Scott Sanders, co-writer and director of cult hit film “Black Dynamite” and Carl Jones, the producer behind popular animated TV series “The Boondocks,” have teamed up to bring “Black Dynamite: The Animated Series” to Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim early next year. Speaking with the press at New York Comic Con to talk about the series, it became quickly apparent that the two clearly have a fantastic working relationship and friendship. Their chemistry was palpable as they chatted at various roundtables, laughing and playing off each other’s stories.
Fans of the 2009 movie will be happy to know that creator and star Michael Jai White along with Byron Minns and Kym Whitley will be reprising their respective roles in the big-to-small-screen translation, and Sanders and Jones revealed that there are a few other things die-hard Dynamiters can expect. (“Black Dynamite on Ice,” anyone?)
“The Boondocks” drew some of its influence from “Samurai Champloo” (which borrowed much from blacksploitation) — it’s specifically noticeable in “The Boondocks'” opening credits sequence. Is “Black Dynamite: The Animated Series” bringing this influence around full circle?
Carl Jones: The guy who animated that for “Samurai Champloo” is a guy named Takeshi Koike…he did influence the style of the “Black Dynamite” series. I love the way that he used the heavy blacks. He also did ‘World Record’ [a segment of] ‘The Animatrix’. So I wanted to create a world where the comedy was so over the top, and tonally the show was very silly, but it would contrast with a very dark and gritty style of animation. It is somewhat anime-influenced, but not so much. You know, just in that way — just really, a lot of hard edges and lots of blacks and shadows. Everything is in shadows everywhere. So yeah, we borrow a little bit here and there. But who doesn’t?
What’s the brainstorming process like when it comes to writing each episode?
Jones: Sometimes we come up with stories, and the shows seem to write themselves. Sometimes we come up with stories — and we wonder how we’re going to make it to our airdate. [Laughs] It just depends on the story. Fortunately, we’ve got a bunch of story ideas. I mean, we literally may have — we’ve got between 30 and 40 episode ideas. We’re ready to take on three seasons if we can. But you know, the process is really — there’s not a real process. It’s kind of like, we could be at lunch and [points to Scott], “Hey — what would happen if Nixon sent Elvis into the black community to stop drugs?” [Laughs] You know what I mean? It’s that kind of thing. So it’s just not really a real process — it’s pretty loose.
The actors have mentioned that sometimes, when they’re doing voiceover, they’ll improvise something and you guys will have to set that aside to incorporate the idea into a later episode, because they have to speak to the animation already created.
Jones: Yeah. We give them a lot of flexibility. You know, we’ll tell them, “Get it as written, and then do what you want.”
“Black Dynamite” has gone from a film to a graphic novel and now to an animated series — is there a sequel to the film coming up? A musical? What’s next — you’re conquering all mediums here, apparently!
Scott Sanders: Well we’ve got the sequel, and then we’ve got the Broadway play. [Laughs]
Jones: “Black Dynamite on Ice!”
Is that an exclusive? [Laughs]
Sanders: [Laughs] Yeah, exactly! I think we’re going to pretty much make a sequel. I mean, that’s the plan. Uh, the Broadway [play], I’m not really sure about. [Laughs]
What are the details of the sequel that you can divulge right now?
Jones: There’s some honkies in it! [Laughs]
Sanders: We haven’t made it up yet. [Laughs]
Jones: That’s not the answer that you wanted! [Laughs]
Sanders: It’s really funny because we were at the San Diego Comic-Con and somebody was asking, “Well, who’s going to be the villain at the end of the movie?” and I was like [Speaks through laughter] “I haven’t even written it yet!” [Laughs and voices a question-and-answer with the fan] “Will it be another honky?” “Yes!”
With the current 3D trend, would you consider shooting the sequel in 3D?
Sanders: We’re thinking about it. But it’d have to be some sort of like 70s version of 3D, so it’d have to be the red-blue-green glasses, and everything would look all messed up! We’ll bring back, like, Smell-O-Vision and all that William Castle-type stuff.
The pilot of the animated series was 15 minutes — it’s gone to 30 minutes now for the series. Was there ever a thought of it only being 15 minutes?
Sanders: That was originally [the idea], yeah.
What happened to make it the full 30 minutes?
Jones: I always wanted to do half hour because I knew we needed enough time to establish a really crazy plot and do enough character story. Like, in the pilot you never really got a chance to learn who the characters were — especially in relationship to each other, and how they formed a family. So this gives us room to have B-stories and explore a lot more character arcs. Because there’s only so much time you’ve got — if Black Dynamite kicks somebody’s ass for seven minutes…[Laughs] that eats up…you know what I mean? So yeah, that’s the biggest advantage.
Speaking of the pilot, which was released on AdultSwim.com this past August, did you guys make any changes to the material you’re currently creating based on fan reaction?
Jones: Nah, because we were already too far into it anyway. But the feedback has been really good — it’s just been encouraging, more than anything. It’s just like, wow, everyone really likes it! It feels good to get that kind of immediate response before you actually premiere the entire show. It’s exciting. I still can’t believe that we’re able to do this.
I can’t think of many movies that can successfully build across so many different platforms and have such a devoted fan base.
Sanders: I think it’s because the movie did — nobody saw it originally in the theater, and then they kind of discovered it and it became their own thing. The people who liked it really, really liked it, you know, because they kind of found it on their own or they heard somebody who told them that they should see it or something like that.
Will there be an action figure line?
Sanders: You know, people just do bootleg stuff. [Laughs] I have so much “Black Dynamite” bootleg merchandise in my house. [Laughs]
Jones: He hunts it down!
Sanders: I hunt it down on the Internet and buy it!
Jones: It’s really weird. [Laughs] [to Scott] Tell them about the…
Sanders: …the kitchen magnets? Yeah. Somebody made some “Black Dynamite” kitchen magnets that are based upon the posters from France, and I bought them in Thailand! [Scott and Carl laugh hysterically] So I’ve got these “Black Dynamite” kitchen magnets from Thailand based on the French poster, and there’s like nine of them!
Jones: His whole refrigerator is covered! An action figure would be cool, though.
Sanders: Somebody’s made some action figures too. They were good.
Jones: Is it like an old Mr. T doll or something? [Laughs]
Sanders: [Laughs] Yeah that’s what they do — they rip the heads off some other doll and stick Black Dynamite’s head on!
A big advantage to an animated series is that it affords you the ability to have a revolving door of guest voices — can we expect that with “Black Dynamite?” If so, can you give us the scoop on some of the folks we’ll be hearing?
Jones: Yeah! Clifton Powell, Debra Wilson, Orlando Jones, Arsenio Hall, Cedric Yarbrough, Snoop — we’re working on some other people because we’re still recording, so I don’t want to say yet until we’ve got them confirmed.
Is there a debate at all regarding Saturday evening versus Sunday evening for the show airing?
Jones: You know, I don’t — I live in a cocoon right now. I have no idea what they’re debating on in terms of airing.
Sanders: That’s hilarious, because I didn’t even think — like, I always watched “The Boondocks” off the Internet…[Scott and Carl laugh and agree]…so I’m never even conscious of the fact that they come on at night!
Jones: Yeah! I really don’t know.
Obviously, with Adult Swim you can be bolder when it comes to content, but what can people expect — will it be about on par with the film or will it be a little more out there, taking more risks?
Jones: We’re trying to push it as far as we can go. I’ll tell you that.
Have you gotten any pushback from Cartoon Network or Adult Swim?
Jones: A little bit. I’ll put it to you this way: at the end of the day, it’s a business. And I know when I’ve gone too far, but I send the shit anyway. You know, just because I want to see how far we can go. But they’ve given us way more flexibility — there’s no other network in the world that would air what we’re about to do. I know for a fact. It’s insane. It even tops what we’ve done in “The Boondocks” in a lot of ways, in terms of the edginess and how far we push the bar.