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"Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja" is very smart about the way this new Disney XD series gets dumb laughs

"Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja" is very smart about the way this new Disney XD series gets dumb laughs

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Pitches for new TV shows are typically rather elaborate affairs. Featuring over-sized pieces of production art (to help give the execs in Programming some idea what this series' main characters might possibly look like), props, costumes, music ... Whatever it takes to convince the powers-that-be that a pilot for this proposed new program should be produced.

Well, that's not how Jed Elinoff & Scott Thomas actually sold their idea for a brand-new animated series to Disney XD. No sir. No razzamatazz. No excessive theatrics. They just slid a piece of paper across the table to these execs which read:

Randy Cunningham: 9th Grad Ninja. Nuff Said.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And on the strength of that title alone, Mouse House managers agreed to let Jed & Scott develop a pilot for "Randy." And that pilot clearly must have impressed those executives. For the actual "Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja" TV series debuts tonight on Disney XD at 7 p.m. / 6 p.m. Central.

To be fair here, Elinoff & Thomas weren't novices walking in off the street, trying to sell their idea for a comic action-adventure to Disney cable execs. These two have been working together in series television for almost a decade at that point. Cranking out acclaimed episodes for creepy but comical shows like "Scooby Doo! Mystery Inc.," "R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour," "My Super Psycho Sweet 16," even "Celebrity Deathmatch" for MTV.

More to the point, Jed & Scott had some very distinctive ideas about what they wanted to do with their very own original animated series. So -- while this show's title may promise all sorts of martial arts mayhem in a high school setting -- when it comes to what "Randy Cunninghan: 9th Grade Ninja" is really all about ... Well, I'll let Elinoff do the explaining:


(L to R) Scott Thomas & Jed Elinoff, the creators & exective producers
of Disney XD's "Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja." Photo by Rick
Rowell. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Ever since December of 2008, which is when the people who were planning Disney XD signed off on our pilot idea, '9th Grade Ninja' has really been about just one thing: the goofy friendship that these two high school freshmen have," Elinoff stated during a recent phone interview. "How Randy Cunningham and his best friend Howard Weinerman manage to make it through yet another day of school."

Oh, sure. This animated series has the sorts of villains that one might expect to find on a show with the word "Ninja" in its title. These include power-mad businessman Hannibal McFist (voiced by John DiMaggio), who's in league with a 800 year-old Sorcerer (voiced by Tim Curry). The Sorcerer has promised McFist a super power of his very own choosing if Hannibal will just help this evil ancient escape from his subterranean prison. Which involves somehow defeating the mysterious all-powerful ninja who defends & protects Norissville.

"And those battles & action sequences are a lot of fun to write. But when you really get right down to it, '9th Grade Ninja' is all about Randy & Howard. The way guys actually talk and interact with one another when they're at that age. How they can be mad at each other & not talking one moment and then be back to being best buds the next," Jed continued. "And we've been have a lot of fun coming up with the types of slang that ninth grade boys might use. Words & phrases like 'That's so wonk,' 'What the juice?,' 'Shnasty' and 'The straight-up cheese.' "


Howard Weinerman and Randy Cunningham at a Norrisville High pep rally.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

The end result is an action comedy-adventure that's quite unlike any that you're ever seen before on Disney XD. One that's very smart when it comes to being stupid.

"We'd be in the 'Randy Cunningham' writing room. And someone would come up with a line or a bit of business that would make the rest of us laugh very hard," said Thomas. "But then someone else in the room would ask 'Should that bit really in there? Is that gag just too stupid?' And our response would be 'Nope. That's just the right amount of stupid.' "

That's one of the real charms of 'Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja." The writing on this new Disney XD show actually works on a variety of levels. There's just enough strictly juvenile humor (EX: The title of the debut episode of this animated series is "Got Stank") that "Randy" will obviously appeal to the kids. While at the same time, there's enough genuinely funny dialogue that Mom & Dad may find themselves being sucked into this new Disney XD show as well.


Hannibal McFist confides in Willem Viceroy III. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Take -- for example -- this exchange between Hannibal and his chief mad scientist, Willem Viceroy III.

McFIST: How am I supposed to run an evil empire when my stepson keeps getting trouble at school?

VICEROY:
Kids.

McFIST: Just get down to your lab and build me something deadly, something dangerous, something with a cup holder ... You know what? Forget the cup holder. Just make it deadly.


Why does Hannibal McFist have a monkey brain inside of his cybernetic
arm? According to Jed & Scott, it's a variation of the parrot who sits
on a pirate's shoulder and then comments on the action. Or just
because it's a cool-but-also-funny idea.
Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And did I mention that Hannibal has a cybernetic arm with a monkey brain inside? Or that McFist seems a teensy bit afraid of his trophy wife, Marci?

It's this sort of attention to detail, these great little comic twists that Elinoff & Thomas have given all of the characters who populate Norrisville which make "Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja" so much fun to watch. Or -- to hear Jed & Scott talk -- write for.

"We'll sometimes be working on an episode and come up with so much great dialogue for these characters to say that we'll then notice that this particular show is kind of light on the ninja stuff. So we'll then have to go back in and kind of shoehorn in an action sequence. Just so 'Randy' then lives up to its title," Elinoff laughed.


The 9th Grade Ninja prepares to battle with one of the hideous creatures that the
Sorcerer Stanked into existence by arming himself with ... cowbells?
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

So if you're in the mood for a show that is really smart about the way it goes about getting dumb laughs, then you may want to get in on the ground floor with "Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja." Because this new Disney XD animated series (which -- again -- debuts tonight at  7 p.m. / 6 p.m. Central) is definitely the straight-up cheese.

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  • When are Motorcity and Tron: Uprising coming back? If they're coming back?

  • i like rc 9 grade  ninja

  • I watch every episode, and I say that this show is the straight up cheese! It's so bruce. I think I've whatched every episode at least twice, and I still can't pick a favorite.

  • "Ninja please" is was in one of the promos.  Uhh hello?  Where are the Disney execs on this??? Do they even get what that is alluding to?  Not in my house JH.

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