T.O.T.S.’s Travis Braun

T.O.T.S. creator Travis Braun (Disney Junior’s Vampirina, Disney Channel’s Fast Layne), who is also co-executive producer, talks about the central DNA of the show, the value of incorporating music and the excitement of landing the likes of Vanessa Williams for the voice cast.

The new Disney series T.O.T.S. follows the adventures of best friends Pip and Freddy—one a tenacious penguin, the other a kindhearted flamingo—who are the only non-stork delivery birds in training at Tiny Ones Transport Service (T.O.T.S.). Designed for kids ages 2 to 7, the show debuts June 14 at 9 a.m. on Disney Channel and DisneyNOW, and it has been ordered for a second season ahead of its premiere. Each episode features two 11-minute stories that highlight the use of creative thinking, teamwork and problem-solving, and there’s always an original song to go along with the recurring delivery anthem “Bringing This Baby Home.”

***Image***TV KIDS: Where did the idea for T.O.T.S. come from?
BRAUN: As a child of the ’90s, I grew up loving animation, loving cartoons, and a lot of them seemed to feature a delivery stork bringing the baby to its parents at some point during the run of the show—every time it was that classic regal white stork. I remember wondering, why do only those birds get to deliver babies? [Laughs] So, whether I knew it or not, the idea had been percolating for a while.

TV KIDS: What are some of the messages you wanted to impart on your young viewers, and how do these qualities ring true in your lead characters?
BRAUN: The central DNA of the show is teamwork. Pip is a penguin, and he can’t fly without Freddy. Freddy can’t navigate without Pip, because he’s always getting lost. But together, they’re the perfect duo. They have a little slogan that they say: “Anything is possible when we do it together!” I feel that there’s no more important time in our world, with everything that’s going on, to hear that message. If there’s one thing that we hope the audience gets from this show, it is that anything really is possible if we work together and find some common ground, no matter how different we might look or what feathers we have.

TV KIDS: The show landed a season two renewal before it even premiered. Why do you think the network has such confidence that it’s going to resonate with little ones and their caregivers?
BRAUN: The show really is for everyone. It’s high-flying adventure, but it’s also super cute, cuddly, sweet, nurturing. The hope is that whether you’re a boy or girl, 5 or 50, you’re going to relate to something in this show. That’s what I’m most excited about, and that’s what the network is excited about. That vote of confidence has been awesome. It allows us all to just keep our head down and keep telling fun, sweet, silly and emotional stories—that’s ultimately what we set out to do.

TV KIDS: There’s an original song in each episode, in addition to the recurring anthem. Why was music an important element to incorporate?
BRAUN: We really could not make this show without our composer, Rob Cantor; he is incredible. Music is so important to what we do. We break stories in the writers’ room with music as a central component. The story and music are tied to each other. A lot of times, we’ll be sitting in the writers’ room and be stuck on an emotional scene and not sure exactly how best to ***Image***pull it off, and our first call is always to Rob. He comes up with something super clever to help with that.

I’m a huge fan of musicals. Music is so tied to the core of what Disney is as a brand that it’s been central from the beginning. It transports you into this world and brings this imaginative world to life in a way that words and dialogue couldn’t.

TV KIDS: Tell us about the animation style and why you chose this look for the show.
BRAUN: The idea itself was imaginative, and we knew that we wanted to have a world that reflected that—that felt whimsical and fun and had a distinct style. We brought on Chris Gilligan, our supervising director, and Vic Cook, our executive producer. The two of them really hit it out of the park in terms of finding that visual style that felt both original but still relatable, cute and sweet. It’s vibrant and colorful. Our animation house, ICON Creative Studio in Vancouver, put so much love into every episode. I feel like our animation is on par with a feature film like Frozen, and it’s really something incredible coming from a TV budget and TV timeline to pull that off.

TV KIDS: Did you have Vanessa Williams in mind for the voice cast initially?
BRAUN: Vanessa’s singing ability and talent speak for itself. She has been incredible in a way that I wasn’t necessarily expecting, which is her comedy. She can pull off the sweet, emotional Beakman, and sing like no one else, but she’s also super funny! The same goes for Megan Hilty, who we were super excited to get. Their characters do sing a ton, and they have these emotional beats, but at the end of the day, we are doing a comedy, and they killed it! They’re so funny, and we feel so lucky to have them on the show.