One can’t help but think of the irony that Corner Gas is returning to television on The Comedy Network as an all-new 13-part animated series. That’s because reruns of the live-action sitcom air on CTV on Saturday mornings where traditional cartoons are shown.
“We’ve become the live-action cartoon,” Virginia Thompson says with a laugh. “Only to become a real cartoon.” Thompson, the show’s executive producer, alongside fellow executive producers Brent Butt and David Storey, says the idea for an animated take on the lives of the folks living in small-town Saskatchewan has been in the works for years, but really gained momentum after the success of 2014’s Corner Gas: The Movie.
After six seasons of the live action series on CTV and a final goodbye to fans with the feature film, Thompson figured that was it for the franchise. But the outpouring of support—and demand for more stories from Dog River—caused the three to recall something they’d kicked around as a joke years ago: an animated series.
“Brent, David and I got together and had lunch and said, ‘What do we want to do?'” Thompson recalls. “The animated concept kept popping up. We’re really excited about this because it really does come from Brent’s imagination and brand of comedy. It’s a different angle to Corner Gas.” Butt’s love of comic books—he and a friend started a publishing company and his first comic, Existing Earth, was nominated for a Golden Eagle Award before he left that for a standup career—and skills as an illustrator (he designed Corner Gas’ gas station logo) means that the world can expand beyond the limitations of physical television production.
The upcoming series has been in the works for two years and begins production in Vancouver and Toronto next month. All of the original cast have signed on—Butt as Brent, Gabrielle Miller as Lacey, Eric Peterson as Oscar, Fred Ewanuick as Hank, Lorne Cardinal as Davis, Tara Spencer-Nairn as Karen and Nancy Robertson as Wanda—and casting is underway for the voice of Emma after the untimely death of Janet Wright.
Unlike the live-action series, the animated Corner Gas has fewer constraints. That means the quick-cut fantasy sequences from the original can be expanded and explored more fully and don’t need to be tied to the real world.
“Fans of Corner Gas are going to see a similarity to the series and movie that they love,” Thompson says. “But we can expand the fantasy sequences and get into the characters’ heads and see what’s going on in there.” (Or, perhaps in the case of Hank, what isn’t going on in there.)
“I remember, in the old days, coming out of the writing room and saying, ‘Geez, it would be great if we could do that,’ and in some ways, Brent was restrained by live action,” Thompson says. “He’s not restrained in any way in animation and that’s great. It’s given him more freedom to have fun.”