EP Steve Loter and Co-EP Rodney Clouden talk about their fun, wonderfully stylized Emmy-nominated series about Lunella Lafayette, a quirky and capable super-genius - and her 10-ton T-Rex, Devil Dinosaur - whose secret identity and super hero-ing on the Lower East Side continue to weigh heavily on her personal life; the 2-episode premiere hits Disney Channel and Disney XD February 2, Disney+ on February 3.
With a 2-episode Season 2 debut today, February 2, on Disney Channel and Disney XD and tomorrow, February 3, on Disney+, Disney Branded Television’s Emmy Award-nominated hit animated series, Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, returns to face new foes and new personal challenges on the Lower East Side.
The 2D animated series is executive produced by Lawrence Fishburne and Helen Sugland’s Cinema Gypsy Productions and Steve Loter. Rodney Clouden and Pilar Flynn are co-executive producers; Kate Kondell is co-executive producer and story editor; Halima Lucas is co-producer and story editor; Ben Juwono is co-producer and supervising director; and Rafael Chaidez is producer.
The series stars Diamond White as Lunella Lafayette (aka Moon Girl), Fred Tatasciore as Devil Dinosaur; Libe Barer as Casey; Alfre Woodard as Mimi; Sasheer Zamata as Adria; Jermaine Fowler as James Jr.; Gary Anthony Williams as Pops; and executive producer Laurence Fishburne as The Beyonder. Edward James Olmos joins the cast for Season 2 as well.
Loter and Clouden recently talked to AWN about the new season that digs deeper into Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur in their element as super heroes. As Moon Girl’s super hero-ing intertwines more with her personal life, she must decide if the cost of keeping her identity a secret is worth the toll it takes on her family. Based on Marvel’s hit comic books, the series follows the adventures of 13-year-old super-genius Lunella Lafayette and her 10-ton T-Rex, Devil Dinosaur, as they protect her Lower East Side neighborhood from danger.
Check out the official Season 2 trailer, then read on to learn more from Loter and Clouden about the super hero team’s newest exploits:
Dan Sarto: So, what can you share? What's in store for Season 2? Edward James Olmos joins the cast. He's been one of my favorites since his Miami Vice days… I date myself.
Steve Loter: Season 2 is juiced up, for sure. Season 1 was about Lunella becoming Moon Girl. But Season 2 is about Lunella being Moon Girl. Now that everyone knows that Moon Girl is patrolling the streets of the LES [lower east side], the villains are leveling up against her. She also has some tremendous conflict where she's trying to keep the secret that she's Moon Girl from her family, which has been really difficult as well. So, everything is kind of coming to a head. But with that being said, we still have plenty of comedy and action and incredible music.
DS: You have a young heroine; she's smart, she's quirky, she's snarky, and she's juggling all sorts of things that would give anybody fits, let alone a young kid. How do you balance the fun with the element of danger? You want there to be some real risk, but there's as much danger from being found out as there is from battling super villains. How does this all get figured out in development? What does the story development process look like?
Rodney Clouden: It's a credit to our writing staff. We sit and think of the overall arc of the season, wanting to touch on issues that normally aren't touched on in children's programming. Mental health is one of them, anxiety, things of that nature. And we want to approach those things, like toxic expectations that you have on yourself, and that people place on you. And thinking that Lunella is a superhero, you realize she deals with them also. We try to set a tone, to approach in a unique and considerate way how we handle these topics, having it to be fun but also informational.
RC: You don't want to make it too heavy, but you want it to be understood that everybody goes through this. So, it's nothing unique for a problem that everybody can deal with it, and different ways to deal with handling these things.
DS: The show’s animation is wonderfully stylized. Right. The character and environment designs, the use of split screens and cool graphic elements, things being done in some of the bigger animated features that you don't see nearly as much in episodic. What inspires the show’s designs?
SL: Thank you for noticing that. What we do is treat each episode as a mini-feature, where we give the same level of care with colorscripts, palette changes, everything you normally would do in a feature, but on a TV schedule and a budget, which means doing things much, much faster. But our amazing crew, I mean, they really strive for something unique. We're all inspired by a lot of different things. There's a lot of Spider-Verse inspiration in there, and there's a lot of anime inspiration in there.
You'll even see live-action influences. Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim. There's a lot of that in there too. So, it's just kind of a combination of a lot of things. And our crew is a really interesting mix of people that have been in the industry for a long time and people new to the industry, so they're bringing a lot of different inspirations and references to the table. And it's kind of like a giant mashup, honestly, of styles, to create something unique. And I think it's intentional, but it's also kind of by default, just when you kind of pull all that together.
DS: How much do those production capabilities influence you with regards to the stories you're going to tell and how you tell them, knowing you've got a team that can create things visually that you might not have been able to do or had the budget to do just a few years ago?
SL: Every time we come up with a story on the show, we aim for the best story we can tell, and then kind of whittle down the magnification, the expanse of it to something that is somewhat manageable on a schedule and a budget. But we always aim high because, really, story is king. It starts there.
RC: In terms of how we approach story, we ask, ‘What is the subject matter like?’ In Season 1, it was about cyberbullying, but then there was a literal troll that Lunella had to battle in terms of that. So, what is the unique approach to a certain topic or idea that will be enhanced visually? And our staff of writers, they were all women with different, unique perspectives on how stories were approached with a certain sensitivity and tone that made it unique as well.
DS: And it’s entertaining. It's a fresh approach, both narratively and visually. In the last few minutes we have here, what are the biggest challenges on the show for you? It's very common that, coming into a show’s second season, you kind of got your sea legs as a team on Season 1 and now for Season 2, it's not like you rest on your laurels. You just kind of ratchet things up and expand your horizons. What have been the main challenges for you guys with the second season?
SL: Well, for sure, it is a juiced-up season. Lunella gets a new costume, and she gets new tech. I mean, that's on the surface. But what we're able to do is now that the audience is familiar with the characters, we're actually able to explore some deeper subjects. It is the type of thing where Lunella is developing as a character. Early on in the season, she faces a foe that she can't defeat with her superpower, which is her brain, and develops PTSD based on that encounter. So, that's something that we probably wouldn't have tackled in Season 1.
But now that you're familiar with Lunella as a character and you understand how much of an impact that would have on her, we could go for stories like that. But it also gives us the opportunity, now that you know the characters, to have more fun with them. Lunella is going to her junior prom. What does that entail? What is dating like? Is she ready to date yet? So, once you get to know the characters, it feels that we can take them on a bigger journey than we would have in Season 1.
RC: And I feel like we really got our legs in Season 2. We’re really filling out the characters. And also, everything was running smoothly, and the gears have been really working in sync… with the design, the storyboards, and the writing. We're really understanding the characters and the show is really, really running smoothly. So, I think that we can keep this train going for another two or three seasons.
DS: Or more.
SL: Or more.
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.