BSCkids recently got the chance to interview the executive producers of the animated series, “Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters,” Andrew Robinson (Jackie Chan Adventures, G.I. Joe: Renegades) and Henry Gilroy (Star Wars: The Clone Wars). They told us a little bit about the series and what fans of Duel Masters can expect from the series.
The series began on June 2nd on The Hub. It features the voice talent of Scott Wolf (“Party of Five”), Freddy Rodriguez (“Ugly Betty”), John DiMaggio (“Pound Puppies,” “Futurama”), Oded Fehr (The Mummy) and Phil LaMarr (“Mad TV”). “Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters” is an animated action-fantasy series that follows the adventures of a young hero, Ray, who possesses the rare ability to befriend and duel alongside fantastical creatures from a parallel dimension. Evil forces would have these creatures tamed and enslaved, so Ray and his two best friends must join the ranks of the mysterious Duel Masters to ensure the survival of both races before it’s too late. In the end, it’s up to Ray to master the ancient art of Kaijudo in order to protect both worlds.
Give us a little background on the plot of “Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters.”
“Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters” is about Ray and his two best friends, Gabe and Allie, who learn that there is a parallel dimension to our own, in which strange, fantastical creatures live, and that sometimes those creatures make their way across the dimensional barrier, or Veil, into our world. They also learn about – and wind up joining – the Duel Masters, a secret order whose responsibility it is to protect this world from those creatures, and to stop those who would use the creatures for their own gain.
What drew you to working on the show?
The opportunity to make a show with a rich mythology; never-before-seen realms filled with incredible creatures of every shape and size; and great action, but which also has a grounded moral center, and characters who speak to different world-views, who feel identifiable and real. Also, we’ve tried to tell stories in which empathy and friendship prove stronger than coercion and bullying – which is the central theme of the show for us.
Are there any storylines that you were excited to develop for the show?
Andrew’s Answer: The storylines are ALL exciting! Obviously we can’t talk about much in the way of storylines that haven’t aired yet, but we think that the world on both sides of the Veil should prove to be pretty exciting.
Henry’s Answer: We have tried to fill every story with a sense of wonder and a sense of unpredictable fun that goes into summoning a bizarre dueling creature from another dimension that our heroes must befriend and hopefully build relationships with. The stories have this sense of adventure combined with character humor here and a global theme about standing up to bullying… wherever it might be found.
Why do you think fans of the Duel Masters game will like the “Kaijudo:Rise of Duel Masters”?
They will have the opportunity to see some of their old favorite cards come to life, and we think they’ll also like some of the new creatures/cards we’ve inspired. And while the card game is not literally depicted in the show, we think they’ll appreciate seeing how we worked some of the conventions of the game into the show’s action. For example, while there aren’t five literal shields that a duelist would bring out in the show (as there are in the game), we do honor the idea that a mana-shield can protect a duelist for a time.
What do you think sets this show apart from the other “good vs. evil” type animated series that are airing right now?
We would hesitate to call this a “good vs. evil” show, because the story and the stakes aren’t that simple. That said, probably what sets us apart from a lot of shows, is the fact that our heroes develop relationships, friendships, with the creatures they duel with – because those creatures are characters who think and feel and articulate their emotions, and the audience can invest emotionally in those relationships. For example, we made a point of saying that our protagonist is a kid who gets bullied, and that the relationship he develops with his chosen creature is one of the ways he learns to deal with bullies.
The show boasts several well-known actors such as Freddy Rodriguez and Phil LaMarr who lend their voices. Were you a fan of any of their work before they signed on?
Oh, of course! We are lucky enough to work every week with some the best voice-over actors in the business – such as John DiMaggio, Phil LaMarr and Kari Wahlgren –as well as a few actors who are better known for their on-camera work (Freddy Rodriguez, Scott Wolf and Oded Fehr) but who have brought their own spin and talent to their roles on our show. We can’t speak to all of everyone’s previous work, but it is easy to say that we were quite familiar with them and fans of theirs – and are even more so now.
How long does it take to produce an episode of the show?
From the time we conceive of an idea for a story, to the time the episode is totally animated and finished with post-production, it seems to take roughly a year.
Question for Henry: You previously worked on “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” Is it safe to say you were a fan of the Star Wars trilogy before working on the series?
I was certainly a fan of Star Wars before developing the Clone Wars series; as a matter of fact, I had written several Star Wars comic book stories which helped convince the folks at Lucasfilm I was the guy for the job. Really, Star Wars and Kaijudo have a lot in common, strong heroic themes, strange cool creatures the heroes ride and lots of swashbuckling action.
Question for Andrew: You previously worked on shows like “Jackie Chan Adventures” and “G.I. Joe Renegades.” Is there anything you learned from working on those series that you will be incorporating into “Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters”?
Well, given that Henry was one of the writers overseeing “G.I. Joe Renegades,” I was extremely happy to be working with him on “Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters.” But I’ve written for around 20 shows, and of course you learn something from all of them, to try to find that mix of compelling story and action and humor in the service of your characters’ growth. For “Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters,” we wanted to bring a sense of grounding, of emotional realism, to the show, that will hopefully make it just a little easier for the audience to identify with our heroes and their creatures – and of course making some mind-blowing action!