Max Keane isn’t new to the family’s animation business. He’s worked on many of his dad Glen Keane’s post-Disney projects, including the shorts “Duet” and the Oscar-winning “Dear Basketball” as production designer. But as creator and showrunner of the latest Glen Keane Prods. project, “Trash Truck,” Max is in the driver’s seat for the first time.
The preschooler kids series about an imaginative 6-year-old boy, Hank, and his vehicular best friend debuted on Netflix on Nov. 10 with a dozen 11-minute episodes. Max Keane is creator-showrunner and executive produces along with his father and Gennie Rim, CEO at Glen Keane Prods., the company his dad formed in 2012 after years as a Disney animator.
“It’s an idea I stole from my son [Henry],” Max Keane admits. “When he was 1½, he was completely obsessed with garbage trucks.” At first, Keane couldn’t figure out why Henry was so enchanted by the big, loud vehicles. But one foggy morning, it clicked.
“[Henry] saw the trash truck coming down the street. It pulled up in front of us, grabbed the trash, dumped it and slammed the [container] back down,” he recalls. “I was holding Henry, looking at this giant beast of a truck, and I said to myself, ‘Wow, yeah. I get it. This thing is amazing.’ Then Henry said, ‘Bye, Trash Truck,’ in this very innocent, sweet way.”
After that, Keane started telling Henry bedtime stories about a little boy and his best friend who was a garbage truck, and the idea began picking up speed. “I pitched the idea to my dad and Gennie, and they thought that ‘Yeah, there’s something there. You should just keep digging into that,’” he says.
“Watching Max develop this from the purest beginning point was special,” Glen Keane says. When Max presented the idea to him and Rim, “We both said, ‘You’ve got to do this. We’ve got to do this. This is an animated series.’”
Glen Keane Prods. developed the project for three years, according to the elder Keane, and when Glen signed on to direct “Over the Moon” for Netflix, the streamer picked up “Trash Truck” too. “Glen and Gennie were in talks with Netflix about doing ‘Over the Moon’ with Pearl Studio. And ‘Trash Truck’ was also kind of orbiting around. So it worked out serendipitously to go to Netflix and make both of these projects. That was thanks to [Netflix director of original animation] Dominique Bazay and [Netflix VP] Melissa Cobb. They welcomed GKP into Netflix but let us maintain our own sense of identity as a company,” Max Keane recalls.
Max Keane praises the creative freedom they’ve received from the streaming platform. “I don’t know if ‘Trash Truck’ could have been made anywhere else,” he says. “I think it was a really unique experience, where Netflix was saying, ‘Yeah, we love that idea, and you should make that.’”
That Max would carry on in the family business isn’t a surprise. The name “Keane” is synonymous with animation and cartoons.
“My dad [Bil Keane] created ‘The Family Circus’ comic, based on our family when we were kids. My daughter [Claire Keane] does children’s books based on her children,” Glen Keane notes. “It’s what the Keane family does.”
That family dynamic extends to the “Trash Truck” cast, which features many people with the name “Keane.” Henry voices Hank, and Max’s daughter, Olive, voices Hank’s little sister. Max is Dad; his wife, Megan Paul Keane, plays Mom; Glen Keane voices Grandpa as well as Trash Truck.
“Growing up, my dad always told stories with these big sound effects,” Max Keane recalls. “I just felt that his was an obvious voice for Trash Truck, who doesn’t talk. He speaks ‘truck-ese.’”
There’s a good reason for keeping it all in the family, according to Glen Keane: “My dad would always say, ‘Glen, you should draw what you know.’ If it’s the people around you, you use them as inspiration, because you know them so well.”
That lesson hasn’t been lost on Max, who had his family in mind from the start. “I think it was just one of the things that happens when you start writing characters and fleshing out an idea,” he says. “You find all the touchstones for your characters, and they’re very similar to the people that are in your life.”
One thing’s for sure, Glen Keane is one proud dad: “I always think Max has a Frank Capra bone in his body somewhere because of his warmth and heart and sincerity. I see that in him and I strive for that myself. Sometimes I wish I could be as good at it as Max is.”