In Cartoon Network's Class of 3000, music star Sunny gives up his career at the height of his fame and becomes a teacher at his old school, Westley School for the Performing Arts, where he becomes a guiding light to his students. In the show, premiering Friday, November 3, at 8 p.m., Outkast's Andre 3000, aka Andre Benjamin, performs the voice of Bridges.
Benjamin is taking a lead creative role in the show, writing and performing the Class of 3000 theme song and creating an original song for every episode. The series is cocreated and coexecutive-produced by Tom Lynch (KIDS Incorporated, The Secret World of Alex Mack, Scout's Safari, Romeo!).
The show also features the voice talents of such luminaries as Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants, Camp Lazlo), Phil LaMarr (Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Samurai Jack), Crystal Scales (Static Shock, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius), Jennifer Hale (Samurai Jack, The Powerpuff Girls), Janice Kawaye (Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi) and Jeff Glen Bennett (Johnny Bravo, Camp Lazlo).
Benjamin and Lynch recently spoke with reporters about the show. Benjamin said there is a little bit of him in Sunny, and vice versa.
"My Sunny character, he's a little bit Andre 3000," the crooner admitted. "Not that I would stop doing music to teach kids music, but I always thought that, you know, especially rap that was a young man's game, and the older I get I'm like, 'okay I don't want to be 45 years old rapping.'"
"So I said, 'maybe it will be cool if I go back to school and actually be an art teacher,' because that was like my love before I started doing music, you know, drawing and painting," he added. "And some of my best--well I guess fondest--memories in high school was my art class. I had an art teacher who would let us listen to music and draw and paint on a day, and that was kind of like a fun class--like our release."
The hip-hop star says that school and creative endeavors are equally important.
"I think you do need a balance in school," he asserted. "Of course you need your academics all day long, but at the same time you need to free your head. I wanted to be that 'free your head' type teacher, so there's a lot of that in Sunny."
He says that music fans will probably get a kick out of the animated version of the popular music world featutred in the show.
"What you see in the cartoon is I guess an exaggerated example of what everybody thinks of the music industry, you know, so you'll get used--so you'll be familiar with it," he said.
Lynch says that it's his family who inspires him to create children's programs.
"I had four sons in five years...and I just started doing kid shows," Lynch said. "I wrote my first show, KIDS Incorporated, for my son Thomas when he was at the hospital. He was born, but I couldn't stay there so I went home and I wrote the show, and it ran for 10 years so I thought this might work."
Lynch says he enjoys making shows for kids because they force him to work harder.
"I've often said that a young audience to me is creative. It's challenging," he said. "You've got to bring your A game to it all the time. You know with more adult dramas and adult comedies, to me they have a sameness to them so I like that you got to stay on your toes a little bit more when you're dealing with young people."
The two shared their own personal animated influences.
"Ah yes, Super Friends. I did love that one," offered Benjamin. "Of course you got the He-Man, you got the Smurfs, you got the Peanuts, Fat Albert. Scooby-Doo was one of my favorites. I loved the music in Scooby-Doo...even Roadrunner, you know, Bugs Bunny, all the Looney Tunes."
"I was definitely into the Tex Avery stuff, you know, the stretch and squash stuff," Lynch agreed. "I loved the Bugs Bunny stuff. I loved the Charlie Brown stuff, Peanuts, you know, those are the ones that were just rocking it for me. But anytime Bugs and that hunter got together and started blowing up the place or Roadrunner with his Acme explosions, I was like I'm not leaving the TV, something's going to blow up."
Benjamin says he enjoys voicing animated characters and hopes to do more of it in the future.
"I kind of just got into it, and it's really acting," the music star said. "I don't think about it as just this voice actor. You kind of get in front of the microphone and you go through each scene, and that's how it is and even with Charlotte's Web I think people just kind of--they hear my voice, and they're like, 'well hey, this will be cool for this show.' So if I get an offer, and it's a cool project I might do it."