On Wednesday’s Very Special Episode of Broad City, Abbi and Ilana do something that many of the show’s fans have doubtless been waiting for ever since this stoner-friendly comedy premiered in 2013: Mushrooms.
In tonight’s episode, aptly titled “Mushrooms,” Abbi (Abbi Jacobson) and Ilana (Ilana Glazer) dig into a hearty bowl of boomers, and the show finds a clever way to visualize their ensuing trip. As the ‘shrooms start to kick in, the BFFs sprout animated googly eyes; by the time they’re really feeling it, Abbi and Ilana are fully animated. And by the time they’re really feeling it, all of New York City has become a Yellow Submarine-like cartoon trip.
For around eight minutes, the whole episode lights up with multicolored splendor, courtesy of artist Mike Perry — he’s the guy responsible for the show’s ever-changing starburst opening credits. Usually a production company would hire an animation studio to take on a project like this. But Broad City trusted Perry, who considers himself “a satellite to the show,” to handle it himself, with a team of four animators led by Isam Prado and including Barbara Benas, Maya Edelman, and Erica Perez.
Perry spoke to the Voice about putting the episode together, a process that began more than a year ago with conversations between the show’s writers, its production team, and the animators. Work on the episode started in January and ended, 14,000 drawings later, in July.
Below, Perry walks us through some of the episode’s trippiest images.
“We’re really trying to capture the essence of two humans in cartoon form,” Perry says. “We had to figure out how they looked in conjunction with the episode, which was actually really fun, to work with the styling team and the hair and makeup people and have conversations about how to create this seamless transition of who they are as real people into cartoons. But it also gave us the opportunity to have some fun. There were a couple options of coats for Ilana to wear and the coat that we chose as a group was amazing because we didn’t have to draw her feet; we created this illusion that she could just float because her coat was so big. There are decisions like that that come in the creative process that you just celebrate because they are funny and interesting but they’re also economical.”
Perry explains how the animators broke down Abbi and Ilana’s trip into different stages based on the intensity of their experience — the phases of the ‘shroom.
“There’s phase one where they’re a little buzzed,” he explains. “Phase two, where they’re getting a little bit more buzzed. Phase three, they’re like, oh my god. Phase four, we are like, out of control. And then, slowly, they phase back. That was written into the [script], but our job was to take those words and actually try to make the viewer feel they’re on the trip with them.”
“The cucumber thing was a great opportunity just to do some simplification of the characters,” Perry explains. “Oh, they’re now cucumbers, and how interesting is it that all we have to do is add a little bobble of hair to a cucumber and it turns them into these same people?”
Perry and the animators also managed to include some images that will be familiar to fans of the show — like Bingo Bronson, the giant blue hallucination from the “Wisdom Teeth” episode in the second season, when Abbi is under the sway of a different drug, fresh off a trip to the dentist. “There’s enough of the iconography of the show that we just could sneak it in,” Perry says.
One of the most striking locations in the animated portion is the fancy macaron shop that Abbi and Ilana visit to pick up a box of treats for a party hosted by Abbi’s boss, Dara (Wanda Sykes). (By the time they get there, they’ve morphed back into their flesh-and-blood selves.) Perry remembers thinking, “How do we make this place glow, how do we make it feel overwhelming? That was the thing I was the most excited about — how do we keep the viewer engaged in the ups and downs and the nuances of the trip we’re trying to take them on?”
And did Perry, Prado, and their animators engage in any field research before setting out to illustrate Abbi and Ilana’s journey? “You know, you gotta do your job,” Perry says. “You gotta do your due diligence.”