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Spoilers below for the Archer: Danger Island season premiere, so be warned before continuing on. No worries about quicksand or poison darts, though.
With each year that passes, one of the most glorious entertainment constants is Archer's return to primetime, with recent years flipping up genres and narrative structures in huge ways. Season 9, subtitled Danger Island for all the obvious reasons, winningly strays even farther from the show's James Bond roots, maintaining largely just the characters' long-established personality traits. Perhaps the most baffling alteration is Archer's resident mad scientist Kreiger substituted with a wordplay-loving macaw named Crackers. I reached out to executive producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis about the most fun new Danger Island element for them, and Crackers won the gold. In their words:
Crackers the scarlet macaw was the most fun in all respects. Our artists and animators needed to figure out how Crackers would look and move. How to make him expressive without being too cartoony, because he needed to fit in Archer's world. One of the scripts mentions that Crackers needs to raise his 'eyebrows' so we had to make sure our drawings could do that. On top of it all, the name Crackers has a wonderful origin that is told by Lucky Yates. Crackers is the name of his actual parakeet when he was three years old, but that's not the best part! The best part is he received Crackers the parakeet as a present for pooping on the potty!
The first time Crackers is heard in the Archer: Danger Island premiere, he's cackling rather un-birdlike about 1930s Sterling Archer having forgotten to put his eyepatch back on post-coitus. Soon after, he's cracking sarcastic along with everyone else, with only a ramblingly half-assed explanation to be found, and only after Charlotte freaked the hell out abou tit. Which means it was absolutely Archer-perfect, and feels like a strangely natural evolution for Kreiger. Perhaps because of both of them are redheads, or perhaps because actor Lucky Yates seems like the kind of guy who might know how to be reincarnated as a macaw. Or as a parakeet meant to be a prize for taking a poop. No judgment here.
In any case, I'm just glad to know Crackers was as fun to conceive and write for as he is to watch. I do love the fact that such efforts were made to keep him as realistic as possible. At least as far as some physical aspects go, if not the mental ones and the animal's specific vocal range. Seeing Crackers dancing to that record looked much like how a bird moves, if a bird could be imbued with Kreiger's creep-schmuck introversion.
Having watched the first handful of episodes of Archer: Danger Island, I can say that the show really does go the extra mile with all the familiar components of old school adventure serials. Which means it necessarily shares very little with the post-2010 lifestyles all these characters started the show with. So when I asked Matt Thompson and Casey Willis if there were any new elements that had to be left on the cutting room floor for one reason or another, here's how they responded.
Throughout the season, you're going to see Crackers wearing a lot of hats, and we don't mean that figuratively. There are several scenes in which Crackers will be wearing a little miniature hat and it is funny and cute. There were plenty of scenes where we debated if Crackers should be in a costume, but at the end of the day we decided to use the hats sparingly. This season, be on the lookout for Crackers' costumes!
For the record, I think my favorite moment in the episode was Archer and Crackers' exchange before the latter was thrown from the plane, specifically for that great alternate take on the "Oh, you're talking to me?" line. I love how Archer can spin a specific line twice in short order like that, because then it just makes me want them to keep on doing it, and for whatever reason, I appreciate a show that makes catchphrase legitimately hilarious, while making it look so seemingly effortless. None of that is what she said, sarcastically or not.
Now head to the next page to check out which Danger Island addition is a fun (and logical) homage to Archer characters of yesteryear.
Because it wouldn't be a season of Archer without lots of callbacks and gags that longtime fans can appreciate, while still being amusing enough for late-comer viewers. Understandably, I wondered if there were any specific bits from the premiere that executive producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis loved getting to throw in there.
One reference that fans may recognize is the name of Charlotte's husband, Whitney Stratton IV. This is a combination of two names from a Season 7 episode called 'Deadly Prep.' In that episode, Archer reconnects with two bullies from his past, Richard "Ivy" Stratton, IV and Trent Whitney. In the premiere episode, Charlotte's husband represents those bullies but also the parts of society that Danger Island Archer doesn't give a shit about. As a bonus, Charlotte's husband is voiced by Jon Daly who voiced the original Richard "Ivy" Stratton, IV.
A reverse of the law firm Stratton-Whitney, Whitney Stratton, IV's name isn't just a random callback, of course, but (assumedly) a piece of present-day Archer's subconscious. Because of the events at the end of Season 7, Archer is technically still in a coma (even though it seems to be something of an Inception thing, after last year's Dreamland), and it would make sense that he would be banging the newlywed wife of a man named for the two guys who swirlied him so hard, he aspirated water in his lungs...and presumably urine. Also, because they had also just reentered his life and died relatively after, which was not long before that coma business.
And hot damn, did Jon Daly deliver that "Porridge" line with awards-consideration prestige, or what? Good show, good show.