Since 2018, Laurence Fishburne and his Cinema Gypsy production company have been working with Marvel Animation to create an all-new animated series based on "Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur" by Brandon Montclare, Amy Reeder, and Natacha Bustos, which was a sequel to Jack Kirby's "Moon Boy and Devil Dinosaur" from 1978. The show follows 13-year-old supergenius Lunella Lafayette, who teams up with the T-rex she accidentally brought to the present day to protect the Lower East Side of New York City from danger.
Originally, the cartoon was meant to premiere on The Disney Channel in 2020, but the pandemic threw a wrench into their plans that even Lunella couldn't fix. However, now the series is finally ready to make its debut. In fact, it's even been renewed for a second season already, so there are clearly big plans in store for this new Marvel dynamic duo.
During last year's New York Comic Con, we spoke to executive producer Steve Loter and supervising producer Rodney Clouden to get the scoop on the unique look and feel of the latest collaboration between the House of Ideas and the House of Mouse. In our interview, they talk about the inspiration behind their takes on these fan-favorite Marvel Comics characters. Plus, they touch on how award-winning songwriter, musician, and producer Raphael Saadiq of Tony! Toni! Toné! fame became incredibly instrumental as the executive music producer for the show.
'That's The First Thing That Came Into My Mind'
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
One of the things I love about Marvel is they've always taken this approach of the world outside your window. "Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur" provides a very authentic feel to New York, so I was wondering, with things like the blackout in the first episode, what other real-world issues are you looking forward to exploring in your show?
Clouden: Well, there's a lot of issues that we can't really get to tell you, but it deals with a lot of issues of self-care, things they're dealing with in the community, and gentrification. Those are few of the topics that we do [cover].
Loter: It's important to kind of remember that it's the mind of a 13-year-old, and it should be something that everyone in the audience can feel and understand. That's the springboard for us. But because it's set in the Lower East Side of New York City, there are, of course, story aspects that you get with the environment. Rodney mentioned gentrification. I think all [that] keys in together to tell the narrative story.
Representation is so important no matter what age you are. And I remember growing up watching shows like "Static Shock," which paved the way for diversity in superhero media. What show or shows inspired your team while you were creating the vibe for "Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur?"
Clouden: For me, when I came on to work on the show and I was introduced to the vision and vibe that Steve wanted to create, which [came from] the design of New York: Basquiat street art, Andy Warhol, and the music. I immediately thought of "Fat Albert," which would have these [sequences] with the music. It was rock, jazz, R&B, and music like that. That's the first thing that came into my mind when doing the show.
'By The End Of Him Signing My Record, I Had Him Actually Signed On'
Music is definitely one of the things that stands out while watching that first episode. What was the process like of finding the right musicians or the right music coordinator to deliver the right sound?
Loter: The music executive producer is Raphael Saadiq and he is absolutely amazing. Early on, I knew he was absolutely the person I need to do this. But you know, he's a genius. He's very much in demand. He's touring. So he was doing a record signing at a record store in L.A. I made sure I was first in line and in the 30 seconds it took for him to sign my record, I pitched him the show. By the end of him signing my record, I had him actually signed on to "Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur."
That takes "elevator pitch" to a whole new level.
Clouden: Oh yeah. He shot his shot like Jordan, LeBron, and Kobe.
Loter: It's just been amazing ever since, because immediately he recognized, "Okay, this is a kid's show, but I don't want to kind of talk down to the audience. I want to create music that's going to speak to everyone." That's why the music is so good. Also, he was so interested in the narrative storytelling behind the songs. He wanted to know, "Okay, what's the emotion the character's going through? I want to kind of key off of that. That's my starting point." And then we would also throw a number of genres his way, like, "This might be good as a Broadway song or as a rap song or as pop song." He did everything completely effortlessly. It's just absolutely amazing.
In addition to the music and the striking visual style standing out in the show, another memorable aspect is the "language" that Devil Dinosaur uses to communicate with Lunella. What went into creating that visual language?
Loter: When [Fred Tatasciore] gets his scripts, it doesn't just say, "Devil makes noises here." He wants the dialogue written out because he wants to be able to emote. He wants to be able to do more than just sounds. He's an actor and he's giving a performance. With that being said, we had to find a way to visually represent Devil Dinosaur's language. We did it in emojis [because it's] simple and clear and direct.
Clouden: And current.
Loter: And current! When he's talking to other animals, you'll see that, even [as] it gets even more kind of broken down into levels of simplicity. There's one really funny sequence coming up where he's talking to some squirrels and some birds, and you could also tell that there's a different intelligence level going on with different animals and comprehension. The thing about visuals is it's ever-evolving, because you want to keep it fresh and you want to keep it different. So as soon as we come up with something interesting, we tend to kind of throw it into the show.
'There's Some Interesting Stuff Coming'
Finally, Marvel heroes love to team up. Devil Dinosaur and Moon Girl are a great team, but can we expect anyone else that we might recognize to join their team for an adventure or two? Or are there any team-ups that you want to put in future seasons?
Clouden: There's always one. Let's leave it at that.
Loter: Well, I mean, it's a Marvel show and we grew up with the "Marvel Team-Up" comic books. There's some interesting stuff coming in the future of "Marvel's Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur."
"Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur" premieres on The Disney Channel on February 10, 2023.
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