Father Of The Pride. DreamWorks’ Failed Animated Adult Sitcom.

Published: February 10, 2024

For decades one of the most popular television genres is the family sitcom, with their ability to mix reliability with comedy, almost like laughing at yourself. Animation took this a step further with the ability to have more outlandish scenarios. Shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Bob’s Burgers are all great examples of this. But do you recall in 2004 when animation newcomer DreamWorks tried throwing their hat in the ring? Let’s head back 20 years into the past and revisit DreamWorks’ Father of the Pride.

Father of the Pride is a 3D animated adult sitcom that focuses on Larry the White Lion and his family in a private animal compound owned by magicians Siegfried & Roy. DreamWorks co-founder Jeffery Katzenberg spearheaded the series after watching one of Siegfried & Roy’s shows in Vegas and wondering about the lives of the animals.

The show began production in 2002 and was to be one of the most expansive animated shows of the time with each episode costing around $2 Million to produce. Siegfried and Roy were brought on as consultants to give feedback. The show would find a home on NBC and was heavily advertised during their coverage of the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Unfortunately, the production was nearly scrapped after the infamous tiger attack in late 2003 where Roy Horn was nearly killed by one of their tigers and became permanently handicapped. However, despite the incident, both Siegfried and Roy were still okay with the show airing. 

Larry (Voiced by: John Goodman) is a white lion and the star of the Siegfried & Roy magic show at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas. His family consists of his supportive wife Kate (Voiced by: Cheryl Hines), his grouchy father-in-law and former star Sarmoti (Voiced by: Carl Reiner), his rebellious teenage daughter Sierra (Voiced by: Danielle Harris) and his awkward son, who is obsessed with Lord of the Rings, Hunter (Voiced by: Daryl Sabara).

Supporting characters include Larry’s best friend, Snack the Gopher (Voiced by: Orlando Jones); Blake the Tiger, Larry’s neighbor and main rival (Voiced by: John O’Hurley); Blake’s wife, Victoria (Voiced by: Wendie Malick); Chuntly the Asian elephant (Voiced by: Brian George); and the world famous magicians and the keepers of the animals Siegfried Fischbancher (Voiced by: Julian Holloway) and Roy Horn (Voiced by: David Herman).

The standard plot of each episode would follow Larry and his family and/or friends in the “A Plot,” while the duo of Siegfried & Roy would typically take up the “B Plot.” For example, in the episode “Sarmoti Moves In,” Larry and Kate have to put up with Sarmoti moving in with them after he loses his job. Meanwhile, Siegfried & Roy decide to try and help others, and Siegfried gets stuck in a game of Black Jack where he refuses to quit until he wins. 

The show would feature multiple guest stars like Danny DeVito and R. Lee Ermy voicing animal characters while people such as Kelsey Grammer and Matt Lauer would play themselves. The most well-known episode of the series, titled “Donkey,” sees Donkey from Shrek appear at the animal compound. In this universe, Donkey is an animal actor who played Donkey in Shrek, implying that Shrek may have been a live-action film in this universe. Eddie Murphy reprises his role in this episode. 

When the series first premiered on August 31st, 2004, the show dragged in over 12 Million viewers which made it the most watched series of the week. But as weeks went on, the numbers slowly began to decline. Some attribute the mixed quality of the show to the controversy surrounding the tiger attack. One factor that is believed to have played a hand was the coverage of the 2004 U.S. presidential election.

The series was not renewed for a second season, with two of the 14 episodes not airing in the U.S. but later airing in the U.K. In 2005, the complete series was released on DVD with all 14 episodes and a 15th “unfinished” episode, which had all of its voice work completed but was only in the animatic phase included as a bonus. 

Another controversy came from the Parents Television Council or PTC when they filed a complaint against the series for using “From the creators of Shrek” in their advertising, which they believed would draw in younger audiences thinking that the cartoon with anthropomorphic animals was for kids. It is understandable because the show includes references to sex, drugs, alcohol, tobacco products, and other inappropriate subjects. Despite 11,000 signatures in 2006, the FCC ruled that the show was not indecent.

One year after the show ran, DreamWorks released the first Madagascar film on May 27th, 2005. The film also saw domesticated exotic animals going on wild adventures and would spawn multiple sequels and spin-offs. In a way, you could say that Father of the Pride walked so that Madagascar could run. By better connecting with its target audience, it exceeded its predecessor.

Despite being forgotten, it is a shame that the series never lasted more than one season, as it had potential. Most long-running shows have a rough first season, but after working out the kinks, the later seasons are vastly superior in quality. Just the cost to make the show was more than NBC was willing to commit.

If you are at all curious, it is definitely worth watching this forgotten chapter of DreamWorks’ history. Some of the episodes do have some good laughs and are worth the watch. It is available on DVD for relatively cheap and can be streamed on Peacock.

Perhaps if there is ever enough demand, DreamWorks might consider bringing it back in some form. Maybe with shows like Full House and iCarly getting reboots, perhaps it’s time to bring this lion out of its den for another show.

Do you remember Father of the Pride? Did you watch it when it was originally airing? Do you have a favorite episode? Should Dreamworks consider some revival? Let us know.

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