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Recess Co-Creator Recalls Ignoring Disney About Cult-Themed Episode

Recess Co-Creator Recalls Ignoring Disney About Cult-Themed Episode Image
  • Posted on 09th Aug, 2022 07:15 AM
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Recess co-creator Joe Ansolabehere recalls Disney telling him not to create a cult-themed episode - a demand which was ultimately ignored.

Co-creator of the Disney show Recess, Joe Ansolabehere, recalls ignoring the network's demand not to create a cult-themed episode. Recess was an animated children's television series that ran for six seasons from 1997 to 2001. The series also produced four feature-length films, with 2001's Recess: School's Out gaining a theatrical release. Alongside Recess, Ansolabehere is most notable for his work on RugratsHey Arnold!, and Lloyd in Space.

Recess followed six elementary school students (T.J., Vince, Spinelli, Gretchen, Mikey, and Gus) as they navigate Third Street Elementary, dealing with classes, detention, and most importantly, recesses. The series was unique in that it dealt with very adult subjects, with the core of the students' recess time taken up with a student-made monarchy and a very rigid class structure. While Recess was set against the backdrop of a typical elementary school, the show dealt with topics like governmental rulings, unwritten laws, societal norms, and counterculture.

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In an interview with Slash Film, Ansolabehere reflects back on one particular episode of Recess that Disney told them not to make. The finale episode of season 1, entitled "Swing on Thru to the Other Side," follows a girl whose goal is to swing in a complete loop over the top of the swing set - something which most children at the school think to be impossible. However, Swinger Girl manages to achieve this - but only Spinelli sees her do it. Spinelli spends the rest of the episode trying to convince other students that Swinger Girl swung into another dimension, and creates a 'cult' of followers who believe this narrative. Ansolabehere says that Disney initially rejected the episode because of its religious connotations, but as the creators came to the end of season 1 and needed an idea for the final episode, they simply went ahead with the idea without Disney's say-so. Just before the episode aired, a higher-up at Disney caught it, and refused to let it air because it was "a critique of religion." But Disney exec Barry Blumberg convinced the network to let the episode to go through - provided that it never had any re-runs. Read Ansolabehere's comment below:

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They said, 'Okay, you can air it once, that's it. It never will be aired again' ... [but] they just forgot about it. They just kind of left it in the run-up. I think it didn't air maybe that next season again, but then eventually they just said, 'Ah, whatever,' and put it out, because they didn't get any letters. They expected, 'We're going to get a lot of letters. People are going to be [furious],' but nobody cared.

Despite Disney only running the episode on the grounds that it would never be re-run, this wasn't the case, and "Swing on Thru to the Other Side" has since become a memorable Recess episode for fans. Disney has always been incredibly strict about their censorship, with many creators struggling to make content for Disney within the company's guidelines. Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch recently revealed some of Disney's ridiculous script change notes for the series, highlighting how even two decades after Recess has ended, their guidelines for animated content are still as strict as ever.

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However, much like Hirsch, Ansolabehere managed to get around Disney's tight rules, and Recess became a major hit for the network. With Recess dealing with so many thinly veiled political themes, it seems odd for Disney to only come down hard on content that dealt with religion. But, as Ansolabehere says, Disney expected to receive furious letters from angered viewers, and they were trying to avoid this happening. Despite Disney's disapproval over the episode, "Swing on Thru to the Other Side" is a hallmark episode for the series, and just another reason that Recess has gone down in cartoon history.

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Source: Slash Film

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