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ANAHEIM — Jack McBrayer is about to boldly travel where he’s never traveled before: into the clutches of the wildly enthusiastic D23 Expo crowds.
The actor, best known as 30 Rock’s page Kenneth, is in Anaheim to sign autographs for fans in support of his upcoming Disney Channel series, Wander Over Yonder. Talking to The Hollywood Reporter before the signing, he admits he doesn’t quite know what to expect.
“I’ll be honest, I haven’t really done anything like this before,” he says. “I don’t know what I’m about to get into. I’ll probably be swarmed by children. I don’t know how this works.”
In the series, McBrayer gives voice to Wander. As the actor describes him, Wander is “a happy-go-lucky space traveler who sometimes gets himself into trouble because of his optimism and/or his naivete but somehow always lands on his feet with the help of his more cynical sidekick, Sylvia.”
McBrayer said what drew him to the project was its creator, Craig McCracken, and his co-producer wife, Lauren Faust (the duo’s credits include The Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends).
“I have enjoyed their work for a long, long time, and I kinda sought them out: ‘If you ever have anything you’re working on that I might be able to have the smallest part on, please, please keep me in mind,'” he recalls. “It was probably the best meeting I ever took.”
For his part, McCracken says he actually came up with the character of Wander before the idea of the series. “The show is not so much what it’s about but who it’s about,” he says. He had been drawing this character in his sketch book “just for fun” until he met McBrayer. “I told my wife, ‘I think we just met Wander,'” he says. “Meeting Jack and applying my drawings to it, all of a sudden, this character came to life.”
The series follows Wander and Sylvia as they travel from planet to planet helping people and facing off against the evil Lord Hater and his army of watchdogs. But don’t expect the series to be overloaded with heavy moral messages.
“We always try to have really simple themes,” McCracken says. “We don’t want to be too heavy-handed; it’s a comedy show first. Wander will learn the right way to do something, but if it’s Lord Hater’s story, he’ll make the wrong decision. It’s more about watching the villain make the wrong mistakes and having to pay for it, whereas Wander comes in and makes the correct choices and wins.”
Sylvia, meanwhile, is voiced by April Winchell (Keith Ferguson voices Lord Hater, while Tom Kenny is Hater’s No. 1 henchman, Commander Peepers). Winchell describes her character as “a butt-kicking, outer-space blue horse, a mixed martial artist and the voice of reason.” What she likes about the show is its lack of negativity.
“It’s really difficult to be funny without being cruel, and there is just not one cruel bone in this show’s body,” she says. “It’s positive, upbeat, friendly and funny. That’s a very difficult thing to do.”
She adds that another unique aspect of the show is that every episode features different planets and aliens with a very small cast of core characters.
The music is performed by a group called Two Man Gentlemen Band, whose Andy Bean serves as composer. So if Wander sings in the show, that means McBrayer sings, right?
“No, I make an attempt at singing,” he quips. “But the composers of the show are doing the heavy lifting, and I just try to mimic them as closely as I can. They are the ones doing all the work. If you do some research, you’ll find that I’m not the best singer in the world, but it works for the [show].”
Winchell puts it another way: “Apparently, Jack can sing, from what I hear.”
Disney Channel will air a sneak preview of Wander Over Yonder at 9 p.m. Aug. 16, followed by the official premiere at 9 p.m. Sept. 13. Watch a clip below.
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