by Johnny Papan
VANCOUVER – Corner Gas was one of the most beloved sitcoms born of Canadian soil. Set in a gas station in the fictional town of Dog River, Saskatchewan, comedian Brent Butt created a group of lovable characters portrayed by actors with excellent on-screen chemistry. Corner Gas was a perfect pseudo-nonsensical storm that captivated audiences for six seasons, unexpectedly garnering over 70 award nominations, six Gemini wins, and its own highly successful movie. Now, Butt and his quirky friends will further evolve the show by exploring the unlimited possibilities of animation.
In the episode “Squatch Your Language,” it’s clear that Corner Gas has already taken full advantage of the fantastical freedoms animation offers. Within the first five minutes, you witness a mythically brutal fight break out between a sasquatch and a unicorn. The fun doesn’t stop there – Butt claims the animated pilot episode, “Bone Dry,” sees the gas station put in a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-style scenario.
“That’s the type of thing that there’s no way we could have done in the real world, but we can do that in animation,” says Butt. “We can put a gas station in the middle of the desert instead of rural Canada. We can create 40 dune buggies rolling over a hill. We always let our imaginations go, but we had to bring things back to Earth a bit more often in the old days. Now we can put Wanda and Hank in outer space and do what we want to do.”
Although the visuals are different, the comedic style and character interactions are familiar. It’s easy to forget you’re watching something different – the flow of the new series is that smooth and recognizable.
“Norm Hiscock, who also wrote on King of the Hill, was one of the first people I talked to when we were thinking of doing this,” he says. “I asked him: ‘If we were to do this as an animated show, what should we do to change the script?’ He said, ‘Nothing, just keep writing more scripts. This is the perfect show to animate.’ That’s how we approached it. It’s still interesting people saying funny things.”
Fans will be ecstatic to know that the original cast is kept intact, with the exception of Janet Wright, who passed away in 2016; the role of Emma Leroy is now voiced by Corrine Koslo. The option to record dialogue separately is a convenient option in the animated world, but Butt preferred to have its cast record lines together to maintain their fluid chemistry and bounce off each other. With half the cast living in Vancouver and half in Toronto, everyone is patched together to work in real time, even if they’re in different cities.
“You can’t really overstate the importance of the chemistry this cast has, and how it plays into the success of the show. That’s the kind of lightning in a bottle you only cross once in a lifetime if you’re lucky.”
When it comes to why the show has grown to the heights it has, Butt concludes: “I think there was an authenticity to Corner Gas that people responded to. We weren’t trying to sell anything. We first went into it thinking, ‘Well, the network made a mistake, we’ve somehow convinced them to shoot 13 episodes over the summer, but nobody’s gonna watch it.’ So we just made a show that we liked.”
Corner Gas: The Animated Series premieres April 2 on Comedy Central.