Pilots & Experiments

Wyatt Cenac’s Yellowbellies

By September 21, 2020 September 22nd, 2020 No Comments

Yellowbellies is a proof-of-concept trailer for a puppet series that comedian Wyatt Cenac (see previous post) spent years developing and trying to get made. Essentially, it’s a Star Trek spoof with a Lower Decks-like focus on a starship’s supporting crew that tackles some of the racism and sexism of Star Trek’s supposedly ideal vision of the future:

The lives of the crew on a starship is an idea that a lot of people have wanted to explore…I was like “s–t, I’ve got to figure out something to make this idea feel different… puppets.”

Puppets and focusing on what makes the idealized 1960’s future of a Star Trek-like world so ridiculous to me: white supremacy still exists for Earthlings. A white guy with green blood is second in command while Uhura and Sulu just answer the phone and chauffeur.

This became “Yellowbellies.” I pitched it around again and while networks liked it, they were afraid of puppets. My response was always, “people were afraid of prime time animation for a long time too.” Eventually it sold to a network but shortly after selling it, the network stopped development on all new projects.

Sometimes you have an idea that you can’t let go of and so you say, “f–k it, I’ll spend my own money just to make the damned thing to see if it works.” So that’s what this is.

Wyatt Cenac

Yellowbellies was actually sold at one point to BBC America, but unfortunately the channel stopped developing original content shortly after buying the pitch. Wyatt recently detailed the project’s years in “development hell” in an interview with Vanyaland and his account provides a rare public glimpse in to the often excruciating process of trying to make and sell a puppet show for American television.

Puppetry for Yellowbellies was performed by James Wotjal, Lara Maclean and Michael Bush. Character voices were provided by past and present Daily Show correspondents Wyatt, Roy Wood Jr., Ronny Chieng, and John Hodgeman along with fellow comedians Ilana Glazer, Shasheer Zamata and Dan Soder. Yellowbellies was designed by Maggie Ruder, who recently posted set designs and behind-the-scenes photos on her web site.

Via The Comedy Bureau.