Jim Dauterive, “King of the Hill” series writer and executive producer, was faced with the threat of the show’s cancellation in 2007. Worried the show’s physical artifacts would be destroyed following the end of the series, Dauterive contacted the Wittliff Collections at Texas State to see whether officials would be interested in housing 11 seasons-worth of material at the time.
The Wittliff Collections agreed and sent Lead Archivist Katie Salzmann to Century City in Los Angeles to begin the two-day process of organizing, processing and shipping the artifacts. The memorabilia is now featured in a display depicting the process required to produce an episode of the popular animated television series. After years on display in the first floor of the library, the exhibit will leave the Wittliff Collections at the end of March.
“King of the Hill” is set in the fictional town of Arlen, Texas, and often becomes the only exposure some viewers may have to life in the Lone Star state. In audio from a panel during the exhibit’s opening in 2007, Dauterive describes the show as being “about and for the people between the coasts.” In order to help maintain its authenticity, the writers would make yearly research trips to Texas.
The display, featured on the first floor of Alkek Library, consists of story pitch examples, executive notes and script samples, as well as casting sheets and storyboards for various episodes. The main piece in the display is a large whiteboard that depicts a timeline of the nine-week process for creating a single episode.
Connie Todd, former curator of the Wittliff Collections, said in 2007 that the whiteboard was the most difficult element to transfer because of its delicate nature. Unable to spray it with any kind of protectant, the board was treated similarly to a pastel painting and survived the trip without harm.
As part of the 2007 exhibition panel held at the Wittliff Collections, Dauterive said the scripts and drafts are a great resource for anyone looking to become a writer.
“(They) illustrate just how hard the writing process is, even for great professional writers,” Dauterive said.
Erik Garcia, fashion merchandising senior, designed the final side of the “King of the Hill” display which deviates from the production timeline and instead highlights the main characters in the series. Garcia said his main focus was showcasing the development of those characters.
“I divided my contribution into two segments, one highlighting Hank as the family man, and the other highlighting Hank as the leader of his friends,” Garcia said.
Garcia said on one side he chose to include sketches that give viewers a 360-degree view of each character and a group shot of Hank and friends. The other shows an animation cel of the family in the living room as well as sketches of Bobby in various outfits from the “Rodeo Days” episode.
Salzmann said she hopes the university’s decision to highlight an element of popular culture that has a direct relation to the state will create interest in the region as a whole. She hopes it will encourage students to engage in studies related to southwestern history.
Actor Jonathan Joss, who voiced the character of John Redcorn for 12 of its 13 seasons, attended Texas State for a year as a theater major. Being of Comanche and Apache descent, Joss was appreciative that the writers provided him with a multi-dimensional Native American character.
“Greg Daniels allowed (Redcorn) to open up and admit to his downfalls—the opportunity to become a real person as opposed to a character with a flaw,” Joss said.
The exhibit provides a detailed example of the intricate creative process of writing for a television series and, as Garcia said, can then “serve as a blueprint for students to develop their own ideas.”