Walt Disney Television Animation Series Captured Essence of Great 1970s Cop Shows
Schoolyard justice had a hip, new defender in Safety Patrol Officer Cornelius Fillmore, the title character of “Disney’s Fillmore!”
“Disney’s Fillmore!” captures the essence of the great 1970s cop shows in the guise of a smart, quick-witted seventh-grader out to stop crime in its school-age tracks. Baseball card counterfeiters and cheat sheet cartels had best beware – Fillmore is on the case, patrolling X Middle School with adept partner Ingrid Third.
“Disney’s Fillmore!” is designated as children’s educational and informational programming.
Scott M. Gimple is the creator and executive producer of “Disney’s Fillmore!” His recent work can be seen within the writing of the award-winning “Disney’s Pepper Ann” animated series and several popular “Disney’s One Saturday Morning” interstitial segments. Prior to joining Walt Disney Television Animation, Gimple was an editor and writer at Matt Groening’s comic book/publishing company, Bongo Comics Group, where he wrote “The Simpsons’ Guide to Springfield” and served as contributing editor on “The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family” and editor on “The Simpsons Forever: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family … Continued.”
“Fillmore is a former juvenile delinquent who has turned his life around,” Gimple explains, “and he’s making up for his shady past by helping others.”
“The Simpsons” veteran Christian Roman is director on “Disney’s Fillmore!” After earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from Boston University, Roman interned at Olive Jar Animation before landing on “The Simpsons.” From 1994-1999, Roman advanced through the ranks from character layout to storyboarding to storyboard supervisor on “The Simpsons.” Roman also served as writer-director on two seasons of “The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat.”
Schoolyard justice has a hip, new defender in Safety Patrol Officer Cornelius Fillmore (voice talent of 14-year-old Orlando Brown)
As the title character, 14-year-old Orlando Brown (“Proud Family,” “Max Keeble’s Big Move”) ‘ leads the cast of “Fillmore!” Delving deep into the psyche of Fillmore, Brown brings a cool, controlled sensibility to the former delinquent-turned-good guy.
“Fillmore is like a miniature version of Shaft with no fear,” Brown says. “Cartoons are filled with superheroes with superpowers, but Fillmore gives kids someone they can relate to. He’s a kid with good morals and a strong sense of right and wrong. Most kids get that concept, and I think he’ll provide a good role model in that way.”
Voiceover veteran Tara Strong (“Rugrats,” “The Powerpuff Girls”) fills the role of Fillmore’s extremely capable partner in crime-stopping, Ingrid Third.
“Ingrid is very cool, very dark and really hip,” Strong says of her animated alter ego. “She’s sort of like Winona Ryder’s character in Beetlejuice meets the hall monitor.”
The core voice cast rounds out with Horatio Sanz (“Saturday Night Live”) as Junior Commissioner Vallejo, head of X Middle School’s Safety Patrol; Wendie Malick (“Just Shoot Me”) as Principal Folsom; Jeff Probst (“Survivor”) as Vice Principal Raycliff; Lauren Tom (“Grace Under Fire”) as safety patrol officer Karen Tehama; Kyle Sullivan (“Malcolm in the Middle”) as officer Danny O’Farrell; and Danny Tamberelli (“The Adventures of Pete & Pete”) as officer Joseph Anza.
Like Scully and Mulder, the Fillmore-Third duo sets forth to solve school-based mysteries. The series has several focuses, most notably today’s kids’ need to make a difference, and the kids-view intensity each situation posed during those heated middle school years.
“These are good kids, wanting to change and help their world be a better place,” Gimple says. “The way I think of it, this show is not about middle school – this show is middle school. When you’re that age, you’re living more passionately, more emotionally. Things are a bigger deal – you don’t shrug stuff off.
“When a comic book was stolen, it was like a car was stolen. A break-up in seventh grade could be as earth-shaking as a divorce. News that somebody had challenged somebody else to a fight ran around the school with the anticipation of a (Mike) Tyson fight. So this show isn’t about kids making big deals about little things – it’s about how intense things really felt when we were in Middle School. I think kids will truly relate to it from that perspective.”
Growing up in a household filled with American pop culture – and countless hours sitting in front of the small screen – helped shape Gimple’s passion for cartoons and cop shows. From “Starsky and Hutch” and “Adam 12” to “21 Jump Street” and “Miami Vice,” the cop show influence is evident within Gimple’s psyche. The ultimate result is “Disney’s Fillmore!”
“Cop shows are a great genre,” Gimple explains. “You have a ‘hotshot cop with an attitude’ that is willing to break the rules to bring down the bad guy, and the incredibly gruff, heavy-set, no-nonsense chief that the mayor is always coming down on. With the same drama and no nonsense attitude, we’ve brought these characters and situations into a middle school environment. So in this case, it’s a topnotch safety patrol officer, his superior and the principal. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it never talks down to kids.”
Safety Patrollers Cornelius Fillmore and Ingrid Third on the run to stop crime in its school-age tracks,
Most safety patrol officers are often stereotypically depicted as uptight, rule-rigid nerds, but Fillmore and Ingrid bring to mind characters like Shaft and the “Lethal Weapon” series’ Riggs and Murtaugh. The safety patrol at X Middle School is not typical, either – rather than monitoring the hallways and helping at crosswalks, these patrollers are busting up stolen scooter chop shops and unmasking the saboteur behind a massive model train wreck. Fillmore and Ingrid’s cases lean toward the odd and twisty.
“One of the fun parts of the series is making the crimes themselves kid society friendly,” Gimple admits. “Cop shows can be pretty over-the-top. But that’s exactly what it felt like back in seventh grade. These middle school kids are desperate to be popular, desperate to pass that test, desperate to get the new video game system. They’re not bad kids, they just haven’t learned the right way to go about it.”
On the other hand, Fillmore has learned from his past – the hard way. Now he’s making up for his mistakes.
“Fillmore’s motto is basically, ‘I do what I do because I was going in the wrong direction and somebody turned it around for me. Now I turn people around. If they don’t want to, I stop them in their tracks,'” Gimple says. “He’s not a goodie-two-shoes. He’s tough. But in the end, he’s all about doing the right thing, helping out his fellow student in need.”
Gimple is pleased that Fillmore adds to the growing diversity in animated television.
“The cop shows I watched growing up were incredibly diverse — it’s an essential part of the genre,” Gimple says. “We won’t shy away from his culture, because that shows the whole person. I’m very proud to present a strong, positive black character. Fillmore has a strong point of view, a distinct sense of right and wrong, and a great sense of humor.”
Safety Patrollers Cornelius Fillmore and Ingrid Third take a hot dog break from stopping crime at X Middle School in the hip, new series “Disney’s Fillmore!” premiering Saturday, September 14 on the ABC Television Network.
Gimple found the FCC requirements for social/educational content and life lessons meshed well with his law-enforcement theme.
“A cop show is a perfect fit for the FCC requirements because every episode needs somebody doing something bad – you need a crime to be committed,” Gimple says. “In general, we see people learn from their mistakes and deal with the consequences. It’s more ‘Miami Vice’ than ‘Doug’.”
And, of course, humor permeates the series in an unconventional manner.
“I think the show has a pretty unique sense of humor,” Gimple says. “It comes out in the bizarre chases and the odd characters Fillmore and Ingrid come across, and the situations they land in. We know kids are extremely smart, and we don’t tell them when and where to laugh. It’s a different sensibility.”
Showing a perfect cop show lineage, Gary Dourdan (“CSI”) and Holly Robinson Peete (“21 Jump Street”) portray Fillmore’s parents. Other well known performers lending their voices to the series including Frankie Muniz (“Malcolm in the Middle”), Kyle Sullivan (“Malcolm in the Middle”), Caroline Rhea (“Caroline Rhea Show” and “Sabrina”), Steven Weber (Broadway’s “The Producers” and “Wings”), John Rhys-Davies (“Lord of the Rings”), Mary Hart (“Entertainment Tonight”), Holland Taylor (“Spy Kids 2,” and “The Practice”), Kurtwood Smith (“That ’70s Show”), Patrick Bristow (“Ellen” and “Austin Powers”), Adam Wylie (Broadway’s “Into the Woods”) and Raven Simone (“That’s So Raven” and “The Cosby Show”).
Produced by Walt Disney Television Animation, “Disney’s Fillmore!” premieres September 14, 2002 as part of ABC Kids” on the ABC Television Network. Scott M. Gimple is the series’ creator and executive producer; Christian Roman is director. Walt Disney Television Animation is an industry leader in the creation of network, cable, and syndicated television series and specials, video premieres and theatrical releases.
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–Posted September 13, 2002
Source: Walt Disney TV Animation Release