, it was just all things that made us laugh.

Smal: We made it to the studio and we sort of clicked on similar kind of tastes in comedy and we had fun chatting about it. And I drew Kiff, which at the time was just like a big light bulb. And we both sat there and just were like: “heheheheheh.” Just the world started showing itself to us from there. It just all spun out from Kiff.

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io9: That’s awesome. I love how Kiff has this really big sense of go-getter adventurer attitude, and a lot of times her imagination plays out scenarios and how she thinks it should go. It’s really cool to show audiences that things aren’t always going to go as you imagine them. What was important to you in showing your audience how to navigate life when things don’t go as planned?

Heavens: I think maybe if anything, the show is like “life doesn’t go the way that you think it will.” And it’s a kind of “know thyself” show, where you look at your behavior and what motivated you and you understand yourself a bit better.

Smal: Yeah, and even if things don’t kind of turn out or pan out exactly how you imagined it, whatever kind of twists and turns happen—if you got someone you know by your side that you care for deeply and cares for you and is nonjudgmental, just the pure friendship and support, then anything’s possible. And that’s all that really matters. You know?

io9: For sure. I think anyone could use a Barry [Kiff’s bunny bestie]. I love the the family episode where Kiff gets to be an honorary member of Barry’s family, because there’s always that funny dynamic of how your family acts one way when it’s just family, and then when guests are over, it’s kind of different…

Smal: And that that feeling going over to someone’s house for the first time for a sleepover and feeling a bit like there is a difference. What’s normal to one family might be completely, wildly, not normal to another, but it’s like, “Hey, it’s all good.”

Image for article titled The Creators of Disney's Kiff Share Their Inspirations for the New Animated Series

Image: Disney Channel

io9: It’s like such a fun dynamic to see Kiff meld into. I also had a really good time with the road trip—it kind of gave me Fury Road, Mad Max vibes. There’s certainly pop culture touchstones that stand out, like the Kill Bill noise.

Heavens: We do love and pay homage to all things popular culture.

io9: What your first fandoms in animation, and how did they inform your career path?

Heavens: It was The Simpsons—ain’t it just the way as a millennial?

Smal: We didn’t know each other at that age, but we both were recording The Simpsons on VHS, creating our own collections.

Heavens: “Do not tape over.”

Smal: Cartoons were just something that I always felt there was a connection there, and always comedy. The afternoons just spent watching back-to-back whatever was coming on. I think animation really comes and finds you. Shows like SpongeBob SquarePants and DuckTales.

Heavens: And Animaniacs.

io9: I mean, yeah.

Heavens: We both just ate it all up. But probably in terms of sensibility, [and] in terms of what informed our sense of humor, it is probably mostly The Simpsons.

io9: The world-building of the different people in Kiff’s life definitely has that [Simpsons] feel, like they each have a sense of their own inner life. When it came to creating that, were the voices for these characters on the page, or did you open it up to some of the voice talent to really make it their own as well?

Heavens: It’s a kind of endless feedback loop, where we started with the voice on the page, and then we were getting it back, and then you write more for that voice, and then there are elements that you really enjoy—and on it goes. That’s been a very happy part of the process.

Kiff premieres Friday, March 10, on the Disney Channel (8:00 p.m. EST/PST), and will drop on on Disney+ streaming right after.

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