By Beth Deitchman
If you think that only storks can deliver babies, then Pip and Freddy are about to change your mind. The mismatched pair are the first members of the Tiny Ones Transport Service, or T.O.T.S., that aren’t the iconic baby-bringing birds. Freddy’s a flamingo, hailing originally from tropical climes, while Pip’s a cold-weather-loving penguin. Freddy’s not much of a navigator, but then again, Pip can’t even fly. The two are best friends, opening new doors for all manner of birds—and delivering all manner of animal babies to their forever homes—together. Their adventures begin Friday, June 14 (9 a.m. EDT/PDT), with the premiere of Disney Junior’s new animated series T.O.T.S., debuting on Disney Channel and DisneyNOW.
T.O.T.S. is designed for kids age 2–7, but there is much for parents and caregivers to relate to. Series creator and co-executive producer Travis Braun thinks that anyone who has ever traveled across the country with a baby will be entertained when they watch Pip and Freddy face the challenge of flying an animal infant to a different location in each episode. And if only the job were that easy! Braun explains, “There’s a rule at T.O.T.S. that the baby always has to be delivered happy.” The bird BFFs encounter situations that parents will find familiar, from a restless baby who won’t sleep to a baby that’s become a master of hide-and-seek (and doesn’t want to be found). “So many of our writing staff are parents, and we mine all of those real-life experiences for our stories at T.O.T.S.,” Braun shares.
Teamwork is at the heart of T.O.T.S., along with creative thinking and problem-solving—and it’s just as important behind the scenes as it is for Pip and Freddy. “I am not an artist. I am not an animator,” says Braun, a writer at heart, who previously created Disney Channel’s Fast Layne. Executive producer Vic Cook (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse), co-executive producer/supervising director Chris Gilligan (Goldie & Bear), and story editor Guy Toubes (The Stinky & Dirty Show) round out the creative team, which also counts songwriter and composer Rob Cantor (Disney Junior Music Nursery Rhymes) as an MVP. “Our writing process has become so intertwined with what he does that you can’t really separate the music from the story,” Braun emphasizes, detailing, “We’ll sit in the writers’ room and we’ll be stuck on an emotional beat. We’re at point A and we know that we need to get to point B. How do we get there? And a lot of the time, we’ll just call Rob because he’s going to be able to figure this out. He always surprises us with something that’s not only really emotional, but also super fun.”
And with a voice cast that features amazing singers such as Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty), who plays Pip and Freddy’s mentor and boss, Captain Beakman, and Megan Hilty (Broadway’s Noises Off and Wicked) as K.C. the Koala, it would be unthinkable not to feature songs in every episode. In addition to their incredible musical talent, Braun notes, “They’re also incredible performers. They’ve captured not just the heartfelt moments but the comedy. I feel so lucky that they’re part of the show.” Pip and Freddy are voiced, respectively, by Jet Jurgensmeyer (Last Man Standing) and Christian J. Simon (Sydney to the Max). Braun says, “When we found them, we knew we’d found Pip and Freddy. We want to enter this world through their point of view—this big opportunity, this dream chance to work at T.O.T.S.—and in order to do that we really wanted to find kids who embodied that wide-eyed spirit and sense of wonder.”
Every successful delivery earns Pip and Freddy a stamp in their official baby booklet, and with the recent announcement that Disney Junior has already ordered a second season of T.O.T.S., we can look forward to more stamps—and more adventures—for the unlikely team. Many of the writers have given their young children a sneak peek at the show, and Braun reveals that the early reviews are in and they’re overwhelmingly positive. “One of our writers said that his daughter woke him up in the middle of the night because she wanted to watch more T.O.T.S.,” he says, and while the sleep-deprived writer may beg to differ, Braun notes, “We thought that was a good sign.”