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Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on September 6th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 26 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 26

Setting the record straight

Central Coast native David Scheve educates about LGBT history with music and laughs in his short animated film


Central Coast native David Scheve’s rehash of “Schoolhouse Rock” as “Hard Knock Rock” uses the animated formula to teach about the history of gays and gay rights.

Generations of students have been simultaneously entertained and educated by the iconic “Schoolhouse Rock” series. Whether relating the American judicial process, or proper grammar, the series has staying power thanks to the classic rock’n’roll style and coherent cartoons. Central Coast native, actor, and filmmaker David Scheve has called on the “Schoolhouse Rock” formula for a new series of animated shorts that he is directing and co-wrote.

“I feel like [Schoolhouse Rock] had such a big impact on me growing up,” he said, “and music is sort of a universal way to reach somebody.”

Scheve’s new series is titled “Hard Knock Rock,” the first short of which is out, and titled “Sufferin’ Till You’re Straight.” The animated musical short teaches about gay and transgender history, from the Stonewall Riots all the way back to Plato and Aristotle.

“Other people in the past have used the Schoolhouse Rock format, but the thing that they forget-—if you are going to do the Schoolhouse Rock thing—you have to teach people something,” he said. “And you can talk about subjects that people find a little taboo when you use a little humor and there’s music and it’s animated.”

Scheve grew up on the Central Coast and first realized his love for show business at the Great American Melodrama where he worked as a child actor. If he wasn’t on stage at the Melodrama, Scheve explained, he was somewhere backstage helping out.

Scheve has enjoyed collaboration from famous voice actors for his animated shorts, including legends like Lucille Bliss (pictured here with Scheve), who famously voiced Smurfette and other iconic characters.

“At the Melodrama I learned there was a world beyond the world that people teach you,” he said. “I learned that there were gay people and bi people. I also acted in PCPA, and that’s really where I learned the craft of acting and writing and playing characters and how you stage a production.”

An adolescence steeped in the stage helped prepare Scheve for a career in animation, he explained.

“I write in a very theatrical way and that translates well to animation,” he said. “In animation all you have is your voice, and you have to be able to convey everything you need to: the subtext, your mood, your attention; and then you have a team of great animators who hear what is in your voice and try and bring it into the animation.”

“Hard Knock Rock” has been quite a collaborative effort for Scheve. He collaborated with Neal LaVine in writing the lyrics, and the music was composed by Todd Schroeder. The animation for the series was designed by Willie Ito, a longtime industry animator who worked for Warner Brothers, Disney, and designed characters like Hong Kong Phooey.

Amazingly, Scheve was able to get in contact with several of the original singers for the Schoolhouse Rock series. Essra Mohawk delivers the lead vocals for “Sufferin’ Till You’re Straight.” She was in the Mothers of Invention with Frank Zappa, but is also well known for singing the lead for the “Interjections!” episode of Schoolhouse Rock. Mohawk’s backup singers in the short were Scherrie Payne and Susaye Greene, both of The Supremes.

Set things straight
“Hard Knock Rock: Sufferin’ Till You’re Straight” has been screened at many film festivals including the NYC Independent Film Festival and the 2013 DC Shorts Film Festival, and is set to take the road to many other festivals in 2013.

“There is a group of people in Hollywood and entertainment that when they reach a certain age are deemed irrelevant,” he said. “I find that with older generations that they are very receptive to doing new and updated things.”

Other collaborators who will be appearing in later “Hard Knock Rock” shorts include jazz trumpeter Jack Sheldon, who was the Bill in Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill.” Voice actresses June Foray and Lucille Bliss also did voice acting for the shorts. Bliss, who passed away in 2012, was known for roles like Smurfette from “The Smurfs” and parts in Disney films.

“When I contacted Lucy, she was in assisted living and I would go and pick her up and take her to the studio,” Scheve said. “She loved it; she would hang out and come with me to production parties, she was a lot of fun.”

Scheve is able to produce and fund the “Hard Knock Rock” series thanks to the business he runs, The Deep Archives, which sells original and collectible cartoon art. He has already recorded most of the shorts, which are awaiting funding for animation.

“It really is art funding art,” he said.

Arts Editor Joe Payne is already deemed irrelevant. Contact him at


Get educated: Central Coast native David Scheve teaches LGBT history with music and laughs in his short animated film “Hard Knock Rock: Sufferin’ Till You’re Straight”

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