Patricia Rodriguez – Fox
Tony Acworth – Turtle, Ox, Bird, Pig, Killer Bees, Mantis, Mr. Fish, Ninja Monkeys
Rod Goodall – Tiger, Dragon
Paul McLoone – Baboon
Before Kung Fu Panda, there was…Skunk Fu!
Many years ago, a Dragon (Rod Goodall) was charged with protecting a Valley and its inhabitants. One day, he overstepped his bounds and was punished by Heaven. He lost his power over fire and was banished to remain inside an extinct volcano submerged in an icy lake lest he succumb to his own flames. Turned evil by bitterness, Dragon aligned himself Baboon (Paul McLoone, using an Australian accent) and his endless army of inept Ninja Monkeys (Tony Acworth) in order to conquer the Valley (a reversal as dragons were typically heroic in Chinese legends).
|Skunk: the destined hero of the Valley.|
Dragon’s once best friend, Panda (Paul Tylak), asked Heaven for help against Dragon and into his lap fell Skunk (Jules de Jongh); accidentally delivered by a stork since both of them were black and white. Panda took Skunk under his wing and trained him in the ways of Kung-fu. However, Skunk was overexcitable and lazy, unable to match Panda’s teachings of patience and always looking for an easier way to accomplish the lessons (which often backfired and required him to learn the lesson anyway). Because there were no other skunks in China, Skunk never learned how to control his natural spray and often exuded when he was embarrassed (which was also caused by his spraying), scared or suddenly surprised.
Residents of the Valley: Mantis, Ox, Ms. Duck, Fox, Bird, Killer Bee, Panda, Skunk, Dr. Turtle, Pig and Rabbit.
Other residents of the Valley included Rabbit (Tylak), who considered himself the strongest animal in the Valley and often fought against Panda’s teachings, wanting to take the battle right to Dragon. He tried to hide his crush on Fox (Patricia Rodriguez), an effective and graceful fighter whose level-headedness was only matched by her fiery temper. She had an attraction towards Rabbit as well (in spite of himself), but wasn’t above smacking him whenever he picked on Skunk, whom she considered a little brother. Like the other female warriors of the valley, she was proficient in the art of fan combat. Dr. Turtle (Acworth) was an old Kung Fu master and the physician of the Valley with a talent for kite flying. Tiger (Goodall) was an old friend of Panda’s and claimed to have once been a great warrior until a disastrous battle with Dragon turned him into a coward. However, he could still fight ferociously when angered. Pig (Acworth, using a voice reminiscent of Bobcat Goldthwait) was a simple-minded loafer with a lousy memory who spent all his time bathing in mud, as well was being easily influenced—particularly by Rabbit. Ox and Bird (both Acworth) were always together. Bird was the smarter of the two (marginally) and considered himself to be great, while Ox could speak Ninja Monkey. Both enjoyed being nobodies and layabouts. Mantis (Acworth, impersonating Christopher Walken), was the Valley’s lookout with a masochistic and suicidal streak; always putting himself in harm’s way with the hope of a tragic end (although that didn’tt stop him from coming through for others in battle). Crane (de Jongh) was the town gossip used for aerial missions. Ms. Duck (de Jongh) was proficient in cooking, which made her a master of Dim sum Fu. Snake (Tylak, using an Australian accent), was the Valley spy who enjoyed inflicting pain on others. Frog (Tylak) was the master of jumping and enjoyed making people laugh. Mr. Fish (Acworth), the head of the underwater world and master of the art of No Lung Fu with feelings for Ms. Duck. Finally, there were the Killer Bees (Acworth, speaking in a hip-hop style), a hive full of extremely short-tempered bees that would attack anyone that disturbed them—friend or foe.
|Baboon bowing to Dragon.|
Skunk Fu! was the first series to be made by Cartoon Saloon; an Ireland-based studio founded by recent college grads Paul Young, Tomm More and Nora Twomey. They were working on pitches while taking commercial gigs to survive until one of their first staffers, Aidan Harte, had come up with the idea for the show. While on a shoot, Harte was brainstorming ideas with the studio’s sales rep, Hyun Ho Khang, and decided to center in on their mutual love of Kung Fu movies. The agency Khang worked for being named “Skunk” gave them the inspiration for their lead character. In keeping with the color scheme, they thought about making Skunk’s mentor a zebra, but went with a panda since they were found more readily in China. The fact that DreamWorks was in the middle of producing their own martial arts animal film—announced in 2005—was entirely coincidental. The Karate Kid served as inspiration for the relationship between Skunk and Panda.
|The Ninja Monkeys.|
Harte worked on all the initial character designs and did preliminary testing of their movement in Flash, a program he had some experience with. Cartoon Saloon had to hire additional animators experienced in Flash to tweak his ideas and build up a library for the show; notably character designers Joost Van Den Bosch and Erik Verkerk. In 2003, Skunk Fu! was presented at the European Cartoon Forum where it was bought up by the BBC, Ireland’s TG4 and ABC Australia. Additionally, their distributors, Cake Entertainment, were able to land a deal for the show to air in America on the Kids’ WB programming block. In 2006, Cartoon Saloon launched a blog where they would share episode titles and title cards, production artwork, random silly drawings and put out hiring notices. Animation duties were carried out by Fatkat Animation Studios with New Brunswick Film, Monkey Paw Media, Top Draw Animation, Inc., Ka-Ching Cartoons and Rocket Fish Studios.
Skunk Fu! began airing on ABC
Australia first before hitting Europe and finally debuting on The CW on September 22, 2007. The series was
produced in English with the same voice actors being present in both the
American and European airings but was dubbed into Ireland’s native language for
airings there. Each episode was broken up into two story segments, each one
with a Panda-spoken title beginning with “The Art of…” It was written by Andy Rheingold, Amy Jackson, Greg Grabianski, Scott Sonneborn, Catherine Lieuwen, Aimee Keillor, Adam J.B. Lane, Pamela Hickey, Dennys McCoy, Thomas Krajewski, Eric Shaw, Brandon Auman, Josh Cagan, Dave Bourla, Rob Sosin, Holly Huckins and Gabe Pulliam, with Jackson and
Reinghold serving as the head writers. The series’ theme was written and
performed by Ghostface Killah
featuring Cilvaringz and
Shawn Wigs (all credited as
Guillermo Montosa). The rest of the series’ music was composed by Chris Bemand.
At its peak, Skunk Fu! was shown in over 120 different markets around the world and was nominated for a BAFTA Children’s Award and two Irish Film and Television Awards, winning one. Its was a ratings success on The CW, prompting Cartoon Network to acquire the broadcasting rights and began airing reruns in 2008. While the show was a hit and a massive feather in the cap of a fledgling studio their first time out, no further episodes were ordered by any of the networks it was broadcast on (in The CW’s case, they sold off their children’s programming to 4Kids Entertainment who filled it with their own productions). While Skunk Fu! only lasted a single season, Cartoon Saloon was adamant about continuing the saga in movie form (which has not yet materialized as of this writing).
In 2009, Zizzle acquired the rights to make toys based on the series. They released PVC-style action figures that served as launchers for over 70 collectible discs called Flingz, as well as stuffed toys. In early 2008, Warner Music Entertainment released Skunk Fu!: The Art of the Touch in the United Kingdom containing 7 segments as well as interactive games. Later that year, NCircle Entertainment released three compilation DVDs in North America containing 6 segments each.
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