'Dr. Horrible': An oral history
Joss Whedon, Neil Patrick Harris, and their musical collaborators describe how a Web phenomenon grew out of the dark days of the writers' strike
An Internet musical about a lovelorn would-be supervillain and the video blog he records in his home doesn’t exactly scream surefire hit, but that’s just what Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog became in the wee hours of July 15. Viewers clicked so fast and so furiously at drhorrible.com to see the online production — created by Buffy the Vampire Slayer auteur Joss Whedon — that demand for the debut installment crashed the site (Acts 2 and 3 followed on July 17 and 19). This sweet and sinister tale about the eponymous mad scientist (Neil Patrick Harris) who battles his archnemesis, Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion, of Whedon’s dearly departed Firefly), for the affections of the crusading civilian Penny (Felicia Day) also shot immediately to the top of the iTunes video chart, and was viewed over 2.2 million times in its first week. Not bad for a project conceived in the heat of the writers’ strike and shot on a breakneck schedule this spring. Here’s the Horrible truth about how it all came together, and why we probably have not seen the last of the evil doctor or his nefarious blog.
Joss Whedon, director, producer, co-writer More than a year ago — one of those vague ideas that float around in my head — I thought it would be fun to do a sort of podcast musical diary of myself as a supervillain. Then, during the [writers’] strike, everybody said ”Okay, I guess we have to create Internet content, to show that it can be done, sans studio,” which also involved the desire to do something other than picketing. The Guild, [Felicia Day’s] web show, was an inspiration.
Felicia Day, Penny Yeah, I don’t like to claim too much credit for it. I was basically making [a series] and putting it on the Internet without any permission, or funding for that matter. So, when I saw Joss on the picket line, doing the whole circle in front of [the] Fox [studios], of course I was giving him a business card with The Guild on it. ”Watch my Web series!” He was like, ”I already saw it. It’s fantastic. And I’m thinking of doing something for the Internet.”
Joss Whedon For a long time [during the strike], people would try to create [Web] content with partners: ”There are billions of dollars with this hedge fund and this dotcom. Billions of dollars!” Which they still have because they never gave any of it to us to make things. After taking a lot of meetings and stuff, I just thought, ”I think I have to do this myself.” And by ”myself,” I mean with the help of everybody I know. The money [came from] me: Low six-figures is the phrase that I feel comfortable using.
NEXT PAGE: ”He said, ‘I am doing a Web musical —’ and I said ‘yes.’ And then he got mad and said ‘Wait a second, let me pitch first.”’