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What do you get when you throw Mad Max and Cheers into an ice-cold cocktail shaker with a healthy measure of bacon fat rendered down from giant mutated hogs? Well, you'd probably get Doomlands, the first adult animated series from the Roku Channel. Originally developed for the now-defunct Quibi service, the project (which premieres tomorrow) hails from the twisted mind of Josh O'Keefe, who first conceived of the concept as a film student back in college.
After graduating, he received $11,000 in Kickstarter funding to flesh out the endeavor, hosting the world premiere at a pub in his native Australia, "which is very much in line with the show," O'Keefe tells SYFY WIRE over Zoom.
That's because Doomlands follows the ragtag operators and patrons of a mobile bar, the Oasis, traversing a hellish post-apocalyptic wasteland. The very first iteration of the show garnered a slew of positive reactions in the Land Down Under, which resulted in a life-changing email from Josh Bowen, an executive producer at Look Mom! Productions.
"[He said] 'Hey, I’d like to talk to you about your property.’ I didn’t know I had property," O'Keefe (co-showrunner alongside Lee Porter), recalls with a chuckle. "I just had this cartoon and we developed it further for about 12 months and then we pitched it in L.A. Which was crazy for me as film student, still working on my university assignment, to be in an Uber on the way to pitch it [and] you see the Hollywood sign. It’s next level."
SYFY WIRE is excited to debut the first episode of the new series, titled "Razorbowl." The series opener finds Oasis proprietor Danny Doom (Mark Little) and his bartender, Lhandi (Kayla Lorette), on a quest to watch the titular sporting event: a gladiator-style fight to the death against gargantuan swine in a Beyond Thunderdome-esque coliseum. And believe us — that's barely scratching the surface of the gonzo ideas on display here. Just wait until you meet Easy Stream!
Watch the first episode below:
Per O'Keefe, Doomlands is an unabashed love letter to Australian exploitation — sometimes referred to as "Ozploitation" — films like Wake in Fright (1971), The Cars That Ate Paris (1974), Mad Max (1979), Razorback (1984), and Body Melt (1993).
"When I was studying film, I was so drawn to trying to uncover Australia’s national identity and all I kept coming up to were these crazy B-grade — sometimes horror — wild action Ozploitation films," the creator explains. "What really kicked things off for me was watching a documentary called Not Quite Hollywood, which sums up the Ozsploitation genre. Quentin Tarantino’s in that documentary, and I’m obviously a massive fan, and just seeing him excited by our cinema was enough for me to be like, ‘Hey, maybe we can make a cartoon about this!’"
In particular, Razorback was the main source of inspiration for the episode above, given that the movie centers around a giant pig that stalks and gores people in the Australian outback. "The landscape alone in Australia sometimes feels very apocalyptic itself," O'Keefe says, later adding: "Doomlands has always been in line with my original intention [of] exploring the Australian landscape as a nightmarish place to live. 'Doom' is synonymous with 'nightmare,' for sure."
He continues: "I don’t think it was always going to be our first episode, but it was the first one we made and I’m so glad it did end up being the first episode. Just because it’s a great introduction to Danny and Lhandi’s relationship and also is a perfect example of the scope of the show. The setting itself, the big stadium, is [based] on the big stadium in Melbourne where I grew up living next to. So it’s very exciting to throw that into a red-dirt wasteland and just seeing a sport in a post-apocalyptic world feels something new as well."
The series kicked off production in Toronto, Canada at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which, at times, made it feel like O'Keefe and his team were living out the end of days they were working so hard to animate.
"We’re just like, ‘What is happening? What is going on?’" he remembers. "But thankfully, we’re making an animation and everyone on the team was just like, ‘What else are we gonna do? Let’s make a cartoon.’ So it was perfect. Animators can work from home, we can write the show from home, the writers’ rooms took place over Zoom ... Sometimes it’s fun to get off the script and kind of jam and improvise. We were still able to do that over Zoom as well and some of our best jokes come from a Zoom chat. Just me bursting out in laughter over Zoom and obviously having to put myself on mute. It was so much fun and I’m so blessed that I was one of the lucky ones that had something to do when there was not much to do."
As for what viewers can expect from the rest of the season, the creator promises "more batsh** crazy action" before concluding: "We’ll get to know each of the five main characters quite well, get a proper understanding of how this ‘business’ — this pub on wheels — operates and works. We may even get a glimpse at one of the main character’s parental figures, their dad, in a very Star Wars-y way."
The entire first season of Doomlands arrives on the Roku Channel on Friday, Jan. 28. O'Keefe also serves as director and leader of the writers' room, which includes: Roger Bainbridge, Brandon Hackett, Kayla Lorette, and Mark Little.
The entire first season of can now be streamed here.