Dane Boedigheimer is the kind of against-all-odds success story that Hollywood makes shows about, except in this case, he’s the one making the show.
The Moorhead State graduate has parlayed a series of viral YouTube videos about a trash-talking anthropomorphic orange into an entertainment mini-empire that includes a hit cable TV show, video game and a slew of merchandise.
Here's a 130-million-viewed taste:
Originally rejected by every L.A. production house he spoke with, “The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange” — called simply “Annoying Orange” by most viewers — has begun production on its second season. It debuted on the Cartoon Network in June and immediately made a name for itself as the No. 1 show among boys ages 2 to 11, the network’s biggest audience.
“Kids get it,” Boedigheimer said. “It’s just a silly video that’s supposed to be energetic and fun.”
Grown-ups have been much less receptive, he admitted. The child-advocate organization Common Sense Media said the series features “the most annoying character ever,” a criticism Boedigheimer found amusing.
“With the name ‘Annoying Orange,’ were they expecting anything else?” he wondered.
If they knew Boedigheimer, they certainly wouldn’t expect anything else. He’s the first to admit that he has an atypical sense of humor — at least for someone who’s 34. For an 8-year-old, not so much.
“I’ve always enjoyed making videos filled with stupid noises and weak puns,” he said.
He posted the first “Annoying Orange” video on YouTube in 2009. The 3½-minute clip featured an orange with a humanoid mouth and eyes, plus an irritatingly squeaky voice (provided by Boedigheimer), that was harassing an apple.
Within three weeks, it had logged more than a million views. Six months later, the number had climbed to 50 million. Boedigheimer and his writing partner, Spencer Grove, kept cranking out episodes that have amassed a total of 1.4 billion views, making it one of the top nonmusical web series of all time.
Boedigheimer credits part of the success to their timing.
“We came out at just the right time,” he said. “The Internet has gotten so crowded [with videos] that we’d never get that kind of attention now.”
His big break: ‘Pimp My Ride’
Boedigheimer has been making videos since he was in grade school, when his father brought a camcorder to the family home near Fargo. “I started making silly little videos using action figures,” he recalled.
After graduating from college with a degree in film studies, he moved to Minneapolis in hopes of breaking into the local film and video business. He spent a year working at a one-hour photo booth while snagging only one film shoot.
A former college classmate tipped him off about an L.A. job opening as a production assistant on MTV’s “Pimp My Ride.” The pay was minuscule but the timing was perfect because his girlfriend (now wife) had just been accepted into graduate school there.
“It was basically a lot of grunt work, but I learned a lot about the business,” Boedigheimer said. “Then I’d go home at night and work on my own stuff.”
His favorite projects involved smart-alecky talking foods.
“I like having inanimate objects interacting with the world,” he explained.
Voice of the Orange
With “Annoying Orange” boasting a ready-made audience of eye-popping proportions, the project seemed ripe for expansion into TV. But when Boedigheimer shopped the concept to production studios, none were interested. So he made his own half-hour pilot episode.
In retrospect, he doesn’t think it was the material that was the problem.
“Our biggest challenge was convincing people that we could do it,” he said. “We didn’t think it was going to be that difficult to make a 30-minute version, but all we had were these 2- and 3-minute videos. [Studio executives] thought it would be too hard to make longer ones.”
Now he oversees a crew of 30 artists. While he still does the Orange’s voice, he has struggled at times with the notion of this being a group project.
“It was hard to let go and let other people take over,” he admitted. “I still want it to be my way. But at the same time, I think it’s gotten a lot better.”
Sounds like he’s maturing a bit — just don’t expect Annoying Orange to grow up anytime soon.