Total Drama Island premiered in July 2007, spawning a franchise of hit Canadian produced animated reality shows. Here is a recap of what made Season 1 successful.
Total Drama Island premiered in its native Canada on July 8, 2007 with the show being aired worldwide within two years. The animated series spoofed reality television at that time, most notably Survivor. At the forefront were an eclectic cast of twenty-two teenage contestants, at the whim of eccentric host Chris McLean (Christian Potenza), a clear parody of Survivor’s Jeff Probst.
Thirteen years later, the Total Drama fan community is still strong with custom art and fanfiction being produced to this day. In fact, one fan is even putting together a reunion series on YouTube.
As Total Drama Island was animated, it was able to push the boundaries of reality much farther than typical reality shows. This allowed elements including bears, food and even numerous “Sasquatchanakwa” to be used for comedic effect.
Since it’s been over a decade, some of the finer details may be hazier to you than others. So, let’s remind ourselves of the contestants, hosts and location in Total Drama Island.
The Screaming Gophers
The Screaming Gophers consisted of 11 contestants, half of the total line-up. Not only did the team include a diverse collection of characters, some of the vocal talent has also had prominent roles in other animated projects as well as live-action.
Larger-than-live, lovable Owen was voiced by Scott McCord, who has also starred in PAW Patrol, Yin Yang Yo! and Bakugan Battle Brawlers, among others. Owen formed a romantic connection and as one of the more likeable ‘campers’, befriended the majority of the competition.
McCord also voiced the role of Trent. This cool, laid-back musician had a mutual attraction to teammate Gwen (more on her later) and had other… interesting dimensions to his character added in later seasons of Total Drama.
Sarah Gadon voiced Beth on Total Drama Island and subsequently afterwards. Well-meaning and somewhat naive, Beth formed an alliance with a manipulative contestant which, among other factors, led to her downfall. Gadon has since appeared in live-action series such as Alias Grace, True Detective and 11.22.63.
Although geeky Cody – spoiler alert – became central in later seasons, he is very much a minor character in Total Drama Island. In fact, his two biggest memorable events were securing a bra from his crush Gwen and being mauled by a bear. Peter Oldring played the character; the actor and comedian has also appeared in House of Cards, Atomic Puppet and Bizaardvark.
Carter Hayden voiced snobby Know-It-All Noah. Similar to Cody, Noah is more expanded upon in later seasons. However, one crucial seed is planted: the beginnings of a friendship with Owen. Carter Hayden’s other work includes Hotel Transylvania: The Series, Camp Lakebottom and Orphan Black.
Heather, the resident Queen of Mean on Total Drama Island, was voiced by Rachel Wilson. The first of many antagonists in the franchise, Heather set a precedent (at least in fictional terms) of how to successfully combine manipulation, cunning and consistent gameplay to an advantageous position. Rachel Wilson has also lent her talent to Schitt’s Creek, Republic of Doyle and Murdoch Mysteries.
Also part of the cast on Total Drama Island was boisterous Leshawna, played by Novie Edwards. She was a fairly prominent presence throughout the season, without becoming the main focus. Other than playing Leshawna, her voice actress has also worked on The Handmaid’s Tale, Delilah and Julius and Girlstuff/Boystuff.
The generally considered attractive Lindsay was voiced by Stephanie Anne Mills, with her character going on to become one of the most frequently appearing throughout the franchise. Besides playing Total Drama’s forgetful blonde, Mills has also lent her voice to Sidekick, Iggy Arbuckle and various Bakugan series.
6Teen alum Megan Fahlenbock portrayed Goth loner Gwen, who forms a connection with Trent throughout Total Drama Island. As anyone who has watched the season knows, Gwen eventually reaches the final, with her outcome differing depending on the country. As well as Total Drama and playing Jen on 6Teen, Fahlenbock also appeared in live-action shows such as Suits, Warehouse 13 and Good God.
Crazed, unhinged Izzy was brought to life by Katie Crown, who reprised the role in later seasons. Izzy was involved in the first-ever team swap, departing the Killer Bass for the Screaming Gophers, bringing her closer to Owen in the process. Crown has also done voice work in Stoked, Clarence and Amphibia.
Lastly, the show’s resident supermodel Justin was voiced by Adam Reid. That is, Reid provided the voice on the rare times that Justin spoke. Although he became a talker in later seasons, the character was near mute in Total Drama Island. Reid has also worked on 6Teen and What It’s Like Being Alone.
The Killer Bass
The Killer Bass were the opposing team on Total Drama Island, consisting of the other 11 contestants that took part in the season. Likewise, the team was a diverse mixture of character stereotypes and personalities that probably would not have associated outside of taking part in the show.
Aforementioned actor Peter Oldring actually played two of the Bass: homeschooled Ezekiel (‘Zeke’) and accident prone jock Tyler, both of whom made early exits. Ezekiel was a socially clueless farm boy whose sexist comments cost him while Tyler’s feat of chickens resulted in his elimination. Sounds like a match made in Heaven.
Likewise, Stephanie Anne Mills also played Bass member Katie, one-half of a super-tight friendship with fellow contestant Sadie. The two girls were very similar to one another, with Katie’s only major differences being her lower placement and slimmer body.
Lauren Lipson voiced Sadie. The character surpassed best friend Katie by several episodes until getting on Courtney’s bad side. Although Lipson has also worked on 6Teen, Stoked and The Line, Sadie and Katie are two of three contestants to only participate in one season.
Party animal Geoff was embodied by actor Dan Petronijevic. During his time on Total Drama Island, Geoff found love, found some new buddies and became a popular character. More recently, Petronijevic has appeared on live-action shows such as Letterkenny, Cardinal and 19-2 as well as reprising Geoff on The Ridonculous Race.
Bridgette, a laid-back surfer, was played by Kristin Fairlie. As the last female Bass member when the teams merged, Bridgette formed close friendships with some of the remaining female Gophers. More notably, she began a long-standing relationship with Geoff. Fairlie played a new character, ‘Carrie’ on The Ridonculous Race as well as appearing in Stoked, Skatoony and Detentionaire.
Big, friendly giant DJ was the heart-and-soul of the Bass, being voiced by Clé Bennett. Despite his strong, muscular appearance, DJ’s sensitive personality subverted any initial expectations after first seeing how he looked. Bennett has played ‘Harris Prime’ in Heroes Reborn and will appear in Falcon and The Winter Soldier for Disney Plus.
Actress and singer Emilie-Claire Barlow voiced Courtney, an uptight former CIT and perfectionist. This character was involved in the ultimate example of ‘opposites attract’, forming a romance with once-adversary Duncan. Barlow played unrelated characters, Ellody and Laurie on The Ridonculous Race, while working on other cartoons such as Fugget About It, 6Teen and Stoked.
Aggressive tomboy Eva was played by Julia Chantrey. As one of the few characters to compete in a sole season, her character is not explored outside of visible anger issues and minor appearances in later editions of the show. In her addition to role as Eva, Chantrey also played “Amber D’Alessio” in 2004’s Mean Girls, starring Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams and Lacey Chabert.
Brian Froud voiced Harold, the resident dweeb of the Killer Bass and Total Drama Island in general. Harold formed an unlikely romantic connection and took an unexpected manipulative turn near the end of his time as a contestant. Froud played another character, Sam, in later seasons of Total Drama. His other credits include Jimmy Two-Shoes, Camp Lakebottom and Detentionaire.
The final Killer Bass on this list was also – spoiler alert – the longest lasting team member of this season. Duncan, the relatively layered juvenile delinquent who was played by actor Drew Nelson. Aside from his relationship with Courtney, Duncan also showed there was more to him than his tough exterior – something which was taken further in later seasons. Nelson had a recurring role in FX’s The Strain and appeared in other shows including Rookie Blue, Suits and Rizzoli & Isles.
Chris & Chef
Chris McLean was the vain, arrogant and sadistic host of Total Drama Island. Despite the contestants only being teenagers, Chris enjoyed subjecting them to the most horrific challenges possible with the powers of animation only amplifying this. He was played by Christian Potenza, known as ‘Jude’ on 6Teen and reprised that role on Total DramaRama. The actor’s other credits include Stoked, Norman Picklestripes and Detentionaire.
Chef Hatchet served as Chris’ sidekick, laughing stock and the literal chef of the show, despite his food being terrible. Unlike Chris, who has had positive interactions with some contestants, Chef is generally hostile and contemptuous towards them. He’s voiced by Clé Bennett, who also plays DJ for Total Drama Island.
The Location – Camp Wawanakwa
Camp Wawanakwa, the setting for Total Drama Island, ticked multiple boxes, so to speak. It was vast, with a seemingly endless supply of different facilities and features for talents – once again, the power of animation. It was also disgusting and ‘crummy’ enough for the contestants to not get too comfortable, which helped make the show more interesting than if they were in competing in luxury.
A sleep away camp setting is also quite a familiar concept, whether you live in North America or overseas. By choosing something not too ambitious and perhaps even relatable to some of those watching, more people may have been intrigued enough to watch. Especially people who had stayed in similar camps, this is an experience that would bear no resemblance to what they went through. Although other settings – namely a film set and a Jumbo Jet – have been used in later seasons, Total Drama has returned to an island setting for a further three times – Revenge, All Stars and Pahkitew. As Survivor has shown for two decades, the combination of a reality TV and a remote island just seems to work.
Ultimately, the show had all the key components – interesting characters, solid writing, talented voice actors and a compelling location – needed to pull off Total Drama Island. With this in mind, there is no wonder why the series continued on, with the strength of the first season and now currently in a younger format with Total DramaRama.
Happy 13th Anniversary to Total Drama Island – may more seasons come in the future? Time will tell. However, considering that the passion for this series is still abundant, there could be a good chance of a revival.
Total Drama Island was created by Tom McGillis and Jennifer Pertsch for Fresh TV.