Whitta is the creator of Animal Talking, a chat show that was produced entirely inside of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and featured such guests as Elijah Wood, Brie Larson, and Selena Gomez, among many others.
Stark, who was a guest on the show and went on to serve as its stage manager, is partnering with Whitta for Talk Guys, another interview show set entirely in the very popular new battle royale Fall Guys. Digital Trends sat down with the pair to discuss why Animal Talking is giving way to Talk Guys, and what viewers can expect from the new chat show.
The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Digital Trends: For readers that don’t know about Animal Talking, could you go over how that project came about and maybe why it’s being put on hiatus?
Gary Whitta: I was playing a lot of Animal Crossing already. It was already kind of having a cultural moment, and I thought, “Oh, I’ll play on stream, that’ll give me something to do on my Twitch channel.” I started Animal Crossing mornings with Gary. Every day I’d play an hour, seven days a week without missing a day, and started to build a little bit of an audience.
I was goofing around in my in-game basement, and I was trying to figure out something to do with it, but at one point I had like a desk and a couch down there, and I thought, “Huh, talk show.” The plan initially was not to do a talk show, but just, “Could I recreate a set, like a dollhouse?”
My chat was egging me on, saying, “You should do something with it!” So I was bored one Saturday. I called up my friend Naomi Kyle and asked if she just wanted to pretend to do a talk show. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to do another one. We had my wife Leah and her friend in the next one, and Kate was my guest on episode 3. It didn’t really blow up until episode four when Twitch caught wind of what we were doing and put us on their front page, and at that point, it kind of spiraled out of control.
It was never meant to be this show with all these production values and big celebrity guests, what it has now metastasized into. It was really meant to be a way to have fun and hang out with friends. I still want it to be that, but in a way, the show is a little bit of a victim of its own success, where it’s now so popular and the ambition to make it as good as it can be has led to it becoming extremely time-consuming. It now requires a small team, and a two-hour show takes about 10 hours of prep.
This is not my job. This is the thing that’s gotten in the way of me doing my job. To continue doing the show with the kind of workflow it takes to make each episode, it’s just no longer sustainable. So that’s why the show is going on a little bit of a hiatus. It’s not going anywhere, it’s still going to be around, it’s just not going to happen on a weekly basis while we regroup and figure out how to do the show in a way that is practical from a bandwidth point of view.
Is that where this idea of doing a talk show inside Fall Guys came from? Something that might not be as laborious and gets back to the roots of Animal Talking?
It stems from a few things. We all enjoyed the idea of doing a talk show inside a video game, but Animal Talking became very time-consuming and difficult to make. But I’m always interested in doing the next thing. Fall Guys is obviously having a massive moment right now. It’s the game. Mediatonic has captured something that is the perfect combination of luck and skill that results in, “I love this game, but also f*** this game.”
The reason I want to do Talk Guys is it comes from a genuine love for the game. I’ve had other developers approach me, and say, “Why don’t you move the Animal Talking concept into our game?”
[laughs] I’m not going to name any names! But I don’t play these games. Animal Talking became popular because it grew out of my genuine love for the game. I have the same enthusiasm for Fall Guys now.
Talk Guys is just going to be a show where we show up, play the game, and chat. I think the idea is going to be, I’ll be interviewing a guest, going, “So, tell me about your new bOH, F*** YOU!” Somebody compared it to [the online show] Hot Ones, trying to conduct an interview while subjecting yourself to an agonizing ordeal.
Kate, how has your background helped your transition to make a talk show, and how does having it take place in a video game change that format?
Kate Stark: Well, Gary and I have been friends for a while now. The night before the first episode of Animal Talking, he texted me saying I had to come check out what he’d built. As the show progressed, I realized they needed a little bit of assistance, and that is coming from my professional experience before becoming a full-time streamer as a theatrical stage manager. I was just providing suggestions to Gary initially, but it was before the first big episode with T-Pain that he called me in to assist, and I’m glad he did because it has been such a wild ride.
Animal Talking was a talk show where the guests were in their own homes and in their sweats. They were relaxed. So that’s how we accidentally got Selena Gomez to leak that she was working on a new album because her guard was down. And Gary’s never one to dig up drama, but he’s good at poking just ever so slightly, and people have felt comfortable enough to leak news, which has been fantastic.
Whitta: We had Phil Spencer on the day after the Halo Infinite delay news dropped, which he elaborated on a little bit. They could have gotten around that. They could have waited till Thursday to drop that news. Phil could have dodged it, or Xbox could have pulled him from the show. We’re not a rigorous journalistic outlet. I was wearing a cartoon crown on my head that day. But I felt we needed to ask at least a couple of robust questions about Halo, and he handled it well.
Is there going to be any structure to Talk Guys beyond it being you guys playing the game and interviewing people?
Stark: I think we’re going on the more relaxed front. Part of us making this is that we want to take a little bit of a production break from Animal Talking.
Whitta: We’re also going to be targeting much more gaming-centric celebrities. The reason we were able to get big names like Danny Trejo and Brie Larson was because they were playing Animal Crossing. But Fall Guys is much more of a gamer’s game. All the top streamers are playing it. A lot of developers are playing it. Those are the people we’re going to be targeting.
We’re going to want to get Dr. Lupo, who we interviewed on Animal Talking, on the show. If Shroud wants to come on the show and play with us, he’d of course be very welcome. We had Sting on Animal Talking, but I don’t know if you’re going to see him on Talk Guys any time soon [laughs]. He would, of course, be very welcome!
Stark: It’s going to be like, “Do you have Discord? Do you have Fall Guys? Great! We’ll be there,” and then we’ll play.
Whitta: That being said, when we do our first episode, I think you’ll be quite surprised at how much production value there actually is. It’s not just going to be your average Fall Guys stream, but it’s going to be a lot less of a production than Animal Talking. We’ll find a sweet spot that works for us.
Stark: We’ve already got overlays made that are Fall Guys-themed. And we’re going to have a lot of swears. Gary and I were definitely fighting during a couple of the rounds last night.
— Kate Stark (@katestark) August 18, 2020
Whitta: Yeah, Kate, because you accused me of doing s*** that I didn’t do!
Stark: [laughs] You took an egg from me! There is evidence!
Whitta: In the hustle and bustle of Egg Scramble, that happens all the time. But look, a part of the Animal Talking brand was, “How does this dumbass show get these giant celebrities?” I was really nervous before Selena Gomez came on, because she’s one of the biggest stars in the world, and that, in a way, makes it less fun.
I enjoyed doing the show more when it was just Kate on the couch and we were just chatting. When it was low-key, and nobody cared. Talk Guys is going to be more of that. But what if Radiohead’s Thom Yorke wants to play Fall Guys with us? Absolutely, of course!
Stark: What’s really exciting for me is, on Animal Talking, I’m backstage in a very organized role, taking care of any issues. So it’s going to be kind of nice going into Talk Guys saying, “Well, we’re just going to do this, and we’re just going to play games,’ and if we screw up, then we screw up, and it’s fine. And there’s really no stress to it.
When can we expect Talk Guys to air, and can you speak to who might be the first guests on the show?
Stark: We already have a list of guests that have screamed to us that they want to come on the show via Twitter, and we’re just like, “Great, whenever we start scheduling, we’re happy to have you on!” So the guest list is filling out, the overlays are done. I think both of us are comfortable doing the first episode in the next week, and it’ll be streamed on both of our Twitch channels.
Whitta: We’ve had a bunch of people tweeting at us, saying, “Oh, I’m really interested to see how you approach this concept,” and I’m like, “Me too! I have no f***ing idea!” I frankly announced this without thinking it through, but that’s part of the fun.
Stark: We have 15 guests on our list. None of them are locked in, but I’d say 90% are people who have expressed a deep interest, and the other 10% are people we want for the show, but all of them slid into our mentions about coming on. They’re all staples in the industry — streamers, developers, and some celebrities that game. And because we can only have a max of two guests per show, there is kind of a buffer for us for a while, which is nice, and we’ll have content for days.
Since conducting the interview, it has been announced that streamer Dr. Lupo will be their first guest on the inaugural episode at 7 p.m. PT on Thursday, August 27. Their second episode, airing at 12 p.m. PT on Friday, August 28, will feature Joe Walsh and Oliver Hindle, lead game designer and senior communications manager on Fall Guys, respectively.
Quick final question! What is your favorite level in Fall Guys, and how many crowns do you each have?
Stark: I think See Saw, which people are going to hate me for.
Whitta: Controversial choice!
Stark: I love See Saw, but I hate that people don’t understand how basic physics work. I’m pretty good at it, but I only have one crown, and it has been my greatest achievement.
Whitta: It was a moment in history. I was proud to be there. I have four crowns. I dropped the ball on a fifth, and it is still haunting me. My favorite game is Fall Ball. I just love it! They could have released just that for $20, and I would have been satisfied. A note for the developers though: if there’s an odd number of players, don’t have it come up. Unless you can split the players evenly, don’t do it.
Since conducting the interview, Whitta got his fifth crown, and Stark has acquired a very impressive 12. Both Stark and Whitta stream regularly on their Twitch channels, where upcoming episodes of Talk Guys will premiere, before posting VODs to their respective YouTube channels.
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