Camp Lazlo is an award-winning, American animated television series created by Joe Murray, produced by Cartoon Network Studios. It currently airs on Cartoon Network. The show features a Boy Scout-like summer camp with a cast of anthropomorphic animal characters, a "retro" type of humor and silliness akin to Murray's previous series, Rocko's Modern Life (which aired on Nickelodeon a decade earlier), and cultural references.
After the end of the production of Rocko's Modern Life
, Murray kept a notebook of ideas for television shows and books. Murray attributes some of his most fond memories to days at summer camp; Murray said that he attended summer camp every summer for "4 or 5 years in a row" and that he "couldn't really get the scouting
thing down." He also described cartoons with pastoral settings such as the Bugs Bunny
cartoons of the Looney Tunes
and Merrie Melodies
series and Yogi Bear
as having a "calming" effect due to the tree-filled backgrounds. At the time he believed that too many futuristic themes appeared in media and literature, so he wished to create a series that would "get back to nature." Camp Lazlo
originated from a camp-related children's book
concept by Murray that, according to him, "outgrew it’s medium." As Murray developed the concept, he felt that his "lunatic characters wanted to live" and decided that a simple story could not sufficiently house his characters. Murray desired to create a series about a group of children without "high tech stimulus" and "in nature."
Linda Simensky, who had previously worked with Murray on Rocko, had since moved to Cartoon Network and called Murray to solicit a new series. After an initial hesitation, Murray sent Simensky the idea for a show with a working title of 3 Beans. Simensky "thought it sounded too much like a salad", so Murray changed the name to Camp Lazlo. When approval was given, Murray decided to produce the show at Cartoon Network Studios and brought Mark O'Hare on as co-producer.
According to Murray, the "green light" to start Lazlo had been initially given and later revoked, leaving Murray and Mark O'Hare "pissed" and "depressed." Murray believed that an executive was not "completely sold" with starting production for Camp Lazlo. Murray worked to have the series receive its final, definite approval.
The production of Camp Lazlo began in 2004 and ended in 2007. November 2007 marked the final production run of Camp Lazlo.
Murray felt that Camp Lazlo
successfully appealed to younger children because his prior experiences with his own children helped him determine details that children found humorous. Murray said that he resisted the urge inside of him to micromanage the production and instead approved aspects and contributions related to the show. He said that he had "a lot of pre-production time" and therefore details became established before the show aired on television.
Rough Draft Studios, a South Korean studio, produced the Camp Lazlo footage.
His main philosophies expressed in the show include the phrase “be who you are" and that one should question authority unless the issue is "a safety issue." Murray said that he avoids sending "messages" to children and that he hoped that his television show did not contain "too many messages."
Murray said that he likes storybook art and the works of Pablo Picasso
and Henri Matisse
; the styles influenced the visual style of Camp Lazlo
. He also describes "great comic book
artists" as important to himself and Mark O'Hare
The team created some backgrounds using "Acryl Gouache," a mixture of acrylic paint and gouache.
The show features the adventures of three major characters: Lazlo
, the title character, is a spider monkey
from São Paulo
with a carefree attitude; Raj, an Indian Asian elephant
who is more level-headed; and Clam, an albino pygmy rhino
, who speaks in bursts of one or two words, synonymously
echoing his friends statements.
Each episode contains two parts approximately 11 minutes long, with the exception of two episodes. The show occassionaly breaks the fourth wall and sometimes lacks continuity.
Carlos Alazraqui, Tom Kenny and Doug Lawrence, all of whom provided much of the voice work on Murray's previous series Rocko's Modern Life, provide lead voices in this show along with veteran voice actors Jeff Bennett, Jodi Benson, Jill Talley (Kenny's wife and Mr. Show co-star), and first time voice acting Steve Little (Alazraqui's Reno 911! co-star).
Camp Lazlo premiered on July 8, 2005 in the United States. In Canada, Teletoon's English channel also debuted the show June 26, 2006; but in the last week of August 2006, it was pulled from Teletoon, and returned on June 22, 2007. The second season premiered on Teletoon in the fall of 2007.
In the United Kingdom Camp Lazlo aired on Cartoon Network and Boomerang.
In Australia, India, and Latin America Camp Lazlo is shown on the Cartoon Network.
The setting of the show was designed to deliberately bring a nostalgic feeling of childhood summer camps and "evoke a comfortable place to visit." The colors instill the feeling
of summer camp, and rather than basing color schemes on real-life colors; Murray and Sue Mondt, the art director, chose the colors. In Camp Lazlo
, the sky can be yellow, and trees are not always green and brown. For the architecture and objects, books with cabins, camps and Native American
artifacts were consulted. Ultimately, Murray wanted to create a place where nature prevails, and the hustle and bustle of real-life is left behind, with no technology to distract from the impressions of camp life. He describes the camp as having a "retro" feel. Murray likes 1950s and early 1960s designs of objects like advertising art, lamps, and old vacation brochures, and he said that the "brushy quality that developed at that time" heavily influenced the setting.
Camp Kidney is the camp where most of the show takes place. This is a summer camp attended by a group of boy scout-like campers called The Bean Scouts. In keeping the theme of the name of the camp, the campers are allowed to name their cabins after various types of beans: Jelly Cabin, Pinto Cabin, Fava Cabin, and so on. The camp is known for a low standard of quality, and has been threatened with closure more than once. The camp is led by Scoutmaster Lumpus, with most of the administrative details assigned to his assistant, Mr. Slinkman. A full staff compliments the camp, including a nurse and a chef. Ginia Bellafante of The New York Times said that if she became "socio-analytical about the Lazlo enterprise," Camp Kidney appears to be a stand-in for "our culture of obsessive parenting.
Acorn Flats is across the lake from Camp Kidney, attended by girls of similar age, called the Squirrel Scouts. Acorn Flats has higher quality facilities than Camp Kidney, a point of contention between the two respective camps, with Acorn Flats being the more dominant in the rivalry. The leader of the Squirrel Scouts is Jane Doe, and her assistant, Ms. Rubella Mucus.
Both Camp Kidney and Acorn Flats are part a larger hierarchical organization, under the direct command of Commander Hoo-ha, with "The Big Bean" as the head of all scout chapters, which includes Beans and Squirrels (and possibly Tomato) Scouts.
Prickly Pines is a town near both camps with full commercial facilities: a post office, several restaurants, a laundromat, and other sundry stores.
The exact geographical locations of these settings is unknown.
Murray said that, as he did in Rocko's Modern Life
, he matched the personalities of characters to various animals.
Murray asked many staff members who participated in creating Rocko's Modern Life
to return and perform duties for Camp Lazlo
, describing his main tactic to attract the crew as "coercion
." Murray wanted the Rocko's Modern Life
crew as it "knows my sensibilities" and gained ten years of experience.
Murray asked Tom Kenny to voice characters because Murray felt that Kenny "adds writing to his roles" and "brings so much." Murray looked for "comedic timing" in his voice actors, and therefore he used many stand-up comics and sketch actors.
Music and sounds
The team remixed and edited many songs for use in Camp Lazlo
. For instance, the main theme song plays on the children's song "B-I-N-G-O
" replacing it with "L-A-Z-L-O." The team also remade "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain
." The team created its own camp songs. Andy Paley created bluegrass
and cowboy swing songs for Camp Lazlo
. Murray said that the team often used "strange instruments
" such as washboards
to create the music. Murray added that one woman created music with a saw
Murray cooperated with Jeff Hutchins, the sound effects staff member for Rocko's Modern Life. Murray selected many of the sounds that he selected in Rocko's Modern Life for Camp Lazlo.
The series won three 2006 Pulcinella Awards for Best Animated Series for Children and Best Animated Series for all ages and Lazlo was the winner of Best Character at the 10th Cartoons By The Bay Festival in Positano
, Italy. It was the second consecutive year that a Cartoon Network series won the latter two awards, as the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends
character, Blooregard Q. Kazoo, won the award the year before.
Emmy Awards and nominations
- Hello Dolly / Over Cooked Beans was nominated for an Emmy in the category Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming less than One Hour)
- Where's Lazlo won an Emmy in category Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or More) in 2007.
- Sue Mondt received an Emmy in 2007 for Individual Achievement in Animation for her work as an Art Director on the episode Squirrel Secrets.
- Lazlo's First Crush won a 2008 Emmy Award, under the category Outstanding Special Class - Short-format Animated Programs
, a production designer on Camp Lazlo, was nominated an Annie Award
for production design on the episode "Hard Days Samson.
Ray Richmond of The Hollywood Reporter
posted his review of the series on 7 July 2005. Richmond said that his child enjoyed the show and did not ask to see it again. Richmond said that the show forms "plenty lively and a nice, safe way for a child viewer to spend a half-hour." Richmond said that the show has too much "self-consciously precious" humor; the reviewer said that the trait may not factor for children and described children as "demanding and nondiscriminating at the same time."
Kathie Huddleston, a reporter for the Science Fiction Weekly, created a favorable review of Camp Lazlo.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reviewed the series and gave it an "A.
Joly Herman of Common Sense Media posted a review of Camp Lazlo on Go.com. Herman describes the humor used in the Camp Lazlo as making it an "unpredictable show for younger viewers." Herman gave the show two stars out of five.
Prior to Camp Lazlo's premier on Cartoon Network, a Press Kit for the show was given away as a promotional item, containing fact sheets on the show and a DVD with four episodes (2 half-hour episodes): Gone Fishin' (Sort Of) / Bean Are From Mars and Parasitic Pal / It's No Picnic. This item is only available through a second-hand market.
On July 18, 2007, Madman Entertainment of Australia released a set of two DVDs encoded for Region 4 of Season One episodes. No further information is available about a Region 1 release or additional seasons.
Two episodes have also appeared on Cartoon Network themed DVDs. Hello Dolly appeared on the Cartoon Network Fridays - Volume 1 DVD, released on September 19, 2006. Snow Beans, a winter-themed episode of the show, was released on the Cartoon Network Christmas: Volume Three DVD on October 3, 2006.
A videogame for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance called Camp Lazlo: Leaky Lake Games was released on November 6, 2006 as a tie-in to the show. The game is published by Crave Entertainment and developed by Collusion Studios. The player plays as the three main characters (Lazlo, Clam and Raj) to compete in a series of game challenges and earn merit badges in the Leaky Lake Games event. That will allow them to compete against the Squirrel Scouts in a final tournament. In the game, the player meets characters, such as Scoutmaster Lumpus, Slinkman, Edward, and many others to receive hints and directions in achieving goals in the game. They trigger some of the mini-games, which are all timed. The game received generally poor reviews.
Camp Lazlo characters appeared in a commercial for McDonald's
and in Happy Meals
. Murray did not want for the series to be used in Happy Meals; the only action he could take was refusing to appear in the television commercials. Murray stated on his website that he will not explain his opposition to Happy Meals due to his respect for the effort placed by Cartoon Network "marketing people." Murray stated that his opinions are his alone and do not reflect the opinions of Cartoon Network. He said that he appreciates Cartoon Network's "campaign for healthier eating habits for kids." "C" Raggio, a character designer, appeared in the commercials instead.