Mission Hill
The heads of the five main characters. Top row: Jim Kuback, Kevin French. Middle: Stogie. Bottom row: Andy French, Posey Tyler.
Also known asThe Downtowners (original title)
Genre
Created by
Voices of
Theme music composerJohn McCrea
Opening theme"Italian Leather Sofa" by Cake
ComposerEric Speier
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes13
Production
Executive producers
  • Bill Oakley
  • Josh Weinstein
ProducerColin A.B.V. Lewis
Running time21–23 minutes
Production companies
Original release
Network
ReleaseSeptember 21, 1999 (1999-09-21)[1] –
August 11, 2002 (2002-08-11)

Mission Hill[a] is an American adult animated sitcom created by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein for The WB. It originally aired for five episodes from September 21, 1999[1] to July 16, 2000; unaired episodes were burnt off on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim from May 26 to August 11, 2002.[3] The series follows Andy French, a retail worker who lives with roommates Jim and Posey as well as their dog, Stogie. Andy's lifestyle is taken for a turn when his younger brother Kevin moves in with him.

While initially garnering poor ratings, it has since gained a cult following, and is also popular outside of the United States and Canada, receiving broadcasts in Australia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, Spain and New Zealand. Stylistically, the series is recognizable for its bright, neon color palette, and features a peculiar mixture of modern animation and traditional "cartoonish" drawings (dashed lines coming from eyes to indicate line of vision, red bolts of lightning around a spot in pain). The style was made to be reminiscent of 1930s rubber hose cartoons like Fleischer Studios, Walt Disney, Warner Bros., and MGM, as well as mid-century modern cartoons with the likes of Hanna-Barbera, UPA, Jay Ward, and The Pink Panther. The designs were done by Lauren MacMullan, who cites the comic series Eightball as her source of inspiration for her overall design.

History

Mission Hill was conceived in 1997 by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, former executive producers/showrunners of The Simpsons, with the original artistic designer being Lauren MacMullan. Oakley has mentioned that one of the main inspirations for Mission Hill was the 1997 MTV series Austin Stories, which followed a group of 20-somethings in Austin, Texas.[4] After failed pitches to Fox and NBC, the rights to Mission Hill were purchased by Castle Rock Entertainment and The WB in the fall of 1997, following a successful pitch to Garth Ancier, the then-head of programming at the WB.[4][5] At the pitch, network executives from the WB were presented with three designs for Andy, Jim, Kevin and Posey. One depicted them in a drastically different, more cartoonish art style; the other two drew closer resemblance to the final designs, but one featured slightly more realistic designs for Andy and Kevin, with another featuring less realistic designs for Jim and Posey. When one of the WB executives saw the alternate designs for Jim and Posey, he thought that they were the parents of Andy and Kevin.[6] MacMullan states that the final design chosen for Posey looked "much more attractive" when compared to the two alternate designs.[6]

In mid-1998, the WB officially announced that a 13 episode first season would begin airing in the fall of 1999, with the project being known as The Downtowners at this point.[7][8] MTV's production of the similarly titled adult animated series Downtown eventually forced a name change. When the series was first sold to the WB, it not yet synonymous with teen female-oriented programs such as Dawson's Creek and Felicity, and its only popular show with that demographic was Buffy, which premiered at the beginning of 1997. The success of these programs led to The Baltimore Sun labelling it as the "teen girl network" in July 1999, two months before Mission Hill premiered.[9] Oakley claims, "In the time they ordered the show and the time it had appeared on the air, the network had redefined itself."[5] He adds, "they had this leftover programming, and by the time they figured out we shouldn’t be lumped in together [we] were in danger of killing that entire network. We hugely damaged the ratings of those other shows."[5]

It featured the voices of Wallace Langham, Scott Menville, Brian Posehn, Vicki Lewis, Nick Jameson, Tom Kenny, Herbert Sigüenza, Jane Wiedlin, Tress MacNeille and Lisa Kushell. The theme song is a faster, instrumental version of "Italian Leather Sofa" by Cake, who Oakley and Weinstein were fans of.[10] This version was specifically recorded for the show.[10] Although 18 episodes were planned, only 13 were produced.[11] The series was put on hiatus by The WB after two episodes due to poor ratings. It returned in the summer of 2000 with little promotion, and was canceled on July 18, 2000, after four more episodes aired to poor ratings.[12] The series went on to develop a cult following, thanks to repeated airings of all 13 episodes on Teletoon's Teletoon Unleashed block; Cartoon Network's popular late-night programming block Adult Swim; and Too Funny to Sleep, a late-night programming block on TBS.[13] Warner Home Video released all 13 completed episodes on DVD on November 29, 2005.

Bill Oakley has since voiced his dissatisfaction with the way Warner Bros. handled the series, and has said he doesn't mind if people pirate the series.[5]

Potential revival

On June 30, 2020, Oakley announced plans for a spin-off tentatively titled Gus and Wally, which will focus on the elderly gay couple who were supporting characters in Mission Hill. It is set six months after the series' conclusion in the early 2000s, and will be produced by Warner Bros. Animation for contractual reasons, though it is unknown if it would be for the Warner-owned HBO Max.[14]

In June 2022, Oakley claimed that they were still in the process of pitching the project, and that if this version was picked up, then it would continue under the Mission Hill moniker, rather than being titled Gus and Wally.[4] He also mentioned that it would include the unproduced episodes from the original incarnation of the show.[4]

In March 2023, Oakley confirmed in a tweet a Gus and Wally spin-off is "not gonna happen".

Premise

Set in the world of teens and 20-somethings, this series follows hip 24-year-old Andy French, whose sheltered suburban teenage brother Kevin moves in with him and his roommates in a big-city loft.

Characters

Main

Supporting

Episodes

Note: Thirteen episodes of the series were produced while five more were written, but never completed. Animatics for some of these episodes were in production at the time of the series' cancellation. It was planned to put these animatics on the DVD for the series, but this never came to fruition. However, several of the animatics—including a completed video animatic and synchronized audio read-through of the episode "Pretty in Pink (Crap Gets in Your Eyes)"—have been released through various internet outlets.

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
code
U.S. viewers
(millions)
1"Pilot (or The Douchebag Aspect)"Lauren MacMullanBill Oakley & Josh WeinsteinSeptember 21, 1999 (1999-09-21)3950-012.28[16]

Andy French, an aspiring cartoonist working at a waterbed store run by a sleazy, ambiguously Eastern European man named Ron, is forced to take in his annoying little brother, Kevin, after Andy's parents decide to move away to Wyoming and not take Kevin with them.

Music: "Burning Flies" by Looper, "Couldn't You Wait" (Acoustic Version) by Silkworm, "Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down" by The Toasters, "Rude Boy Rock" by Lionrock
2"Andy Joins the PTA (or Great Sexpectations)"Gary McCarverAndrew KreisbergMay 26, 2002 (2002-05-26) (on Adult Swim)3950-02N/A
When Andy attends Kevin's parent-teacher conference en lieu of their mother and father, he joins the PTA in order to impress Kevin's English teacher. Meanwhile, Kevin becomes obsessed with an online role playing game.
Music: "Machete" by Moby, "Do That Thing" by The Halo Benders, "Major Leagues" by Pavement
3"Kevin's Problem (or Porno for Pyro)"Tricia GarciaJ. David Stem & David N. WeissOctober 8, 1999 (1999-10-08)3950-031.50[17]
Kevin faces a moral dilemma when two bullies (Griffo and C-Dog) get blamed for burning down the Mission Hill market, which was an accident Kevin caused after trying to hide a pornographic magazine after one of the bullies catches him masturbating to it. Meanwhile, Jim returns from Japan wearing Day-Glo short-shorts which becomes popular with everyone (except Andy).
4"Andy Vs. The Real World (or The Big-Ass Viacom Lawsuit)"Christian RomanBen KullJune 9, 2002 (2002-06-09) (on Adult Swim)3950-04N/A
Kevin finds a collection of old videos chronicling the time that MTV's The Real World filmed a season in Mission Hill—and how Andy became part of the cast after one of the house mates gets hit by a bus.
Music: "Ape Self Prevails in Me Still" by Quasi, "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M., "Begin" by Lambchop, "Bad Boys" by Inner Circle "Who's Afraid of Elizabeth Taylor" by Joan of Arc
5"Andy and Kevin Make a Friend
(or One Bang for Two Brothers)"
Mike KimMichael PanesJune 25, 2000 (2000-06-25)3950-051.85[18]
Kevin and Andy fight for the affections of George's sister. Meanwhile, Gus gets stabbed in the head and Wally urges him to go to the hospital to have the knife removed.
Music: "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M., "Sideshow" by The Wake, "Dying Culture" by Wumpscut
6"Andy Gets a Promotion
(or How to Get Head in Business Without Really Trying)"
Dominic PolcinoMichael PanesJuly 9, 2000 (2000-07-09)3950-062.25[19]
After having his work rejected by nearly every magazine, Andy decides to abandon his dreams as a cartoonist and become Ron's assistant at the waterbed store, which changes Andy's personality for the worse.
Music: "Blue Monday" by New Order, "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" by Culture Club, "Le Freak" by Chic
7"Kevin Vs. the SAT (or Nocturnal Admissions)"Ilya SkorupskyJ. David Stem & David N. WeissJuly 2, 2000 (2000-07-02)3950-071.79[20]
Kevin and his friends work furiously to crack the code for perfect scores on the SATs after learning that Ivy League schools aren't accepting students unless they have perfect SAT scores (800 Math, 800 Verbal) or are involved in extracurricular activities. Meanwhile, Posey advertises her massage services in a newspaper—which lands her in trouble with a local pimp.
8"Unemployment: Part 1 (or Brother's Big Boner)"Scott AlbertsRobin SteinJuly 16, 2000 (2000-07-16)3950-081.81[21]
Andy, who just blew his parents' $400 living allowance on an organ in a desperate attempt to have fun without getting drunk or having sex, finds himself unemployed when Ron gets arrested for tax evasion and the waterbed store is seized by the government. When Andy can't hold down a job, Kevin goes to Ron to sign a form that activates Andy's unemployment payment—and becomes the owner of Ron's Ferraro.
Music: "Sundown" by Gordon Lightfoot, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" by Iron Butterfly
9"Unemployment: Part 2 (or Theory of the Leisure Ass)"Michael Dante DiMartinoAaron EhaszJuly 14, 2002 (2002-07-14) (on Adult Swim)3950-09N/A
After weeks of staying at home eating Bugles and getting drunk, Andy discovers that Jim has a job—as a high-ranking executive of an advertising agency and decides to stop being a slacker and get back in the work force.
Music: "Supermarket" by Clemek (from the Run Lola Run soundtrack), "The Spark that Bled" by The Flaming Lips, "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton, "Urban Gentleman" by The Jim Ruiz Group
10"Kevin Finds Love (or Hot for Weirdie)"Cynthia WellsDan McGrathJuly 21, 2002 (2002-07-21) (on Adult Swim)3950-10N/A
Kevin asks out Eunice Eulmeyer (guest voice Jennifer Jason Leigh), the weirdest girl at his school, in the hopes that her famous scientist father will write him a letter of recommendation for Yale University. Meanwhile, Andy, Jim, and Posey are denied admission to a new nightclub, prompting them to create their own nightclub.
Music: "Yo Yo" by Basement Jaxx, "Phalanx" by Jega, "Yakety Sax", "Breaking the Law" by Judas Priest
11"Stories of Hope and Forgiveness (or Day of the Jackass)"Christian RomanDan McGrathJuly 28, 2002 (2002-07-28) (on Adult Swim)3950-11N/A
Andy is asked to the Grammys by actress Becca Michelle Butterfield; Posey meditates in an attempt to find nirvana; and Kevin gets involved in a protest when news of an international crisis hits.
Music: "Arctic Cat" by The Gloria Record
12"Happy Birthday, Kevin (or Happy Birthday, Douchebag)"Mike KimRob Schwartz & Rich SiegelAugust 4, 2002 (2002-08-04) (on Adult Swim)3950-12N/A
Kevin's birthday is coming up, and, now that he's not at home with his family, he becomes depressed and miserable. Meanwhile, Natalie brings home a boa constrictor from an animal testing raid, and Carlos worries that the boa constrictor will attack their baby.
Music: "Unsung" by Helmet, "Everloving" by Moby, "Cherry Pie" by Warrant.
13"Plan 9 from Mission Hill
(or I Married a Gay Man from Outer Space)"
Jim ShellhornDan McGrathAugust 11, 2002 (2002-08-11) (on Adult Swim)3950-13N/A
Kevin becomes fascinated with classic films when he sneaks into a local theater to watch Midnight Cowboy under the assumption that it's a porno film because of its "X" rating—and uncovers a lost B-movie that Wally directed in the 1950s.
Music: *"Everybody's Talkin'" by Harry Nilsson, "Midnight Cowboy" by John Barry, György Ligeti's "Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo Sprano, two mixed choirs and orchestra" as performed by the Bavarian radio orchestra and conducted by Francis Travis is played as Kevin watches the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Unfinished episodes

No.TitleWritten byProd.
code
14"Meditations on a Career in Advertising (or Supertool)"Ben Kull3950-14
Andy and Jim work together on the "Chef-A-Rooni" account at the ad agency, but Jim ends up getting credit for it. Meanwhile, Kevin, Toby, and George buy an upscale Port-A-Potty after thugs Griffo, C-Dog, and Phat Ass take over the boys' room.
15"To Grandmother's House We Go (or Freaky Weekend in the Crappy Crudwagon)"Michael Panes3950-15

Andy, Kevin, Jim, and Posey take a road trip on Memorial Day Weekend to Andy and Kevin's grandmother's house, but Andy locks Kevin in the trunk. Eventually, an argument breaks out between Andy, Posey and Kevin about whether or not they should go to an Indian casino, the boys' grandmother's house or a large field of sunflowers. Meanwhile, Gus and Wally take care of Stogie.

Music: "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club is the only known song used in the episode, as an animatic clip on the Internet featuring what would have been the actual soundtrack is used. The rest of the animatic has not been released to the public. The script does mention a lot of 1980s songs being used as all the radio stations are playing 1980s music during the three-day weekend.
16"Pretty in Pink (or Crap Gets in Your Eyes)"Aaron Ehasz3950-16
Andy and Gwen's relationship goes through a rocky period after Gwen breaks up with Andy and Andy drunkenly sleeps with Jim's assistant, Stacie, who loves Jim and also only slept with Andy because she was drunk.
17"Death of a Yale Man (or Premature Metriculation)"Robin Stein3950-17
Toby and George think Kevin is dying after he comes to school bald (which was from Kevin trying to get rid of a bad haircut) and decide to ask the head of Yale University to let Kevin in as his final wish. Meanwhile, Andy and Jim fight back against yuppie SUV drivers who keep cutting them off in traffic.
18"Bye Bye Nerdy (or I Was a Teenage Porn Star)"Andrew Kreisberg3950-18
Kevin accidentally appears in the background of a porno movie being filmed in the building. When his parents discover this, they force Kevin to move with them to Wyoming, only to find out that having Kevin around again is killing their romance.

Location

The series takes place in a district called Mission Hill. Mission Hill is a diverse neighborhood in a much larger city called Cosmopolis. Cosmopolis is depicted as a large modern urban metropolis similar to New York City or Chicago. The official website states Mission Hill is a mix of Mission Hill in Boston (only miles away from where creator Bill Oakley went to college), Mission District in San Francisco, Silver Lake in Los Angeles, Wicker Park in Chicago, and Williamsburg in Brooklyn. The exact location of Cosmopolis has never been revealed, as it is a mix of East and West Coast cities. Most of the series takes place in the neighborhood of Mission Hill, although the skyscrapers of Downtown Cosmopolis are seen in the background. In the DVD commentaries, Josh Weinstein says that a large portion of the development of the series was spent developing Mission Hill into a functional, albeit fictional, city. Writers and animators worked together to create fictional advertisements, bands, foods, and even bus schedules. Boston, MA has a neighborhood called Mission Hill in the Roxbury section of the city which bears many similarities to its fictional counterpart.

Home release

DVD cover

Warner Home Video released all 13 completed episodes on DVD on November 29, 2005. The collection replaced some of the original soundtracks with stock music, most glaringly "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M. in the episode "Andy Vs. The Real World". The DVD collection also dubbed over some of the original voice tracks to remove any references to the replaced music, for example changing Andy's voice track from saying "Gordon Lightfoot" to "Scott Joplin" in the episode "Unemployment Part 1".

Awards

Mission Hill received the 2000 Pulcinella Award for "Best Series for All Audiences"; the award cited the series' "stylized design and honest approach to sexual and moral issues."[citation needed]

The series won an award from GLAAD for its positive portrayal of a gay relationship.[22]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ (originally titled The Downtowners)[2]

References

  1. ^ a b "TV Listings for - September 21, 1999". TV Tango. Retrieved May 22, 2023.
  2. ^ "Warner Renames The Downtowners". Animation World Magazine. Vol. 4, no. 6. Animation World Network. September 1999. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved August 1, 2015.
  3. ^ Perlmutter, David (2018). The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 399–400. ISBN 978-1538103739.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Smith, Bradley (June 1, 2022). Where's Mission Hill Season 2? (Bill Oakley Answers Questions). Archived from the original on March 10, 2023. Retrieved April 10, 2023 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ a b c d Alexander, Julia (September 6, 2017). "Mission Hill Was Supposed to Represent the Future, but It Died Before Getting the Chance". Polygon. Archived from the original on November 5, 2018. Retrieved April 10, 2023.
  6. ^ a b From Concept to Creation. Mission Hill: The Complete Series. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
  7. ^ "The WB Is Set to Go Downtown". Animation World Magazine. Vol. 3, no. 6. Animation World Network. September 1998. Archived from the original on March 9, 2023. Retrieved April 10, 2023.
  8. ^ Adalian, Josef (July 27, 1998). "WB Still Thinking Young". Variety. Archived from the original on March 9, 2023. Retrieved April 10, 2023.
  9. ^ "Modeling itself on teen sexuality; at WB, the network that brings you 'Buffy' and 'Dawson's Creek,' image is everything". July 25, 1999.
  10. ^ a b Stanley, T. L. (October 11, 1999). "Dawson's Creek, the Record" (PDF). Mediaweek. Vol. 9, no. 38. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 10, 2023. Retrieved April 10, 2023 – via WorldRadioHistory.com.
  11. ^ Erickson, Hal (2005). Television Cartoon Shows: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, 1949 Through 2003 (2nd ed.). McFarland & Co. p. 554. ISBN 978-1476665993.
  12. ^ O'Kane, Jim. "Bling Blong "Mission" Control". MissionHill.Tripod.com. Archived from the original on February 8, 2023. Retrieved April 10, 2023.
  13. ^ "Mission Hill Frequently Asked Questions". MissionHill.Tripod.com. Archived from the original on February 8, 2023. Retrieved April 10, 2023.
  14. ^ White, Peter (June 30, 2020). "Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein Plot Spin-Off of Cult Animated Series 'Mission Hill'". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on August 28, 2021. Retrieved June 30, 2020.
  15. ^ DVD Commentary for "Unemployment Part 2". Warner Home Video. 2005.
  16. ^ "National Nielsen Viewership (Sept. 20–26)". The Los Angeles Times. September 29, 1999. Retrieved May 22, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.Free access icon
  17. ^ "National Nielsen Viewership (Oct. 4-10)". The Los Angeles Times. October 13, 1999. Retrieved May 22, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.Free access icon
  18. ^ "National Nielsen Viewership (June 19–25)". The Los Angeles Times. June 28, 2000. Retrieved May 22, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.Free access icon
  19. ^ "National Nielsen Viewership (July 3–9)". The Los Angeles Times. July 12, 2000. Retrieved May 22, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.Free access icon
  20. ^ "National Nielsen Viewership (June 26-July 2)". The Los Angeles Times. July 7, 2000. Retrieved May 22, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.Free access icon
  21. ^ "National Nielsen Viewership (July 10–16)". The Los Angeles Times. July 19, 2000. Retrieved May 22, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.Free access icon
  22. ^ Neill, Chris (January 31, 2018). "The Prematurely Axed Mission Hill Was a '90s Cartoon Ahead of Its Years". TheBrag.com. Archived from the original on April 27, 2020. Retrieved April 10, 2023.