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    Mark Valenti Interview With GetLazy

    GetLazy Interview with Mark Valenti
    October 4, 2015



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    BoredJedi: Hello and welcome to this interview from Getlazy.net. My name is BoredJedi and joining me via Skype is Mark Valenti, the head writer for our favorite television show, LazyTown. So with questions from our Getlazy.net members and without further ado, good morning Mark, how ya doing?

    Mark Valenti: I am very well. How are you doing?

    BJ: I'm so glad you could join us on behalf of myself and the Getlazy.net fans. This is my first time so if I'm a bit rough doing an interview, excuse it.

    MV: Oh, don't worry about it.

    BJ: So I guess we might as well just get started with the first question?

    MV: Okay.

    BJ: How did you originally become associated with LazyTown?

    MV: Way, way, way back in 2003, I received a phone call from a fellow who really wasn't on the production for very long, Leifur [Dagfinnsson], a really great guy. He's now with True North, I believe, a production company up there, but at the time I think he was a coordinating producer and he was rounding up some people to come and work on the show. They had been building this soundstage up there for a couple of months and suddenly, I guess it dawned on them that they needed to have a writing staff. It was around Christmas time 2003, I think they got my name from from a friend of mine, Jan Fleming, I used to work with Jan at Disney Interactive a few years earlier and she recommended that they give me a call. So, they had me come up and I met with Magnús [Scheving] and I think he picked me up at the hotel and took me to an outdoor swimming pool. It was January, it was about five degrees [Fahrenheit], and I had just assumed we were going to be swimming indoors but, of course, that's not true because it's Iceland and they're hardy people. So, we went outside and moved into the hot tub and he just described the show in the way that he describes the show. It was a very interesting kind of out of body experience because, first of all, it was Iceland in the winter there was no daylight and lava fields and it felt very otherworldly. I gave him what I thought was the best approach to handle the show because, at the time, I could tell that he was a creative person who liked to have his vision carried out, and since he was the one who had invented the show, and was pulling all the people in, and actually helping to build the actual physical studio, and it's very obvious he was going to be a hands-on guy. So, I said I thought that what we needed was one or two writers who could deal directly with him, and pick his brain, and listen to what his vision was and translate it that into scripts. He thought that sounded terrific and I went back home and I found out that I did not get to job.

    BJ: Oh.

    MV: That's the life of a freelancer; you get these kinds of opportunities. Well, a couple of weeks later I got another call from Leifur who said, “Can you come back?” What they had done in the meantime was, I guess, he had listened to some other advice and they brought up a bunch of very expensive writers from Los Angeles and tried to set up a traditional Hollywood writing room, which I knew wouldn't work because of the kind of person Magnús is. They tried that and they had come up with a couple of scripts and it just wasn't working. So, I came up and started writing right away; plunged into the whole chaos and madness of LazyTown. I guess they had already been shooting an episode for a couple of weeks or maybe just a week and it just wasn't coming together. I had to plunge in to working side-by-side with him for probably four days straight, just to iron out the story problems, and script problems, and what we needed to put on paper as a blueprint for the production staff. When we walked out of those couple of days we had two full scripts that they could immediately start shooting. That put the production back on the right track and that whole first year was such a blur. Any of the fans of the show know that that first year was crazy and that we did thirty-something shows, which is an impossible task for almost anybody on that basis; round-the-clock shooting, and editing, and writing, and scoring, and probably gave us all nervous breakdowns after that first year. And of course, also the fans know that we had to cheat a little bit by doing the best of kinds of episodes to give us some breathing room, occasionally. One show, I think, was almost exclusively music videos that we had already shot, but we had a commitment to make a certain number of episodes and so we just somehow pulled together and did it.

    BJ: When I look at the kind of episodes I'm like, “Thirty episodes in how short of time?”

    MV: It was a year.

    BJ: Yeah, wow! I do notice that they reused music clips here and there and certain scenes, but most shows do that.

    MV: Well, you try not to the greatest hits in your first year but we actually had no other alternative at certain times. That was just part of the lunacy.

    BJ: On top of that, when you finally did get on board with them, how did you interpret the world that LazyTown exists in?

    MV: Well, to me it was just a normal town with normal people. I've read all kind of theories about the post-apocalyptic scenario, and radiation poisoning made these people strange and all that sort of thing, which was hilarious. But to me, it was just exactly as it was presented as. I had to maintain that line of thinking because to me it was a show about a little girl, who came to a town and met a bunch of people who became friends. That was always the core of the show for me. I just always assumed that there were other people in the town, and we just chose not to follow them. It was almost like a documentary crew that had a certain task to follow a certain people, and if we needed to show other people, it could have easily been done. We just never chose to do that.

    BJ: Had you viewed any of the previous stage shows that Magnús had done, Latibær, I think that is the pronunciation?

    MV: After I got the very first phone call, I looked up online and there were some really sketchy videos available of the characters. I guess they created a sizzle reel when they were going around the world trying to sell the show, and so they had used the original puppets that they created, the ones that looked a lot stranger, and less human, than the ones we actually went with. It was an unusual piece and, of course, this has been a stage show, it has been a property that people and children had loved, so how do you take it and transform it into television without losing the heart and soul of it? Of course, the answer is to always to just remain wedded to what Magnús was looking for in the show, because there could be no better way to approach that.

    BJ: Did he want all the characters in the show? From the stage production?

    MV: We tried to. I think there was a policeman that we considered using, but we really didn’t want that kind of authority figure in the show, because ultimately, if you have a policeman, you’re going to be using him in that way. I think there was a couple of other kid characters, but as it was we already had a full range of characters that each represented something relatable to a child. It was hard enough just to give them lines of dialog each week because of the ensemble nature of the show.

    BJ: Yeah, I was explaining to them on GetLazy.net, because someone posed that question, and I said that most shows have very few main characters to focus on, just to keep it simple because there is only so much that you can do in a half hour program, and if you have this fifteen member cast of characters, you just can’t do it. You can’t focus on any of them.

    MV: It’s a blessing and curse; it’s both good and bad, because when you’re running out of people to focus on you can say, “Oh lets give so-and-so a chance to be in the spotlight,” then it gives you the chance to develop that character. But just in an effort to be fair, you had actors actually in Iceland, away from their homes, and sometimes there would be actors who didn’t work that week, or didn’t work much, but yet there they were, away from their home and not doing a whole lot. But the puppeteers were fantastic about filling their time. We had people writing books and taking classes and traveling the countryside and so they were really game for anything, but it would have been better if we’d been able to somehow keep everybody as busy as possible.

    BJ: Could you give us a beginning to end rundown of how an episode was developed?

    MV: Well I can tell you about one. We had a very difficult time at some point in that first year. It became obvious on Sunday afternoon that we did not have a script for Monday to shoot. It’s a very expensive production, as everybody knows, so we needed a script. So this was when “Miss Roberta” came about. It was an idea that we had pitched, and we put it on the back burner, but I wrote that script overnight. Then on Monday morning, we came in and distributed copies to everybody and shot that thing in three days to get us back on schedule. I knew I needed to write a script that was pretty simple, and most of it, of course, was carried by Stefán [Karl's] characterization of Miss Roberta. It was just a tremendous effort on everybody's part.

    BJ: That episode came up pretty good considering it was just written overnight and you guys did it in, what, three days, you said?

    MV: Yeah, that’s my favorite because that was as difficult as it ever got for us; hours away from shooting with no material to shoot, but it came out well and that’s just thanks to Stefán. That was an anomaly. Most scripts took weeks and weeks to pull in. In the first season we would write a script, and then we would storyboard it, and then we would have storyboard meetings with all of the heads of the departments. That was really helpful because you could see how the show was going to be shot, you could see the progression, you could actually bunch scenes together that were going to be shot in one location. After that we moved away from storyboards into what we called, “The Playmobile Set,” where we would have a big table set up, and we would put Playmobile characters on there, so that we would figure out camera angles, because shooting camera angles, for instance, like the circus episode [“The LazyTown Circus”], was very important to shoot it with the correct camera angles because you had to sell the idea that these people were up above on the tightwire. If you didn’t plan those shots ahead you were lost. LazyTown was a show that most often required probably eight days to shoot, but we usually only had five.

    BJ: How long did it usually take to complete a script for an episode?

    MV: It went in different stages. The first stage was, let's pick the subject and, what's it going to be about, you know, the "high concept.” We would pitch tons and tons of them and probably for every five hundred ideas we pitched we would choose one. Once that happened, say, just picking an episode, when we had the dinosaur ["Cry Dinosaur"], once we picked that episode idea, we would do an outline with all the story beats, which is important because you have to realize that you have to build the dinosaur, you've got to have a tent, you've got to shoot at nighttime, you've got to have certain kinds of sets built, and certain kinds of props. At that stage, once that was locked, then you do your first draft, which is a couple of days to put the first draft together, but then, you've got the journey which could take you up to fifteen, twenty, thirty drafts of a script just because of the technical nature of the show, and the ever changing kaleidoscope of Magnús's mind. He would see opportunities for certain kinds of scenes and so we would have to change those scripts to match what he had envisioned. Most of the time, once he locked onto a story, that was the story we shot and it was incredible how he could recall all the details that we had talked about a year ago for that thing, but that was how he worked. He had a certain vision for it, and that's what we wanted to try to carry out.

    BJ: Did you fall back on the older LazyTown material from the plays at all?

    MV: I think they did that for the songs. The composer [Máni Svavarsson] had been working with the show for a long time, and so I think they would take themes from the music, and then use the old ones and just make them more modern or give them English lyrics. I think occasionally, in the first season. we would do some older ideas that they'd kicked around, but really we had to jump in and start creating our own pretty quickly.

    BJ: Which episode would you say had the most issues while being developed?

    MV: Some of them were technically difficult ones. The first Christmas episode we did ["LazyTown's Surprise Santa"] we had to fill the entire sound stage with fake snow. It would get in your nose and your lungs, that stuff. Anything technical like that where it would mess with the green screen, that was probably the worst. Even just making a nighttime sky was difficult, because that had to be completely created by the tech team. We couldn't just say, "Oh, there's thunder and lightning in the sky!" We had to go and meet with them and say, "Can we do thunder and lightning," and, "How long would it take," and so forth. So, they each had their own challenges.

    BJ: Did the technical sophistication of LazyTown give you total creative freedom, or were there times where your ideas just couldn't be practically translated on screen?

    MV: Toward the end when the tech guys were really up to speed with what they were doing, my god, they were sending us into outer space with that patented LazyTown vibe; that look that's very LazyTown recognizable. It was the first season that was a little more difficult though, because we even had a hard time as I said earlier with snow. I think it was "Lazy Scouts," we wanted to send them out and have rain come down, and that was just impossible. So we settled for wind, and we wrote the scene about having a windy day. The background, the green screen, couldn't absorb certain kinds of greens, otherwise the result would be you were looking right through it like an x-ray. So, even the prop people had to get those leaves the correct color so that they'd show up on-camera.

    BJ: In my opinion, all the episodes turned out really excellent considering the time frame you guys had, and the amount of technology that went to it, especially the technical aspect of it.

    MV: The first year, it was an enormously difficult challenge to simply shoot on HD and then render it through the computer overnight. I think we needed twelve hours to just render the data so that we could hang on to it. They had subsequently discovered better ways of doing that, but it’s a lot of data going into a computer when you shoot, because you've got the actors in the foreground, you've got the computer generated systems in the background; it was the Viper system, I think, in the first season. It’s tremendously difficult, even just casting a shadow against greenscreen is a concern. I really wish that we had some system where we had been able to shoot the scenery and hang on to some of that video, because a lot of it was really hilarious. It would have been great to have a gag-reel of some of that, we just didn’t have that in our minds at the time, we were preoccupied with other stuff.

    BJ: I guess that you guys never kept any outtakes for the show?

    MV: No, and it would have been tremendous to have those, because some of the things were just crazy. There were times when they were doing very difficult stuntwork. The time when Magnús were hanging upside down for a couple of hours spinning around, and Robbie was on top of a billboard for an entire day with no harnesses and nothing that he could fall on down below, it was crazy.

    BJ: Which episode changed the most from first draft to final draft?

    MV: It was SportaStephanie ["LazyTown's New Superhero"], I think it was. That was supposed to be a single episode about Sportacus taking a vacation. Just as a funny thing; how the kids would fill in for him while he was resting. That came about because we thought that Magnús needs a vacation. He was working seven days a week and so it just sprung from a natural conversation we were having. Ultimately, it turned into this two part extravaganza with all kinds of special effects, and stunts, and action, and music videos, it was crazy. "Princess Stephanie" changed a lot too. The first script that I wrote was sweet and more for girls to appreciate the idea of being a princess and then that too morphed into this larger than life special effects spectacle.

    BJ: So could you briefly describe your understanding of each main character?

    MV: Well, let’s see. Bessie: It’s hard to separate the character from the actor that you know, but I think that Bessie is just somebody with tremendous enthusiasm, but very little self-awareness. We’ve all met people like this. She really feels the spotlight on her at all times. She’s a kind-hearted person, but she’s definitely really not aware of the room around her, let’s just say.

    Milford has too much self-awareness, but he’s a sweetheart of a guy. As David [Matthew Feldman] played him, he’s a little befuddled, but he’s always got the best of intentions.

    Pixel is an intellectual with romantic longings, not just with girls, but I think he has got that sort of poetic heart, but his brain is wired for tech.

    Robbie I think is a lonely guy, but, of course, he’s hilarious.

    Sportacus is just a big kid. He’s just a twelve year old in a man's body. You think about a guy who goes around flipping everywhere, and wanting to play. If you said, “Hey go do this or that,” he would go, “Yeah great!” I just think he’s a big kid.

    Stephanie is a big sister. Stephanie is the kind of a girl who wants to organize the kids into putting on a show, or starting a game or something. She's got that kind of gravity about her.

    Stingy feels unloved. Stingy is a guy who tries to fill up that hole with gold coins. I think he’ll do quite well on the world, but he may never find true happiness. I hope so, but we haven’t seen it yet.

    Trixie is a natural born leader with zero people skills. Let’s just say that.

    And I think Ziggy is the one character that’s pure and unspoiled and he was always the joy to write for. It was fun to write for Ziggy, because of the way Gummi [“Þór” Kárason] played him. You could give him things that most puppets aren’t required to experience, and he could figure out a way to show that on Ziggy’s face. So if you look at some of the expressions that Ziggy made, you’re sorta like, “How in the Hell did he do that?” But Gummi Þór is quite a creative person, he really knew how to make that puppet work.

    BJ: What character did you find was the most difficult to write for?

    MV: Gosh, Trixie. By far. Both of the actresses that played Trixie are just fantastic actresses. It was difficult for them, I think, because Trixie, if you give her free rein, she’s kind of a bitch. Her first iteration was that she’s just a prankster. That kind of character gets old after a while, because they’re always coming in and disrupting things, and you come to expect it, and it can become a little annoying. So we played around with her relationship with Stephanie, she used to call her Pinky. I think Trixie and Stephanie, when they grew up, have become best friends, like Lucy and Ethel on I Love Lucy. I think they’re somewhere off in the world, getting into terrible trouble together, but I don’t think we ever were able to feature a script around her. She was always a supporting character. It’s funny because the more sharp and acerbic character is, deep inside, you have to find the core of them, which is either they have low self-esteem, or you know those kinds of issues. There were probably a lot of things that we could have explored, but ultimately, we were just always focused on Stephanie and Sportacus stories, so that’s really who got the line share. Those actresses that played that part really did a lot with a little.

    BJ: You already had a character that was kind of like that mischievous character that Trixie was, and that was, of course, Robbie.

    MV: Yeah, Robbie needed his own spinoff series I think. I think it would have been fantastic to see Stefán the star of his own show, because most of the time when we were brainstorming ideas for shows, it was like, what could Robbie do that would be funny? That became the go-to scenario for most of the episodes: What would it be funny to see him do? As much as we could torture him, that’s what we would set out to try to achieve. I think we basically gave him every kind of disguise you could give a character, but I think it would have still been fantastic to see - I would like to see Robbie out into the real world, to see how he would survive in like New York City, that would be great.

    BJ: Did you base Robbie off of like, he’s kind of like the Coyote from The Roadrunner series.

    MV: Yeah, it did come up in our discussions, this was after he had already been created though. You could look at a lot of different characters and say, “Oh it’s reminiscent of this or that,” but really, the trick for this character was that deep in his heart, Robbie’s lonely. He just wants to be accepted, and loved, and if he’s not then he turns to other approaches to his character. With that kind of pathos, you need an actor who can really fill those shoes, somebody who could develop a Chaplin-esque kind of vibe, and we got it; Stefán can do anything. It’s amazing, if you just say on paper, in a script, “Robbie spins around, drops the ball and falls,” you just give that to him, and then you see what he does with it. I always would like people to take just any ten second clip of Robbie on screen, and slow it down, and see all the things that Stefán does with that character in those ten seconds, it’s like a ballet. It’s pretty incredible. I would love it if somebody would take a video of him and post some of those scenes together, because the man’s a genius.

    BJ: Are there any characters that you wish you could have had more of an opportunity to develop on screen?

    MV: It’s difficult to say. Pixel never got enough time. I think Stingy was pretty well developed and so was Ziggy. Actually, it may sound strange, but I wish we could have done more with Sportacus. If you pooled together clips of all of Sportacus’ lines, and his opportunities for acting, it was very low. I think we could have given him a lot more colors to play with, but then that would have become a show about a superhero, and that’s not what is was. I think, god, I think maybe turn the show into a cartoon, and then you could give each one of these characters full rein to do almost anything. If Turner is listening to this interview maybe you guys will decide if you want to turn it into a cartoon or not, that would be, I think, a really good idea.

    BJ: Yeah, because you kind of touched upon that cartoon idea with-

    MV: Oh, we went into the fairytales.

    BJ: Yeah!

    MV: Yeah, that was terrific, and I think that could be definitely used as a pitch to any network out there who wants to have a globally recognized brand on their network as a cartoon episode. We’ve still got hundreds and hundreds of story ideas that we never used somewhere in our archives, and it would be no big deal to pull them out and generate an entirely new series.

    BJ: Which episode, that you wrote, turned out the closest to what you had in mind while writing it?

    MV: Oh yeah, that was Miss Roberta, because we didn’t have time to change it.

    BJ: Compared to many of its direct peers, LazyTown is unusual because it is twenty-odd minutes long with no commercial breaks. Do you think this format was the correct fit for the show?

    MV: We had to have that kind of time, because we had action, a music video in every show, sometimes two, there was an exercise sequence, there’s no way that show could have been scrunched into an eleven minutes scenario. Now, if it turns into an animated series, I think that would be the appropriate length, but, LazyTown, you would look at the screen and something was moving on that screen every couple of seconds. It’s a very busy show, and I would guess that some of the younger viewers would tune out at different parts, but there was always something to come back to. I think that we really needed that kinda real estate space and the broadcast channels, because we were doing so much in every show.

    BJ: LazyTown's recent past, before Sportacus came to town and Robbie was the ruler, is briefly referenced in “Welcome to LazyTown.” Are there any expanded ideas of what LazyTown was like, before Sportacus?

    MV: Well, there were a million scenarios. We actually never dwelled on it, because we knew we weren’t going to go there. We only experimented with going back in time, I think, in series four, and that was for the Pinocchio episode [“New Kid in Town”], I think it was. We talked about this quite a bit, and we could have gone there, say, if the show was still alive now, we could have touched on some of that stuff, but it was always present day, more or less, for our show so we really didn’t go there.

    BJ: Also in the episode “Welcome to LazyTown,” during the scene were Pixel first meets Stephanie it is implied that he has a crush on her, yet that idea was never touched on again after that scene. Why not?

    MV: Hahaha.

    BJ: I remember that scene too.

    MV: Yeah, he definitely had a crush on her. The thing is, you don’t want to start something you can’t finish. So if you have a character with a crush, you have to develop that thread, which means Stephanie would have to age upward and lose some of her natural innocence. Even if it was about a sweet and young romance, that’s not what the show is about. So, we just decided to abandon that, or it was just abandoned naturally. There was the romantic scenario between Milford and Bessie; the unrequited kind of thing they had going, and that was better for us, because they were adults, even though they were childish adults. If you have two young kids in love, you've got to go somewhere with that, so it was better just to leave it.

    BJ: In the latest interview that we did with David Matthew Feldman, he talked about the episode “The Lazy Dance,” and about how the episode toyed with the idea of Sportacus having flaws, but the episode never aired and the idea was never used again. Why was that?

    MV: That script did not hang together well. That was the one that they did in the first part of 2004, when they didn’t have a system of creating scripts in place yet. I think it was a noble effort, they shot that whole thing, and I think we wound up using bits and pieces of ideas from that in later scripts. I wonder if anybody has even seen that episode. It exists somewhere out there in the world.

    BJ: Were there any other concepts that were short lived in the series?

    MV: We were told to include pears in storylines for a while. Somebody did a deal with a pear company, and so we were encouraged to put pears into sequences. That didn’t last very long. We touched on some of Robbie's family members; we had portraits of his mother, we talked about a brother at one point, but if it didn’t help us with the core storytelling, we just abandoned the stuff, and then maybe we would pick it up again later. Lets see, other concepts, I wish that the Stephanie mask had been short lived. I didn’t find that all that helpful. There we probably a lot of little things that we touched on that, one reason or another, we just abandoned them, mostly because each episode's storyline was so different.

    BJ: Is LazyTown supposed to exist anywhere specific in the world?

    MV: It's really close to where you live. It's just around the bend and up the corner. I think that Sportacus clearly comes from Iceland. I wrote that he came from an island in the North Sea, so that's clearly Iceland, and that's even where he came to in one of the episodes to get a glacier with some fresh drinking water. I don't think LazyTown, you couldn't consider that to be Iceland, but definitely Sportacus comes from there.

    BJ: That leads up to the next question. A back story about Sportacus where he is number 10 in lineage of Sporaci has been vaguely developed. Could you shed some light on the internal ideas of what Sportacus's story is?

    MV: Well, I could but I can't, because these are secrets that don't belong to me. I'm sorry, I wish I could, there's an awful lot of information and detail that exists. But, yeah.

    BJ: In the reddit AMA that you did in 2012, you mentioned that you had thought about having a new character come on board instead of recasting Stephanie after Julianna outgrew the role. Could you elaborate on that thought?

    MV: We had a lot of internal discussions about what to do, and there was a strong faction against recasting Stephanie, and a strong faction for it. The thought was, you don't want to confuse little children, blah blah blah, but there was so much material out there that had the blue-suited hero and the pink-haired little girl, that ultimately, it just made sense that we were going to proceed and recast the role. We're very glad we did because Chloe was great. For awhile we were talking about Stephanie's cousin, and I think I actually wrote a script for her to come to the show, and then Julianna was going to do a video screen appearance as her final appearance. I probably have that script around here somewhere, and we were going to go forward with it. For awhile that was the plan, and then the other idea just picked up steam, and they went and looked at hundreds of girls and they found Chloe, who was a gem, and that turned out to be the right decision.

    BJ: When I was thinking about when she was leaving the show, I said it would've been really cool if she had been promoted to number 11, and Sportacus semi-retired, and, like you said, her little cousin comes in, along those lines. Just keep Julianna in the show but have her be the superhero, this way Magnús can stay in the background and deal with the show instead of having to do all those stunts.

    MV: It was difficult because Julianna was growing older and wanted to go to college and have other kinds of experiences, and that's perfectly understandable. Also, she was getting really taller and growing out of her role, but I think she could have carried on. Had she chosen to, she would've been more than welcome.

    BJ: In seasons three and four, Stephanie began to don a mask and leap into action wherever there was trouble. This was a point of contention with many people, could you tell us about the decision to take the character in that direction?

    MV: It wasn't my favorite path that we chose, but we did the best we could with it. I think they were trying to give the show a little bit more action, and have her more included in some of those kinds of sequences. Chloe was perfectly capable of being a superhero, and she carried it off beautifully, but for me, it took away from the core idea of who the character was, because ultimately, the idea is you can be a superhero yourself in your own life. I really like the truth of that, and somehow putting the mask on, for me, took away from the idea that anybody can be a superhero. But, having said that, I think the sequences that they put together with her being the superhero with the mask on were really great and very well directed, and she handled it really well. If it was up to me I probably wouldn't have done it, but we got some great scenes out of it.

    BJ: From my understanding, a LazyTown movie has been a vague idea talked about
    for some time. Could you tell us about some ideas that were thrown around
    about a LazyTown movie?


    MV: I actually have that script on my hard drive, I wrote that script. This came about after a brainstorming session. It does exist, and I think it's a really good script, obviously. They were going to do a deal with somebody at some point to get this thing in production, that's why everybody was talking about it at the time, and I think the deal fell apart for some reason, which I'm not privy to. But, I still have the script, so it's ready to go if anybody has one hundred million dollars to shoot it.

    BJ: Yeah! that's pretty much it. Bigger budget, bigger stuff. Do you know if there are still any plans to develop a LazyTown movie?

    MV: I don't know, it would be up to Turner broadcasting, they own the rights to the show now. It would be up to them or whomever owns the rights as we go forward. To me, it's a no-brainer because you've got a built in audience. A lot of the fans are a little older now, and would probably love to see their favorite characters on the big screen. But again, it's always a question of finances, because these things are very expensive. I understand the reluctance to go forward and green light a movie like that, but maybe someday someone will put it together.

    BJ: How did you determine where a song would fit in the script?

    MV: There's always a natural spot for a song, when you write the script. You know what the format is: we have the cold open, we have the scene with the kids where something's happening, and then there's some kind of trouble, Sportacus comes down, we have the mini-save, that starts the episode, then we have the piece of the the script where we talk about what the episode is really about and oftentimes the song would go there. Usually it was about wanting something, something aspirational, work on a team, togetherness, those kinds of things. Sometimes, we didn't know where the song would go, and we would have to find a place, especially, I think, in series 3 and 4, where we started doing a little exercise break in the middle of the song, and you can't just pop those anywhere because it sticks out like a sore thumb, so sometimes we would have to write around the song. But most often there was a natural break.

    BJ: Can you give us an idea of the process in which lyrics for a song are written?

    MV: Well, I'm sure Máni has described this many times, but generally speaking, we would say, “A song should be here, and it should be about, 'let's go to the moon,'” or whatever it is. Then, Máni would develop the musical theme, and he would give me a dummy set of lyrics, sort of nonsensical kind of lyrics, and say, “Here's the meter, and the beat, and the rhythm that we'd have to have the words fit in”, and so I'd go off and write those words, and we would just do it until it held together. That's pretty much how we did it every time.

    BJ: Is there a lyric that you consider to be the crown jewel of your lyrical LazyTown career?

    MV: Well, I like funny lyrics better than the, “Boo-boo-boo, I see you,” kind of thing, so, I think “It's Fun To Be The Mayor” was really great fun to write, and the “Woof, Woof, Woof” song, where Stefán had to say a lot of difficult words in the song. I like those kinds of things. Some really great lyrics got tossed onto the floor, though, and who knows, maybe Máni can do a release of those. He had a lot of music that was rejected, too. A lot of times you write and you think, “This is it, this is perfect,” and for one reason or another, it just doesn't work, but these things still exist out there.

    BJ: There was recently some discussion on the GetLazy forums about the song “Good To Be Bad.” The song ended up disappearing off some international broadcasts and fans were wondering if it was because the song gave a bad message. Do you know anything about that?

    MV: I can't imagine that would be the reason. Well, that's odd, I didn't know that. Generally speaking, the broadcasters didn't make those kinds of judgements about content, really. I know when we were trying to sell the show, actually, one country said, “We're not interested in a show where there's a hero doing things for people. We want people to do things for themselves.” That was one of the counties that rejected LazyTown. But generally speaking, I can't imagine that that would be the reason why, and it's a shame because it's a pretty good song.

    BJ: Were there any lyrics that were rejected from any networks? I guess that hits upon “Good To Be Bad.”

    MV: I think networks are always looking for double meanings in songs and lyrics. Things that could be construed as being-

    BJ: Risqué?

    MV: Probably risqué in some way, and so there were some of those kinds of... I don't remember any offhand. I seem to remember Stephanie saying a word, I can't remember what it was, but it was sort of considered sexual, and it was like, “That's ridiculous.” But as a network, they're the ones who get the phone calls, so they've got to protect themselves.

    BJ: What is your favorite LazyTown song?

    MV: Well, I like “Step By Step” a lot, and I like “Go For It.” Those are the two that I think are the quintessential LazyTown songs. The pirate song ["You Are A Pirate"] is probably the most famous and best-liked song worldwide, but I didn't have a lot to do with that, so I'll put that in there too. That was just a coming-together of the perfect subject matter, the perfect music, the perfect lyrics, and the perfect music video.

    BJ: I would have thought that the “Cooking By The Book” was the number one song from that show. So many things have been spun off from that. Was that your song?

    MV: That was a lot of fun, too. Yeah, that was partially my song, too. Máni and I worked hand-in-hand on that first two seasons. I didn't work on hardly any of the songs in series 3 and 4 for some reason. It probably had to do with money. That's the way those things go.

    BJ: But yeah, that cake song, that thing took off like fire. Everywhere you look, it's on YouTube, you see somebody doing a remix of that cake song.

    MV: Yeah, and you know you've really struck a chord culturally when people start mocking your show, and referencing it in rude ways. There were a lot of memes put out there about Stephanie, and the show, and Sportacus and Robbie, and all that sort of stuff. That's when you know you really know you hit it, because people start making fun of you. The truth is, Julianna and Chloe, yes, they're seasoned performers, and they can handle criticism, but at the end of the day they're just little girls. So a lot of that stuff was tough. When you know somebody as well as you get to know them in a production they become like family, and you don't want to see that kind of stuff happen.

    BJ: Were there any serious creative disagreements between LazyTown and Nickelodeon, Turner or any other international distributors?

    MV: There were, but those are things that take part in a business meeting and it wouldn't be my place to comment on that stuff.

    BJ: What was working at LazyTown like compared to some of the other projects that you have worked on?

    MV: It was the most difficult by far. It was one hundred hour weeks, getting phone calls at three o'clock in the morning, and long long hours on a cold sound stage in the middle of a lava field, it sounds very dramatic. But those are the times when you look back with the most fondness because it was like going through a battle with somebody. You make friends that become lifelong allies. And on the other hand, I got to travel around the world to many countries I hadn't been to and see amazing things. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

    BJ: How did you guys cope with the lack of sunlight?

    MV: It was a little odd, it's hard to wake up in the morning if you're in a place that you open your window and it's dark all day. But it's exciting to work on a TV show and it's exciting to be around these kinds of people whose creativity is at their peak, and you want to be in that room. It was always important to get up and get out of bed in the morning and go see those people. There were times when we had blizzards that we had to drive through. Icelanders are hardy people, so you have to at least give it as good as they do.

    BJ: What was it like working with Magnús Scheving?

    MV: That's always the million dollar question. The same traits that help make him create a globally known show, are the traits that can make him difficult at times. But at the end of the day, it was his show, and you sign on to give him as much support as you humanly can, and make sure that his vision was carried out, and so that's the job. You give a person like that your loyalty and your best efforts and that's the gig. Personally, we became good friends and we had many adventures around the world together, but when you're on the set, he's the boss and he's in charge, and he was able to take on that roll because he has those skills. You don't come out of a small town in Iceland and put together a globally recognized TV show without some kind of goods to back it up, and he has the goods. I don't know what he's doing lately, I understand he's starting a restaurant. If you know him, he's probably developing a restaurant that will serve as the basis for an international franchise of healthy restaurants or something, I don't know, I haven't talked to him for years.

    BJ: I'm assuming he's as energetic as the character he's playing?

    MV: Very definitely. Of course there are times when you have to sleep. I remember we were in Mexico, or somewhere, I think it was Mexico, and we were going to meet him for breakfast and he didn't come down for breakfast. So we went up to the room and banged on the door, and it turned out he was dead asleep because he was exhausted and didn't hear us knocking, and banging, and calling and so forth. Sportacus is human after all, he needs his rest. He was a non-stop rocket for the entire time. I think everybody would say the same thing.

    BJ: I'm surprised they didn't blame it on having too much sugar, why he crashed like in the “Sports Day” episode.

    MV: That's the publicity story that we would tell.

    BJ: What was the goal in making LazyTown Extra, and how did you think it turned out?

    MV: I think the goal was to more personalize LazyTown, for all the various places it would be shown. It's was a fantastic idea, but really there are so many moving parts to something like this. I don't know if you ever saw the show, but the idea was to shoot some sequences in-studio and then have some sequences shot locally wherever the show was being broadcast so that it would have that more personalized flare. The idea was lovely, but I think the execution was spotty. It was an odd time because the studio was more or less shutdown at a certain point, and that was all that was going on, and you just hope that something like that is received well out in the world, and people worked really hard on that. There were some really lovely moments there. To me that was almost some of the most pure LazyTown content that ever went out there because a lot of it was just characters speaking to each other. Being a writer, of course, that's my preference. I love all the action stuff, but sometimes it's nice just to see two people talk to each other.

    BJ: If the production of LazyTown was to continue in the future, would you be interested in doing more work?

    MV: Well, sure. You create these things and they become like your children in a way. There were a lot of us that created as much as anybody did on that show, and it would be great to get together with those people again, that would be fantastic. But I think a show like this, if we could internalize the lessons that we all walked away with in terms of production; locking the scripts at a certain point, and sticking to a reasonable and realistic schedule, somebody has to be in charge and say no to the impossible things, to a degree. It seems like we were always behind, and always catching up, but at the end of the day this is a phenomenal production, and I'm really proud of the work we did, and I would go back in a heartbeat.

    BJ: What direction do you think LazyTown should take if it were to continue?

    MV: Well, I would like to see the feature done. I would really like to see that feature shot just because it's a really, really fun story. Lots of surprises for the fans, it would be one of those things where the fans of the show would see the movie and every couple of seconds, be happy, because we threw a lot in that they would recognize, and a lot of surprises. But I think the series, my preference right now would be I would like to see it animated as a cartoon series, but if that doesn't happen, then I think there are still hundreds and hundreds of stories to tell with that group, and it would be tremendous if we were ever to get going on it again.

    BJ: Yeah, because we hit upon that earlier, about the animated part, and the animation on that one episode, that was done really good. Was that done in-house?

    MV: No, no, we had to contract out for that. I'm not sure, I don't remember exactly who did that at the time, but I thought that was fantastic. The characters really pop on the screen, I think, when it's animated.

    BJ: Some time ago, you mentioned the possibility of writing a book related to LazyTown, or your experiences with LazyTown. Are there still plans to do this?

    MV: Yes, definitely. There are so many stories that are, when you go back and you recount these things that happened, it is so hard to believe the way things went, particularly that first year. But it's just going to be an intimate portrait of what it was like for me personally to come up to Iceland, and meet these people, and work on the show. Just the things that you see, that the public doesn't ever get to know about when there's a show being put together.

    BJ: In plans for your book, are you going to plan on doing any picture segments? You know, like showing behind-the-scenes?

    MV: Oh, yeah. You know, a lot of the pictures that people took somehow ended up on social media, and on fan websites and stuff, But there are still tons and tons of videos, and reminiscences that people still have about the show. I was just looking at some the other day, in anticipation of doing this interview, pictures of when the studio was being built, and the first group of people that worked on the show, and there's a lot of really cool stuff.

    BJ: What do you think of the fact that there are adult fans of the show?

    MV: Oh, I think it's great, it's great. It makes me happy, actually, because it's such a bizarre kind of a show, and I remember the first year it came out, there were some message boards, and some moms were saying, “I'm not going to let my kids watch this. It's too strange looking.” Then slowly the thing kind of turned and people just fell in love with the show, and it is a bizarre show, sort of psychedelic and strange looking, and there's not really anything else like it on the air, so I'm glad when adults like it. It means we've penetrated the barrier.

    BJ: Why do you think some adults are attracted to it?

    MV: Just because it's so bizarre. Now, of course, there's all sorts of strange shows people watch. Cartoon Network has a bunch of shows that I think gather an adult audience, but I think a lot of them the moms were watching because the “mom candy” element to it. But I also think that there's something about the world of LazyTown as it was created that just strikes a chord in people, and it's hard to explain. I would be interested in hearing some of the fans talk about what it is that really strikes them about the show, because somehow it's hard to describe but it's very real.

    BJ: I think it's just a place that everybody wants to live in. It's very laid-back, you really have very little trouble there, and it's just a nice place to live.

    MV: Yeah, well that sounds good.

    BJ: Was the fact that adults became fans of the show, was this something that was anticipated, or did it come as a surprise to yourself and to the rest of the crew?

    MV: I think at first it came as a surprise, and it started with those mentions of all the moms watching the show because of the “eye candy” element. But I think when you're working on a show like this that's kind of a phenomenon in a way, it rises above the normal range of shows, it becomes something that is liked by people on another level, and I think that's just, now we just sort of take that in stride.

    BJ: Now we’re gonna veer off a little bit and talk about some Nickelodeon stuff you’ve done. Old cartoons that you’ve worked on, such as Rugrats, CatDog, and Hey Arnold!, are still quite popular. So much so, that Nickelodeon is now creating a programming block, The Splat, dedicated to those shows and others from the same time period. What do you think about that, and why do you think these shows have had such staying power?

    MV: I think that certain element is probably nostalgia. I think when you’re working on shows for kids you have a responsibility to create something that’s very solid and entertaining, and also has a good message in it. First of all, they tell complete stories, but also, you have to remember that, for instance, when Rugrats was out, first it had a run, and then it lost its popularity. So there were huge gaps in its popularity, it wasn’t always this big phenomenon that it became. Then it became hugely popular again, and then it went off the air, because it lost its popularity. These things come and go through the culture, and then at a certain point, we get so much distance from them, that we become nostalgic about them. I think maybe there’s an element of that, but I also like to think that they were created pretty well, so that they can hold up against almost anything.

    BJ: What is the best cartoon to come out in the last ten years?

    MV: I think a show like Avatar: The Last Airbender is just beautiful and really well written, and really well put together, but for my money Tom and Jerry is the best ever. That’s the classic of all time.

    BJ: I actually do have one question from myself, and I have to ask it. Now, I can hear Chris sweating.

    Chris: No, no, do whatever you need to do.

    BJ: What’s your favorite lightsaber color?

    MV: Well, there was just a video online about this married couple that instead of their first dance, they had a first lightsaber fight. And there was one that looked like purple-ish blue, it was really beautiful.

    BJ: Mine’s blue. I like the dualsaber, I like blue and green. That combo looks really nice.

    MV: As a father I didn’t really like those days were we had them in our house because I have two boys, and that was always a precursor to some kind of trauma.

    BJ: I just have another quick question. When I was looking up your profile, I noticed you worked a little bit on something with Back to the Future?

    MV: I did, I wrote one of the episodes of the cartoon, plus, I’m pretty good friends with Bob Gale who wrote the script. I worked for [Steven] Spielberg, that was my first job in the movie business, and Bob and I were both from St. Louis, so we hit it off and he actually wanted to produce one of my movies, a script that I wrote, we shot that around. He’s a really good guy.

    BJ: How long did the Back to the Future cartoon run? I remember the cartoon, but I don’t remember how long it ran.

    MV: I think it was like three seasons. The animation was really crappy. They did as best they could, and we had Chris Lloyd do interstitials, live action stuff, so that helped elevate the show a little bit, but, I don't know, it just didn’t hang together. It was fun to work on.

    BJ: Is there anything that you would like to say to the fans listening to this interview?

    MV: Wow. Well, thank you. Thank you for your devotion and interest through these years. I know that a lot of the success of LazyTown can be directly traced to the efforts of the serious fans of the show, and that is no small thing, and that’s not just talk. There are times in the culture where a show's popularity wanes, but the fans of the show, the networks listens to them. I think there were times when the fans, the serious fans, the ones who made the effort to write about the show, talk about it online, helped propel the show to what it is now, and so I’m just grateful.

    BJ: Like I said, it’s a really good show and I don’t know how you guys did it.

    MV: Thanks! We have the battle scars to show, and as of this morning we also have an Emmy nomination.

    C: (Ask him about the Emmy.)

    BJ: Oh yes, that was the next question I was gonna ask. So what do you think about that? The Emmy?

    MV: It was such great news, it was really, really a surprise, and I’m very proud. I hope that everybody who worked on the show can come to the award ceremony, and when we win, everybody can jump on the stage and take a group picture. That would be fun.

    BJ: When Chris was just mentioning that, I did a quick Google search, I haven’t seen any news for it yet, but I did see that you guys did get nominated back in 2008, do you remember that?

    MV: Yes, we sure were. This one is really fun, because this is the International Emmy for preschool show, so this is the one that really touches parts of the globe that sometimes people forget are out there, and it’s really an honor. It’s going to be at MIP Junior in April of 2016, so that’s gonna be a really good night. No matter what happens this is a tremendous honor.

    BJ: I wonder if Magnús would show up?

    MV: Oh I can’t imagine he would stay away from that. This is his baby twenty years of his life.

    BJ: And I think that concludes our session.

    MV: Alright man, well this was fun. Thank you for taking the time, I appreciate all of your interest.

    BJ: No thank you for taking the time! It was great talking with you, and on behalf of myself and the GetLazy members, we wish you the best. I would also like to thank our listeners of this interview with Mark Valenti, and if you’re not already a member of GetLazy.net, please feel free to drop by, log in, and have fun!

    Special thanks to boblbee, boredjedi, Fox, and Glanni's Girl for helping with the transcription.
    Like Toy Soliders

  2. #2
    just the fox SPECIAL MEMBER
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    Re: Mark Valenti Interview With GetLazy

    Great to finally have the interview in it's entirety. You really did a great job hosting this one boredjedi!

    And of course I need to give a special thanks to our very own Stingy for putting these interviews together. It really is amazing to be able to get some answers directly from the people behind the show. This being small obscurities, like the romance between Stephanie and Pixel, or more complicated ones, like personal opinions on adults watching the show. I really enjoyed this one in particular, and was glad to get an inside view on some of the things happening when the cameras are shut. One thing that stood out, was him talking about Magnús being asleep at the hotel, so tired that they couldn't even wake him up! Hahaha

    Anyway, he clearly said that "The Lazy Dance" was somewhere out there.. Did he give a clue to where that place is? If so, I think we're a lot of people that would like to watch that specific episode.

    Once again - great job guys!
    I'm as sneaky as can be. None's sneakier than me.

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    Re: Mark Valenti Interview With GetLazy

    Well done guys! Again a master piece of an interview with some very interesting stories.

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    Re: Mark Valenti Interview With GetLazy

    good job guys...I'm looking forward to the interview with JRM

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    Re: Mark Valenti Interview With GetLazy

    Quote Originally Posted by Buzz View Post
    I'm looking forward to the interview with JRM
    In that case you may be waiting a looong time. Who knows, maybe she'll one day make a self-biography.
    I'm as sneaky as can be. None's sneakier than me.

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    Re: Mark Valenti Interview With GetLazy

    Thanks guys for the positive comments




    Quote Originally Posted by Fox View Post
    In that case you may be waiting a looong time. Who knows, maybe she'll one day make a self-biography.
    I'm closer than most think

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    Re: Mark Valenti Interview With GetLazy

    Quote Originally Posted by Fox View Post
    Anyway, he clearly said that "The Lazy Dance" was somewhere out there.. Did he give a clue to where that place is? If so, I think we're a lot of people that would like to watch that specific episode.
    While I am confident that there will be a day when that happens, I am fairly sure that it is not actually "out there" at this time. He was mostly speaking with conjecture.

    Quote Originally Posted by Buzz View Post
    good job guys...I'm looking forward to the interview with JRM
    Don't.
    Like Toy Soliders

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    Re: Mark Valenti Interview With GetLazy

    I like the idea that Trixie and Stephanie would be best friends when they are grown....even though Trixie would cheat on her with Stephs lover I'm afraid ...in my mind's eye I always compare Trixie with the (in Europe well known) Pippi Longstocking...both have almost the same cheeky character and the hair looks alike

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    Quote Originally Posted by boredjedi View Post
    I'm closer than most think
    at the risk to disappoint you...pooky is not JRM....sometimes she made us believe she would be but it is just a part of a bigger plan I'm afraid

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    Re: Mark Valenti Interview With GetLazy

    Quote Originally Posted by Buzz View Post
    I like the idea that Trixie and Stephanie would be best friends when they are grown....even though Trixie would cheat on her with Stephs lover I'm afraid ...in my mind's eye I always compare Trixie with the (in Europe well known) Pippi Longstocking...both have almost the same cheeky character and the hair looks alike


    at the risk to disappoint you...pooky is not JRM....sometimes she made us believe she would be but it is just a part of a bigger plan I'm afraid
    lol I never said anything that made you believe it was. Especially my crappy english shows that I'm some dumb foreigner
    Anyway I wouldn't mind interviewing her but it's not on my priority list and I live too far away. BJ and JRM are practically neighbours so they can meet and talk while eating brownies


    Pippi is sweet!

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    Re: Mark Valenti Interview With GetLazy

    Quote Originally Posted by Stingy View Post
    While I am confident that there will be a day when that happens, I am fairly sure that it is not actually "out there" at this time. He was mostly speaking with conjecture.
    I suppose this would be when Máni is at his deathbed, demanding one last wish; "Dump my Harddrive to GetLazy. They deserve it."
    I'm as sneaky as can be. None's sneakier than me.

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    Re: Mark Valenti Interview With GetLazy

    did we ever talk about the music they used in "The Lazy Dance" ?...I can't remember atm...given that they planned to have any songs in this episode

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    Re: Mark Valenti Interview With GetLazy

    Quote Originally Posted by Buzz View Post
    did we ever talk about the music they used in "The Lazy Dance" ?...I can't remember atm...given that they planned to have any songs in this episode
    It was the song, "We're Dancing"
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    Re: Mark Valenti Interview With GetLazy

    Quote Originally Posted by LazyPooky View Post
    BJ and JRM are practically neighbours so they can meet and talk while eating brownies
    More like eating crumpets

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    Re: Mark Valenti Interview With GetLazy

    Quote Originally Posted by Stingy View Post
    It was the song, "We're Dancing"
    I see...I forgot about it

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    talk about see on YouTube video interview Mark

    I seen interview on YouTube Mark. Talk about book on lasytown. weather.

  16. #16
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    Re: talk about see on YouTube video interview Mark

    Quote Originally Posted by lapland View Post
    I seen interview on YouTube Mark. Talk about book on lasytown. weather.
    Welcome to!
    Great to see the interviews bringing new people to the forum. I guess I'm not speaking for myself, when I'm saying that I'm proud of being a member of a site, that lays name to such fantastic content.
    I'm as sneaky as can be. None's sneakier than me.

  17. #17
    SPECIAL MEMBER
    Level 8 - Treehouse Builder
    lalalei2001's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Posts
    65
    Local Date
    16th July 2019
    Local Time
    06:50

    Re: Mark Valenti Interview With GetLazy

    I'd love to sneak a peek at that LazyTown movie script!

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