My name is Mark Valenti but I write for the show under the names of my sons, Noah and Zachary. I've been with the show since '04. We shoot on a production stage in Iceland, next to a lava field.

Comments: 1485 • Responses: 75  • Date: 

Frajer1284 karma

Did you ever see that Lil Jon video?

jackdawkins1114 karma

I think everybody on the crew has seen it. Hilarious. There are a lot of fans out there who remix the songs. I've written a lot of the lyrics and it's beyond bizarre to see what they become from time to time.

cschlau397 karma

Glad to see you guys have a great sense of humor :D

jackdawkins600 karma

Before I broke into showbiz I wondered if people ever read the letters they received, or were aware of things people said about them or created in their name. Now I know - they see it all.

cschlau179 karma

Haha, that's great. While I have you here, what do you think are some of the strangest children's television shows out there? Lazytown seems VERY tame compared to some of the weird out there...

jackdawkins258 karma

To me the weirdest ever was the Soupy Sales show, you can google it. It was on a long long time ago and was so bizarre. Clearly, he was entertaining himself and the crew as much as the kids.

freddy4940186 karma

What about Alestorm's cover of You Are A Pirate?

jackdawkins264 karma

I have, it's a great grog-drinking version.

ErwinMTS157 karma

I only know the show because of this video. Should I watch more television?

jackdawkins364 karma

Yes and no. Leave the TV on but engage in more fruitful pursuits.

karnim398 karma

So in short, 'We'd appreciate the ad revenue, but you don't really need to watch'.

I approve of this message.

jackdawkins262 karma

Personally I love TV but I admit that it has dominated my time in some ways, probably should've been out there engaging in social activities or developing a skill. On the other hand it gave me a career so I can't rip it completely.

whiskeysalts846 karma

is it really a piece of cake to bake a pretty cake?

jackdawkins794 karma

If the way is hazy ~

Thanks a lot for putting that song back in my head...

stabsthedrama458 karma

I have no idea what LazyTown is, and frankly don't really care.

But thank you for being one of very few people to do a good AMA in a long time. You actually answer things. That alone helps your image and what you are promoting tremendously. It's crazy what this website can do (even just temporarily) to someone's image when they come on here and do an AMA, just to plug their crap and never answer a single thing, or answer with one word answers every time.

Also, it's just a really nice thing to do for your fans. Respect =)

jackdawkins327 karma

Thanks - I always enjoy reading them and my sons kept after me to do one, so here we are.

TimeZarg178 karma

I agree, I hate it when people just come here to advertise their crap, and treat the AMA like it's just free publicity for said crap. Makes for boring AMAs.

jackdawkins704 karma

I understand Woody Harrelson will be doing a guest role on LazyTown soon.


Clearly_a_fake_name398 karma

How do you feel that Stefanie has become somewhat of an Internet Icon? How old is the actor? Because some people on the Internet seem to make "risky/questionable" jokes.

Edit: I havn't seen LazyTown in years, and even then I was a late Teenager. It bothers me that I knew her name was Stefanie without goggling it.

jackdawkins596 karma

That was weird for all of us, but most particularly for Julianna and her family. It's only natural for viewers to extrapolate their own take on the shows they watch, but the level of pedobear rose so quickly, it took everybody by surprise. She was just a kid at the time, she took her career seriously, worked really hard. That whole risky/questionable part was just something to ignore.

Clearly_a_fake_name191 karma

Thanks for your response.

I always wondered what it was like for people on the other end of that kind of treatment. Obviously certain websites and areas of the Internet find it pretty funny to add that kind of material to pictures, but it's difficult to think that Julianna would get the joke.

Also, why is it "the most expensive" and have you seem the Lil John Music video of Lazy town?

Dammit... I got to stop asking questions about this show.

jackdawkins235 karma

That kind of bizarro stuff started up again when we recast the part of Stephanie with our new actress this year. The fan base is pretty respectful but there are always a few.

bubonis123 karma

That's something I've wondered....... Why recast Stephanie? That is to say, why did you cast another actress and give her Stephanie's identity versus giving her an altogether different identity?

jackdawkins204 karma

I actually pushed to have a new character come on board but after seeing Chloe play Stephanie I think this is the right way to go.

Azzwagon75 karma

Wow, so you weren't fully satisfied with Julianna's Stephanie? I figured it had to do with her and college or something.

jackdawkins184 karma

No, this was after the initial shows were completed. I thought she was wonderful as Stephanie but she grew out of the role. And yes she's now in school I believe.

AkeleiLP336 karma

My little brother used to watch this show, and I enjoyed the songs myself. Are you aware that the band Alestorm has covered 'You Are A Pirate'?

jackdawkins506 karma

"You Are A Pirate" has become a meme phenomenon that's for sure. The music is by Mani Svavarsson, the one-man orchestra who writes all music and the now-recognizable underscore for the show. The lyrics for Pirate were mostly written by Ken Pontac, a guy we brought in for a short time to help with a backlog. You might know Ken's work from "Happy Tree Friends."

[deleted]426 karma


jackdawkins273 karma

Well not really. You want people who are fast on their feet, can take a beating and keep on bleating. We only used Ken for the one episode, most of the first 35 were written by myself and Mark Zaslove, who also has a long pedigree in kids' tv. Over the years we've also done LazyTown Extra, they do live shows, and there may be a feature film in the works.

Throwinthisoneaway292 karma

On the 10 scale, how high are you when writing lazytown?

jackdawkins433 karma

Hah. It would probably help on some level. Maybe many levels.

KarmaKanadian164 karma

So.... 0?

jackdawkins404 karma

Yes, although working with Magnus can sometimes be akin to a rip-snorting hit.

caswunn284 karma

just came here to ask for a job.

jackdawkins338 karma

When can you start?

caswunn440 karma

as early as today. However I require money and not gum as payment.

jackdawkins805 karma

Ah well, now you're making demands.

caswunn497 karma

sir, these are not demands as they are requirements. here is a taste of some of my work. a moose comes to lazy town on a caboose. There is a song called a moose on a caboose. the caboose falls away from the train during the song and it prompts them to say "the moose on the caboose is loose" and we can go from there upon my arrival. This scenario can get as wacky as need be.

jackdawkins497 karma

But did he drink juice? You see, we need to answer the key questions before we can continue.

menomenaa43 karma

I'm gonna bogart this impromptu fake internet interview and say yes, he did. He did drink the juice.

jackdawkins143 karma

Fine. They he's hired. No...wait -- he's fired.

KarmaKanadian221 karma

Is there a specific reason for filming in Iceland?

jackdawkins443 karma

The show's creator, Magnus Scheving, is Icelandic. He was a fitness guru, he gave lectures and traveled a lot, saw an opening for the kid market. LazyTown was originally a live show that repeatedly sold out, so it was obviously something that resonated. He had chances to film in the standard places but he wanted to grow the industry in Iceland. Built a studio from the ground up.

Argueswithchildren198 karma

Confession: Lazy Town and Looney Tunes are the only two shows I enjoy watching with my children. Strong work! Great characters, plots, and the show makes my girls get up and dance! Ok, ok! I dance when Stephanie dances, too. Added that, since this is a confession.

jackdawkins157 karma

Good - keep doing that, the songs are eminently danceable ~

SamwiseTheBrave184 karma

I don't really have a question, but just wanted you to know that my daughter (19 months) will stop everything she's doing, even from the other room, and watch Lazytown. She sings and dances and has the brightest smile for 30 minutes straight. Thank you and the rest of the crew for an awesome show!

jackdawkins108 karma

Thank you for your kind words.

basherrr176 karma

I saw this picture of Robbie Rotten a year or two ago. It looks extremely depressing. Is there a story behind the picture of just a candid shot from behind the scenes?

jackdawkins186 karma

That's just Stefan eating lunch in the cantina. He must be early or late, there are usually many more people there at lunch time. I see some familiar faces though.

herbistheword154 karma

It has literally been my life-long dream to write for a children's television show- any tips for someone wanting to break into the business? I'm about to go into my senior year of college and would love to get a head start in pursuing my dream!

jackdawkins701 karma

On a personal level, I can offer you some feedback if you care to send me something you've written. Why don't you tackle an existing show, write your version of it, any show you like. I can at least let you know how close you are to industry standard.

Otherwise, you have to just park your butt and start typing. It's something that must become a daily routine. Think of it like this: every working writer knows how to do X, so X is the minimum you must know how to do. On top of that, you should develop a personal style that people will recognize and learn to ask for. Maybe you're great with dialogue, so become that person. Or you're really good with sweet and tender moments, the more emotional stuff. Or you know how to construct phenomenal action sequences.

All the better if you can teach yourself all of this stuff. Just remember that with kids shows, it's important to keep in mind the underlying "mission" of the show. Not that we always hammer the health stuff on LazyTown, but if we didn't at least include it as an important theme, we wouldn't be true to our brand.

That reminds me, as crass as it may sound, you must think of your work as a brand. If a producer has one slot for a writing staff member, when he or she thinks of your name, what will they recall about your writing? Are you the writer who comes up with clever jokes? Great with word play?

Also, immerse yourself in what's out there right now. With so much online stuff available there's no excuse to not know what Disney is up to, or what Nick Jr is focusing on.

And explore film markets like MIPCOM (there's one happening in early October in Cannes). Get Google news alerts about your favorite company/network/tv show.

All of this will help to keep your writing sharp and your database current. And I was serious about reading your work - whenever you feel ready to have someone take a look you can forward it to me.

bcurr2328177 karma

Just want to say this is the best answer I've ever seen on an AMA. Thank you! (BTW, my kids loved the show when they were younger - we still listen to the soundtrack on occasion!)

jackdawkins75 karma

Thanks - and there are 13 new songs coming this season, hope the fans like them too. It was really cool to get back into the studio with Mani and write some new lyrics for his music. Definitely a bonus to the job.

herbistheword114 karma

Wow this is a really incredible response. I really appreciate all the awesome information you've armed me with, and I'm going to get down to business and start writing my 'version' of an existing show (I had never thought to do that before!)

Thank you, thank you, thank you! And expect to be hearing from me soon!!

jackdawkins142 karma


And when you win your first few Emmys or Baftas, pass it on~

xelachair42 karma

i also want to say this is one of the most productive AMA's ive seen ... you seem very honest, straight forward, good sense of humor yet professional.

jackdawkins40 karma

Thanks for that -- it's interesting to share the inside baseball stuff.

Swiss_Cheese9797141 karma

Is it really a piece of cake to bake a pretty cake? 'Cuz I tried and that shit turned out crazy.

jackdawkins195 karma

Did you make a messy recipe? That might be where you went wrong.

Swiss_Cheese9797115 karma

Well I didn't do the cooking by the book. Could that be it?

jackdawkins150 karma

We won't know for a while. Try piling on the candy in the interim.

badlucklincoln138 karma

Is Robbie Rotten really played by Mel Gibson or are they just estranged brothers?

jackdawkins513 karma

Robbie has never called anyone sugartits in his life.

badlucklincoln81 karma

Haha, good answer. Btw I love your show, Robbie Rotten is what makes it awesome in my opinion.

jackdawkins163 karma

He's the most fun to write for, it's hard to beat feeding dialogue to a melodramatic villain.

Dizmn92 karma

He's actually the illegitimate love child of Mel Gibson and Quentin Tarantino

jackdawkins214 karma

Don't forget the Bruce Campbell chin.

Kyle-Overstreet124 karma

What did you do before you wrote for LazyTown?

jackdawkins417 karma

Rugrats, Back to the Future, huge projects for Disney. The life of a freelancer.

TimeZarg93 karma

Wait, you worked on Back to the Future? Which ones?!

jackdawkins144 karma

It was about the 1904 World's Fair...don't know the name!

Talia-AlGhul15 karma

Rugrats. Sir, I love you. Now, have you seen All Grown Up?

jackdawkins32 karma

I was around when that was being planned. Meh.

GroinSniper119 karma

After filming wrapped up, would Magnus whip out a Mars bar and order a pizza?

jackdawkins187 karma

Let's just say that, like everyone, he experiences a wide range of culinary delights.

jdenk113 karma

So... how's life?

jackdawkins186 karma


cralph199291 karma

have you ever or thought about ever including hidden subliminal messages in your writings?

jackdawkins315 karma

Honestly, no. is fascinating to see meanings assigned to the dialogue that completely escaped me. Example: I had Robbie drinking out of an enormous coffee cup with a map of Texas on it. No particular reason, it just sounded funny within the context of the show. He also disguised himself as a bush in the episode, so naturally some people took that as a diss against George W. during a presidential campaign year.

Lam00791 karma

Just came here to say my kids love the show. Keep up the good work.

jackdawkins69 karma


JoeGideon88 karma

My 3 and a half year old son always wonders, if no one's lazy in Lazy Town, how come it's called Lazy Town?

jackdawkins169 karma

That was my first question too. The place used to be lazy until Sportacus showed up, and Robbie Rotten is always trying to get rid of him and make LazyTown lazy again!

AsphodelAvis85 karma


jackdawkins210 karma

Wow, that's so great to hear. Send me a PM and I'll get some personalized stuff for her.

MikelFikel9175 karma

THe show both confuses and scares the hell out of me...Is its point to make children Healthy? I'm not critising your work but ,well the villians face is just creepy with the prosthetic hah. Also how much does it add to your production cost to get everyone to iceland. WOuldnt it be cheaper to film in the UK for instance?

jackdawkins112 karma

We hear that all the time about Robbie. I feel both ways about it - my sons were never bothered by him when they were little but I've heard many stories, mostly from the live shows, that Robbie was a little too much for the younger ones. It's a crap shoot, you need a villain and Stefan doesn't try to play him "scary" per se, rather comically evil.

As to cost, it's true that things are a bit expensive in Iceland but industry standards prevail in terms of salary. They do need to house foreigners and that can become prohibitive. But as the years have gone by, there are more and more Icelanders on the crew. Much of the cost goes into the way it's shot - we have puppets, green screen, computer animation, etc. I'm not sure what the costs are now but at one time we were doing a million bucks an episode.

elcheecho24 karma

reminds me of snidely whiplash

also a fan, though i haven't watched in many years.

any new exciting developments?

jackdawkins42 karma

Tons new gadgets, a lot more action. Stephanie is way more heroic, I hope the little girls in the audience like that.

I agree with the Snidely Whiplash comment, it's impossible to not hear that voice on occasion when writing. Nya ha ha...

djscrub58 karma

What is your opinion of this video? I remember being absolutely baffled when it came out (back when LazyTown memes were more popular) that someone would actually take the time to make this.

jackdawkins54 karma

I remember when that came out and I agree, it was amazing to me that someone would take the time. Now there's been YouTube poop and all other types of repurposing if that's a word. There are some serious fans of the music out there. All credit to Mani, whose music is so infectious. We actually had a song climb to the number 4 position on the UK charts.

[deleted]54 karma

I'm just going to come right out and say when my little cousins (4 & 5) want to watch tv, LazyTown is one of my favourites. Why is it more expensive than other shows?

jackdawkins107 karma

Explained earlier but essentially it's the tech. Those shows will look as good as anything looks for the next twenty years.

AngryCyc52 karma

What's your favorite kind of salad dressing?

jackdawkins134 karma

Marzetti's Asiago Peppercorn.

Gr0v3rCl3v3l4nD52 karma

Wanted to compliment on how thoroughly enjoyable this AMA was to read.

What do you find is your biggest struggle in working on the show?

jackdawkins115 karma

Thanks - this AMA has given me the chance to do what writers do best - procrastinate whilst on Reddit ~

Magasaraus46 karma

I love Lazy Town and all the songs! I can't help it! And Magnus Scheving is totally hot! How is he in real life?? I had no idea the show was still going on! I nannied a few years ago and showed the kids the "Spooky" episode and the little one was so scared of Robbie in the dinosaur suit he cried for 20 minutes.

jackdawkins56 karma

Sorry about that...don't want to make the kids cry. We probably wouldn't do something like that today.

Magnus is a normal guy, he's got kids, loves cars. He's also pretty charismatic. Like every boss, he pushes things forward when he has to. He lives a fast life, always on the go.

Bart_the_Cat42 karma

Why did you make Lazytown?

jackdawkins123 karma

Magnus Scheving, the guy who plays Sportacus, created the show as a way to encourage kids to be healthy. The fact that the show has become a cult hit among other demographics is a strange yet welcome bonus. :)

marcus_ivo41 karma

What's it like working with Magnus Scheving?

How has he responded to the widespread popularity of the show?

jackdawkins86 karma

He is the Blonde Tornado. He's involved in every facet - scripts, music, costumes, name it. He runs the show. I've been to different countries with him and kids recognize him, asking him to do handstands. He's always gracious with them. I think he sees each new success as a chance to try new things with it, push the boundaries. It'll be interesting to see where it is in five years.

marcus_ivo44 karma

Children's health is becoming a more important issue everyday (particularly here in Australia), people like Magnus will be critical in pushing positive messages like the ones on LazyTown. Thanks for the AMA!

jackdawkins29 karma

You're welcome.

whatdc40 karma

Is Robbie really the #9 hero who was mentioned before Sportacus came to town?

jackdawkins64 karma

Nope. That whole number thing will be answered in the feature film.

geekinoutt43 karma

When's the film due? Not that I'm anxiously waiting or anything...

jackdawkins53 karma

I've written one draft that I don't think will be used, and we keep talking about all kinds of approaches. Honest answer: I have no clue but I hope it's soon.


Why are you guys so awesome?

jackdawkins184 karma

Someone has to be.


I wish your show ran when I was a kid. My baby brother (2.5) loves it.

jackdawkins47 karma

Yeah, the younger kiddos really like the music and dancing, and it's a very colorful, active show - keeps them focused.

Shortcake_amy37 karma

Why oh why did you decide to call fruit, "sports candy" my kids why not sports fuel or somthing completely removed from candy!

Shortcake_amy37 karma

Sorry toddler attack while typing! Should have read my kids don't understand why they can have sports candy but not candy,

jackdawkins110 karma

That was Magnus' idea -- and I think it has resonated with a lot of parents, sorry it didn't work out in your house. We always say on the show, there's nothing wrong with a soda, just don't make it your only drink. All about balance.

gvendurf35 karma

Icelander here. I was just wondering, how aware the American viewers are about the fact that the show is Icelandic?

Is the show in any way good publicity for Iceland? Or could it be used better as such?

jackdawkins57 karma

Oh definitely it's good for Iceland. And you know Magnus is buddies with the President of Iceland, they team up for promotions in lots of places. I have heard people wondering what kind of accent Magnus has (most people think it's French), but I'd say nearly all of the articles people have written about him mention the fact that our show is produced in Iceland. They always mention Bjork too.

Icelanders have probably become bored with LazyTown, it's been part of your lives for so long. And there's the merchandise at the stores and TV news stories, etc. It's easy to take something for granted when it's always there, but honestly, it does bring a certain level of cultural awareness about the country.

ernie185032 karma

Have there ever been any horrible accidents with the lava field? Maybe like a kid falling in or something?

jackdawkins55 karma

Not that I remember. The hard rock (cooled) lava is really sharp though. You could cut through the bottom of your shoes walking on it. The ride from the airport to town takes about 40 minutes, and you drive past the lava fields, looks just like what Curiosity is motoring past on Mars as we speak.

Zireff31 karma

What's the reasoning behind using puppets for the show?

jackdawkins60 karma

Early on they decided against animation and so had to make a choice between finding kids to play the parts or some variation. You know there's a sense of hyper-reality to the sets and backgrounds, the visual style is unique, the buildings and props are Suess-like. The puppets work well with that visual style, although it can be difficult when we write scenes with many characters in the frame at the same time. The puppeteers are first-rate and they are also adept at finding punchier ways to say things as they rehearse and move more toward shooting the scene.

I had never worked with puppeteers before, and I was at first concerned that they might not be as expressive as actors. But I never give it a second thought now, they're really good at what they do.

lotus247128 karma

Thanks for the AMA, Mark. Glad to hear the show is back! My girls have always loved it, and thankfully our cable system now offers some episodes on demand to sate their need for Lazytown.

Glad also to read that Magnus is as gracious and genuine as he appears to be. Please thank him for me for making 8:08 the official "Bedtime of No Dispute" since that's when Sportacus goes to bed.

And kudos to Stefan, the best actor on the show. People don't realize how difficult it is to play a character like that and actually make it live a little bit, especially with all the prosthetics.

Now, my final point, the most important point, the point on which I can tolerate absolutely no ambiguity at all, WHEN IS THE NEW TOY LINE AVAILABLE?

Seriously, don't hold out on me here, Mark. Not after all these years. We have birthdays and Christmas coming up and at least one of mine would step on your throat for a real Stephanie dress and wig. I need you to deliver on this one.

jackdawkins31 karma

Ha ha...oh man...I would say plan for something in 2013...

Because the shows are still being shot, that means that the props and specialty costumes that they might recreate as toys and clothing are still in the R&D phase for retail. We have new gadgets, some really cool ones. And vehicles for Sportacus that I think will be cool for kids. But moving them into the store shelves, yikes. I have no idea how long that will take. You would have better luck booking a flight to Reyjavik and taking a tour of the studio!

But thank you for the kind words.


Do you bathe in lava?

jackdawkins83 karma

That sounds like a secret agent's opening line.

luckynumberorange27 karma

How many of the songs are forever stuck in your head?

jackdawkins62 karma

They stick until Mani writes the next one, and then that one sticks.

[deleted]26 karma


jackdawkins28 karma

We go through a LOT of ideas when we are brainstorming for new episodes. I came up with LazyTown's New Superhero when I thought we were working Magnus into the ground during season one. What if we made him take a vacation? That grew into a two-part show.

wockax223 karma

FINALLY, my chance to ask this ... Do you personally do the cooking by the book?

jackdawkins59 karma

Men make things up as they go, you know that.

ohtakashawa21 karma

What is it about the production of your show in particular that makes it so expensive to produce relative to other children's shows?

jackdawkins35 karma

Like I said, it's really the high tech stuff. We work with puppets against green screen. Imagine shooting a cartoon with live actors in front of it, and also trying to watch for puppeteer arms in the shot. Plus we do a LOT of action in each episode plus a music video. Lotta bang for the buck.

shinedownnn20 karma

Are you a very rich man today by writing this show? Were you wealthy before?

jackdawkins52 karma

Writers rarely get rich on the showbiz rich scale. It's a nice living and the fact that I enjoy my work is a bonus that I do not take for granted.

JamesIreland15 karma

How much do you exercise?

jackdawkins65 karma

Magnus likes to take the crew outside on nice days for a quick pick-me-up workout routine sometimes. I usually hide from those until I know they're done. But I've recently joined a gym and I have to admit that working out gives me more energy.

It's also a bit of a motivator to be some place with Magnus in public. You have to give it to him, the dude's in good shape for being nearly 50.

PoopyFaisTomatoNose13 karma

What helped you to decide that you wanted to write this show?

jackdawkins52 karma

Cliche alert here, but it was really the people in Iceland. Great to hang out with, welcoming. And they party their asses off in the downtown area in a way that can only be described as epic.

pacmanswang13 karma

What do you guys have planned for when the young actress on your show simply becomes too old for the role? a replacement?

jackdawkins32 karma

We just did that! Chloe Lang has taken over the role of Stephanie. She really lights up the screen, I hope the Julianna fans give her a chance. I think they'll be happy with the new direction.

evancsinclair11 karma

I actually had the opportunity to work with Stefan (Robbie Rotten) on a Disney shoot. Extremely nice guy, and very talented actor.

Do you have any advice on maintaining work as a writer? I've written for a few little projects, but I'm having a hard time getting MORE work. Any words of advice would be helpful!

jackdawkins18 karma

It's always hard, as you know. But if you keep writing even when you don't have a gig, then when something does come up, you have something nice to show as a writing sample. You can't ever be caught without a sample as a writer. Pick a hot show and write a spec script for it. It won't be produced by that production company but at least people will have something to compare it to. Just don't give up. The day people give up is the day before they would have made it.

pointfourtyfour10 karma

Magnus seems like a nice guy, does he like children specifically or does he just care about encouraging kids to live healthy?

jackdawkins19 karma

He's a dad, and I've always seen him take extra time with kids when they approach him. I think the main thing is, he was a fitness guru, he saw trouble looming with the obesity problem. So he developed this vehicle to promote fitness, now it's become something bigger than that.

TwinkleTard7 karma

What do you like to do in your free time in Iceland when you are not writing for the show?

jackdawkins15 karma

Ah if only. When I'm there, I'm really there for the gig. I work seven days a week, and pretty long hours. I have toured the country a bit, seen incredible waterfalls, geysers. There's a placed called the Hotel Budir that's out in the countryside near a glacier, it's one of my favorite spots. I've played midnight golf in the summer with the sun beating down. Sometimes there are parties - both related to work and not - but my schedule keeps me pretty busy.