November 18, 2017


(ABC, September 13, 1997-November 18, 2000)

Walt Disney Television Animation

Kathleen Wilhoite – Pepper Ann Pearson
Clea Lewis – Nicky Anais Little
Danny Cooksey – Milo Kamalani
April Winchell – Lydia Pearson, Sherie Spleen, Abriola Stark, Grandmother Lilly, Milicent the Militant, Gerta Liederhosen, Mrs. McClain, various
Pamela Segall – Margaret Rose “Moose” Pearson, Hush, Sean
Don Adams – Principal Hickey
Susan Tolsky – Janie Lilly Diggety
Tino Insana – Jo Jo Diggety, various
Jenna Von Oy – Trinket St. Blair
Jeff Bennett –Craig Bean, Dieter Lederhosen, Ned Diggety, Peter “Pink-Eye Pete” Oglevee, Mr. Little (1 episode), various
Kath Soucie – Cissy Rooney, Mrs. Little, Supermodel Mindy, Gina, Tina, Crying Girl (1 episode), various
Cree Summer – Tessa James, Vanessa James, Crying Girl (most episodes)

            Former advertising executive Sue Rose created the character of Pepper Ann for a comic strip appearing in YM Magazine. The titular character would spend each strip talking to herself about her inner feelings. A friend suggested to Rose that she should try and adapt the strip into a television show. Rose created a storyline, made Pepper Ann a little younger, and gave her a supporting cast.

Early Pepper Ann designs.

            Rose pitched the series to Nickelodeon in 1995, but they felt it looked too close to Fido Dido; another character she created that appeared in commercial bumpers for CBS and in ads for things like Slice and 7-Up. Rose approached Tom Warburton, who had worked with her previously on the Fido campaigns and became responsible for Fido’s annual style guide, to redesign her characters to make them less Fido-ish. Nickelodeon eventually passed on the series entirely, leaving it open for Disney to acquire it for their upcoming One Saturday Morning programming block.

Milo, Lydia, Pepper Ann, Moose and Nicky.

            Pepper Ann followed the adventures of seventh grader Pepper (Kathleen Wilhoite) at Hazelnut Middle School. Pepper would deal with the trials and tribulations of adolescence by often falling into a fantasy situation with her fertile imagination and coming up with a solution. Of course, that doesn’t prevent her from sometimes making the wrong decisions and sometimes making things worse. Her best friends were Nicky Little (Clea Lewis), a soft-spoken and overachieving violinist that was a reformed bully, and Milo Kamalani (Danny Cooksey), an eccentric and highly dramatic artist. As her parents were divorced, Pepper lived with her perky, though overprotective, mother, Lydia (April Winchell) and tomboyish little sister, Margaret Rose, aka “Moose” (Pamela Segall). Her father, Chuck (Maurice LaMarche), flew blimps and sometimes, though rarely, came to visit. Pepper’s aunt, Janie Diggety (Susan Tolsky), a former Green Beret-turned-activist, often aided Pepper in finding the solutions to her problems. Pepper had a crush on eighth grader Craig Bean (Jeff Bennett), who played in a band and seemed to also have a crush on her.

Trinket stressing out.

            Pepper’s principal rival was Trinket St. Blair (Jenna von Oy), a rich, spoiled, popular girl who wasn’t subtle about telling people how to improve their looks and was always on the phone with an unseen character named “Marie”. Trinket’s best friend was Cissy Rooney (Kath Soucie), a popular airhead. Another rival was Alice Kane (Lauren Tom), who always seemed to try and one-up anything Pepper did. Pepper’s final rival was Wayne Macabre (Wallance Langham), a student who briefly ran the school’s radio station and whom Pepper regarded as a loudmouth since he made fun of everything she liked.

Tessa and Vanessa James.

Other characters included Tessa and Vanessa James (both Cree Summer), were twins and classmates of Pepper’s who were always quick to spread the latest gossip around the school; Brenda (Tara Strong), Pepper’s old best friend who moved to town and discovered they no longer had anything in common; Amber O’Malley (Jodi Benson), who became the most popular girl in school for a week when Cissy went away; Dieter Liederhosen (Bennett), a transplant from Germany who moved to America with his mother; Effie Shrugg (Hedy Burress), a tall girl that befriended Pepper and her friends, but was also a bit of a bully; Constance Goldman (Candi Milo), a shy and awkward girl that decided to hang out with Pepper and her friends in order to absorb some of their “coolness”; Ned Diggety (Bennett), Pepper’s older slacker cousin who had an obsession with cheese; Crying Girl (Soucie & Summer), who was overemotional and could run out of a room in tears at any moment; Stewart Walldinger (Luke Perry & Cam Clarke), a unique individual that could fit in with any crowd, including the ultra-cool eighth graders; Hush (Segall), a cool eighth grader that rarely spoke; Sketch (Karen Duffy), the coolest of the eighth graders that threw awesome parties; and Poison and Tank (Brittany Murphy and Meredith Scott Lynn as either role), a pair of eighth graders that hung out with Hush and Sketch who also rarely spoke outside of an eighth grade lingo.

Teaching a class is no reason to stop knitting.

            What would a school be without teachers? And, like the students, they all had their little quirks. Roland Carter (Jim Cummings) was the science teacher who seemed to be as hard on Pepper and eager to give her detention as he was in love with science; Coach Doogan (Kathy Najimy) left being a nun in a convent in order to become a physical education instructor; Mr. Reason (Kurtwood Smith), the shop teacher who somehow earned a nasty reputation; Abriola Stark (Winchell), an eccentric math teacher who was very passionate about the subject and also led the Drama Club; Carlotta Sneed (Julia Sweeney), an economics teacher whose penchant for knitting got her fired from an accounting firm when she used it to help her do math; Sherman Finky (Don Lake), the social studies teacher who tries to (poorly) connect with his students by using what he thinks is their lingo; Coach Bronson (Thomas F. Wilson), the football coach who had a prominent bite mark on his right ear; Mr. Clapper (James Avery), the music teacher who gave music lessons and conducted the band; and Bronte Bladdar (BeBe Neuwirth), a monotoned and unenthusiastic English teacher who was only teaching until she found a man. The principal was Herbert Kickey (Don Adams), who wished he could abolish the First Amendment and counted down the days until Pepper and her crazy misadventures would finally graduate. His secretary, Vera Schwartz (Paddi Edwards), was often responsible for announcements in the school and had a talent for scatting and beat poetry.

Magazine ad for One Saturday Morning.

            Pepper Ann was one of the debut programs of One Saturday Morning on September 13, 1997 on ABC, along with fellow Disney property 101 Dalmatians: The Series and the recently-acquired Brand Spanking New Doug. It was the first show made by Walt Disney Television Animation created by a woman. The show’s opening sequence typically ended with Pepper Ann finding something under her desk and showing it to the audience. For the first season, she always found five bucks, but in each subsequent season she would find something different. The show’s theme music was composed by Brian Woodbury and performed by Whilhoite, while the series’ music was by Pat Irwin. It was animated by SunWoo Animation Co., Inc.

Pepper Ann showing her gym teacher her recently-acquired sport bra.

Episodes were typically broken up into two story segments, however single stories were peppered throughout the show’s run. The year it began was when television networks implemented the FCC-mandated ratings system. The majority of the series was rated TV-Y, however several episodes were rated TV-Y7 due to their subject matter being deemed too mature for children under 7; such as “In Support Of”, which dealt with puberty and implied nudity. In reruns, the TV-Y7 rating was attached to the entire series due to the presence of such topics as divorce, dating, racism, death, gender equality, moral ambiguity and unemployment in many of the stories and their lessons. The series kept a fairly small stable of writers that included Mirith J.S. Colao, Laura McCreary, David Hemingson, Nahnatchka Khan, Matthew Negrete, Scott M. Gimple, Madellaine Paxson, Sean Whalen, Eddy Sato, Allison Heartinger, Emily Kapnek, Roger Reitzel, and Edward Guzelian. Comedian Mo Rocca joined the writing staff during the second season; the same year he began his tenure as a correspondent on The Daily Show. Rose herself only co-wrote “The Big Pencil”. Khan also served as a story editor, sometimes with McCreary and Negrete. Dr. Diana Meehan, founder of The Archer School for Girls, served as an educational consultant on several episodes.

Spelling out one of the show's pro-social messages.

            After five seasons, the show was replaced by The Weekenders and entered into syndicated reruns. It moved to the sister block Disney’s One Too on UPN where it aired on weekday afternoons and Sunday mornings between 2000 and 2001. After that, it aired on The Disney Channel for a few months before finding a new home on Toon Disney. It remained there until it was replaced by the Jetix programming block in 2004. The last known airing of the show in the United States was a two-hour block on Toon Disney in 2007. The show has been seen on Disney Channel Portugal as late as 2011. It has yet to be released on any kind of home video in any form.

A  page of the comic from Disney Adventures.

            Golden Books released a collection of paper dolls and outfits that could be removed from the book they came in and put together. They also published an adaptation of “Old Best Friend.” Disney Press published Soccer Sensation as part of their Disney Chapters line. Mattel released a figurine doll of Pepper, along with a fully plush doll. Comics based on the show appeared in pages of Disney Adventures magazine.

Pepper Ann and Lydia "meet" Pete.

The final appearance of Pepper Ann and her mother was in a cameo of the first episode of Disney’s House of Mouse, “The Stolen Cartoons.” They were the only Walt Disney Television characters to appear on the series, which otherwise made use of Disney’s feature film, short and occasionally comic book catalogue of characters. 

(Coming soon)

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