The "sleepy" city of Perth is bouncing on to the world stage with a starring role in Cartoon Network's first Australia-made animated movie, Exchange Student Zero, and native son Rove McManus voices five of the characters.
The 70-minute television special follows the adventures of John and Max, two friends at South Perth High who are so obsessed with a fantasy card game called Battle Day Zero that they inadvertently bring one of the characters, Hiro, to life.
That would be bad enough but Hiro is an anime character and the only way the friends can pass his peculiarities off at school is to say he is an exchange student.
Producer Bruce Kane said that when his studio, Bogan Entertainment in Melbourne, was commissioned to make the telemovie they assumed it would have to be set in America.
"But then they said it might be really fun to set it in Australia and one of the executives at the time said, 'Well, Perth has sun and beaches, those things that overseas people associated with Australia'. The idea works totally fine and I do think people overseas will consider it to be quite exotic - which it is."
So Kane's distant memories of what Perth looks like form the background of the animation.
This production was a first for both Kane and McManus, who showed an early interest in the project.
Kane has extensive experience as an executive producer of live shows, including Adam Hills in Gordon St Tonight, Spicks and Specks and Summer Heights High, but it is his first animated production. Cartoon Network is so pleased with the result that it has now commissioned a 13-part Exchange Student Zero series.
Kane said McManus was extremely good as he recorded his five roles - John, Max and Hiro, plus Coach and Lionel.
"He plays the three main characters and they are often talking together," he said. "He came along in the very early days, read for the pilot and was hugely supportive of the whole thing, which was great."
McManus, who worked via Skype from a studio in Los Angeles, said: "Being part of an animation project like this is pure joy for me. Not only because I am such a fan of the art form but also there is no greater pleasure than jumping up and down like an idiot and making silly voices for a day."
Mark Hamill (Star Wars) also is in the voice cast, along with Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad) and Candi Milo (Fanboy and Chum Chum), plus Australian actors Marg Downey, Peter Rowsthorn and Kate McLennan (Dogstar). Musical comedy group Tripod did the music and band member Scott Edgar plays the Principal.
Before the premiere of Exchange Student Zero, children can play an online game version of Battle Day Zero, the game on which the show is based, by going to cartoonnetwork.com.au.Exchange Student Zero airs at Sunday at 3pm on Cartoon Network.
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