September 30, 2023

Exclusive: Tiktok’s Cliff Benfield Talks Adult Swim Smalls “Indolent Allen”

Adult Swim is a network long buoyed by half hour adult animated series. Franchises like Rick and Morty have helped fill the void, but ever since the likes of Family Guy had vacated the network, the brand really doesn’t have that reliable series that can cast as wide a net as possible in it’s audience retention strategies. Enter Cliff Benfield’s Indolent Allen, a new animated comedy that sees some of these influences come to pass and hopefully can help spur a longer-running relationship that should include future collaborations.

John Schwarz: Hi Cliff, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from and how did you get into animation?

Cliff Benfield: I’m 25 years old and have lived in NYC my whole life. I got into animation immediately after graduating from film school. Filmmaking is awesome but it’s often a slow process and at the time I was really focused on churning out as many comedy sketches as possible. I took “Intro to After Effects” in my final semester and was blown away by the possibilities. I went in for an easy A and came out with a new career trajectory.

What are some of your favorite animated series either now or from your past that you feel has influenced you in some way, especially with this series?

The Fairly Odd Parents, Spongebob, The Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy, The Life and Times of Tim, Futurama, and American Dad all made a big impression on me. I wasn’t really censored as a child, so I was able to watch the adult animated shows from an early age and they definitely made an impression. There’s something about a completely oblivious character (Spongebob, Cosmo, Peter Griffin, Homer Simpson, Randy Marsh, Fry etc.) that really allows for flexibility with how ridiculous a show can get. When a show is live-action it’s hard to get that silly, cause those characters wouldn’t be able to function in the real world. With Allen, I don’t want there to be constraints with how ridiculous he can be, and these shows have the blueprints on how to go about that.

How did the idea of Indolent Allen come about?

I’ve met quite a few Allen’s in my life. We’ve all had that one group member on a project who clearly doesn’t want to be there and might not even care about the grade. I had an experience with someone like that a few years ago and thought it would be funny to make a short sketch about it. I looked up synonyms for lazy (as I was too lazy to think of a different word) and ‘Indolent’ came up. So I slapped the title “Indolent Allen” in the intro and posted it to my very limited following at the time. A few years later, Adult Swim Smalls came around and my producer Adam Gold thought Indolent Allen should be included in the pitch. We had been writing a few scripts about him during the pandemic to kind of flesh out the character more, so when the opportunity came to expand on his story we were thrilled.

What were some visual inspirations for the look and aesthetics of the series?

At first I was really just going for a more refined version of the original sketches. But if I had to pick one I would use as a crutch for inspiration it would be Family Guy and Big Mouth. I wanted it to feel like this could be a network show in terms of the aesthetic and detail. I don’t know if I got there but that was certainly the intent.

Talk about some of the voice cast you got to bring in and work with, and what were you looking for in the development of your voice cast?

Well, to put it short, the voice of Allen (Daniel Padulo) is Allen. He really informed the character’s tone and delivery. He was on the original sketch a few years back so picking him for the Smalls series was a no-brainer. He also served as a writer. For Nora, we wanted someone who could do deadpan, and Adam brought up Savannah DesOrmeaux. She was great because she could be the straight man but also nailed the crazier side of Nora, which we get a glimpse of in the third episode. Bella was a hard one because I had a very specific type of voice and delivery in my mind, as the character was based on a girl I knew in college. We saw some clips Nadia Pinder posted on social media and we really thought her vibe would fit the character. We were right. All the other voice actors were comedians and friends of mine.

What do you think Indolent Allen can become down the line, is the show envisioned as a series with potentially multiple seasons and are there ideas on where else to take premise or do you see it as a social series?

I truly believe Indolent Allen could be a network or streaming show. There hasn’t been a big, animated show about college life yet and I think it’s necessary because most of us go to college, so there’s a universal familiarity with the setting, and having a wrecking ball like Allen shakes things up in a refreshing way. He’s also a terrible student, so we could easily go seven seasons with Allen repeating his senior year in the last three.

The Adult Swim Smalls series premiers on Adult Swim’s YouTube channel on June 23rd at 8pm EST. Episodes 2 will be released on June 30, with episode 3 being released on July 7. All episodes will appear on HBO Max later this year.  People living in NYC surrounding area can see a sneak preview, here are event details.