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Chowder is an American animated television series which ran from November 2, 2007, to August 7, 2010, on Cartoon Network. The series was created by C. H. Greenblatt, a former storyboard artist on SpongeBob SquarePants and The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy.
Chowder, under the instruction of Mung Daal, dreams of becoming a great chef someday. But the young apprentice must first find his way in the mystical city of Marzipan, where the simplest foods and recipes become the craziest adventures.
C.H. Greenblatt (the creator) had been sketching various characters since his days on SpongeBob SquarePants for his own animation series concept. The sketches were worked on until a solid concept appeared, ultimately evolving into the Chowder characters. Chowder himself was developed with no specific species in mind, but rather with the intentions of invoking the image of a child's soft squeeze toy. Some of the inspiration comes from Richard Scarry, with other inspiration from Saturday morning cartoons. Shnitzel was created originally as a personal character design exercise in the late 90s.
I was even going to try and animate him in Flash, so I did alternate pieces of him. Back then he was called "Tapiocaca." He was supposed to be sort of like a big rock tiki monster that was always on fire. I even made a cool logo for him. Well I didn't really do anything with him after that, but I still liked the design. So when I was forming the world of Chowder, he seemed like a good fit. I like to think of him as a living menhir from the Asterix comics.
Once Greenblatt pitched the concept to Cartoon Network, it was about two years before the series was greenlit for production with another year in production before the pilot episode aired. Greenblatt estimates he spent about seven years working on Chowder before the show made it to air. But the premiere date got rescheduled 4 times. In 2002, It was announced that it would be on air on September 28, 2003 but on August 1, 2003, It got changed to August 3, 2005 then on June 16, 2005, It got changed to October 30, 2006 then finally on July 5, 2006, It got scheduled to November 2, 2007.
Each episode is produced with a 30 second puppet sequence that is meant to run over the ending credits. Cartoon Network chooses not to air these credit sequences but the episodes are still delivered to Cartoon Network with them. Episodes can be purchased from the iTunes store in the United States which are delivered with the sequences as are episodes which are available on Cartoon Network's VOD website also within the United States.
One of the unique design features of the show is the patterns used on the characters’ clothing. The patterns are developed as a full screen image and then sent to the production house where the characters are modified to fill the patterns in over the character clothing.
Using this technique, when a character moves, their patterns do not follow, but display as a "static" background. A similar technique was used in several Japanese anime, such as Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo, the French/British animated series Corneil and Bernie and in The Ren and Stimpy Show for the bit-part character The Announcer Salesman/That Guy.
Chowder is set in Marzipan City, based loosely on New York City, where varying cultural differences coexist with each other, and where the populace takes unusual occurrences in stride. The city is vast and never-ending, with wildly different geographic locations appearing side-by-side without breaking the overall harmony of the city's image. For the architectural style of the city, examples from Moroccan and Indian architecture were referenced.
The inhabitants of Marzipan City, including the show's primary cast, are composed of various strange non-human creatures, ranging from anthropomorphic animals to more abstract and surreal beings. A joke is even made of this in one episode where a teddy bear-like citizen wins a game at a street fair, and is rewarded with an ordinary human in modern western clothing. Occasionally, parodies of characters from other media appear, such as Doozers.
The city of Marzipan is held up by a Giant Man who loves Burple Nurples.
Within the universe of Chowder, characters and locations are named after or are alterations of various dishes or foods. The currency is the dollop rather than dollar and "sments" rather than cents. Other examples include a type of candy "grubble gum" (bubble gum), "cinnamini" (cinnamon), "shmegg" (egg) and "blutter" (butter). The show is filled with puns and meta-references which are integrated with a high degree of sophistication. One example is when Chowder is learning to write and scribbles on the screen. Gazpacho erases this, and Chowder points out the Cartoon Network screen bug. Gazpacho comments "That one doesn't come off. Truse me, I've tried."
An everpresent animation feature is that many characters (if not, usually all) wear clothings with elaborated patterns varying from abstract to floral, but the patterns themselves remain still regardless the movements of the characters, as if the pattern was in a layer below. This resource was used in many cartoons, but Chowder (the cartoon) can be seen as the one that makes most use of it. The cartoon also uses puppetry and stop motion.
- Chowder (voiced by Nicky Jones/C.H. Greenblatt in Chowder Grows Up) - Chowder is a small, eccentric 11 year old child who is serving as a chef's apprentice under Mung Daal. Chowder lives with Mung Daal and Mung's wife, Truffles, in a room at the top of the catering business. Chowder wants to become a great chef, but he is very impulsive, and often gives in to his urges. He is always hungry and eats anything, even a customer's order.Chowder can also regurgitate objects and is often used as a storage container by the other characters. According to C.H. Greenblatt, Chowder is a composite of a cat, a bear and a rabbit.
- Mung Daal (voiced by Dwight Schultz) - According to his Cartoon Network bio, Mung Daal is the greatest chef in the world. Whilst it is not known exactly how old he is, he has mentioned that he has cooked for 386 years, and he also celebrated 450 years of marriage that means Mung was 64 years old when he met Truffles and at least 30 when he bought his catering company. Mung owns a catering business where he invents rare food like the "Not fruit" (pronounced No Fruit) and has a personal, eccentric cooking style, often refusing to resort to traditional methods. Mung is very prideful to the point of being his downfall. He has a high opinion of himself, and considers himself to be quite the ladies man, despite his marriage to Truffles. Mung has a mustache and claims it is what makes him a 'real chef' and when Chowder grows old enough to grow one, he will be a real chef too.
- Truffles (voiced by Tara Strong) - Truffles is Mung Daal's wife, who handles the business side of Mung's catering business. She is a mushroom pixie, and like Mung, is quite old (having been married for 450 years), though her true age is also never revealed. She is usually practical, but has a foul temper and easily loses patience with her husband, his staff and their customers which is a source of intense fear and terror amongst the rest of the show's cast. She speaks with a slight Yiddish accent, and sometime uses associated words.
- Shnitzel (voiced by John DiMaggio) - A rock monster and professional chef who works at Mung Daal's Catering Company. His vocabulary consists almost only of one word, "Radda," repeated over and over, though he sometimes says other simple words such as "Ok" or "Oh!." Despite this, none of the characters have difficulty understanding him. Shnitzel is the "straight man" to the other more excitable characters, and is frequently agitated. He often gets stuck with menial labor or cleanup duty, and is easily angered by Chowder's antics (even to the point where he suggested chucking him into the furnace). Despite his remark, Shnitzel really has a soft spot for Chowder, as he cries when it was thought that Chowder has vanished forever. Kevin Michael Richardson voiced Shnitzel for one episode, "The Froggy Apple Crumple Thumpkin" " and was replaced at the last moment by DiMaggio due to Richardson being unavailable during that period de to work on other projects .
- Panini (voiced by Liliana Mumy) - A girl who has a crush on Chowder, and lets him know this at every opportunity. Chowder does not return the feelings, and responds with "I'm not your boyfriend!" whenever she greets him. However, when Chowder announces that he wishes to get married to save her reputation, she turns him away, although she has evidently since resumed her crush in subsequent episodes. It is shown she has an angry side, such as forcing Chowder to eat a "flart," slapping away his hand, and knocking down Gorgonzola. She is Ms. Endive's apprentice, notably making better progress than Mung Daal with Chowder. According to the creator, she is of the same species as Chowder.
- Ms. Endive (voiced by Mindy Sterling) - A tall and pudgy chef who teaches cooking to Panini with strict discipline. She is the thorn in Mung Daal's side, berating his cooking style at every turn. A meticulous mountain of a woman who insists on perfection in everything she does, her cooking style is the complete opposite of Mung's; precise and textbook-perfect. She is often unkind, and considers Mung Daal to be her inferior rival. But she once cried and told panini he was a good man when she had thought he died. In the episode "Chowder's Girlfriend," it is revealed she despises boys and boyfriends because her fiancé did not show up on their wedding day. The creator describes her as Martha Stewart with Oompa-Loompa colors.
- Gazpacho (voiced by Dana Snyder) - A mammoth-like storekeeper, who sells strange produce and ingredients. He does his best to offer advice to Chowder when needed. He lives with his overbearing, unseen mother, who is apparently very controlling of him. Gazpacho shows no interest in moving out and improving his own life, once even exclaiming "I had so much to almost live for" when he thought he had been fatally shot. Gazpacho also likes to soak in a pickle barrel when he is depressed.
- Gorgonzola (voiced by Will Shadley) - An apprentice candle holder with a surly attitude. He resents Chowder due to him having a better job. He is an anthropomorphic mouse with a candle on top of his head.
- Ceviche (voiced by Elan Garfias) - An anthropomorphic goat with pink hair and a leotard. He is in training to be a dancer, and is apprenticed to Pate. He always speaks in a monotone, and has a crush on Panini.
- Kimchi (voiced by C.H. Greenblatt) - Chowder's pet and best friend, who lives in a bird cage next to his bed. Kimchi is a stink cloud with tiny eyes (an anthropomorphized flatus). He likes things that smell bad, and "talks" by blowing raspberries.
- Ms. Endive (voiced by Mindy Sterling): A smart obese female chef who teaches cooking to Panini with strict discipline. She's also occasionally portrayed as the show's main antagonist or villain. She is usually depicted as gargantuan. Her largeness is shown in The Apprentice Games where Mung Daal and Chowder enter the games by riding on Endive's posterior. She regularly berates Mung Daal, whom she considers a rival. In the episode "Chowder's Girlfriend," it is revealed she despises boys and boyfriends because her fiancé did not show up on their wedding day. Ms. Endive is first seen in the second episode with Panini, "Chowder's Girlfriend." The creator describes her as Martha Stewart with Oompa-Loompa colors. Greenblatt chose to name her after the endive since endive is bitter and Belgian endive is fancy; hence the character is bitter and fancy.Endive's character stayed constant throughout the initial development. The long nose, which changed from a rectangular shape to a triangle shape for the final version, represents how Endive looks down at other characters. It was revealed in later episodes that Ms. Endive is in love with Schnitzel. Greenblatt said that he felt that her evolution throughout the series was fun to observe, especially when William Reiss wrote plots involving Endive.
- Kiwi (voiced by C. H. Greenblatt) is a photorealistic pink creature who always gives advice to Chowder and his friends. His name is only pronounced in the episode "Brain Grub," where it is known that after Chowder alters the animated universe, Kiwi is reduced to selling used cars.
- Kimchi (voiced by C. H. Greenblatt): Chowder's pet, who lives in a cage next to his bed. Kimchi is a brown-colored stink cloud (due to the unpleasant odor of kimchi). He likes things with odors unpleasant for the other characters, and he "talks" by making flatulent sounds. Kimchi was first seen in the episode "Stinky Love." Kimchi is usually shown with a blank personality but in an episode where he gets married it is shown he has an opinion. To avoid dispute in South Korea, the Southeast Asian version of Cartoon Network, which broadcasts to the South Korean audiences, muted down every mentions of his name in dialogues in English audio feed. The channel's Korean language subtitle feed refers him as "지지" (Jiji), meaning dirty thing. The channel itself does not have Korean audio feed because of South Korean media regulations.
- Gorgonzola (voiced by Will Shadley): A young green mouse apprentice candle holder with a surly attitude. He resents Chowder due to Chowder having a better job than him. He will occasionally use Chowder, and if forced, will partner with him in games. Since blue cheese was one of the few foods Greenblatt disliked, he decided to use the name "gorgonzola" for a character who did not get along with Chowder. Gorgonzola resembles a green opossum. He wears tattered brown clothes and no shoes, and has a partially melted candle on his head (for traditional reasons). He is desperate to get cash, and will do almost anything to get it. Gorgonzola also loves to play Sniffleball, where he meets Chowder in an episode. Gorgonzola is an apprentice to Stilton, who is a candle holder, hence why both characters have burning candles on their heads.
- Ceviche (voiced by Elan Garfias): A young yellow goat apprentice to Paté and Panini's best friend, Ceviche was introduced in the episode "The Apprentice Games." Ceviche was framed for stealing Chowder's dice cycle and is revealed to be a boy instead of a girl, which is shocking to some viewers. Ceviche also helps old people and donates to the poor. He practices aerobic-style dancing and is very charitable and kind to others. He is good friends with Panini and will make unwanted advances upon her, which are either refused or unnoticed. He speaks in a monotonous voice and serves as deadpan humor for the show.
- Chestnut (originally voiced by Tone Loc, then John DiMaggio): Like the food, Chestnut is small and tough. He is a tiny, blue horned devil-like creature with a deep, gravelly voice and, to many character's surprise, is physically very strong. Because of his size, he uses everyday objects as other things (e.g. using a briefcase for a hydrofoil, or a hat as a vacation home). He sings small songs to himself, usually consisting of his catchphrase of "Dinky lee dinka loo." He is teacher of the BLTs, a parody of the SATs. He always refers to himself in the third person when speaking.
- Reuben (voiced by Paul Reubens): A pig who is a conman and steals from others. He was Mung's "Inspector" when he needed to renew his cooking license but he just used that to fail Mung and pass Endive. He later made the group, minus Truffles, used his boat for their fishing trip but just spent the trip annoying Mung and keeping the other passengers on board so he can get more money out of them. At the end of the episode, it turned out that the ship was stolen and Reuben abandoned ship when the real owners came and left the group to be arrested.
- Mr. Fugu (voiced by Bob Joles): A floating balloon who is said to be Mung's most frequent customer. He is proven to be more greedy than Chowder and never shares any food with him. He is often seen with his valet, Foie Gras, a Maneki-neko (meows provided by George Takei) holding Mr. Fugu's string as he cannot control his flotation.
- Sgt. Hoagie (voiced by Deidrich Bader): He is a police officer in Marzipan city. In one episode he was going out on a date and asked the other cops for advice.
- Most of the characters in the series were named after a type of food.
- C.H. Greenblatt originally thought of giving Mung Daal an Indian accent, since he was named after an Indian dish (mung daal is an Indian spicy soup). He decided against it since he didn't want to attract any racial controversy.
- During the opening theme, the dish in the oven is always different.
- In the opening theme song, Schnitzel's part is translated as "you share a big piece with everyone." Originally it was going to be ''you have a big heart for everyone.''
- Kevin Michael Richardson was meant to be Shnitzel's original voice, but he did only one episode and was replaced with John DiMaggio from then onwards as he was busy working on other projects at the time.
- C.H. Greenblatt named Ms Endive after the bitter Belgian fruit the endive, which like Endive herself is bitter and swanky.
- Miss Endive's nose was originally meant to be rectangular, but it was later redesigned to be triangular since it looked better that way in representing Endive looking down on people.
- C.H. Greenblatt considers Miss Endive to be the best character in the show, as her character was given a character evolution.
- Panini was originally named Borlotti and was going to be voiced by Jessica DiCicco.
- C.H. Greenblatt dislikes blue cheese, so he gave the name of Gorgonzola to an unlikeable character in the series.
- A distinctive visual motif is the patterns on the characters' clothing/skin staying the same. The patterns are developed as a full-screen image and then sent to the production house, where the characters are modified to fill the patterns in over the character skin/clothing. With this technique, when a character moves, their patterns do not follow but are displayed as a "static" background.
- An episode was planned where Mung Daal (Dwight Schultz) would be framed for a crime, and would enlist some old friends to go on a mission to clear his name. The episode was meant to be a homage to Schultz's classic series The A-Team, and would have brought in fellow cast members Dirk Benedict and Mr. T (the latter having established a career in voice acting). Unfortunately it had to be shelved. Another shelved episode was where Panini and Chowder show Gorgonzola the meaning of Thanksgiving but that was also shelved.
- C.H. Greenblatt based Truffles's practical but short-tempered nature on his mother.
- C.H. Greenblatt thought Truffles was too coarse a character to be used in a story, so the writers decided to keep her appearance in the show as minimal as possible: "a little Truffles goes a long way."
- The series creator C.H. Greenblatt voices Chowder's pet Kimchi.
- C.H. Greenblatt described Miss Endive as "Martha Stewart with Oompa-Loompa colours."
- Panini originally had an outfit which only revealed her face (which was to have pointy ears), and was going to bully Chowder in a manner similar to Rugrats's Angelica Pickles. But C.H. Greenblatt disliked unctuous obnoxious characters like Angelica, and so decided to make Panini cuter and sweeter: he made the pointy ears bunny ears, and made her have a crush on Chowder; since Chowder is not old enough for girls, Greenblatt felt this would make the romance much funnier.
- C.H. Greenblatt felt the name Gazpacho suited his character wonderfully, although he has no idea why he thought of Gazpacho as a name (gazpacho is a Spanish vegetable soup).
- The design of Marzipan City is based on Moroccan and Indian architecture
- Chowder was originally supposed to have 4 seasons but C.H. Greenblatt decided to end off with 3.
- Chowder's original starting age was going to be 13.