Marvel Animation Age's Jim Harvey caught up with Craig Kyle, one of the head producers for X-Men: Evolution, to talk about not only his work on the hit animated Kids'WB! series, but how he got into animation and what attracted him to doing X-Men:Evolution. And here we go...
James Harvey (JH): How did you get involved in animation?
Craig Kyle (CK): I started in animation seven years ago working at DreamWorks TV Animation as Harve Bennett's Executive Assistant and Script Coordinator on Invasion America. After Invasion ended, I moved on toToonsylvainia and worked with that series on its last season. I had the privilege of being the second to last person booted from the DreamWorks TV Animation Division before our offices were closed and handed over to the accounting department.
After that, I worked at BKN under Stephanie Graziano and Rick Ungar. Rick asked me if I would like to oversee the production of another series that he was Exec. Producing called Dan Dare and I jumped at the chance. My direct boss on the series was Bob Forward, who was the series Producer. After that, I worked on a CGI film project as a Consultant for a few months when Rick contacted me again and asked if I wanted to be a Consultant for X-Men Evolution. Rick knew I was a fanboy as did John Hardman, Head of Development at Kid's WB.
So, I helped build the series and eventually was asked to join Marvel Studios as their Director of Creative Affairs for Television Programming. I skipped a few things here and there but I think that's boring enough.
JH: What attracted you to X-Men: Evolution?
CK: When I was twelve years old a friend of mine took me to a comic shop in Westwood, California and X-Men issue 181 was my very first comic purchase. The X-Men have been my favorite comic book team ever since. So when I was given the chance to help bring these characters to life I couldn't pass up the opportunity.
JH: Did reading comics prepare you to tackle a huge comic property such as X-Men?
CK: Like I said before, I found the X-Men when I was twelve and from there I started reading other series. Some of the ones that immediately come to mind are the New Mutants, X-Factor, TMNT, Spider-Man, Batman and The Tick. I LOVE mutants and the X-Men were always the best. I know the X-Men up and down. Frank Paur may have me beat on some of the comic storyline specifics but I definitely know who these characters are, and in our series that's all that matters. The integrity of every X-Man in X-Men Evolution has not only been maintained but also expanded to new heights.
JH: How did you pick which characters, in X-Men: Evo, would be become teenagers and which would remain adults?
CK: This choice was guided by the needs of the Network. They wanted the bigger names from X-Men who had the coolest powers and personality traits that the fans might relate to. I helped come up with a list of characters, as did others in the creative team. As to why exactly Wolverine and Storm were chosen to be older and the others younger I can't quite remember. The choices worked out quite well in the end.
JH: How does producing the show for a kid-themed channel inflict on the writing process? Have there been difficulties dealing with sensitive issues and censors on X-Men: Evo?
CK: As a comic book fan I would love to see lots of on screen violence, a little blood, heavy romance, death once in awhile, and the list goes on but I am NOT who we are making the show for. We are trying to create a show that kids will love.
When I was a kid I loved Godzilla movies, Adam West's Batman, The Super Friends, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, and The Incredible Hulk. Most of those things I can't watch anymore with the exception of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, that show is still great! My nephews Jack and Danny are 4 and 2 and they LOVE the Adam West Batman series. I can barely watch that show now but if it were not for that series my nephews wouldn't be able to enjoy super heroes. They wouldn't even know what a super hero is, so I am grateful that series is there for them.
I know, you think I've forgotten the question, but I'm getting there. There are some things that are meant for children and some things that are meant for adults. Our show was created to entertain kids, and hopefully it will help us create the fanboys and fangirls of tomorrow. The older fans that say we have ruined the franchise by making it a kid's show don't realize that's our job, that's our target audience. We hope to entertain EVERYONE, but if at the end of the day it's just the kids we get, GREAT! That guarantees we'll be on air that much longer.
After that long-winded statement what I'm trying to say is "yes" there are things we can't do that definitely affect the writing process. These are not problems but challenges that Rick Ungar and I feel everyone on the show have navigated very well. Greg and Boyd know how to avoid trouble long before we get to it. Sometimes we push BS&P on issues we feel strongly about, but rarely have to. Specifically, we have to watch the amount of head blows, broken glass, bodies that appear dead, overtly sexual situations and so on. But looking at our past two seasons, I don't think those kinds of cautions have hurt the series at all. It's still very much an action adventure series filled with a lot of drama, laughter and a little romance.
JH: Now a total fanboy question - which character do you enjoy most on the series?
CK: This is a tough question. Recently I asked Steve Gordon if he would do a drawing of a couple of characters for me. It took me ten days to narrow my choices down to just two and I could have taken longer but I was afraid he would change his mind if I called him during the holidays with my final answer. So, I'll answer your question in four categories:
All time favorite X-Men comic book character is Colossus.
My favorite series female is Rogue.
My favorite series male is Cyclops.
My favorite character design is Boom Boom in her baddie outfit.
I have a picture of the two characters Steve drew for me so you can see who I finally decided on. It's AWESOME! Steve is a brilliant talent!
JH: And another fanboy question - what can fans expect to see in the third season? What will be the focus of the season?
CK: The kids are no longer anonymous and because of that, the world has changed. Mystique and Magneto have different agendas and Apocalypse is about to return. This is a very heavy year for us.
Specifically you can expect to see Rogue overload. Her powers will be pushed to our animation limits. The fans will be in awe of the action and happy with the loose ends we've finally tied up. The original five members of the X-Men will team up for a very cool episode.That was something we did just for the older fans.
I created a new character for Marvel named X23 and she will be introduced this year. She shares a very unique connection with one of our most popular members of the team. That was the first episode Chris Yost and I wrote for the series and we're both really happy with the way the story turned out. FYI, Curt Geda directed that episode and the action is simply amazing. Lastly, the fans can expect a two-part finale that we hope will be as good as last year's season ender. Nuff said.