This week sees the premiere of Hailey’s On It!, the newest Disney animated series. The show follows risk-averse teenager Hailey Banks (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) on a mission to complete her long list of tasks in order that will save the future of the world. Along for the ride is Hailey’s best friend and secret crush Scott Denoga and Beta, an artificially intelligent operating system from the future, voiced respectively by Manny Jacinto and Gary Anthony Williams .

Hailey's On It
HAILEY’S ON IT! – Nick Stanton (Creator/Executive Producer), and Devin Bunje (Creator/Executive Producer). (Disney/Craig Sjodin)

The series was created by writing/producing duo Devin Bunje and Nick Stanton. Friends and creative partners since they first met while attending USC’s undergraduate screen and television writing program, Bunje and Stanton are no strangers to Disney. Previous projects include Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything, Phineas and Ferb, and Zeke and Luther. However, Hailey’s On It! marks their first time creating and executive producing an animated series.

Ahead of the show’s premiere, we had the pleasure of chatting with Bunje and Stanton about developing the series, wrestling, and so much more!

Taimur Dar: I’m a sucker for time travel stories. It dawned on me how many of my favorites were from the ‘80s like The Terminator, Back to the Future, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I have a strong feeling those movies influenced Hailey’s On It!, especially Bill and Ted. Is that indeed the case?

Devin Bunje: A hundred percent! You hit the nail on the head. We love all those movies. When we were developing this, we realized what worked so well was an ordinary character thrushed into these extraordinary circumstances. Bill and Ted and Marty McFly were just normal high school kids. But then they get put into these cool situations. We also liked the idea of comedy coming out of small actions that have huge stakes. In Bill and Ted, it was all about passing that history test but it meant the future of the world would be saved. We wanted to use those elements in a whole new show.    

Nick Stanton: Good catch on the Bill and Ted because that was a big influence of ours! Like Devin said, it’s two kids on this big adventure. And it’s just a really funny movie.

HAILEY’S ON IT! – “The Beginning of the Friend” (Disney)

Dar: I was able to see some episodes in advance. Without a doubt, my favorite has to be the convention episode. It’s funny since I know you worked together on the Turbo Fast cartoon which actually featured a convention episode that you both wrote. Can we assume you’re both comic fans or at least regular convention attendees?

Stanton: [Laughs]. Good pull! We wrote the “Tur-Bros” episode of Turbo Fast, which took place at a convention. Strangely enough, Devin and I have both never been to Comic-Con. We want to go but the stars have just never aligned where we’ve had that week free or a project.  

Bunje: We’re usually working! [Laughs]

Stanton: We leaned on a lot of our other writers who do panels there and are big on the Comic-Con culture. In that particular episode of Hailey’s On It!, we didn’t write but it was written by a really talented staff writer named Lindsey Reckis who is huge into the cons. We think that will be a fan-favorite too because we do some parodies. There’s a pretty clear Avengers scene at the end that will be fun and surprising for the audience.

Dar: Music is an incredibly important aspect of the series. It incorporates a variety of genres like K-pop, pop-rock, and EDM. The show also features original songs composed by Matthew Tishler and Andrew Underberg. Was music always a major part of Hailey’s On It! or something that grew as you developed the show?  

Bunje: A little bit. In the original pilot, we wrote the “Tunnel of Love” song which we thought was pretty funny to have a song that’s narrating exactly what was happening on the ride. During the pilot process, Disney got us a couple of options for different composers to take a swing at that. Matt and Andrew’s version was just amazing and hilarious. We loved it so much. We met with them, and we clicked immediately. Not only are they incredibly talented in a multifaceted way of different genres, but they have the same sense of humor. Knowing we had them allowed the freedom of seeing what else we could do. Adding on to that is the fact that we got Auli’i who is one of the most incredible singers who exists. Having her at our disposable certainly encouraged us to do even more music than we had planned.

Hailey's On It
HAILEY’S ON IT! – “The Beginning of the Friend” (Disney)

Dar: That leads perfectly into my next question. You just mentioned Auli’i Cravalho who is probably best known for the title role in Moana and her superb singing skills. You also have Manny Jacinto as Scott Denoga, Hailey’s best friend and secret love interest. As fans of the The Good Place can attest, Jacinto is a brilliant comedic actor. How did you go about casting the voices?  

Bunje: Our whole cast is phenomenal. Cooper Andrews, from The Walking Dead, and Halt and Catch Fire, plays Hailey’s dad and he’s been great. We got lucky because in our first auditioning process, the two names that immediately went to the top of both mine and Nick’s list were Auli’i and Manny. Like you said, she’s an incredible singer and she’s an incredible actress. It turns out she’s a great comic actor too. I call Manny a unicorn because he’s just so unique in his rhythms and the way he can sell punchlines. He’s just so likeable. They were the perfect fit for those who characters. When we got them in a booth together for the first episode, they just played off each other amazingly and made it even better. We’ve got a bunch of fun guest stars.

Dar: On that subject, I know Mick Foley is guest starring in an episode. Quite a number of people on The Beat team as well as our readers are big wrestling fans. I don’t know how much you can reveal, but can you say if he’s in a wrestling related episode and if he’ll be voicing himself? 

Stanton: It is a wrestling related episode but he’s not playing himself. He’s actually playing a character called Rowdy Russ Stanton, which happens to be my dad’s name as well. Not the “Rowdy” part. [Laughs]. He plays a wrestler who is Beta’s favorite and they get an opportunity to see one of his matches. Mick was so great to have in the booth. I was a huge wrestling fan and a huge Mankind fan. I saw him wrestle in person twenty years ago. He’s got that gruff wrestler thing but he’s also funny. He’s done standup. He was really leaning into the humor of it and adding some inside wrestling stuff that I didn’t even know. It was a great experience for me as a wrestling and comedy fan. I think it’s going to be a fun episode. 

Dar: I’ve noticed a lot of your previous projects have a large sports or action component. I mentioned Turbo Fast earlier but there’s also Zeke and Luther as well as Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything. Is that of your brand and style.

Stanton: Yeah, I guess it is. We’re both big sports fans and big fans of physical comedy. That’s the bread and butter of kids television whether it’s live-action or cartoons. Physical comedy is a staple of all those different shows. Skateboard spills are the common thread.

Bunje: Competition naturally leads to conflict so it’s an easy way to make for fun, comedic situations. Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything was about elite video game playing and in Zeke and Luther they wanted to become the world’s greatest skateboarders.

HAILEY’S ON IT! – “Catching Felines” (Disney)

Dar: Something that’s definitely changed in animation and children’s media since I was a kid is the increase of serialized storytelling. Obviously, the advent of streaming has played a huge role in that. TV comedies and sitcoms as well, like The Office, if they’re not completely serialized have definitely embraced linear narratives. Is there a serialized narrative to Hailey’s On It! or is it more episodic?  

Stanton: There is a serialized narrative to it. That was something that we thought would be really interesting. Like you, we grew up watching cartoons that would reset every episode. The characters didn’t really change but that was how shows were made back then. You also mentioned The Office which I think is a good example. Our two main characters have the kind of Jim and Pam relationship in Season 1 of The Office. Without spoiling anything, that relationship is going to change over the course of the first season. There are a lot of twists coming up and we thought that was interesting. With a character that had trouble getting out of her own shell, her journey is going to be from that to doing great things. That was an interesting question for us. This character is going to grow and evolve. How does that happen? We’re having a lot of fun with it.  

Dar: Finally, what item from Hailey’s list are you excited for viewers to see?

Bunje: One of our favorite ones that we gravitated to early was spending all her old gift cards. Not only does it have super low stakes but it’s also a fun shopping spree. It’s also the perfect example of how the show doesn’t have to be formulaic. The twist of the episode is she has one gift card left for a placed called Butter Burger and it’s out of business except for one location out in Flagstaff. So, they have to travel to Flagstaff and of course Scott invites his new girlfriend and it becomes a “three’s a crowd” road trip episode. The list item becomes secondary because it’s really about how do you navigate the third wheel aspect of Scott and his new girlfriend.  

Stanton: I would say the list item I’m most excited about is an episode where Hailey has to become “Sheriff for a Day” at this corny Old West town. She put that on her list when she was 7 years old. So she shows up to be “Sheriff for a Day” and has to compete against little kids! But she gets into the spirit of it and becomes “Sheriff for a Day.” But then she realizes, in our twist, you actually have to be sheriff if bad guys show up and this motorcycle gang ends up showing up and trying to take over the town. It’s another episode that goes to a crazy place but those are the kinds of stories that we like.

Hailey’s On It! premieres June 8 on Disney Channel and Disney XD, and next day on Disney+.