- Screenwriter Gary Whitta hosts a talk show entirely within the game “Animal Crossing.”
- The show has scored famous guests including Elijah Wood and T. Pain, and Danny Trejo just joined as a correspondent.
- Guest coordinator and stage manager Kate Stark shared what goes on behind the scenes on a virtual talk show.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Gary Whitta texted Twitch streamer Kate Stark the night before the first episode of “Animal Talking” premiered.
“You’ve gotta see what I have planned,” he said
Whitta introduces the first episode as a “crazy experiment,” hosting a live talk show streamed on Twitch. Within 24 hours of coming up with the idea, Whitta says he created the late-night set in the basement of his in-game house. In the first episode, which is nearly 90 minutes, viewers get a brief tour of the setup. First, he shows a side of the room with a mic stand, where he plans to do opening monologues.
The rest of the room is a detailed portrayal of a typical talk show set. Whitta sits behind a desk with a mug of coffee, stage lights, and a city skyline in the background. Next to him is the couch where guests will sit as they chat over Discord, the conversation streamed to viewers on Twitch.
Kate Stark, a Twitch streamer and longtime friend of Whitta, was a guest on the third episode of “Animal Talking on April 29. As the show grew, she told Business Insider that she offered to help in any way she could, like by sending in-game clothing items, or moderating live chats, before starting her current role as guest coordinator and stage manager.
Stark, who studied stage management in school, told Business Insider that the coordination and multitasking necessary to making the show happen is the most difficult part, though it comes easily to her. Stage managing a show in a game like “Animal Crossing” means ensuring everything goes smoothly and audio works.
“Mentally and emotionally, it’s been really special to engross myself in this beautiful island world where my biggest concern is getting stung by a wasp,” Stark said.
Before every episode, guests fly to Whitta’s island for a pre-interview, where they tour the island and get comfortable. Backstage during the live show, Stark coordinates two separate Discord voice channels. One is the green room, backstage channel, which does not stream to audiences, while the other is audio for the show.
She remains in the greenroom channel for the entirety of the episode, checking on audio levels. Stark answers questions for guests who are not used to appearing on virtual talk shows and makes sure there are no distracting noises in the background. When it’s time for them to go on the live show, she moves them into the correct Discord channel.
The showrunners often find guests through Twitter, they either reach out, or Whitta approaches them. Whenever a celebrity talks about playing “Animal Crossing,” fans are quick to call it to their attention. Not all guests play, but “We’d rather have a guest that really enjoys the game,” Stark told Business Insider, mentioning actors Danny Trejo and Elijah Wood.
“You don’t really think of Machete as loving ‘Animal Crossing’ … Danny is so incredibly sweet, actually passionate about the game” Stark told Business Insider.
Trejo is such a big “Animal Crossing” fan that he recently joined the show as a correspondent. On the first episode of “Danny’s Diaries,” he showed Whitta and viewers around his island.
Trejo showed off his island introduced some of his villagers. He has a taco stand and a gym on the beach where he works out.
Watching the video, it’s clear that Trejo is a real fan, and he revealed that fishing is his favorite part of the game.
Stark says that all of the guests have been great, but she remembers T-Pain as an “especially boisterous guest – so much fun in the greenroom and during the show.” She remembers that he was excited to talk about his villagers and which ones he liked.
The highlight of T-Pain’s episode, though, was opening a gift. They always give guests a gift, and part of Stark’s job is finding items for gifts and wardrobe for guests. “If Leah [Whitta] needs any item, I can source it with half an hour,” she said. There are more than 4,600 different pieces of clothing in “Animal Crossing.”
During the show, Whitta gifted T-Pain a crown worth 1.3 million bells, the in-game currency. “You could hear him screaming, he was so excited,” Stark said, noting that he wore it for the rest of the show.
So far, every guest has been a “dream guest,” Stark said, but if she could pick, she would invite the cast of “Queer Eye” onto the show. Bobby Berk, the interior design expert on the show, has previously helped fans decorate their homes.
As for the future of the show, Stark hopes it continues as everyone goes back to their regular jobs, and the team has agreed to continue as long as everyone involved is having a good time. Season two is about to start, though at a relatively relaxed pace of one episode per week, compared to three per week in season one. Stark told Business Insider that they’ve already joked about Halloween and Christmas special, so the show could definitely continue even as regular talk shows go back on the air.