WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published November 16, 2011, 12:02 AM

Fargo Man Created Online Sensation 'Annoying Orange'

LOS ANGELES – Everybody has one. Whether it’s a friend, co-worker, brother or sister, it’s fair to say that everybody knows someone who’s particularly annoying.

By: Sam Benshoof, Forum Communications

LOS ANGELES – Everybody has one.

Whether it’s a friend, co-worker, brother or sister, it’s fair to say that everybody knows someone who’s particularly annoying.

It’s off that annoying model that Dane Boedigheimer created the “Annoying Orange” YouTube series, which features a talking orange saying some rather annoying things.

“Everyone knows someone who’s kind of like Orange,” he says, adding that it’s that familiarity that could explain the success of his series, which has racked up millions of views on YouTube since its start in 2009.

“(Orange) is annoying, but loveable,” says Boedigheimer, 33, a Fargo native and 2003 graduate of Minnesota State Moorhead. “He’s annoying, but he doesn’t realize he’s annoying.”

If you haven’t seen Boedigheimer’s videos, which involve talking fruit with superimposed eyes and mouths, judge the character yourself from this interaction in the very first episode:

Orange: Hey Apple! Apple! Hey! Hey Apple! Hey, Apple …

Apple: What? What? What is it?

Orange: Orange you glad I didn’t say Apple again?

The success of his YouTube series has prompted Boedigheimer to try to create an “Annoying Orange” television series. Instead of going the traditional route of selling the idea to networks, though, Boedigheimer decided to make the pilot himself, which he just recently completed.

While it typically takes him about a week to make a video for YouTube, work on the pilot took nearly a year.

Boedigheimer says he’s been pitching the show to various networks for the past four weeks. Going that route has been beneficial in some ways, he says, because if a network were to buy his pilot, he wouldn’t lose the rights to his characters or the ideas that he’s created over the past two years.

While he has high hopes for the potential TV series, Boedigheimer’s not yet quitting his day job. He continues to work on the YouTube series, which he says became his full-time job in 2010, after the number of views started to skyrocket.

While most “Annoying Orange” videos are just the work of Boedigheimer or friends, some well-known names have lent their voices to the show, making it more than just your run-of-the-mill YouTube video.

In 2010, associates of actor James Caan, known for roles in films like “The Godfather” and “Misery,” approached Boedigheimer about the possibility of Caan guest-starring on one of the “Annoying Orange” videos.

Caan works on the board of OpenFilm.com, which Boedigheimer agreed to help advertise as a result of Caan appearing on the show.

Boedigheimer traveled to Caan’s house to film the episode, where Caan voices a smooth-talking, female-fruit-wooing jalapeno pepper.

Caan was “really, really nice, and super laid back,” Boedigheimer says of filming the episode. “I was way more nervous than he was.”

Boedigheimer has also made episodes with the rock band Weezer and with actor John Leguizamo.

In the future, Boedigheimer says he’d like for his show to become an “online version of ‘Sesame Street,’ ” where celebrities make cameo appearances just for fun.

If, for some reason, you can’t get enough of irritating, animated talking fruit, “Annoying Orange” toys have become available online, and J.C. Penney stores have started selling T-shirts of the show.

Boedigheimer’s success also caught the attention of H2M, a Fargo advertising agency that in 2006 created its own “Talking Orange.” That fruit is the spokesman for an ad campaign for the North Dakota Department of Transportation, which promotes work zone and snow plow safety.

Yes, somehow there are two anthropomorphic oranges with ties to the Fargo-Moorhead area.

The resemblance of “Talking Orange” to “Annoying Orange,” however slight, didn’t escape Dave Hanson, president of H2M, who came up with the campaign for NDDOT.

H2M’s attorneys are currently looking into the matter as an intellectual property issue, Hanson says.

He’s never met Boedigheimer, but Hanson says he’s watching the success of “Annoying Orange” very closely to see what comes next.

Boedigheimer, meanwhile, says he had never seen the “Talking Orange” videos before he was told about the disagreement. He also believes the characters aren’t very similar.

“They perceive it one way, and I disagree,” says Boedigheimer, who moved to California in 2004, two years before the “Talking Orange” made its first public appearance in North Dakota.

Regardless of what happens in the battle of the oranges, Boedigheimer has certainly come a long way since his days at MSUM, where he majored in speech communications with an emphasis in film studies.

Working in a fledgling film studies program helped prepare him for creating “Annoying Orange” videos, he says.

“When it comes to YouTube, it’s all about doing it yourself,” he says. “The program (at MSUM) was very small when I was there, and you had to make things work with a small budget. I think that experience actually kind of helped.”

Greg Carlson, assistant professor of communication and theater art at Concordia College, had Boedigheimer as a student in three of his classes when he was teaching at MSUM.

Carlson was impressed by how down-to-earth Boedigheimer was in school.

“He’s such a tremendously friendly, genuine and easy-going guy,” Carlson says.

Boedigheimer’s creativity was something that Carlson remembers most from their time spent working together.

“Dane just had a total exuberance for wanting to create stuff,” Carlson says. “You asked for one thing from him, he gives you three. He’s that kind of person.”

For one of his final projects at MSUM, Boedigheimer screened a full-length feature film at the Fargo Theatre, and more than 200 people showed up to watch. Called “Trash TV,” Boedigheimer describes the movie as a clip show, with spoofs of commercials and movies.

“I thought that number would never be beaten,” Boedigheimer says. “Now, to upload a video and to see thousands and thousands of people viewing, they’re numbers that I can’t imagine. It’s pretty awesome.”

Benshoof is a reporter at the Forum in Fargo