Recently, we saw a post on LinkedIn from the CEO of a Silicon Valley company. The CEO, also a dad, wrote to us with a question about Ask the StoryBots from his six-year old son, Jonah: “Why is the boss so mean to his staff, and why does his staff put up with it?”
In the post, Jonah’s dad also questioned how Hap’s portrayal sets an example of the workplace for kids. It’s a question we’ve heard before, so our CEO and co-creator of StoryBots (and the voice of Boop!), Gregg Spiridellis, took the opportunity to explain the development of the character and why Hap is the way he is.
Here’s Gregg’s response:
Hi Bharat. First of all, you are doing an amazing job as a dad if Jonah is asking that question. It’s exactly the right question to ask. And I love that Hap helped sparked that conversation between you and your son! This is a completely fair question that deserves a thorough and authentic response.
When we created the character Hap, we made him responsible for answering every question of every kid in the entire world. If you have one curious five-year old in your life, chances are high that you have found yourself overwhelmed at times answering his or her questions. Imagine being responsible for hundreds of millions of kids’ questions — every day!
It was this construct that formed the foundation for the show and forged Hap’s character. He’s overworked. He’s overwhelmed. He is responsible for way too much with too few resources. He has a fixed budget and a tight timeline, and sending teams to the Outer World is expensive and time-consuming. It always seems to take too long and costs too much to get answers!
As a CEO, I am sure you can relate to these stresses. I certainly can. Luckily for your employees and mine, we are far more evolved than Hap. We ignore the monkey-mind voice in our head that is screaming and yelling that if everyone just stopped dilly-dallying and got back to work we could go farther, faster. You and I have learned from experience that being supportive and patient while demanding excellence is always the best path towards achieving goals. Unfortunately, Hap hasn’t gotten there yet. Maybe that will be his feature film journey! Anyway…
You may be wondering why we don’t just change Hap’s character to make him nicer? Why not give Answer Team 341-B a Bevi machine in the cafeteria so they can drink lychee-infused ionized water? Why not give Bing, Bang, Bo, Beep, and Boop a boss who has completed Six Sigma training and built his or her Answer Teams based on their Myers-Briggs scores?
Unfortunately, it’s because it wouldn’t be authentic to the world that we created, or the world that we live in.
If you asked me to explain the success of ‘Ask the StoryBots’ in one word, it would be “authenticity”. Most kids programming features a saccharine, watered down portrait of life. There are people in the world who have very deep character flaws. Kids know that. And smart ones will ask the question that Jonah asked you. My brother/co-creator and I are proud to have produced a show that helped spark that father-son conversation, even if it means exposing humanity’s warts in the process! The bottom line is that, in life, we all encounter people who are not so pleasant to be around. What matters most is how we deal with it. Despite Hap’s perpetual grumpiness, Team 341-B never loses their enthusiasm, passion or positivity. They barrel forward and do the best that they can do in every situation.
Thank you for asking this question and (if you are still here) reading this long response. After writing it, it strikes me that there is a simple TL;DR the next time a grown-up asks this totally valid and completely fair question…
TL;DR – At some point in your life, you may find yourself with a boss who is a @#$%. If that happens, don’t let him or her get in the way of you doing your best work and having fun while doing it!