It’s always interesting to explore the earlier work of a finished product. Disney’s Recess is an animated series that aired from 1997 to 2001 on ABC, UPN and Toon Disney. The series surrounded the adventurous lives of six fourth graders (fifth graders in Taking the Fifth Grade) and their anticipation for recess. But T.J., Spinelli, Vince, Gretchen, Mikey & Gus did not have just any ordinary recess period. Instead of the traditional free-for-all that most elementary school kids spend at recess, the kids at Third Street elementary were subjected to a more organized, society-like structure that came with rules, values & a sixth grader named Bob who was made to be the king that controlled the playground. Recess was a show we all loved from the first episode to the last, but like most shows, creators seem to stash away it’s original pitches.
We all remember the pilot that was actually aired in 1997 titled “The Break In” where the gang is destined to break T.J. out of his punishment of no recess with the help of some playground friends – but did you know there was a 1996 version of that very Recess pilot that has never never made it to TV and is deemed to be lost? There is no footage of the original pitch pilot anywhere, but a few scraps of the episode have made it to the internet. On August 4, 2011, YouTube user ‘ReptarOnIce’ uploaded a classic ABC Saturday Mornings sneak peek promo for 101 Dalmations & Recess that aired in March 1997. The sneak peek contained a preview of clips from the original pitched pilot, and there is some early character designs that we just have to take note of.
Why I love exploring the pilot episodes of series as well as lost media you ask? For starters you get to see how animators originally wanted the characters to look like. We all remember Gretchen for having auburn hair & a blue dress. But in this early design she has black hair & a polka dot dress. T.J. has dark red hair, different outfit & overall just a different facial structure and skin color than the T.J. Detweiler that we all knew and loved. The most different character designs were Vince and Spinelli’s when it came to their entire looks, which caught me completely off guard at first. Of course there is no original Gus as far as I know but one can only imagine what he would’ve looked like. Out of all of the main characters, Mikey didn’t look that much different from his final form. It’s so crazy to think that these original designs are what the animators first envisioned the characters to look like compared what they actually evolved to look like.
As for the full original pitched pilot episode, it still remains lost and we have no knowledge or whereabouts of it at this time. The 20th Anniversary of the premiere of Disney’s Recess is coming up at the end of this month, will Disney & the Recess creators release this original pitch as a gift for the fans? We will keep you updated!