We’ll hear about creating the Goosebumps TV series with Executive Story Editor and Writer Dan Angel. Dan talks about what it was like to work on the series and the journey of adapting the series from the popular books. He also shares some...
We’ll hear about creating the Goosebumps TV series with Executive Story Editor and Writer Dan Angel. Dan talks about what it was like to work on the series and the journey of adapting the series from the popular books. He also shares some behind-the-scenes stories from the show. This audio is taken from a Q&A Dan gave at Sugarmynt Gallery on June 18th, 2022. Moderated by Jeff DePaoli, the event was part of the ‘Spooky Kids Club’ exhibit which Jeff co-curated. Sugarmynt’s new ‘The Thing Tribute Exhibit’ opens June 24th and the info is here: https://www.sugarmynt.com/
Jeff DePaoli: So, ladies and gentlemen, Dan Angel.
Dan Angel: Hello everyone. How's everyone doing?
Jeff DePaoli: All righty, so you did a lot of Goosebumps work through the years, how many years of your life? Actually, R.L. Stine was like a whole chapter of your life. We'll get into the later projects, but like it was over a decade for you, right?
Dan Angel: Yeah, it was four years on Goosebumps, we had four seasons, so it was 66 episodes, then they added 8 behind it. Then we did Haunting Hour, which we'll talk about later, but that was another 76 episodes, and then we did Monsterville, and that was a movie for Universal, and we're actually doing a second one right now. So, yeah, he's been great, he's been wonderful, and he trusts us, and you know, it was great to get that.
Jeff DePaoli: So, a lot of your business has been spooky in this industry, was that an initial goal of yours or did you just kind of end up there?
Dan Angel: I grew up... So, here's the truth. My parents took us through the movies all the time, and we'd go on movie runs. We'd be like on a Saturday, we'd go to see three or four movies. We'd start at 10 or 11 in the morning, then we'd take a break for lunch, and we go back. That's really what got me excited about making movies and TV shows, because when you live it just, it's just exciting. But the one movie they took me to, which I shouldn't have gone to, was Rosemary's Baby, I think I was like 6 years old
Jeff DePaoli: Wow. Oh my Gosh.
Dan Angel: I mean, I'll just never forget, you know, sitting on my dad's lap and going, "No, you can't judge a book by its cover," and then I'm like terrified from, like, the minute the music starts. So, you know, the running joke is I was traumatized by Wait Until Dark, and all these movies, and I wanted to give back, I wanted to traumatize a few other people, you know?
Jeff DePaoli: Excellent. Now, obviously, R.L. Stine is the author of the Goosebumps books. How did you get involved in his world?
Dan Angel: OK, this is, again, it's great to have you all here, and I don't know with each person here who works, does anyone work in the business. Actually, this qualifies for any walk of life. But the way it happened was, my first movie project was a film with John Carpenter called Body Bags. Before I sold that movie to John out of film school, I had optioned the project to a gentleman named Bill Siegler. Bill ran movies at ABC, he was just a lovely guy, and we really hit it off. He never made the movie, but he lived in New York, and I would go to New York twice a year and go to breakfast with him, and we just really hit it off. Then one day he gets the call that they want him to be the Producer, Line Producer running the show, and he said, "OK, I know who I'm calling to do the show," It was that relationship, it's all about relationships, and out of the blue he calls us and says, "we're doing the show called Goosebumps and I want you and Billy to be the guys running the show." That was amazing, and it was all about the contact and the connection to Bill.
Jeff DePaoli: So, when was your first-time meeting R.L. Stine? And kind of what is he like? He's a little bit mysterious, I think you know by design, but what's he like in real life?
Dan Angel: He's a blast. He's like the nicest, kindest, fun guy. The way we met him, the thing is we had talks on the phone and we went through, you know, the books, and obviously, you have to build a trust with an author. He had sold, what, 400 million books? By the way, Fox Kids was the one who bought the show, so it was a Fox Show, and that was run by an incredible woman named Margaret Loesch, who literally went to the stores and watched hundreds of kids sitting in the bookstores reading the books. It had never happened before, and I don't think it's ever... well...
Jeff DePaoli: Harry Potter yeah.
Dan Angel: Harry Potter. Yes, those are the two. So, Margaret and I knew each other from years past, so that was good. She used to run Marvel, and she was the one who kept telling everyone to make Marvel characters into movies and they wouldn't do it and she was the head of the company. So, she went off to start Fox Kids, and then she bought all the Marvel characters and made animation. So, we built the trust with Margaret and Bill, and met R.L. Stine and he was just fantastic. It was him and Jane, who's his partner and wife, and you know editor of the books, and they really liked us. We liked each other. They trusted us and our instincts for telling the stories, and he was incredibly supportive and flexible. Because, again, a lot of the books they'll be a great idea, but you have to transfer these into 30 minutes or one hour, and it might not all be there, so we have to take liberties, and he was completely supportive through that process.
But the real-time that I met him was, we came up with the idea to have him host these one hours. We knew he wasn't a brilliant actor, and we didn't want a brilliant actor, we just wanted Bob Stein, we wanted R.L. Stein. He's our, you know, Rod Sterling. You know he's Walt Disney. So, he was wonderful. He would fly out, he would do it, and he was really good at it because he just was R.L. Stine, you know? He was very fun and creepy fun and he was perfect.
I'll tell you one fun story about that. So, we had him do Night of Living Dummy, and our idea was to create a dummy that looks like him, and we end up in a room and we're trying to decide what to do because he has a big mole on his head. We're going, "Wait a minute, do we put the mole on the dummy or not? Is this going to offend him?" We all kind of looked at each other and went, "we're putting them all on the dummy." He showed up and he loved it. So, when you see the dummy, you'll see the mole that matches.
Jeff DePaoli: I was going to say you'll see the dummy tonight as well in some retro commercial we got going on. So, as I was doing my research, one of the things that kind of shocked me was how close in proximity the books were to the show. Because the books started in '92, they ran through '97, and there were 62 of those books. So, from 1992 to 1997, then the TV series started in 1995, so only three years after the books started, if not less. That ran through '98. That's really close like I always thought they were, I mean they were classics, but I thought they were classics through time by the time the series came along, but it was really kind of a fast turnaround
Dan Angel: Yeah, and Margaret Loesch gets the credit for that, because she really is a rare leader in our business. She's a buccaneer, she's gutsy, she saw something, and she just said, "we're doing it." She's also the one responsible for Power Rangers, and she's responsible for many things, but you know when Haim Saban walked in and said, "I have this thing." I mean everyone had passed on Power Rangers, no one was doing Power Rangers. She saw it and said, "this is excellent. This will work." She told me a funny story, this just shows you how she's like and this is why Goosebumps, she was able to just do it and make it happen. Her bosses basically said, "if you put this on the air, you will be fired." She said, "OK well, you're going to fire me because I'm putting it on the air." And as they say, the rest is history. So, it was great to have that kind of a leader at a network who saw Goosebumps, witnessed what was happening, and just grabbed it and went. You know she wanted it on the air fast.
Jeff DePaoli: You were telling me earlier that they didn't want it to be scary.
Dan Angel: Yeah, one of the battles we had on the show is, the network understood that it's really important to make it thrills and chills because by the way, it's called Goosebumps, and Scholastic was pushing back. They were nervous and they were afraid if we made the show too scary, would it affect you know corporately or would they get people complaining. But we were really fortunate because, again, we had the network behind us and supporting us. By the way, Billy Brown is my partner, and he's fantastic, and he couldn't be here tonight, but he's incredible talent.
What we did is we actually created this scare space for kids and then call it Safe Scare. So, the way it worked is you know you have to picture, whether you were a kid or you have kids, when you go to a park, you go to a Magic Mountain or any roller coaster, the kids are waiting in line, they're nervous, they don't want to go, they get on the ride, they scream and yell, and then what do they say when they get off?
Jeff DePaoli: Let's do it again.
Dan Angel: Let's do it again. That's our show. And we knew we weren't going to have sex, we're not going to have language, we're not going to have gore, but we're going to scare you, and those were the rules.
Jeff DePaoli: Probably no blood. Was blood OK?
Dan Angel: That was part of the gore. We couldn't have that. The network supported it, that's what they wanted. What happened is, we started winning awards for Parents Choice, and the Parents Choice, which is a very difficult place to win an award, they said, "this is really good for kids. Kids should be afraid, and then they should come out of it and find their way out of this fear." Well, I'm not a psychologist, but I was glad it worked, you know? It was a lot of fun to do that.
Jeff DePaoli: So honestly, when you were first approached, hey, we got this Goosebumps thing. There's this guy R.L. Stine. Were you familiar with the books and/or had you read any of them?
Dan Angel: I was familiar with the books, had not read a one, so thus began the research and power reading. It was fun because again, when you get that position, and we're not credited as producers, but we were the producer's showrunners, and that was just a reflection of Canadian rules when you do a 10 out of 10 show, if you're an American, they won't give credits, and that's a whole other story. But we had that great task of reading the books, adapting them. So, you have to decide what order are you going to go in, and you know, Haunted Mask was definitely you know how we wanted to start. Then we got Jose Rivera who agreed to write it, and he's just a spectacular writer. And if you check out Jose, if you don't know Jose check him out, he's an Academy Award winning writer. He wrote the first one, we wrote the second.
Jeff DePaoli: Speaking of the titles, your official title is executive story editor and then writer on some episodes as well. But you were kind of a showrunner, right?
Dan Angel: We were the showrunner.
Jeff DePaoli: You were on set for...
Dan Angel: Yeah, we were responsible for the all the creative. Bill Siegler ran the operation, he was fantastic. What happened was, you know we had to... So, we were on set, I'm going to back up a second. What's amazing about doing this kind of a show, which I love, in our business every time you try to sell a show like this, all the buyers and the heads of the studios and networks will say, "anthology doesn't work." I've never understood this OK, because first of all I love anthology, and I bet all of you have watched a ton of anthology, we can name them all starting with Twilight Zone
Jeff DePaoli: They always say don't write books in first person, and those are some of my favorite books. Stupid rules.
Dan Angel: It's just not true because I could ask everyone here today, do you like anthology? You can raise your hand, we have an audience, we can know. What I love about anthology is, we have to make, this was 1/2 hour and hour formats but in the half-hour of the regular show, we have to make a movie every five days. Nothing is the same, the wardrobes are different, characters are different, the locations are different. So, you can imagine the challenge doing this kind of work, and we loved it, and we had a great crew. We shot in Toronto, we took over a Molson Beer brewery that went out of business, and this place was massive. So, you had to go through the first steps of making sure it doesn't have asbestos and clean it out, and we ended up cleaning out two or three floors. It is so massive, again, we did a lot of shooting on location, and we would split that up. Some will be on location, and you know that's what you do on the schedule while they're building sets, we're on location, and you trade-off. The elevators were so massive in Night in Terror Tower, if anyone saw that episode, which is one of my favorites, we were bringing horses up the elevators onto the soundstages it was like unbelievable. But we could do that because it was an old brewery that had these massive elevators.
Jeff DePaoli: That's so funny. Now, I did notice in some of your credit that said, "written by" and then others "teleplay by", just to nerdy minutiae here, but what's the difference? This is IMDb, so it's official.
Dan Angel: Yeah, yeah, well it's interesting because, and again it's interesting you point that out. So, "written by" you're adapting... Let me go back, "teleplay by" you're adapting, "written by" it's an original, so if you're looking at Chillogy, you'll see a different type of credit. That was the only one, by the way, that was an original, that would be a different credit than the adaptations.
Jeff DePaoli: OK, interesting. Now, obviously, we're talking about the original sources, the books, but one of the cool things that happened. They ended up making books based on the TV series. These stories that were originally books became a TV series, then they made books of the TV series for the audience.
Dan Angel: I mean, I love these too. The audience loves to see pictures of all the stars and on the set and you know, all that's in there.
Jeff DePaoli: Yeah, so it's kind of cool. Now, how involved was R.L. Stine with all of this? Other than you know the days you were shooting him, was he visiting set, was he giving notes?
Dan Angel: No, what we would do is, we'd finish scripts, then we would send the scripts, then Jane and Bob would read them, and if they had notes that give us notes. But they loved it, it was a good, healthy process. So, that worked out really well, and that's how we built that trust. You know, once you start doing it and it's working, it gets easier.
Jeff DePaoli: Did you enjoy adapting the books? I mean writers like to write their own stories, right?
Dan Angel: No, no we loved it. We loved it because they gave us creative license. If you're reading, and some of them, again, every book is different, we all have favorites, and then there's some might not be his favorite, you know? Sometimes there'd be a book that would have a germ of an idea that we liked, and then you can expand on it. We had to do hours. When you have to do hours, you have to a lot of time, we'd have to expand a lot, you know? But, when you have a cool image like Stay Out Of The Basement, and now you're dealing with something that's a lot of fun, and you've got kids and dads downstairs, what's dad up to? We had big debates about the whole scene when you get to the final moment, spoiler alert, you know where they're trying to decide which dad to kill, I mean this is tough TV. You're talking about a family show, and you know, and the kids, we called it co-viewing because adults watched it with their kids, which was great. Now you're talking about, we have to make a decision to kill one of these guys and you better pick right. So yeah, that was a lot of fun making, you know, doing those kinds of things.
Jeff DePaoli: Was there ever a difficult story when it came to adapting the book to the TV screen? Anything in the story that was like a difficult hurdle to get over something you had to cut just because you're like, "I don't know, that doesn't work for a TV series. It works in the book, but not in the series."
Dan Angel: I think it was more like if you read something and didn't love it like, It Came From Beneath The Sink, a killer sponge was not exciting. That was one of our least favorite. Now you're trying to take an inanimate, a sponge, and how are we going to make this scary? Production-wise it was really a drag. I mean, no matter what you do with the sponge, it's only so scary. So, we had those kinds of challenges, you know? The fun challenges were, I'm just kind of rattling off things in my memory bank, but like Werewolf Of Fever Swamp. I mean, anything you do that requires makeup, and let's go back to Haunted Mask for a second, and Haunted Mask two with John White, that I really remember. Because we only have so many hours to shoot, especially with the kids, and so they would end up wearing the mask the whole time, and when they take a break, they're drinking protein shakes.
Jeff DePaoli: I was I came across some photos of that as I was like doing research, I was just Googling The Haunted Mask and there were photos, behind-the-scenes photos, of the actors sucking through straws with the mask on.
Dan Angel: Yeah, they're sucking through straws and they're having protein shakes. They can't just eat a burger and fries at this point, because it takes hours to undo everything. So that's all part of the scheduling, trying to do the makeup, and all the masks, and there was a lot of that. But we also did a lot of locations, so when you watch a lot of the episodes like Werewolf Of Fever Swamp, I mean, we spent hours in the middle of the woods, and it was it was a grind. We liked it and it was fun, but you know the weather, there's a lot of weather changes in Toronto. A Night in Terror Tower, it was 35 below. So you can watch and you'll see people breathing and you know it's like, it was cold.
Jeff DePaoli: Now I'm going to ask you a question, I feel comfortable asking it because we were introduced through your friend DJ MacHale. DJ MacHale was here about a month ago, he's the co-creator of Are You Afraid of the Dark, was Goosebumps Fox's response to Nickelodeon's Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Dan Angel: I don't think so. That's my recollection. Now I'm trying to remember.
Jeff DePaoli: Are You Afraid of the Dark was 1990s, so it was five years before the Goosebumps series, a couple years before the Goosebumps. Are You Afraid of the Dark, I mean, kind of revolutionized Nickelodeon.
Dan Angel: Yeah, Oh yeah, I know I remember.
Jeff DePaoli: The whole SNICK block did. I always got the impression, it was a little bit later on, I definitely grew up like obsessed with Are You Afraid of the Dark, Goosebumps I was a little bit older, to be completely honest. But I definitely remember kind of kids picking teams like you were a Goosebumps kid or, you know. It was kind of like a boy band sort of thing, like you pick one and you stick with it. I don't know, I always felt like a response to me, but you don't know recall that at all?
Dan Angel: When it came to doing this show or talking about it, obviously we knew about that show. I mean we had huge ratings.
Jeff DePaoli: And by the way, totally different shows. I don't mean to compare them.
Dan Angel: Yeah, we were scarier usually, we tried to push it further. The thing is, Goosebumps, by nature, was so massive that no matter what came before it or after it, it just stood out. I mean, it's just unbelievable what happened.
Jeff DePaoli: I was actually shocked to learn that the books were the 90s, because I grew up in the 80s. To me, Goosebumps felt like it's always been part of my life, like always and forever, you know? So, I'm surprised it's as "new" as it is.
Dan Angel: Well look, the one thing I love is if you set out to make a show, one of the goals is to try to make a really good show, because if you can do something and make it... With all the resources, and we believe me, we didn't have a lot of money, and so you're trying to write, cast, you're doing everything you can do, but if you make a good show, it's going to be around. When I'm gone, people are going to be talking about it. I mean, it's still a big hit on Netflix. What I love is, I love that the next generation comes up, they watch it, and then the next kids come up, and kids just don't get tired of it. But I'm really proud of the fact that parents love to watch it with their kids, and that whole co-viewing is the main part of my business. I love creating, you know shows and movies that everyone can watch together.
Jeff DePaoli: Cool, so obviously the show is on Fox. Disney now owns Fox. So, Disney now owns the Goosebumps series? They're doing something right.
Dan Angel: They're doing something. Now, I had read, maybe it's not fair because I don't know that much about it. By the way, there was a period of time when they tried to do the movies forever. So, when we were doing the show, they tried to do the movie, and that went on for years. Went on for decades, you know we went up 20 years before they finally made it, more than that even. I remember we were involved in it at first, which we were excited about, because obviously we wanted to write the movie. I think one of the problems was, I'm pretty sure it was Scholastic that was pushing this, but they wanted Steven Spielberg, or a big name someone to do it, and so we ended up in a room with Tim Burton, and that was a blast. So, we were talking to Tim Burton about it, and we thought it was going to happen, and then whether it was his schedule or whatever, it didn't happen.
Jeff DePaoli: It should have happened.
Dan Angel: But it was great to be sitting in the room with Tim Burton talking about Goosebumps the movie, and then that whole thing just fell apart and it wasn't until Sony eventually bought the rights and then they finally made the movies but that was 20 years later.
Jeff DePaoli: So, there are 74 episodes of the series, there are 62 books, so did the series tell the story of every single book?
Dan Angel: No.
Jeff DePaoli: So, there are some originals.
Dan Angel: We definitely didn't do some of the books. I mean, we did the Chillogy.
Jeff DePaoli: Well, some of them I know are two partners like The Haunted Mask episodes.
Dan Angel: No, exactly.
Dan Angel: We did a lot of two parter so that did eat up some of that for sure. Yeah, Deadhouse, 2 parter, Haunted Mask, Night in Terror Tower, Haunted Mask 2, Werewolf of Fever Swamp.
Jeff DePaoli: Who was deciding which titles were made?
Dan Angel: We did. We got to do that.
Jeff DePaoli: OK, cool, and you still made the sponge one?
Dan Angel: Well, that was just one of those moments where the book, it was popular. Sometimes you just got to give the audience what they want, and if they want a killer sponge, I don't know.
Jeff DePaoli: Sarah Rose can't believe I asked you that.
Sarah Rose: I'm dying because that was the only Goosebumps book that I read for 4th-grade summer reading, and I just was like thinking about that too. Like, a killer sponge hiding under the sink? Why did you make that?
Dan Angel: Yeah, I can't believe... We spent a lot of time on it. We went through a lot of sponges.
Jeff DePaoli: Well, let me ask, I know this is a tough question, but do you have a favorite episode of the series?
Dan Angel: First of all, I love The Haunted Mask, and it's just that. When I read that book, something about that book and that story, the minute you read that story, is just far above. Like you can read all the books, but when you read Haunted Mask, that's it.
Jeff DePaoli: I think we've all had that moment with the mask, though. First of all, we all love Halloween right, so there's the immediate introduction and the love of Halloween. But, then there's the, every kid has put a mask over his head and had that freakout moment of not being able to take it off, am I right?
Dan Angel: Oh yeah, and I think we've all wanted to either be the one who's scaring people, there's an empowerment about that, but there's also the bullying and the abuse about that, and it hits so many things. Of course, thematically, it's about family and love and you know the whole symbol of love, which is what's used in both episodes to try to break a curse, and that's cool. So, at the heart of it, it's family and friends and trying to get things right.
Jeff DePaoli: Now, as we mentioned, The Haunted Mask episodes are two episodes each, there were some others that did that as well. How was that decided? Was it based on the story or just kind of like the popularity of the book?
Dan Angel: It was definitely the popularity that would drive it, and then we would have the discussion can we sustain it? But definitely popularity. I mean Terror Tower, huge popularity, Stay Out Of The Basement, huge. I mean, I'd say all the big ones, these were the best sellers for sure, and we had access to that information, so we knew what the kids and everyone was buying and what they love the most.
Jeff DePaoli: Who had the VHS tapes? Because I totally did.
Dan Angel: I will never forget. By the way, this is when if you remember Variety and Hollywood Reporter, and this is when they used to do full page ads. One day I opened it up and it was all about how they had sold a 100,000,000 it was like, the figure was so high for DVD/VHS, This was VHS. It was just mind-boggling how big it was.
Jeff DePaoli: That's awesome. Now, I want to talk about, of course, when you're talking about The Haunted Mask, there's the mask, right? Somebody had to design this mask, because all it was when you started was an image on the cover of a book. It's a really iconic image, but the mask on the show doesn't look exactly like that, it was certainly inspired by it, but what was that process like of being like, "hey, this thing is super iconic, but we've got to make it work for the show." I think you guys even made it a little scarier.
Dan Angel: Yeah, we wanted to make it scarier. Yeah, you have to look at the teeth and you know, I mean we definitely amped it up. So, this is one of the great moments. Like I said, we don't have a big budget, and in walks this guy, we're looking for our monster builder, our creature builder, and in walks this, at that time a kid named Ron Stefaniuk. His dream is to build monsters and to do this, and in fact, he loves it so much he does it at home like in his oven, he's doing it. So, we went to his house and saw what he had done on his own, he just was the guy doing it, and we gave him the job. He just was an incredible designer, and he did all the work, it launched his career, I think it launched it bigger than he could have imagined to have your first job be on Goosebumps. But yeah, he stayed in the limited budgets we had, he was a great designer, and he had a lot to do with it.
Jeff DePaoli: I think Trick or Treat Studios actually has a new version of it, or another version of it coming out this year, right? Have you seen that? I'm pretty sure there's another version, like a reproduction of it. Like it's still people still want that mask this many years later.
Dan Angel: I think people would want even they didn't know Goosebumps. If they want something scary, you see it...
Jeff DePaoli: Yeah, it's a pretty cool mask. Now, you said you shot in Canada, I've honestly never been to Canada. Actually, I've been to the other side, the Niagara Falls side. But I mean you're shooting fall USA in Canada, is that difficult or do they have kind of lend itself to that? Because you totally get the Halloweeny fall feels.
Dan Angel: Yeah, obviously, scheduling-wise sometimes we'd hit summer and shoot all through the summers, and then sometimes it would carry over in fall, winter. It would depend on when they'd order the show and then we'd have to do schedules and hit targets. I mean, in Toronto, you could get, and I've done a lot of shows in Toronto and in Vancouver, but for this one, I mean you had all the small town USA looks, you had the big city in Toronto if you needed that, we had that brewery with all the space and could build what we didn't have, and they had a lot, a lot of forests and woods and you know, so we had everything we needed.
Jeff DePaoli: Any onset stories or memories from The Haunted Mask in particular?
Dan Angel: Well, I can tell you that we have Catherine Short and Catherine Long, you know it's really interesting already, like how did short and long of it right? I think what was interesting when you watch that situation, and then you watch The Haunted Mask Two situation with John White, because we brought John in. I think this is a general thing, but these kids were remarkable and when you think about what we put them through, I mean they came to play, like they were ready, whether it was sitting for hours in makeup. I mean John White playing that old man, it was exhausting, I mean he did not phone it in, he's walking and falling. So, it was really impressive just to see how wonderful everyone wanted to contribute and make the show be good. I think that was just a really great memory. The other great memory was, I had moved my family up there. So, John White's family, for example, they ended up getting really close to my family. I have three kids and they learned how to ice skate, rollerblade, you know everything that is Canadian, they learned how to do. Then we had this one, if you look at Haunted Mask, there's a moment, now I'm trying to remember if it's in Part One... Anyway, they asked our family to be in it. So, there's a moment when Mom goes to the door and all the trick or treaters are us. It's my three kids in the front, and I'm in the back videotaping them as the dad videotaping his kids, and my wife in the background. It was just a blast. For my kids to look at that now, you know, and my son is an actor and he's a director and he's a writer, it's really funny. But that was not my idea, that was Bill Siegler.
Jeff DePaoli: On Haunted Mask Two, you actually got a written by credit, so you wrote that episode, so that's extra special, I'm sure, for you. Beyond Goosebumps, still working with R.L. Stine, The Haunting Hour, really great, started as a movie in 2007 and then a series 2010 to 2014. Obviously, Goosebumps had wrapped up at that point, so how did this come about? Did you pitch the idea or is this like them coming back to you?
Dan Angel: By the way, has anyone here, seen The Haunting Hour?
Jeff DePaoli: Yeah, I just watched it for the first time because he mentioned it to me. It's really good, so seek out The Haunting Hour. It's really, really good, so check that one out.
Dan Angel: So, what happened, this is one of those great moments in your life. We don't always have all these great moments in our life, but Discovery and Hasbro decided to join forces and launch a new family network called The Hub. Then they hired Margaret Loesch who had run Fox kids to run the network. Now, the funny part was Margaret and I were partners in a company called The Hatchery. So, we were doing business and she gets this call, and she says to me, "they're never going to hire me, I'm too old." I'm going, "no, you're brilliant, of course, they're going to hire you." She got the job.
So, now I'm alone at the company, and then one day the phone rings and she says, "I want Goosebumps, I want to bring it back. There's a short story book called The Haunting Hour and the Nightmare Hour. I want you to do the show, you're the best at it. I want 22 episodes and I need them by 10/10." So, it's 10/10/10, October 10th is when they needed them by. I'm going to tell you, man, you get that call, no pilot, no testing, she knew we knew how to do it. We immediately hired some writers that we loved, and had a small group of people, and interestingly enough we ended up doing 76 episodes, we only did about 10 from books, the other 66-ish... I might be off on my numbers, but not by much. R.L. Stine was like, "go." We would just call and go, "Hey, what about this?" He'd go, "oh yeah, I love that story. Go." So, in that situation, it was different than Goosebumps because most of them were originals.
The main difference when you watch both shows is, we amped it up. Same rules, but we did some pretty scary stuff. The second thing we did, which I wanted to do is, we tried to put as many kid stars in it. So, Bailee Madison, and she started out with Lily D and it's a haunted doll episode. Dylan Minnette, you know, did like three episodes for us, and Debby Ryan, and anyone who was doing... The whole modern family cast, each one of those kids did an episode. So, everyone had an episode, and we would just keep grabbing casts. So, we had great cast, we amped it up, and I mean Lily... Like I said, we didn't do a pilot, but the first episode they wanted to do same thing, a double episode.
I'm with my wife, and I don't know how we ended up going there, but we ended up with American Doll, we were in a mall. I walked into there and I'm going, "wait a minute, these people are sitting with their dolls having dinner. There's something really creepy about this, and I'm watching the family, and I'm watching everyone tend it, you know? And I thought, "OK, that's it. That's going to be the first episode." That was a blast. We got Bailee Madison, she was young, she was a brilliant young actress, you know, kid actress. We did the episode, and it was just a blast to build the replica of her as a doll. So, watch it because you guys will have a lot of fun, but we don't mess around, we get really scary.
Jeff DePaoli: That's awesome. Then 2015, we get the TV movie R.L. Stine's Monsterville Cabinet of Souls, and you said you're working on a current one of that now?
Dan Angel: Yeah, what we did was, Universal called us, and there's a group at Universal called 1440 productions, and they originally with the home video group but of course home video isn't the same, so now they do they supply streamers and different people. When we had done the first one for The Haunting Hour as a movie, it did so well they said, "well, we want to do something else." Billy and I came up with an original idea called Monsterville, and we wanted it to be all monster episodes, you know? So we started with this big one that we did, and we had Dove Cameron and a great cast, again, we didn't have a big budget, these were budgets like $5 million. Boy it was, it was a big you know? We were creatures in small town, and it was a lot of fun. So, it did really well so now we're getting ready to start the next one.
Jeff DePaoli: Awesome.
Dan Angel: Again, it's anthology in nature, so the second Monsterville will be nothing like the last story, it'll just be another one.
Jeff DePaoli: Very cool, well I'm going to open it up to questions in a second, but I notice you bought a bunch of notes, so did we hit everything? Is there anything you want to say?
Dan Angel: I think we had a lot of these. This is amazing. I can tell you, we had really good directors in Toronto, when we were doing the show. The best director was a guy named William Fruet. If you see his name, I mean he ended up doing all the scariest ones, like this guy really knew how to get the scare. Ron Oliver would, sometimes you do scare, but he usually did a lot of the fun ones you know that weren't as scary. But it was interesting to have a stable of three or four directors. Then we had great writers. I mean, I'm working with Scott Peters now, and Scott did The 4400 and he did V, he's a great writer and a great guy. So you stay in touch with these people too you keep working with them.
Jeff DePaoli: Anybody have any questions? Cool sweatshirt by the way. Nice, anybody have any questions before we let Dan go?
Question: Are you still in contact with some of the actors?
Dan Angel: You know it's funny, I thought about that today. The answer is no. Probably the closest would have been John White, and I remember his family calling us, this is again years ago, because he ended up doing American Pie the nude one. We're like John, what are you doing? You know, he's running around naked in American Pie. Like that was probably what, 10 years ago? But yeah, every once in a while, someone will come up or someone will call, but yeah, we've lost. Oh, by the way, we didn't mention this, you guys would know this. But let's talk about Ryan Gosling. I mean some of the people that came out of the show. I remember the director was saying, "you've got to hire this kid, he's amazing for, you know, say cheese and die." They kept telling me about this kid and we kept saying no, we didn't know who he was. Then, finally, we saw him, and it was like, yeah we got to put him in the show, and he was unbelievable. I think that was only his, I think...
Jeff DePaoli: He was in the Mickey Mouse club. I don't know if he did Are You Afraid Of The Dark before or after your Goosebumps episode, but he did that eventually.
Dan Angel: But he it was like... Yeah, you can just watch that episode and you can tell, that's Ryan. I mean he's a special kid. Then it was Hayden Christensen. So, I'm waiting for that moment when I can call Ryan, you know, there's a few things we have going on now. I've waited and waited and now I think we have something. I want to call and see if he'll return my call. "Ryan, will you please do this movie?"
Jeff DePaoli: Very cool, anybody else have a question?
Question: Was there ever an episode that went too far, and you actually had to dial it back?
Dan Angel: That's a really good question. Yeah, I definitely can tell you that Haunted Mask we did take some heat, a lot, from the Scholastic people. They were terrified.
Jeff DePaoli: That the stuff that ended up in or that you had to cut?
Dan Angel: Oh no, no, the stuff that's in.
Jeff DePaoli: Like what?
Dan Angel: It's just the idea where you're watching... I mean to them, the masks when you see those six masks lined up. Again, you've got a shopkeeper and you're talking about this, you know this thing that's happened and these characters that were supposed to be good, and they're evil. I just think they got very nervous, you know? Again, they always get nervous when it hasn't launched yet, because you don't know what the gauge is going to be. Of course, it ended up being great and it was fine.
I'll shift to Haunting Hour for a minute. So, in Haunting Hour, to answer your question, the one episode they wouldn't let us do is I'm not Martin. Sean Giambrone, he's the star, we begged them to let us do that, this is Margaret and everyone, no one would let us do this episode. Even Stine wouldn't let us do the episode, and it was one of his. But it's a kid in a hospital, I got to get this right, and you'll understand why they were nervous. He ends up meeting another kid in the hospital with him, and the kid is basically telling him what's happening to him. But anyway, the kids got to get his leg cut off, and so basically, this kid pulls a con and switches everything, so they take the wrong guy. Now he's going to get his leg cut off. Every time he tells them, "I'm not Martin," they go, "yeah, yeah, everyone says that," and we know you're not. No one believed this kid, so he's being taken to this terrible situation, and no one believes that he's not Martin, you know? Anyway, it's fabulous. We didn't think we'd ever get it done, and we've got it done.
Question: Where is the mask from The Haunted Mask?
Dan Angel: I don't know, that's a very good question. I don't know the answer to that.
Jeff DePaoli: Do you have any props or anything saved?
Dan Angel: I have a few. There's some stuff in storage. Yeah, we did not keep a lot of that stuff. That's a good question, I'm going to have to look into that. Now, by the way, Ron might have it.
Jeff DePaoli: Actually, I was going to say, maybe the creator of the mask, but yeah, it's probably really decayed at this point.
Dan Angel: When we worked on The Haunting Hour, if you go to this effects guy, he's got Lily D the doll, everything is in his workshop. So, when you go to his creature shop, all of our stuff is there. So, you know, a lot of times they won't let you have it, that's part of the deal you know? "Can I get a Lily D?" Like you spent $100,000 to build that you can't order a second one. I'm going to ask though, I want to find out.
Question: Is there a particular, either episode or story, that you wished had gotten done but was cut or just not brought up?
Dan Angel: Not really. I'd say there are a couple that we weren't thrilled... Abominable Snow, there was one that...
Jeff DePaoli: You weren't all that thrilled to do what you're saying?
Dan Angel: Well, no, because you've got to build this snow creature. There are certain things you just can't do on the budget.
Jeff DePaoli: Snowman? Sponge?
Dan Angel: Yeah, exactly. No, I think the good news is we were able to do the ones we wanted to do. We were able to pull it off, and so that didn't happen so I was very happy about that.
Jeff DePaoli: Dan, thank you so much for taking the time to speak tonight.
Dan Angel: Thank you all so much for coming out, appreciate it.
Jeff Depaoli hosts the podcast Dizney Coast to Coast and That Halloween Podcast. He has worked as a Voice Over artist, writer, host, and producer in the entertainment world. He has self-proclaimed as obsessed with entertainment, a Lover of Theme Parks, Immersive Experiences, Theatre, and Halloween & Haunts.
Here are some great episodes to start with.