When Kids TV Is Your Livelihood, Parenting Becomes Creative Fodder

Sascha Paladino, creator and exec. producer of "Miles from Tomorrowland"
Sascha Paladino, creator and exec. producer of “Miles from Tomorrowland”

“Daddy! Daddy!,” came the cry from the back seat as Sascha Paladino drove his twin five-year-old boys to preschool, an activity he looks forward to every day. “Why aren’t there any police cars in outer space?”

It wasn’t an unusual question to come from his boys. That morning car ride to school is when father and sons take turns telling stories and adding layers to each other’s tales. So, at a time when his kids were deep into rescue vehicles, firetrucks, and police cars, and dad was developing a show about a space-traveling family for Disney Channel, asking about police cars in outer space was perfect. And it gave Sascha an idea.

Miles from Tomorrowland debuts on Friday, February 6 on Disney Channel and along with Miles and his family traveling through outer space connecting planets and people for the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, there is Captain Joe, Miles’ uncle, a street-wise New York-ish character who drives a police car in outer space.

It’s just one of many inspirations Paladino has pulled from his “Joy Boys,” the affectionate nickname he has for his twins. He has a file on his computer called Joy Boyisms where he scribbles notes for his show that he pulls from daily life with his sons.

“Having twins is really crazy and and a lot of fun,” he says on the phone from Los Angeles. “And they’re very different. One is a lot more sort of like free thinking outside the box — very creative — while the other one is very much about the rules. You’ve got to do the Legos exactly of instruction, say, and that has sort of translated into the character of Miles and his sister Loretta.”

Jared Bush and Sam Levine, co-creators and exec. producers of "Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero"
Jared Bush and Sam Levine, co-creators and exec. producers of “Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero”

That father-son storytime is not only great to mine the free-associating creative genius of children for show ideas, it’s also the perfect time to test out plots already in production says Jared Bush, the co-creator of Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero premiering on Disney XD February 13.

“We still do bedtime stories,” explains Bush, also a father to twin five-year-old boys along with a seven-year-old son. ”And I’ll regularly do Penn Zero episodes that aren’t really episodes, just little nuggets to let them tell me where they want Penn to go and what the story is. It’s really cute to see what they’re excited about.”

That led to one wild story about paints. “They wanted Penn, Boone, and Sashi to be all paints or crayons and they make really cool pictures,” Bush says of the ideas his boys have given them.

“When you’re a kid anything is possible and nothing is off limits. We always try to inhabit that childlike part of our brains,” Levine added.

While Bush brings the work home to test with his kids, there was a time when he and his Penn Zero co-creator, Sam Levine, were the ones tagging along to dad’s job.

Levine is the son of a film-projectionist. He spent much of his childhood tagging along with his father to New York cinemas where he would watch as dad thread the film, and be the hand that made movie magic. That experience is the inspiration for Penn’s Multi-Universe Transprojector, a souped up movie projector that zaps the show’s character to imaginary worlds.

“We want to be weird and do mash ups and come at it from different angles,” says Bush.

Bush grew up with what he thought was a normal suburban Maryland life until he discovered his father and grandfather weren’t run-of-the-mill civil servants, they worked for the CIA. That forms the basis for Penn Zero and his friends, regular kids who are zapped around the universe to become heroes without anyone at home really understanding what they do all day.

“Sam and I both believe in having the show be character-driven,” explains Bush. “Hopefully they’re really relatable issues they go through. We wanted Penn to be vulnerable. We wanted him to be not as good of a hero as he needed to be, but to discover how to be a hero in his own way.”

“For me it’s also a sense of wish fulfillment and empowerment,” adds Levine. “You feel like you can inhabit these worlds and then be these characters. I think empowerment is important for kids and sense they can do it.”

As Paladino drops his kids off to school each morning they play a “running hug” game where the boys run and leap into his arms to be tossed high in the air.

“I love you more than the universe,” Paladino whispered to his boys on one of the running hugs.

“I love you more than the whole university,” came the kid-perfect reply.

Check out this fun clip from the upcoming premiere of Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero

You can watch the Miles From Tomorrowland official premiere on Friday, Feb. 6th (9:00 a.m., ET/PT). Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero‘s official premiere airs on Disney XD and Disney Channel Feb. 13th (9:45 p.m., ET/PT).


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