Imagine a world where fish can walk and talk, living in a big city that has surrealistically sprung to life inside a waterbed at a cheap motel in California. "Think Spongebob Squarepants if Patrick Stella was going through an excruciating divorce combined with Room 104 if it were Monty Python or written by John Waters," says Andrea Vinciguerra, the producer behind the new cartoon, Wet Fish.
With Blue Crab City existing alongside the real world but in a grim motel bedroom, you can imagine this isn't something for the little ones. No, this is an adult-only, gloriously grotesque creation with a good old laugh at modern culture. "It revolves around the stories of a bunch of wacky fish characters and the big and small problems they face in their life inside the waterbed," Andrea tells Creative Boom. "This community of humanised fish people have based their society and evolved observing the sordid habits and behaviours of the motel's guests.
"Because of the weird nature of their evolution, their moral values are quite upside down. We can say they have developed a very twisted notion of love and sex which lead to their existences. Ultimately, the show follows their journey of discovery, trying to find out what real love is."
As the story unfolds, we meet DJ Techno Metalheads, Mi Shell (a muscolar model and cam girl) and Mo Boobarella, a sleazy and moody crab who wants to "change the octopus porn industry". There's Squidney, who will "squirt black ink on everything you love" and Kat Food, a tuna can who is "anxious to check her expiration date". We also discover a neurotic squid who suffers from a very rare emotional disorder and there's a big, weird, green fish called Spaghetti Campbell Junior.
The comedy-drama animated series is currently being pitched by Andrea to the television networks. It's a concept he's been working on for the last five years, exploring different angles of the same core idea. "After finding the right formula, six months ago, I decided to produce a teaser to make the pitch stronger," he tells Creative Boom. "The story was an idea I came up with during a London night out. I casually met a couple in a random pub; I don't remember why but the chit-chats went to the topic of the 'first time'.
"They told me their first time happened on a waterbed, and that struck me as something magical and incredibly unusual. I remember thinking immediately about fish living inside the water mattress and awkwardly peep out at the couple during their act. I know, that's weird, right?"
"Point is," Andrea continues. "I saw great potential in that quirky intuition, and the year after, I pitched this concept for a commercial of a well known UK sex shop brand. It was about a city of fish inside a waterbed doing a council meeting, discussing and complaining about the fact that it was impossible to sleep now that the human female has bought that brand new shiny dildo. Luckily, they refused the idea because one year after, I thought: Hey, that was a nice idea for an animated series, and here we are."
You could also say the series was inspired by Andrea's childhood on an island off the south coast of Italy (not in any creepy sense). "The sea world has always been part of my upbringing. And I love eating fish, especially with the right type of pasta," he remarks. "In developing the idea I guess I then put together all the things I love which are part of my creator-universe and all the influences from the artists I love."
Andrea – who's also behind the recent No I Don't Want to Dance – puts down his influences via dark comedies from the likes of Todd Solondz and John Waters, as well as the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. "I think BoJack Horseman overall gave me the sensation that there is still lots to explore in animation," he says.
"In my opinion, the core of BoJack as a show is how wonderfully it balances heartbreaks with laughs. And that's definitely inspiring to me, since as a viewer I equally love to watch drama and comedies, and as a creator, I find it extremely interesting to combine these two genres in one show. I'd just go adding more penises to that formula and see how this will work out."
Speaking of penises, Andrea tells us he's already had some content removed online, probably because of its colourful nature. "Perhaps I went a bit too far," he says. "I'm just doing what I love, what makes me laugh and what I would love to see on screen as a viewer. We're in 2021 and in this ocean of content, you need to find your own wave to surf!"
Animators for Wet Fish include Joao Carrilho, Freddie Griffiths, Mark Abbott, Campbell Hartley and George Wheeler. With the title sequence by Freddie Griffiths and storyboard by Victoria Budgett. The characters were designed by Victoria Budgett, Christa Jarrold and Zoe Robinson. You can see the full list of credits on Andrea Vinciguerra's website.