With production starting this month on 13-episodes set to premiere sometime in 2018, Corner Gas is embarking on its latest endeavor after six successful seasons as a live-action series as well as a feature-length film. We decided to talk to the producers behind the franchise to see what fans can expect from the beloved franchise.
For those that don’t know, Corner Gas is a series developed and produced by Brent Butt about the only gas station located within 60km of anywhere important in the rural areas of Saskatchewan. The concept is derived of Brent imagining what his life would be like had he not pursued his passion in stand-up comedy which started in high school. Says Butt, “when I was growing up I had very limited exposure to TV because I only had two channels with some scant American programming. My first exposure to stand-up comedy was from Alan Thicke’s afternoon Canadian-produced talk show where three to four times a week the show usually featured a Canadian stand-up.” Ironically enough, Brent’s full-time pursuit of stand-up came after being at Sheraton College for only a week as he felt secondary education would be a good idea for a backup career path should show business not work out. His major? “Animation”.
Brent’s affinity with animation, and more specifically drawing, started almost as early as his love for stand-up. The budding comedian didn’t find any of the Disney stuff all that funny save for maybe a spot of Donald Duck, but Warner Bros. Merry Melodies sure did the trick. After leaving college, David Letterman and Jay Leno gave Brent more of a variety when it came to stand-up routines while franchises like The Flintstones and The Simpsons showed Brent that animation can be raunchy and punchy. “When The Simpsons came out, I thought it was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. When you look at the earlier episodes today, they don’t hold up that great comedically, but at the time that was the high watermark for comedic television.”
As Brent’s stand-up career began to become more prominent in the late 80s, the comedian started getting a variety of local television gigs where he would learn to do some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that would later become important when networks approached him for ideas for television shows. By the time Corner Gas hit television, Brent served as creator, writer, showrunner, executive producer, actor and sometimes as a director. It’s on Corner Gas where Brent would meet soon to be executive producer Virginia Thompson.
With a career in children’s television becoming ever-more prosperous, Virginia had a lot to weigh on her decision in jumping into more adult-focused programming that she had in fact not created. That said, she was up for the challenge, and Virginia has been a part of Corner Gas’ entire franchise run thus far overseeing six successful seasons and a movie. But when it came time to end the TV show, both the network and fans alike wanted more. “We wanted to wrap the show at the top of our game.” says Thompson, “ which our audience was respectful of. Fans wanted more of the series, but we didn’t want people to grow tired of the characters, so we came back with the movie. But then the fans wanted more and we were at a crossroads because we didn’t want to repeat ourselves.”
Show creator Brent Butt had his own misgivings about continuing the franchise, “Comedically, we didn’t want to cover the same ground, plus we’re all getting a little older and as actors, some of the cast wanted to take a look at other opportunities. I do remember years ago we became a bit intrigued about the notion of producing an animated series. We all liked the idea, but I was a little leery at first because I didn’t want to do anything to tarnish the brand or history of the series. I actually consulted with one of our writers, Norm Hiscock about the idea of doing an animated series because he used to be a writer on King of the Hill and he thought the Corner Gas concept certainly lent itself to that of an animated series So after we did the movie and the network approached us asking for more Corner Gas, we proposed the idea of doing the animated series. The liked the idea and so we decided to produce a demo (aka pilot presentation) and we thought it worked really well.” Virginia would recall the early production meetings for the live-action version of Corner Gas and whenever asking for how the gas station would look or how the logo should look, Brent would actually draw it to showcase his ideas, “that’s actually one of the magical things about working behind-the-scenes at Corner Gas, is that Brent is part of EVERYTHING that is the franchise.”
Turns out Brent has a real knack for illustration and drawing as he fondly recalls a time when he could call out comic book illustrators and cartoon producers just by looking at the aesthetic of the character designs. Brent also recalls being in the story department for Corner Gas and ideas floating around that at the time wouldn’t work for a live-action series, but would be novel for an animated series. “Since we are no longer inhibited by the laws of physics or the land, there are a ton of practicalities we can take advantage of. In the demo, Oscar places an order for a fuel truck and his father is going nuts. So we did this Mad Max dream sequence that made the world look post-apocalyptic. We could never lift up our gas station and move it to the desert in a dream sequence for a live-action series. In animation, now we have a situation we can create fantasy sequences that wouldn’t damage the reality.” Says Thompson, “ It’s Corner Gas but it’s way more fun! The cast is super excited that they can even come back to do these characters and now they will be able to stretch their characters out a bit more.”
Look out for 13-episodes of the animated series adaptation of Corner Gas on The Comedy Network set to premiere in 2018