5 things to expect from Channel 5’s first animated sitcom

Heartland Hubby promises a generous serving of local humour in cartoon form
Heartland Hubby promises a generous serving of local humour in cartoon form
11 Mar 2015

Heartland Hubby promises a generous serving of local humour in cartoon form

PHOTOS: MediaCorp Channel 5

Tomorrow night, MediaCorp Channel 5 sees the debut of its first ever animated sitcom, Heartland Hubby. In fact, the 10-episode, half-hour show is also the first cartoon (that isn’t exclusively for children) to be shown during a primetime slot in Singapore.

“I have always believed that there is an audience for a primetime animated show,” said Robot Playground Media’s Ervin Han, the creator and director of the series, in a phone interview. Ervin is also the creator of xinmsn’s Blk 88, Singapore’s first locally produced animated web series, and xinmsn’s web drama Get Social.

While some folks may be quick to compare it with foreign animated family sitcoms like Family Guy, The Simpsons or American Dad, Ervin revealed that he drew inspiration for the series from somewhere much closer to home: Under One Roof, the first locally produced English sitcom in Singapore.

He has even dubbed Heartland Hubby a “spiritual remake” of the long-running Channel 5 classic. “The idea is to keep the heart of a heartland family sitcom and present it through an animated series with a fresh new spin,” he explained. “We looked to make it more contemporary and try a different tone from what we’d expect from a typical show.”

So, could there be plans for a second season? “If it were up to me, there would be,” Ervin chuckled. “We ended season one as if it would be the last one we’d ever do, but we came up with a lot of stories and characters that we couldn’t fit in, so if there’s a season two, we could do a lot more.”

Heartland Hubby airs every Wednesday at 9.30pm on Channel 5.

Read on to find out what viewers can expect from Singapore’s first primetime animated sitcom:

A hefty dose of uniquely Singaporean flavour
A hefty dose of uniquely Singaporean flavour
11 Mar 2015

A hefty dose of uniquely Singaporean flavour

As the show is part of Channel 5’s recently launched “local upsize”, it’s no surprise that it is packed to the brim with uniquely Singaporean references and details. Expect a ton of colloquial language (some of you might find yourselves saying, “Eh, I talk like that also leh!”), familiar accents (good ol’ Singlish) and recognisable backdrops (the HDB estates featured were referenced from Yishun, Ang Mo Kio and Bedok).

It is this injection of close-to-home elements that sets Heartland Hubby apart from foreign animated shows and makes it all the more relatable to Singaporeans. “We’ve made it sound and feel distinctively local,” said Ervin. “I showed some episodes to friends from overseas, and most of them could not understand half of it! But Singaporeans will get it straightaway.”

Topics that local viewers can relate to
Topics that local viewers can relate to
11 Mar 2015

Topics that local viewers can relate to

Of course, with the Lion City jargon and recognisable habits comes the subject matter that those who have lived here their whole life (or at least most of it) can definitely identify with.

“We cover evergreen topics that Singaporeans always talk about, but in a way that’s a bit more satirical and like a parody,” Ervin explained. For instance, some [obviously exaggerated] events include: tackling a dengue epidemic, forbidding a relationship because the man did not do National Service, being kidnapped by loan sharks, RC Chairman elections and more.

In addition to that, there are also some parts that are – as Ervin put it – a lot more “absurdist in nature” to keep things comedic and interesting, such as… “Aliens, zombies, and a post-apocalyptic Singapore,” he divulged. “Through these different kinds of words and situations, we’re able to tell stories in a way that’s more interesting.”

A variety of colourful characters
A variety of colourful characters
11 Mar 2015

A variety of colourful characters

A variety of colourful characters

From the stubborn uncle to the enterprising angmo expat to the social media-obsessed auntie, Heartland Hubby is home to some of the most outrageous personalities – some of which might even remind you of people you know in real life. Oh, and animals too: even the cats that roam around the void deck of HDB flats get a part on the show.

The family in the centre of the series are as hilariously dysfunctional as you can get in a local setting: there’s former army officer-turned minimart owner “Encik” Lim Teh Peng, blogshop boss Molly, and their children Cathy (a tomboyish policewoman), Robbie (a stereotype of film school nerds who aspires to be the next Jack Neo) and Winnie (a highly intellectual and popular blogger who’s probably on track to becoming the first female Prime Minister of Singapore).

The slew of supporting characters is just as entertaining. Look forward to caricatures of your over-attached couple neighbours, the high-strung but likable Chinese worker, the suave Member of Parliament and other amusing beings.

But the process of bringing these characters to life would not be complete without a voice (literally), which is where the show’s array of talented actors come in…

Hilarious voice acting efforts
Hilarious voice acting efforts
11 Mar 2015

Hilarious voice acting efforts

Hilarious voice acting efforts

A total of 20 voice actors (including Lim Yu Beng, Petrina Kow, Denise Tan, Mr Brown, George Young, Chua Enlai, Hossan Leong and more) lent their speech to almost a hundred animated humans and animals over a three-month period. While several of them are no stranger to voicing 2D beings, there were a few first-timers in their midst.

One of them is FLY Entertainment artiste Alaric Tay, who also happens to voice the most characters in the series (five, to be exact: three humans, a kitty and a fish). Fans of The Noose will be quick to recognise several of the accents he uses in the show, such as Xin Hua Hua’s exaggerated Chinese one for minimart employee Xiao Zhong and Johar Rambut’s (who made a hilarious appearance at CELEBRATE SG50) Malay drawl for Cha Cha the cat.

“It was kind of cool and I had a lot of fun in the recording studio,” said Alaric of his voice acting debut. However, the gig also had its difficulties, especially with his multiple roles: “It was challenging because animation is quite a time-consuming process. The first session is usually fine, but when you come in for the second one a few weeks later, you kind of go, ‘What did that character sound like again?’”

(Continued on next slide)

Hilarious voice acting efforts
Hilarious voice acting efforts
11 Mar 2015

Hilarious voice acting efforts

On the other hand, Dim Sum Dolly and Gold 90.5FM deejay Denise Tan is a seasoned pro, having done English voiceovers for Japanese classics as well as a variety of Nickelodeon cartoons. She voices sisters Cathy (with a very typical Singlish twang) and Winnie (with a snobby British lilt).

Heartland Hubby was totally my playground! This is what I love to do and have been doing for a long time,” she gushed. “The experience was a lot of fun because I got to throw myself into two different roles with different voices, accents and characters.”

Because of the actors’ conflicting schedules, most of them had solo recording sessions. “Sometimes when I think about it, I’d have a giggle because being locked in a soundproof booth, putting on funny voices, making faces and gesticulating wildly looks quite nutty!”

Something for the entire family
Something for the entire family
11 Mar 2015

Something for the entire family

While Heartland Hubby may be a cartoon, it is not just something for the kids.

“A lot of people associate animation with children’s programmes, but we hope to present both an edgier sort of satire that appeals to older audiences, as well as enough gags and physical comedy for kids,” said Ervin. “The writing and humour appeal to adults, while the animation is fresh enough to draw in younger viewers – there’s something for the whole family.”

Report a problem