A young boy bullied at school for wearing a wolf mask discovers the power of being different in Toff Mazery’s all-new 2D animated series, now streaming on Apple TV+.
Venturing down a magical tree trunk portal into a world of creation, a bullied boy discovers the power he holds in being different. Wolfboy and the Everything Factory, the wild, weird, and whimsical new 2D animated series now streaming on Apple TV+, artfully inspires young audiences by drawing inspiration from creator Toff “Wirrow” Mazery’s own experiences of living life “drawing outside the lines.”
“We’ve said from the beginning when we started writing, that throughout the show, for kids and for everyone, we explain that the weird parts of us are the parts that aren't conforming to what we think other people want us to be,” says Mazery, who co-created the series with Emmy Award winner Edward Jesse. “That drawing-outside-the-lines way of thinking and way of going forward, I think that’s the key. If I hadn't done that, I don’t think I would have been as happy and satisfied in my life and in my work. In art and in life, I took a lot of the outside-the-lines turnings. And some of them bought me to this job and hitRECord.”
Produced by open creative platform hitRECord and Bento Box Entertainment, Wolfboy and the Everything Factory follows the epic story of Wolfboy (Kassian Akhtar), an imaginative child who is teased at school for wearing a wolf mask. After retreating into a nearby forest, the boy discovers two magical sprytes who unknowingly lead Wolfboy to their Everything Factory at the center of the earth, where everything - from clouds and trees to rabbits, dreams, hiccups, and even memories - is created for the natural world on the surface.
While at the Everything Factory, the expanse of Wolfboy’s imagination baffles even his new spryte friends, including the wise Professor Luxcraft. In the 10-episode series, Wolfboy not only discovers his destiny to play a vital role in an age-old battle between the forces of creation and destruction, but he also learns that it’s the dreamers like him who can change the world for the better.
In addition to newcomer Akhtar as the titular Wolfboy, the cast includes Critics' Choice Award nominee Archie Yates (Jojo Rabbit), who portrays Sprout; Lilly Williams as Xandra; Cristina Milizia (DC Superhero Girls) as Floof; and Gordon-Levitt as Professor Luxcraft. The series is peppered with special voice performances, including Juno Temple (Ted Lasso) and Gordon-Levitt's former 3rd Rock from the Sun castmate, stage and screen legend John Lithgow. Gordon-Levitt also executive produces the series with Mazery.
“I just so believe in Toff and his vision,” says Gordon-Levitt, founder of hitRECord and known in animation for his leading roles in Disney’s Treasure Planet and Studio Ghibli’s The Wind Rises. “And I felt like my job was just being able to give him the support and say, ‘You keep being yourself and tell your honest story. And we'll help you do that.’”
Visual artist Mazery and Gordon-Levitt first met when Mazery decided to share samples - on hitRECord’s website - of his “Tiny Stories” collection, fantastically colorful illustrations accompanied by a couple sentences of narrative focused on the highs and lows of life and a person’s place in the world. It was Mazery’s Tiny Stories Universe art, which he’s been creating for 10 years, which served as the inspiration for Wolfboy and the Everything Factory.
“Joe himself noticed and enjoyed [Tiny Stories], and we started a Tiny Stories collaboration with the hitRECord community, aiming to curate the amazing contributions into an illustrated Tiny Book, which hitRECord self-published,” explains Mazery. “On the back of that success, through Harper Collins, we published “The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories.” Working on those books with Joe and the team were some of the best years of my life, and it set me on a course that eventually got me to Wolfboy. I’m always grateful to Joe for everything he saw in my work.”
Though Wolfboy and the Everything Factory isn’t drawn from a specific “tiny story,” Mazery has used the character in repeated illustrations and connected with Wolfboy on an even deeper level after his drawings came to life once animated in this new series.
“Wolfboy is trying to figure out who he is, and he goes through ups and downs where he's trying to please everyone and trying to be who they want him to be,” says Mazery. “When I was growing up, I didn't know exactly who I was. I don't think all kids do. You're kind of told who you are and then you're trying to figure out who you really are by yourself. And when you're being yourself, you're going to probably be a bit different or a bit weird.”
Wolfboy and the Everything Factory’s narrative certainly speaks to this idea, but so do the show’s softly painted, brightly colored and sparkly visuals. Of course, a spryte realm filled with glowing dragons, revolving snow globes, and a new discovery behind every geometric and gemmed door would be quite different and “weird” compared to the human world. But even the sprytes themselves are pretty wild; some resemble miniaturized plants or animals, while some appear as completely unidentifiable shapes. The only thing spryte designs have in common is that no design is the same as any other.
“I didn't want them to look like humans, and they needed to come from the mountains, water, and earth and be whimsical,” explains Mazery. “One of the most amazing parts of this job was hiring artists that I've loved through the years, like our art director, Beatrice Blue, and see the show become an amalgamation of everyone's artistic vision.”
He continues, “It’s the perk of being a showrunner. One day, one of our character animators, Natalie Andrewson, came up with 100 different characters. The imagination that went into these characters is amazing and it’s a huge part of what made the world so beautiful. It’s been like magic.”
And Gordon-Levitt has brought his own magic to the show, lending his voice to a character he’s always wanted to play, but was never given the chance until now. “I've always loved stories about magic and worlds of fantasy and, in particular, the sort of magical, mentorly sorcerer figures that one often finds in those worlds,” he shares. “I've never gotten to play one before and doing the voice of an animation is really the perfect way to do it because I couldn't grow a beard like that, even if I had 20 years to spare. It is such an opportunity to be this kind of archetype that I wouldn't normally get to be on camera but in a voice and using our imagination I could be this guy.”
Mazery adds, “When the idea came that maybe Joe could voice him, suddenly he’s younger, more energetic and weirder. It changed everything. It changed the way I wrote him. He was much more three-dimensional, much more whimsical. And it made a much better character.”
Finding the right people, like Gordon-Levitt, to bring Mazery’s weird and whimsical vision to life, he says, was one of the main ingredients and main joys of creating Wolfboy and the Everything Factory.
“Working with people who clearly resonated with the message of the show, and put so much of themselves into it, not just our unparalleled creative team, but the production crew also, I'm really grateful for that,” says Mazery. “It was a labor of love for all involved, and it's brought us all very close as a 'wolf pack.’ We all saw something of ourselves in this story.”
And Mazery hopes Wolfboy continues to inspire viewers in the same way.
“Always keep your imagination and creativity alive,” says Mazery. “Because one day it might become your superpower that helps you change the world.”