The series ended its two-and-a-half-year run on Cartoon Network on March 27, 2008 with the series finale "Lumpus' Last Stand" after 5 seasons and 61 episodes. This series returned to Cartoon Network in 2012, in re-runs on the revived block, Cartoon Planet.
After the end of the production of Rocko's Modern Life, Murray kept a notebook of ideas for television shows and books. Murray attributes some of his most fond memories to days at summer camp; Murray said that he attended summer camp every summer for "4 or 5 years in a row" and that he "couldn't really get the scouting thing down." He also described cartoons with pastoral settings such as the Bugs Bunny cartoons of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series and Yogi Bear as having a "calming" effect due to the tree-filled backgrounds. At the time he believed that too many futuristic themes appeared in media and literature, so he wished to create a series that would "get back to nature." Camp Lazlo originated from a camp-related children's book series concept by Murray that, according to him, "outgrew it’s medium." [sic] As Murray developed the concept, he felt that his "lunatic characters wanted to live" and decided that a simple story could not sufficiently house his characters. Murray desired to create a series about a group of children without "high tech stimulus" and "in nature."
Linda Simensky, who had previously worked with Murray on Rocko, had since moved to Cartoon Network and called Murray to solicit a new series. After an initial hesitation, Murray sent Simensky the idea for a show with a working title of 3 Beans. Simensky "thought it sounded too much like a salad", so Murray changed the name to Camp Lazlo. When approval was given, Murray decided to produce the show at Cartoon Network Studios and brought Mark O'Hare on as co-producer.
According to Murray, the "green light" to start Lazlo had been initially given and later revoked, leaving Murray and Mark O'Hare "pissed" and "depressed." Murray believed that an executive was not "completely sold" with starting production for Camp Lazlo. Murray worked to have the series receive its final, definite approval.
Murray felt that Camp Lazlo successfully appealed to younger children because his prior experiences with his own children helped him determine details that children found humorous. Murray said that he resisted the urge inside of him to micromanage the production and instead approved aspects and contributions related to the show. He said that he had "a lot of pre-production time" and therefore details became established before the show aired on television.
His main philosophies expressed in the show include the phrase “be who you are" and that one should question authority unless the issue is "a safety issue." Murray said that he avoids sending "messages" to children and that he hoped that his television show did not contain "too many messages."
Murray said that he likes storybook art and the works of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse; the styles influenced the visual style of Camp Lazlo. He also describes "great comic book artists" as important to himself and Mark O'Hare.
The show features the adventures of three major characters: Lazlo, the title character, is a spider monkey from São Paulo, Brazil with a carefree attitude; Raj, an Asian Indian elephant who is more level-headed; and Clam, an albino pygmy rhino, who speaks in bursts of short prases, usually one or two words, synonymously echoing his friends statements.
Carlos Alazraqui, Tom Kenny and Doug Lawrence, all of whom provided much of the voice work on Murray's previous series Rocko's Modern Life, provide lead voices in this show along with veteran voice actors Jeff Bennett, Jodi Benson, Jill Talley (Kenny's wife and Mr. Show co-star), and first time voice acting Steve Little (Alazraqui's Reno 911! co-star).
Camp Lazlo premiered on July 8, 2005 in the United States. In Canada, Teletoon's English channel also debuted the show June 26, 2006; but in the last week of August 2006, it was pulled from Teletoon, and returned on June 22, 2007. The second season premiered on Teletoon in the fall of 2007.
In Turkey, Camp Lazlo is rerun on Cartoon Network
The setting of the show was designed to deliberately bring a nostalgic feeling of childhood summer camps and "evoke a comfortable place to visit." The colors instill the feeling of summer camp, and rather than basing color schemes on real-life colors; Murray and Sue Mondt, the art director, chose the colors. In Camp Lazlo, the sky can be yellow, and trees are not always green and brown. For the architecture and objects, books with cabins, camps and Native American artifacts were consulted. Ultimately, Murray wanted to create a place where nature prevails, and the hustle and bustle of real-life is left behind, with no technology to distract from the impressions of camp life. He describes the camp as having a "retro" feel. Murray likes 1950s and early 1960s designs of objects like advertising art, lamps, and old vacation brochures, and he said that the "brushy quality that developed at that time" heavily influenced the setting.
Camp Kidney is the camp where most of the show takes place. This is a summer camp attended by a group of boy scout-like campers called The Bean Scouts. In keeping the theme of the name of the camp, the campers are allowed to name their cabins after various types of beans: Jelly Cabin, Pinto Cabin, Fava Cabin, and so on. The camp is known for a low standard of quality, and has been threatened with closure more than once. The camp is led by Scoutmaster Lumpus, with most of the administrative details assigned to his assistant, Mr. Slinkman. A full staff complements the camp, including a nurse and a chef. Ginia Bellafante of The New York Times said that if she became "socio-analytical about the Lazlo enterprise," Camp Kidney appears to be a stand-in for "our culture of obsessive parenting."
Acorn Flats is across the lake from Camp Kidney, attended by girls of similar age, called the Squirrel Scouts. Acorn Flats has higher quality facilities than Camp Kidney, a point of contention between the two respective camps, with Acorn Flats being the more dominant in the rivalry. The leader of the Squirrel Scouts is Jane Doe, and her assistant, Ms. Rubella Mucus.
Both Camp Kidney and Acorn Flats are part a larger hierarchical organization, under the direct command of Commander Hoo-ha, with "The Big Bean" as the head of all scout chapters, which includes Beans and Squirrels and (possibly) Tomato Scouts.
Prickly Pines is a town near both camps with full commercial facilities: a post office, several restaurants, a laundromat, and other sundry stores.
The exact geographical locations of these settings is unknown.
Murray asked many staff members who participated in creating Rocko's Modern Life to return and perform duties for Camp Lazlo, describing his main tactic to attract the crew as "coercion." Murray wanted the Rocko's Modern Life crew as it "knows my sensibilities" and gained ten years of experience. Crew members of Rocko's Modern Life, such as Robert Scull or Peter Burns, have worked on this show.
For Season One, Murray hired among others comedy writer Martin Olson, who had collaborated with Murray on some of the most successful stories for Rocko's Modern Life. Murray asked Tom Kenny to voice characters because Murray felt that Kenny "adds writing to his roles" and "brings so much." Murray looked for "comedic timing" in his voice actors, and therefore he used many stand-up comics and sketch actors.
The music score for the show was composed by Andy Paley, and features original camp songs, bluegrass and cowboy swing. Joe Murray explained that the team often used "strange instruments" such as washboards, and the musical saw.
The series won three 2006 Pulcinella Awards for Best Animated Series for Children and Best Animated Series for all ages and Lazlo was the winner of Best Character at the 10th Cartoons By The Bay Festival in Positano, Italy. It was the second consecutive year that a Cartoon Network series won the latter two awards, as the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends character, Blooregard Q. Kazoo, won the award the year before.
Emmy Awards and nominations
- "Hello Dolly / Over Cooked Beans" was nominated for an Emmy in the category Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming less than One Hour)
Ray Richmond of The Hollywood Reporter posted his review of the series on 7 July 2005. Richmond said that his child enjoyed the show but did not ask to see it again. Richmond said that the show forms "plenty lively and a nice, safe way for a child viewer to spend a half-hour." Richmond said that the show has too much "self-consciously precious" humor; the reviewer said that the trait may not factor for children and described children as "demanding and nondiscriminating at the same time."
Joly Herman of Common Sense Media posted a review of Camp Lazlo on Go.com. Herman describes the humor used in the Camp Lazlo as making it an "unpredictable show for younger viewers." Herman gave the show two stars out of five.