bro'Town is New Zealand's first adult-targeted animated series. It is set amongst New Zealand's growing Pacific Islander community. bro'Town is regarded by its viewers as New Zealand's answer to The Simpsons (though its visual crassness is reminiscent of other animated series, and the central cast of five young boys invites comparison with South Park) and is based on the performance of the local four-man group The Naked Samoans.
Vale, Valea, Jeff da Māori, Sione and Mack live in the suburb of Morningside (catchphrase: "Morningside 4 Life!"), and attend the local college, St Sylvester’s, where their principal is a Fa’afafine and the P.E. teacher is the legendary ex-All Black Michael Jones.
Produced by New Zealand company Firehorse Films and funded by New Zealand On Air, bro'Town was made using three animation studios – two in New Zealand and one in India – and involved over 100 staff.
Each episode took up to six months to make and consists of 16,000 drawings, making it a huge undertaking for all involved. Despite the carefully planned nature of animation, the Samoans' performance style often gives the dialogue an improvisational, spontaneous feel. When successful this effect is fresh and funny but at times it renders the dialogue indistinct, with characters stepping on each other's lines.
The show satirises the boys’ culture, with vivid dialogue in the local vernacular, expressing what is like to grow up as a minority culture in Auckland, the largest Polynesian city in the world. Although the setting is contemporary and the satire topical, the humour often reflects a nostalgia for the 1980s period of the Naked Samoans' own boyhood. The series is also scattered with references to New Zealand literature, particularly the novels and short stories of Witi Ihimaera.
The series have strong religious references, with most episodes starting with events between God, Jesus Christ and other historical figures, which leads to the theme of the episode and the subsequent events between the boys.
- Vale Pepelo (Oscar Kightley) (Vale loosely translates to Dumb) - brother of Valea Pepelo and has a strong social conscience. Contrary to his given name, Vale is considered the intelligent one of the group, frequently seen carrying a literary classic.
- Valea Pepelo (Shimpal Lelisi) (Valea loosely translates to Dumber) - brother of Vale Pepelo, is more interested in girls than his brother Vale. Whenever he sees an attractive one, he does a rendition of the 'schwing!' gesture (peyow peyow!) Valea's name is an apt description.
- Sione Tapili (Mario Gaoa) - From A Tongan Descent, His Mother (The Tongan Stereotype) is known as a Sheman also Vale and Valea’s best mate and fancies himself as a bit of a ladies' man, while he constantly looks for ways to impress the girl of his dreams, sixth former Mila Jizovich.
- Jeff da Māori (David Fane) - Jeff Da Māori lives with his mum and eight dads in a car shell outside the house. He was brought up in the country by his Aunt Queenie (a caricature of Māori leader Dame Whina Cooper) but then moved to the city ‘for better TV reception and "because the thieving colonialist stole our land’". You can never see Jeff without his broken guitar. He is often portrayed with a horribly runny nose. More than the other boys, Jeff's character is assembled from clichés drawn mostly from Witi Ihimaera stories and Once Were Warriors. He is known for his catchphrase 'Not Even Ow!' (aka 'that ain't right').
- Rodney McCorkenstein-Taifule aka Mack David Fane - Mack rounds out the group, a heavyset boy who has definite gay tendencies and a knack for talking his way out of things, but he does stand behind his word eventually. Mack is considered a tough guy by the group, raised in the streets. He actually lives in a high class mansion with a loving mum and dad.
Other residents of Morningside
- Pepelo Pepelo (David Fane) - Vale & Valea's dad is a benefit bludging, occasional fork-lift driver with a love of beer, pornography and gambling (aka "The Town Drunk"). Pepelo's wife died when the boys were young and they were entrusted to his care. However, his method of child rearing was ignoring them to fend for themselves. He's known to discriminate against other ethnic minorities in Morningside. Pepelo is very similar to the father character in Milburn Place, another comedy production involving Naked Samoans.
- Wong (David Fane) - A Chinese student from Hong Kong. He quickly became buds with the Boys after an initiation rite which involved insulting Rakeesh. He once helped the Boys by joining in the St. Sylvester's Rugby team in Get Rucked and bet a million dollars on Honky the Wonderhorse. Wong has a twin brother named White, who exists only to facilitate a pun about being unable to tell White from Wong.
- Fong (Mario Gaoa) - Fong appears to be a big menacing Chinese guy who lives in an apartment. In reality, he's a smart engineering student who seems to be incompetent in a fight.
- Constable "Bobby" Bababiba (Mario Gaoa) - A cold and seemingly-emotionless policeman who has been involved with many of the Boys' mishaps as much as he restores Morningside Order. His image and name are based on actor Robbie Magasiva.
- Rakeesh Maadkraklikka (Mario Gaoa) - A disgruntled South Asian (Indian) dairy store owner. He is eager to shoot and zap any potential troublemaker in his store. Pepelo owes a massive debt to Rakeesh's store due to his indulgence and improper spending. Is married to the beautiful Satisha.
- Satisha Maadkraklikka - Rakeesh's spouse. She isn't as brash as her husband, but Satisha is just as tough. Twice, so far, Satisha helped The Boys with their problems and issues.
- Reverend Minister Mccat (Real name unknown) (Vela Manusaute) - Stereotypical minister who heads a Samoan flock in Morningside. He frequently preaches about the local issues in very vivid and exaggerated ways (as was featured in Sione-rella and Touched by a Teacher). He is also quick to drive his flock on mindless angry mob sprees. As a sideline for his church he also sells 'authentic' holy items at high prices (like holy water and sheep-shaped caps). There seems to be an intimate relationship between him and Agnes. Agnes' youngest child has an uncanny resemblance to the minister, including his hairdo - for that matter, so do most of the very young children of his congregation. He is very similar to the Minister character in the recurring sketch Milburn Place, part of the Skitz comedy series in which several Naked Samoans were involved.
) - Sione's mother and the Pepelos' neighbour. Deeply religious and physically aggressive, especially to Sione (she refuses to show this side of her in public, though). Despite this, she seems to have intimate relations with the local minister. A caricature of the overbearing Polynesian mother who won't hesitate to humiliate her children.
Sina Tapili - (Teuila Blakely) - Sione's big sister and Mila's friend. Sina does not think kindly of her brother and The Boys, except for one time when Mack was crying. Attends St Cardinal's College for girls, known to the boys of neighbouring St. Sylvester's as 'Car(di)nal Knowledge.'
Motorcycle Boy (Real name - Timothy Tapili) - Agnes' eldest son. A delinquent who is a regular in the local delinquent centre (which Agnes euphemistically calls a "boarding school") and jail. His real name was revealed in the episode "Go and ask Agnes" as timothy tapili.
Samson - Agnes' youngest son. He is also the secret son of the minister
School folk and students
) - St. Sylvester's Fa’afafine
principal. Is a personal friend of many famous New Zealanders, including Lucy Lawless
and Prime Minister Helen Clark
. Brother Ken is a caring principal and once helped a then-young Mack (a nickname created by Brother Ken) to become friends with The Boys.
Rex Ruka - Rex is a typical sort of jock or alpha male in St. Sylvester's. He is regularly seen mocking the boys due to their supposed inferiority with Joost by his side. Rex is Sione's rival for Mila's hand.
Joost van der Van Van (Oscar Kightley) - A South African immigrant whose father Hansje manages the local zoo. As is expected, he acts as Rex's partner/toady, providing appreciation for his many putdowns (often saying "Hilarious!"). However, it was revealed in "A Chicken Roll At My Table" that Joost's racism was an act and he only did it because he was discouraged by his grandfather from making friends with coloured people. His name is a nonsense parody of Dutch surnames and means 'of the of.' Although unknown, it has been suggested that his name may have been derived from Springbok player Joost van der Westhuizen.
Mila Jizovich - A student of St. Cardinal's, best friends with Sina Tapili and the girl of Sione's dreams. She is best known for helping Lucy Lawless with the birth control presentation in "Sionerella". Her name appears to be a combination of tribute to the actress Milla Jovovich and a somewhat unsavoury joke.
Abo (Abocrombie Smith the Third) - An Aboriginal Australian who studies in St. Sylvester's. His nickname is either derived from his ethnicity or his real name, Abercrombie. Abo is known to celebrate every occasion with a (often very long) traditional song or dance he rides an emu. Though Abo has made political comments regarding Indigenous native title, the satirical point of this character is unclear as very few Aboriginal Australians live in New Zealand; he is more surreal than satirical.
Ms. Lynn Grey - A teacher who manages The Boys' class at St. Sylvester's. She seems to have an affection for the Māori Man (as is shown in "A Māori at my Table"). A parody of well-meaning liberal Anglo-Saxon (white ) - she will carefully use Māori vocabulary but immediately follow it with a slightly patronising English explanation. Her name is a reference to the Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn.
Figures in Heaven
God (Mario Gaoa) - As himself. As the creator of the universe, God can choose to be anything he wants. Thus he is portrayed as a well-built Pacific Islander in a lavalava. He appears mellow and easy-going, rather than strict and wrathful. God starts each episode in Heaven as if it were a fairytale, usually telling it to Jesus Christ and other famous, deceased notable figures.
Jesus (Shimpal Lelisi) - The Lord's only son. Unlike the past serious and solemn renditions of the Christian divinity, Bro'Town portrays him as young and naive (despite his past mortal life more than 2000 years ago). He generally seems like a somewhat wimpish teenager, who often needs to be gently taught a lesson by his Father.
There are also two female angels Angelina and Angelita.
Occasionally, deceased relatives such as Pepelo's wife (Vale & Valea's mother), or Jeff da Maori's Auntie Queenie are featured, appearing in dreams to communicate with the living.
bro'Town frequently features special guests - notable celebrities from politics, art, culture, music, the media, business and sport. The most regular cameos are John Campbell and Carol Hirschfeld, former newsreaders on TV3. Former All Blacks and Manu Samoa player Michael Jones is the only special guest who could be considered a member of the core cast, as he is the P.E. teacher at St Sylvester's. Current New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and rapper Scribe have also been guests on all four seasons of bro'Town to date.
- bro'Town Annual (2005) - A hardback book with character profiles, map of Morningside, puzzles etc. It also has a couple episode story-boards from the first season.
- bro'Town Annual 2 (2006) - The sequel to the first book which has more profiles and other things.
- bro'Town Annual 3 (2007) - Focuses on the 3rd season.
- Product placement is prevalent in the series, with blatant ads for local products such as G-Force, Starburst Sucks and L&P. A series of G-Force energy drink ads marked the beginning of Firehorse Films' career, and the characters designed for these advertisements have appeared in bro'Town.
- It has been confirmed that a feature film is in the works to be released 09-10.
- Nearly every episode title is a parody from movies e.g. "Zeelander" = Zoolander, "Morningside Story" = West Side Story, "In My Mother's Den" = In My Father's Den