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Amazon’s first adult animated series comes from two of the minds behind BoJack Horseman, but don’t expect a “crazy cartoon world,” says co-creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg.
In Undone, Rosa Salazar (Alita: Battle Angel) plays Alma, a 20-something who lives with her boyfriend (Siddharth Dhananjay), works at a daycare center, and drinks her problems away with her sister (Angelique Cabral). She’s restless, bored, and unsure of her future. When she sees what appears to be her deceased father (Bob Odenkirk) on the side of the road, she’s involved in a car accident. After waking from a coma, she can see and communicate with him, and her sense of time and space has been altered.
Before a screening of Undone’s first two episodes at ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas, series creators and executive producers Bob-Waksberg (BoJack Horseman‘s creator) and Kate Purdy (producer and writer on BoJack Horseman), as well as production designer Hisko Hulsing, told the Daily Dot about the genesis of Undone, which happened around BoJack’s second season. Purdy’s grandmother was schizophrenic and she always feared it would happen to her as well. After having a breakdown, Purdy started looking for alternatives to mental health treatment, which led her to Eastern medicine, healers, and shamans. It also made her think about mental health in a new way.
“We thought that would be a really interesting way to explore a show,” she says. “Someone’s own perspective of reality, looking at reality and how it can be flexible based on perceptions of what is real and what is normal and what is OK.”
Purdy is responsible for some of BoJack’s most beloved episodes, including “Time’s Arrow,” which explores BoJack’s mother’s battle with dementia. But Bob-Waksberg points to another of her episodes, season 1’s drug-trip spectacle “Downer Ending,” as the starting point for Undone.
“I think some of the earliest conversations about this show were like, ‘OK, what if we did a show that started there,’” he says. “Like, instead of spending the whole season to build to that, that was the beginning and we built from there.” He adds that “part of the pitch was, ‘Is this The Matrix or is this United States of Tara?’ And the answer is, kind of both.”
Odenkirk inhabits a dual role in Undone, leading Alma on a mission to undo his death, and with this new frame of perception, she starts to reassess other relationships. The animation in Undone is lush but understated, but that only adds to the skewed perspectives. Hulsing’s “painterly” style, on display in the animated portions of Kurt Cobain doc Montage of Heck, is subtle and immersive, his oil paintings providing the series’ backgrounds. If Undone looks a lot like A Scanner Darkly, it’s because Hulsing was aided in rotoscoping the live actors by Austin’s Minnow Mountain, the animation team behind that groundbreaking 2006 film and the Emmy-winning doc Tower. It’s the first time that style of animation has been brought to TV.
Bob-Waksberg says they went with Amazon because they “pitched it around and Amazon liked it. I love working with Netflix, but Amazon was really excited about the show.” Beyond it being the first adult animation series on the platform, he says Amazon’s woman-led dramedies like Fleabag and One Mississippi were more in line with Undone. Purdy explains that the character of Alma is something of a mix of her and Bob-Waksberg, but Salazar brings her own personality to it.
Purdy says that working with healers in her own life gave her perspective for Undone: “The world is more flexible than you could possibly realize, and there are kind of these powers at play, and we can tap into those energies.”
Undone will debut on Amazon later in 2019.
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Audra Schroeder is the Daily Dot’s senior entertainment writer, and she focuses on streaming, comedy, and music. Her work has previously appeared in the Austin Chronicle, the Dallas Observer, NPR, ESPN, Bitch, and the Village Voice. She is based in Austin, Texas.