JK: No food pyramid. Food is good for you; we believe so. When we first researched this show, we met with Eleanor Oaks, an anthropologist at UCLA who received the MacArthur Genius Fellowship for studying the dynamics of family and dinner. And she compared American families to those of different cultures around the world. In one study, they tracked these families and gave them cortisol tests throughout the day. It turned out that meal time was the most stressful time for families across the board. We really fell in love with this idea of making dinner more fun and making it easier.
There are also plenty of studies that show that people who cook more become more engaged with their food and eat better. So it’s healthy by default.
So many people from different backgrounds and perspectives worked on this show. How was that something you purposely focused on when producing the show?
ET: That was our focus every step of the way because if you want to do a show about food, especially for kids, you literally and figuratively want to have all of the voices and palates at the table. Since there is not a single story about food, everyone has their own individual experiences that can lead to culture for them. We really wanted it to represent real children and their real experiences. What is strange for one child is really familiar and exciting for another.
They told me that you finished filming before the pandemic stopped traveling, which was lucky logistically, but also – waffles and mochi are going to Mars! I love that you made space feel like every other target on the show.
ET: I think this is Jeremy’s film DNA from Drunk History, where they shoot a lot of places that are built on the fly that have something really fun and realistic about them. I had a cheesier version in mind and was very excited when I had to hire that day. I thought whoa, this looks like mars.
JK: Coming from the drunken story – we were forced into such a wild schedule on this show because we had fights with 10,000 people fighting and we had to shoot in two hours. So we came up with a lot of techniques that are very playful and that really just look back on old film styles, like miniature rear projection, backdrops and all that stuff. [For Waffles + Mochi,] It turned out that it was very easy for me to know which techniques to use. I thought, oh great, we’re going to do a back projection for Mars.
It feels like magic to me.
JK: You know, I love to see the strings, I love to see someone’s hand or see the doll’s rods. I think that was a big deal with the design of the dolls, we wanted to see the doll rods because I think that makes them a little more accessible to kids. It’s not quite that magical; it feels, oh, maybe I could do that
Were waffles and mochi always the characters?
ET: A long time ago we had a waffle, but it wasn’t ours [current] Waffles and we had a mouse. But everyone said, “Take the mouse out of the kitchen.”
JK: That was before Ratatouille.
ET: And when we reconnected, there was this new travel focus. We thought the characters couldn’t be from our world, right? They cannot be from one country on our planet because we really wanted them to be immigrants all over the world. We wanted them to start from a place with a little knowledge of food but a lot of curiosity. So Jeremy and I thought about turning them into aliens or creatures from another dimension. And then we landed on this idea from Kimmy Schmidt, where they might have been locked in the freezer all their lives, in the land of frozen foods.