The Problem Solverz
|The Problem Solverz|
|Created by||Ben Jones|
|Developed by||Dave Foligno|
|Directed by||See § Production|
|Creative director(s)||Jamie R. Young|
|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 release||April 4, 2011– March 30, 2013|
The Problem Solverz is an American animated television series that aired on Cartoon Network. Created by Ben Jones, it follows Alfe, Horace, and Roba, a group of detectives in their troubled town, Farboro. The aforementioned characters were designed while Jones attended college in the 1990s; he later founded the art collective Paper Rad with Jessica and Jacob Ciocci. The characters were featured in Jones' and the collective's animations and comics before the creator pitched a pilot to Adult Swim featuring the trio. The network's executives referred Jones to Cartoon Network, who commissioned a series featuring the same characters. The series was produced in Adobe Flash, with around fifteen animators employed at Cartoon Network Studios and the co-production of Mirari Films.
The Problem Solverz was first aired on April 4, 2011. The first season consisted of eighteen episodes, concluding on September 29, 2011. A second and final season was released exclusively on Netflix in 2013. The series has received mixed to negative reviews, with writers of entertainment-related publications criticizing the visual style and writing, while art-related publications gave praise to Jones' creativity.
The series follows the eponymous detectives Alfe (Ben Jones), Horace (Kyle Kaplan), and Roba (also Jones). The trio take up solving, and sometimes creating, the numerous problems that plague their town, Farboro. To their aid is Tux Dog (John DiMaggio), an extremely wealthy dog who helps the Solverz in some of their cases but is just as often the source of their problems.
Alfe (pronounced Alfé) is a large, fluffy, man–dog–anteater found and raised by Horace when both was young. He loves devouring large quantities of food, especially pizza, and acts impulsively during missions. Roba, Horace's twin brother and cyborg, is the smartest member of the group, but he suffers from insecurity and anxiety. Horace is the calm and collected leader of the team, usually applying common sense with his detective work and caring after Alfe.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, creator Ben Jones had an appreciation for comics and animation.:21 His father's Macintosh computer served as a vehicle for Jones to create art and influenced his later visual style. Jones attended the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in the mid-1990s, where he became motivated to launch a project he could adapt to different media.:21 This impetus manifested itself in the characters Alfe, Horace, and Roba. Tux Dog, another principal character, was designed while Jones was in primary school. After his graduation, Jones formed the art collective Paper Rad with Jessica and Jacob Ciocci in 2000. The collective moved that year to Providence, Rhode Island, to participate in the Fort Thunder music venue.:21 After the venue's closure in 2001, Jones released animations on the Web using Adobe Flash, with some featuring Alfe.:22
Paper Rad later produced animations with the premise of The Problem Solverz but with the three principal characters absent. The collective's 2006 direct-to-DVD release Trash Talking features a segment called "Gone Cabin Carzy" in which Alfe, Horace, and Roba appear. In tandem with these experiments, Jones worked as a television animator on Yo Gabba Gabba! and Wonder Showzen. The year of the DVD's release, Jones talked to Nick Weidendfeld, then an executive producer at Adult Swim, about an idea for a series of his own. The result was Neon Knome, a pilot produced by PFFR and Williams Street, released on Adult Swim's website as part of a development contest sponsored by Burger King. The network's executives later referred Jones to Cartoon Network, believing his creativity would fit better there. Jones agreed to do business with Cartoon Network on the condition that Alfe be a character on The Problem Solverz.:21
Eric Pringle, a veteran of 2D digital animation, was employed as animation director, providing Jones with much technical assistance. Pringle's colleagues from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, another Cartoon Network production, comprised a team of around fifteen full-time animators at the network's studio,:22 all working on Apple computers. Greg Miller was hired as supervising director, Martin Cendreda as technical director, and John Pham with Jon Vermilyea as character designers. Miller is the creator of Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones?, another series on the network. Vermilyea worked also as a character designer on the network's series Adventure Time, while Cendreda, Pham, and Jones all contributed to the anthology comic book Kramers Ergot. Michael Yank was employed as a writer for most episodes, with Mirari Films' CEO Eric Kaplan supervising the creation of scripts.
The series was noted for its visual style employing highly saturated colors and varying shapes.:21 Jones was inspired by the limited-animated series Roger Ramjet and The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, which he felt employed good character design, cohesiveness, jokes, and timing. He credited The Problem Solverz as the first seamless use of Flash for television animation, with conceptualization and the end result occurring in the same program. Writing was the longest aspect of production, taking up to several months for the crew to conceive the story and draft a script. Animation was comparatively quicker, with the team delivering work in only a few weeks given the digital approach; Jones felt that the animators could to play to the strengths of the fully digital animation process.:22
The Problem Solverz was first aired on April 4, 2011, on Cartoon Network. The premiere was seen by 1.1 million viewers, receiving a Nielsen rating of 0.8, in that 0.8 percent of families with a television set viewed the episode on that date. The most-watched episode of the series ("The Mayan Ice Cream Caper") was seen by 1.6 million viewers. Viewership fell with the first episode to have been aired on a Thursday ("Hamburger Cavez"), which was watched by 1.1 million viewers. The first season concluded on September 29, 2011, after eighteen episodes. A second season consisting of eight episodes was released exclusively on Netflix in 2013. Cartoon Network passed on a third season renewal.
The Problem Solverz has received mixed to negative reviews, with writers of entertainment-related publications criticizing the visual style and writing. Rob Owen writing for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called the style reminiscent of Atari 5200 video games and wrote that viewers could "thank" or "blame" Jones for his creation. For the magazine Variety, Brian Lowry disregarded the series as uninteresting and challenging to watch, the visuals and sounds weird for weirdness' sake. Emily Ashby of Common Sense Media defined the series as misguided, its stories as undeveloped, and its visual style as unappealing. The Weekly Alibi's Devin D. O'Leary acknowledged the style as Paper Rad's own and found the writing more solid than that of Adult Swim's programming for which it could be mistaken. The jokes were not instantly funny according to O'Leary, but the visual style combined with the writing would provide amusement for Paper Rad's existing fans.
Art-related publications, on the other hand, gave praise to Jones' creativity. Dan Nadel, a former publisher of Jones, lauded the series in The Comics Journal for the imagination displayed, "funny and humane and invaluable" at the same time. Paper writer Sammy Harkham called The Problem Solverz "radical" and unlike any another series on television. Geek Exchange writer Liz Ohanesian called the second season more "subdued" than the first, allowing viewers to concentrate on the principal character's relationships. She compared the series to the band Anamanaguchi, in that its unique and polarizing style makes fans of the series hard to find.
- Stone Quackers – another animated series created by Jones following his work on The Problem Solverz
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- Lowry, Brian (April 1, 2011). "Cartoon's Problem Solverz Is a Wild (& Bad) Trip". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Archived from the original on August 12, 2014. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
- Ashby, Emily. "The Problem Solverz". Common Sense Media. Archived from the original on August 28, 2013. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
- O'Leary, Devin D. (April 14–20, 2011). "The Colors! The Colors!". Weekly Alibi (NuCity Publications) 20 (15). Archived from the original on April 24, 2011. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
- Harkham, Sammy (October 30, 2010). "Ben Jones". Paper. Paper Publishing Company. Archived from the original on August 8, 2014. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
- Ohanesian, Liz (July 12, 2013). "It Came from Netflix: The Problem Solverz". Geek Exchange. The Enthusiast Network. Archived from the original on July 15, 2013. Retrieved March 11, 2016.