Just before the premiere of The Ghost and Molly Mcgee, I was fortunate enough to attend a presentation featuring the creators of the show, Bob Roth and Bill Motz, as well as the voice of Molly McGee herself, Ashly Burch. Together they discussed a bit about the origins of the series, as well as what we can expect to see in the future.
The Ghost and Molly McGee is an animated buddy-comedy that follows tween optimist Molly, who lives to make the world a better place, and grumpy ghost Scratch, whose job is to spread misery. When one of Scratch’s curses backfires, he finds himself forever bound to Molly, creating an unlikely friendship that leads to humorous misadventures as they navigate Molly’s new school and town.
Bill and Bob both said that the idea for the series originated 14 years ago at its roots, with the idea of a grumpy ghost being attached to a positive tween remaining the same the entire time. The both said they saw themselves in the characters, the positive and negative, with the two typically alternating spots throughout the development of the series. Then, with the casting of Ashly as Molly and Dana Snyder as Scratch, the characters developed – in their words – “like a child grows,” becoming their own thing. For example, Molly McGee is bi-racial Thai, based on Ashly’s own heritage, and marking the first time the actress played someone of her own heritage, with parts of her own culture and her mom’s culture influencing almost every part of her character. There is even an episode coming in the future that will focus on Molly’s cultural identity and heritage.
Aside from her cultural background, we dove a bit deeper into McGee’s character, learning that although the character might seem eternally optimistic, it’s really just a defense mechanism. She’s been moved all over the country, and might be afraid that world might let her down after all. But 98.5% of the time she is that happy and upbeat person.
It was also revealed that the entire series is musical. Both Ashly and Dana can actually sing, so the creators went all out challenging them, and songwriter Rob Cantor, with musical numbers throughout the series. Ashly even said that she’s “really excited for people to hear the music. The songs are really catchy. We created a musical show kind of accidentally, that wasn’t our intention.” They shared that in a future episode, episode #6, there’s a big musical episode that hits a whole bunch of genres that actually stemmed from their desire to make everyone laugh and kept throwing genres out there and finding out how well it would actually work. One of the creators even added, “That was the one where we knew we were cooking with gas.”
Aside from the music though, the central story is about the friendship between Scratch and Molly. Both have very different possibilities, but at no point will the two actually ever hate each other. The group also promises moments in the series where there is real emotion, and episodes where the friendship comes into play that feel extra special. In fact, the story has proven so strong that the series has been renewed for a second season before the first one even debuted. Ashly even commented that working on the second season, after the world gets deeper and richer as the story progresses, left her crying in the recording booth a few times.
The story has proven so strong that the first season has a slew of guest stars based on the script alone.
Kelsey Grammer, Jane Lynch, Danny Trejo, Natasha Rothwell, Greta Gerwig, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jenifer Lewis, Aparna Nancherla, Pamela Adlon, D’Arcy Carden, Thomas Lennon, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Sean Giambrone, and Patton Oswalt will all make a special guest appearance in the first season of the show. Even the creators were “shocked we got these people” based on the strength of the story without having seen anything about the show. Trejo is also reportedly set to star in his first romance story in the new series.
The additional main series voice cast includes Jordan Klepper as the voice of Pete, Molly’s anxiously idealistic father; Sumalee Montano as the voice of Sharon and Grandma Nin, Molly’s creatively pragmatic mother and adoring grandmother, respectively; and Michaela Dietz as the voice of Darryl, Molly’s mischievously entrepreneurial brother.
Well, we know about Molly, we know about the cast, and we know about the series. But what about Scratch? Will we learn about him? What’s his story? Bob and Bill both agree, “that’s the journey,” and all will be revealed…”someday.”
But for now, they decided to share some of their favorite episodes. One in particular is an upcoming episode titled “Game Night,” where the episode consists of nothing but the McGee family and Scratch, and viewers will learn secrets about the family that are really fun. Ashly points to an upcoming episode based around Hanukkah that is “(sigh)…really incredible.” That aforementioned musical episode came up again, pointing out the numerous different styles in that single episode, with Bob and Bill saying “in the same episode we have country music and K pop, a capella, barbershop quartet, orchestral Broadway numbers… it’s almost Beastie Boys…that might be our favorite of the series so far.”
Like other series currently on Disney Channel, like Amphibia and The Owl House, the series is set to be inclusive and diverse, with different cultures represented, LGBTQ representation, diverse age groups represented in story lines, and even diversity among different economic groups, with financial struggles playing a part in the show, something that isn’t a common occurrence for a cartoon.
As the gang wrapped up, they shared that the entire creative group as a whole is super collaborative, making the show a distinct offering on the network, with a style that echoes both 1950’s Disney Animation and EPA, with flat illustrative styles that are a bit skewed with everything off kilter just a bit. One thing they added that viewers should be on the lookout for, a simple storyboard gag that seems to appear throughout there series, where birds are constantly killed in some way and appear immediately as a ghost.
You can catch episodes of the new series The Ghost and Molly McGee now on the Disney Channel and the DisneyNOW app.
Originally from California where he studied a dying artform (hand-drawn animation), Tony has spent most of his adult life in the theme parks of Orlando. When he’s not writing for LP, he’s usually watching and studying something animated or arguing about “the good ole’ days” at the parks.