What if ducks—not monkeys—had evolved into the planet’s highest order of intelligence?
It’s an important question to Steve Borst and Yonkers native Gary “Doodles” Di Raffaele, co-creators and executive producers of Breadwinners. The new animated original series on Nickelodeon follows the beaky bromance between SwaySway and his diminutive sidekick, Buhdeuce, two risk-takin’, trouble-makin’, and often booty-shakin’ ducks charged with delivering bread to the hungry residents of Duck Town in a sometimes sputtering, sometimes supercharged Rocket Van.
The show is veteran animator and designer Di Raffaele’s biggest creative endeavor yet, the fulfillment of a dream that began with sketchpads from a Mount Vernon art store.
“I’d go there with my mom, and she’s like, ‘Whatever you want in the store,’” says Di Raffaele, 31, a graduate of New York City’s School of Visual Arts. “I’d always leave with pads and pens, and I just started drawing my own characters.”
Loud, fast-paced, and full of delicious bread puns (“Hasta la yeasta!”), Breadwinners is Di Raffaele’s homage to the hip-hop music, arcade games, and cartoons that shaped his own childhood, a retro revival of Nickelodeon’s “beautifully gross” heyday updated for the digital age.
“It’s not just fart jokes,” insists Di Raffaele, though well-timed “booty kicks” rescue the duo from time to time. “From an animation point of view, like The Ren & Stimpy Show, there’s always these gross close-ups, but there’s this pulse, this weird heartbeat, that keeps the pace, and that’s how the Internet generation will understand what we’re doing.”
The nod to nostalgia helps ground a frequently wacky storyline, as do themes that reach out to a wider, somewhat more sophisticated audience. Di Raffaele is particularly proud of a recent episode called “Employee of the Month” that walked that line. Buhdeuce assumes he’s a shoo-in for the inaugural award—being SwaySway’s only employee—but SwaySway chooses to recognize another: the Rocket Van.
“We try to gear it towards the kids first,” Di Raffaele says, “but a lot of my friends are having kids, watching cartoons with their kids, so we go for what makes us laugh, and, if we’re laughing, we hope everyone’s laughing along with us.”