Pranking Parents

TFK chats with a special effects expert behind Disney Channel's Code 9

Jul 26, 2012 | By Kelli Plasket
COURTESY DISNEY CHANNEL

A new Disney Channel hidden-camera TV show, Code 9, plays out every kid’s fantasy: playing a practical joke on a parent. The show pairs families with a special effects team to create, plan and help carry out a fun, harmless prank on an unsuspecting mom or dad. One family member even gets to go undercover with special prosthetic make-up to come face-to-face with the parent during the prank (the phrase “code 9” is used to signal this start of a prank). In the first episode, airing July 26 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time on Disney Channel, the Tribble siblings and their mom think their dad loves golf a little too much, so they set him up for a prank involving blowing up a golf cart. (Click here to watch a clip.)

Code 9 also takes you behind the scenes to learn how the special effects behind the prank work. Joe Dalo is the show’s special effects and stunt coordinator. Dalo, a Hollywood effects expert, has a mixed background in science, set design, carpentry and directing that landed him his cool job. Read on to learn more about his role on the show.

Each episode of Code 9 features one family member getting fitted with special make-up to play a part in the prank.
COURTESY DISNEY CHANNEL
Each episode of Code 9 features one family member getting fitted with special make-up to play a part in the prank.

TFK:

Each episode revolves around one prank. How much planning goes into each prank?

JOE DALO:

Generally, each prank takes a week to do. Once we learn about what the prank is, I have to go and figure out how to make the prank work, and then we have to test it. You get to see our testing process (on the show).

TFK:

In a teaser for the show, we see a hockey blimp go off-course. What happens there?

DALO:

I don’t want to give it away, but in that situation, the dad loves hockey. If you ever go to a hockey game, you see those giant hockey blimps, so he gets a chance to control that hockey blimp. But at the same time, we are having this awesome hockey camp for the kids, right on the ice, and (NHL player) Kevin Westgarth’s stuff is there, all his trophies. (The dad) thinks he’s controlling (the blimp), but we have control of it, and we make him think he rips and tears the whole place apart when he knocks over a giant structure. It’s very funny. His face is incredibly funny when it happens.

TFK:

What role are you typically playing on the show?

DALO:

Wes (Dening) is the host, and I’m the special effects guy. I’m the scientist in the shop. I help create and make all these gags actually work. I’m in control of them, and on top of that, I get to come out and explain to you how they are done.

TFK:

When you start planning a prank, what are some of the most important things you have to think about?

DALO:

It’s always safety first. You want to have fun, you want to make people laugh, you want to give people a shock. But you don’t want to make it so that it’s dangerous. So it’s always safety first, and once you step back from safety, then you can start planning how you are going to make the things that are safe happen.

TFK:

Can you tease what’s been your favorite prank so far that we’ll get to see this season?

DALO:

(There’s one where the family) makes the mother believe that the car was being driven through a wall at a warehouse. I got to, during the demonstration, show you how it works by driving a Sunbuggy (go-kart) through a wall, and it was awesome.

The Tribble family watches their prank with Code 9 host .
COURTESY DISNEY CHANNEL
The Tribble family watches their prank with Code 9 host Wes Dening.

TFK:

Do you and your team practice and test out each prank before the official prank?

DALO:

I have a five-time rule that it has to work five times before we say that it’s okay. That’s my own personal rule.

TFK:

What sort of science do you use to plan the stunts?

DALO:

I would say physics and geometry are two things I’m glad I paid attention to in school because physics and geometry have a lot to do with what we do—algebra also. It’s a lot of the physics of science, (such as) knowing how much pressure you are going to need to cause something to happen. (In my job, I have) to know how far (or) high something has to be, and if it’s shooting at a certain angle, where it’s going to end up. I always have my calculator out. I’m always on my computer double-checking myself.

TFK:

As a kid, were you a prankster, or did you enjoy science experiments?

DALO:

When I was a kid, I took everything apart. I had to know how everything worked. I would drive (my parents) crazy. And yes, I loved pranks. My mom was a prankster too, so I got it from her. I have four siblings, so you can imagine the amount of pranks that went on. It’s the way I learned to show love, by playing practical jokes.

TFK:

Do you have a favorite parent reaction? Are you ever worried about how they will react?

DALO:

My favorite reaction is when somebody gets freaked out about it, and you just see their eyes bulging out of their head. They are just looking around, and they have no idea what’s going on. And yes, I always worry that somebody is going to get really upset or mad. But at least with these jokes, it’s a lot more (fun-natured). I worry more about making sure the gags go right. I call it the “hero or zero” moment: You are pushing that button or pulling that string (to start the prank), and you are either going to be the hero or the zero. Luckily, on Code 9, we’ve been the hero the whole time. We’ve gotten every parent. We are sneaky.

TFK:

Why should kids tune in to Code 9?

DALO:

One, it’s fun because you know every kid wants to play a practical joke on their parent. Two, it’s fun to learn about what we are doing. (You get to watch) me pull off these demonstrations of what we are going to be doing later. To watch a practical joke is great, but to watch a practical joke and find out how you create that practical joke is more fun. We blow up a dad’s golf clubs. The thought of being able to do that to my dad would have been awesome. So I think that’s why kids will like it. This is something you really can relate to.