JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — A children’s cartoon series starring the daughter of a stunt daredevil and her cautious best friend started as a sketch drawn by Johnstown native Mike Owens.
“Danger & Eggs,” which is now streaming on Amazon Prime, follows the adventures of D.D. Danger, voiced by “Saturday Night Live’s” Aidy Bryant, and Phillip, a giant talking egg, voiced by Eric Knobel.
The show was developed and pitched to several outlets for about six years, Owens said, before Amazon picked it up for a pilot in 2015.
The feedback received from that pilot gave Owens and co-creator Shadi Petosky the green light to develop a full season, which was launched June 30 through the online streaming service.
“It’s a bigger deal that what I’m used to, but it’s pretty exciting,” Owens said.
As was the case with the first full season, a second season of the cartoon is contingent on viewer feedback.
“We have to see how it goes,” Owens said.
So far, the feedback for the series’ first season has been positive, Owens said. He credits its success to the lead characters’ opposite personalities and their “buddy system” mantra of “You look out for me, I’ll look out for you.”
Drawing is something Owens said he always had a passion for.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind since I was a kid,” he said.
After graduating from Greater Johnstown High School in 1991, Owens spent two years at Penn State University before transferring to Columbia College Chicago.
He eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in film and animation there and earned internships that earned him connections in the business.
“It’s a very small community of animators, especially in the Midwest,” he said.
Owens’ first job ended up being at a company named Startoons, where he was an animator for popular cartoons like “Animaniacs” and “Pinky and the Brain.”
“It was a pretty sweet first gig,” he said.
From there, Owens did freelance work for animation used in General Mills commercials and spent five months teaching 300 students at one of India’s first animation schools, Heart Animation Academy.
“I was lucky enough to drop into some pretty high-end stuff early on in my career,” Owens said.
“But if your work shows it and you know the right people, you can make things happen.”
After marrying his wife, Wendie, Owens moved to Minnesota, where he found himself with less animation work.
“I had to re-promote myself,” he said, working on short films, side projects and freelancing.
It was during that time that Owens found Puny, an animation studio in Minneapolis, where he began working on creating animation for mobile games and advertisements – first on a part-time basis and then full time.
‘Go for it’
Puny eventually landed the animation work for “Yo Gabba Gabba,” a cartoon show on Nickelodeon, for all four seasons.
It was during that time that Owens began working on digital shorts for both Nickelodeon and Disney, along with opening credits for “Super,” a 2010 movie directed by James Gunn, now most known for directing and writing the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films.
As Owens continued developing his own ideas to pitch, Puny established an office in Los Angeles to arrange meetings and earn contracts for more work in the industry.
“Somehow my entire career has been with one foot in the Midwest and the other in L.A.,” Owens said.
By 2014, the beginnings of “Danger & Eggs” had been further developed and picked up by Amazon for the pilot.
Since its launch, Owens said he’s received support from Johnstown-area family and childhood friends who have tuned in.
“It’s awesome,” he said.
“You can’t really ask for any better than that.”
Owens said he gets back to his hometown about once a year to visit with old friends and his parents, David and Kathleen.
“They’ve been super supportive of this weird career of mine,” he said.
In his future trips to Johnstown, Owens said he’d love to get into local schools to advocate for music and arts programs, which are often the first to see cuts when funding drops.
“I’m living proof that that stuff has value,” he said.
For students interested in making their art a career, Owens said it’s necessary to continue creating to improve and never wait for anything to be perfect.
“Make things and get them out in the world,” he said.
“Go for it and see what happens.”
Information from: The Tribune-Democrat, http://www.tribune-democrat.com