The Problem Solverz
|The Problem Solverz|
|Created by||Ben Jones|
|Based on||(See Development)|
|Developed by||Dave Foligno|
|Creative director(s)||Jamie R. Young|
|Narrated by||John DiMaggio|
|Opening theme||"The Problem Solverz"|
|Ending theme||"The Problem Solverz" (instrumental)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||26 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||11 minutes|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television|
|Original channel||Cartoon Network|
|Picture format||1080i (16:9 HDTV)|
|Original run||April 4, 2011– March 30, 2013|
|Related shows||Wyld File|
The Problem Solverz is an American animated television series created by Ben Jones, a member of the art collective Paper Rad, for Cartoon Network. The series centers on the trio of Alfe, Roba, and Horace, as they solve the problems that plague their town, Farboro. Various characters from the series were conceived through Jones' education at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, with the main trio appearing in the Paper Rad animated DVD film, Trash Talking. The series was later pitched and published to Adult Swim's official website; the network later prompted Jones to retool it as a children's series for Cartoon Network.
The series centers on the titular Problem Solverz trio of Alfe, Roba, and Horace, as they take up solving (and sometimes creating) the various problems that plague their town, Farboro.
- Alfe (pronounced Alfé) is a large, fluffy, half man-dog-anteater creature who was found and raised by Horace when he was young; in one episode, he claimed he lived in a cage as a child. He loves devouring large quantities of food, especially pizza, and acts impulsively during missions. Like a cat, he coughs up furballs whenever he chews his fur (voiced by Ben Jones).
- Roba is the smartest member of them, being a half robot half human cyborg, who is incredibly insecure and anxious about everything. He is Horace's twin brother (also voiced by Ben Jones).
- Horace is the calm and collected leader of the team, usually using common sense with his actions and taking care after Alfe, his companion. He is Roba's twin brother (voiced by Kyle Kaplan).
To their aid is Tux Dog (voiced by John DiMaggio), an extremely wealthy dog who helps the Problem Solverz in some of their cases, but is just as often the source of their problems. He insults Roba for his personality flaws and appearance and speaks with a British accent.
Concept and creation
The Problem Solverz is an animated television series created by Ben Jones, that since his early age developed an interest in animation and comics. After moving out of Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh to central Massachusetts at the age of four, his father, Frank Jones, landed a job as a software engineer, bringing home the latest hardware with it. Surrounded by technology, he cited this as an influence on how he works as an artist.
Jones later entered the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where he developed characters from the series before approaching graphic novelist Christopher Forgues to form the art collective "Paper Radio", later known as Paper Rad with artists Jessica and Jacob Ciocci in 2000. Jones had conceived the protagonists as early as 1996,[a] and early incarnations of the characters are featured in Paper Rad's animated DVD film, Trash Talking. Two shows within a show were created in 2006 and in 2008, and are respectively entitled "Alfe: Gone Cabin Carzy" [sic] and "Problem Solvers"; the first was always included in Trash Talking and details the trio when they are stuck in their abode as apocalyptic noises strike their neighborhood, while the second, that was instead released on DVD as a bonus to the periodical The Ganzfeld 7, introduced the problem solving element of the show more that some of his main characters made cameo appearances on the forthcoming Cartoon Network series. Jones went on to create animation for television series such as Wonder Showzen and Yo Gabba Gabba!.
Around the same time as the release of Trash Talking, Jones contacted executive producer Nick Weidenfeld to do a project for Cartoon Network's late-night programming block, Adult Swim: in fact, he created a pilot for the network entitled Neon Knome (which was produced by PFFR and Williams Street) featuring the protagonists, which was eventually published on the network's official website in 2010 as part of their "Big, Über, Network, Sampling" contest, sponsored by Burger King. The heads of the network backed the pilot, prompting Jones to migrate the premise to Cartoon Network proper and making him move to Cartoon Network Studios in Burbank, California, where the show was restructured as a children's series. In the United States, the program is rated TV-PG, denoting material that parents may find unsuitable for younger children. Although Jones explained that not much was changed, he was most relieved to hear that the character of Alfe was retained, calling it the "bottom line" of the offer.
A new production team was cast initially for the reboot, including the supervising director Greg Miller (creator of Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones?), and the character designers John Pham and Jon Vermilyea. The series was noted for its unique art style, with backgrounds and characters sporting vibrant colors and shapes in a similar vein of Paper Rad's other works. Jones sought inspiration through retro-style influences from music, pop culture and video games. References to video games appear frequently in the series, with Jones using them "more like religion": not just for comedic effect, but to invoke "layers of meaning". Commenting further on the visuals, Jones dubbed it a reflection of a "new visual language" for animated television, he noted, that were evident in sibling series such as Adventure Time and Regular Show. The series staffed numerous indie cartoonists, including Vermilyea, who worked as a character designer on Adventure Time. Martin Cendreda, Pham and Jones himself—technical director, lead designer and creator, respectively—contributed to the comic anthology series Kramers Ergot.
The series was animated on Apple computers using Adobe Flash, a program which Jones used on his first Alfe projects in Massachusetts. In addition, he specified that Flash was used to animate the series directly instead of as a translation of ideas, and credited Eric Pringle for helping him through technical support; many of Pringle's colleagues from series such as Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends and ¡Mucha Lucha! moved on to the series, forming a group of less than 15 full-time animators. During production of the first season, episodes were produced as quickly as a few weeks, which Jones credited to the animating environment. In contrast, story and scripting phases of an episode took months to complete for the season. Running 14-hour shifts, Jones eventually left Cartoon Network Studios to develop another animated series for the FOX's Saturday late-night programming block ADHD.
Broadcast and reception
The series premiered on April 4, 2011 on Cartoon Network. Its premiere garnered approximately 1.138 million viewers, with a Nielsen household rating of 0.8. A study by the Parents Television Council placed it among the top 50 prime time animated cable programs (barring films and specials). The highest rated episode of the season ("Breakfast Wars") earned roughly 1.558 million viewers, ranking 17th of the top 33 prime time cable programs of Monday nights. The first episode to premiere outside of Monday onto its new time slot of Thursdays ("Hamburger Cavez") was watched by about 1.125 million viewers. A second and last season was released exclusively on Netflix.
Multiple reviewers felt the art style was polarizing; Brian Lowry of Variety wrote that the art style and sound design failed to enhance the story. He felt that the series suffered from "being bizarre simply for its own sake" and called it "all experience, and even at a mere 15 minutes, an ordeal". Writing for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rob Owen dubbed Jones the source of thanks or "blame" for viewers happening upon its "wild visual elements that look like graphics from an Atari 5200 video game". While Devin D. O'Leary of the Weekly Alibi acknowledged the art style as reminiscent of Paper Rad's works, he warned viewers that, "take one glance at these coloring-book-gone-wrong images and they'll be seared onto your retinas for at least 48 hours." Common Sense Media's Emily Ashby rated the series one star out of five, calling it "chaotic, loud, and virtually devoid of any content that could be considered worthwhile, especially for kids".
Other reviewers from cartoon- and art-related publications praised the design; writing for The Comics Journal, Dan Nadel—a former publisher of Jones—wrote a piece applauding the show for being seen to such a broad audience. He wrote that he celebrated it "for a hard wrought vision I believe in, one I think is funny and humane and invaluable." Writing positively in the Geek Exchange, Liz Ohanesian wrote that the series is "filled with Lisa Frank colors" and found it analogous to the band Anamanaguchi: "something so different from the rest of the entertainment landscape that you never know if you'll find someone else who is into it as well." In interviewing Jones, Sammy Harkham of Paper called it visually unlike "anything else. It's pretty radical looking".
- The character of Tux Dog predates this, as a creation from his elementary school days.
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- Staff writer (September 29, 2011). "Thursday's Cable Ratings: Jersey Shore Not Slowing Down". The Futon Critic. Futon Media. Archived from the original on August 4, 2014. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
- Ohanesian, Liz (July 12, 2013). "It Came from Netflix: The Problem Solverz". Geek Exchange. The Enthusiast Network. Archived from the original on July 11, 2014. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
- Lowry, Brian (April 1, 2011). "Cartoon's Problem Solverz Is a Wild (& Bad) Trip". Variety. PMC. Archived from the original on August 4, 2014. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
- Ashby, Emily (January 27, 2014). "The Problem Solverz". Common Sense Media. Archived from the original on August 4, 2014. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
- Harkham, Sammy (October 30, 2010). "Ben Jones". Paper. Archived from the original on August 4, 2014. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
- Official website
- The Problem Solverz at the Internet Movie Database
- The Problem Solverz at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- The Problem Solverz at TV.com