Our Exclusive Conversation with Giancarlo Volpe

Bill Giancoli and I recently had the great opportunity to have a conversation with Giancarlo Volpe, producer of “Green Lantern: The Animated” series to talk about the show for our Podcast of Oa 1st anniversary episode.  Giancarlo spent the hour sharing some of the behind the scenes decision making that went into the show’s creation as well as some of the tough decisions that had to be made to remain faithful to the source material while still fitting the time and budgetary constraints they are faced with.  Along the way we find out some things that we cut from the “Homecoming” finale, his thoughts on the feature film, what the censors had to say about the Star Sapphires and hints of what’s to come this fall when the second batch of episodes begin airing.  
To make sure that this is available to everyone we’ve transcribed the interview in its entirety –
Myron Rumsey <MR>: Giancarlo, welcome to the Podcast of Oa, this is actually our first year anniversary episode, so we’re glad to have you on board to help us celebrate – so welcome aboard!
Giancarlo Volpe <GV>: Wow!  Congratulations and thanks for having me!
Bill Giancoli <WG>: No, thank you!
GV: Glad to be here!
BG: So, Giancarlo, could you just get us started with a little bit of your background and how you got into the animation field and how you eventually ended up with “Green Lantern: The Animated Series”?
Green Lantern series producer Giancarlo Volpe
GV: Oh man, I’ll try to give you the abridged version of it!  I started out as an animator on “Pajama Sam” and “Putt Putt Enters the Race” for a videogame company called Humungous Entertainment.  I did that for a few months and then I got my big break in Hollywood on “King of the Hill”.  I worked there for sixth years and actually became an Assistant Director during my time there.  From there I moved to “Avatar – The Last Airbender” at Nickelodeon and, you know, cut my teeth on directing.  Scored a job at Lucasfilm working for George Lucas on “Clone Wars” and then that got me this gig as Producer for “Green Lantern”.
BG: Wow!  That’s a very impressive resume!  I was just talking about my resume and you definitely topped it!
GV: Well it sounds kind of impressive when you list all it a row like that!  I still of see myself as just an artist you know trying to pay the bills and do something that sounds fun.
MR: That’s definitely a great history lesson of how far you’ve gone from one thing to the other and working for George Lucas and then working for Warner Brothers are great feathers in your cap.  And working with Bruce Timm!  To jump right into the Green Lantern animated series, you know Green Lantern has got a mythology that’s really huge and you’re looking at almost a “Star Wars” meets “The Lord of the Rings” type of a mythology.
GV: That’s true
MR: Was it difficult to find a focal point for the show and not want to bring in, you know, “i want to this and oh, let’s do that!” – was it hard to stay focused?
GV: Not really because I came at it from an approach that was I couldn’t assume that the audience knew a lot about Green Lantern lore.  And this is probably a little biased because I didn’t coming into this job.  I mean, I knew who Green Lantern was – I grew up on the “Superfriends”.  So I was always familiar with, “oh, that guy he always makes the boxing glove, you know!”  And punches everybody out, but I can’t say that I read Green Lantern a lot as a kid.  I read a lot of Marvel books when I was a kid.  So you know I had to do this very quick crash course to figure out what Green Lantern was actually about and thankfully with Geoff Johns taking over when he did, I don’t remember what year it was, but it was really a great starting point to begin kind of studying without having to read everything that was written since the Golden Age Green Lantern.  What I think was good about what Geoff did was that he really knew how to honor all the stuff the happened in the past and kind of boil it down to its raw element and at the same time expand it, which is not easy to do – it’s actually kind of hard for me to even explain.  
For example, taking this random fact that Sinestro had a yellow ring and Carol had the Star Sapphire, I guess it was originally a gem on her head or something like that!  And then turning into this whole color spectrum, so he made the world even bigger.  All of these things I love, so I guess to try to answer your question, I knew I there was a lot of good stuff to work with, but we had to start the episode assuming that the audience knew nothing.  One of the things we said early on was we can’t assume that the audience saw the movie, and this was before the movie came out.  I know we were all crossing our finigers hoping it would be a hit, but we couldn’t take that for granted, so if you watch the show you could tell everything’s very carefully paced and laid out a little bit at a time so that it doesn’t give you too much at once.  That’s my very long winded answer to your question!
(Laughter)
BG: No, that’s very, very telling!  Actually you answered a lot of questions that we had listed, so thank you for the interview, it’s been great!
(Laughter)
BG: So you’ve answered our question about not being a Green Lantern fan prior to the animated series but you were into comics, you kind of had a comic’s fascination?
GV: Yeah, I grew up on, well; I’ll tell you the ones my brother and I shared.  It was Spiderman, X-Men, Avengers, Captain America – it was a lot of Marvel stuff – which you know I hope no one at DC gets mad at me for saying that!
(Laughter)
BG: You’re secret’s safe with us!
GV: So, yes, I had a comic book vocabulary for sure, but there’s this interesting tidbit to it that you should know.  I’ve said this at a couple of comic book conventions.  My brother and I used to draw comic books for each other when we were kids and my character was Power Boy – he was basically me and that was my alter ego.  He wore these gloves that gave him powers and it was clearly ripped off from Green Lantern’s ring, so there was something about that character that spoke to me even though I didn’t read the comics faithfully.  Like our origin was the exact same, like it crashed to Earth and then he found it and he put it on and suddenly he became a superhero.
BG: I think we’ve all been there where we dream of something crashing to Earth and give us powers.  I still look at the stars every night hoping!  Now you were mentioning the movie – were you planning or were you making the animated series prior to the release of the film?
GV: Yeah, one of the things that I did when I first got there was I asked and begged and pleaded to read the script for the feature because I didn’t want the show to grossly contradict the movie and I didn’t want it to parallel, you know I didn’t want it just do the same thing the movie was doing.  So I actually, you know our Executive Producer Sam Register actually let me read the script.  I couldn’t take it out of his office.  Here I was this new guy at Warner Brothers and I had to, like, camp out in his office while he was answering emails and I read the script.  For the most part I mean the show almost hooks up to the movie except Carol still doesn’t know Hal is the Green Lantern, at least in our pilot episode.  But I gotta say I really enjoyed the script.  As a director I was excited.  I thought that if, for example, that script was given to me to direct as an animated feature I could’ve done – I felt like I could have done great things with it.  So I know that there’s always a lot of debate about the Green Lantern movie – you know “was the writing all there”?  But I don’t know, it was a solid script to me at the time, but who knows!
The movie led to the creation of the series and continues to have a lasting effect, but not in the way you might think.
MR: Do you think it was execution that kind of doomed it or do you think it was other things?
GV: You never know and I’ve been in this business long enough to know that there are so many factors that can kill any project and no one’s saying Green Lantern was a total failure.  I don’t think that movie was nearly as bad as people have pinned it to be, but there was something missing and I don’t if maybe there were too many cooks in the or kitchen or whatever, who knows you know?  It’s not quite as cohesive as I would have like it to be.
MR: I think your assessment matches some of the things that we’ve been saying.  People were overly critical of the film for one reason or another but there were clearly some things that it looked like too many people were making decisions and they changed direction and it didn’t quite gel the way that it should have.  I hope it doesn’t stop us getting a sequel or going forward with the “Justice League” in some way shape or form.  But I’m glad that out of it we got the animated show because it’s really been to me, I’m a 47 year old fan and I’ve been reading the books since the mid-seventies, to me this is the gem – if I wanted to expose anyone to Green Lantern for the first time I would show them your show.
GV: Oh, thank you!  That was definitely intentional.  One thing that a lot of people don’t realize about this business is that for all of these shows the target demographic is about six to eleven year olds.  A lot of people kind of grumble when they hear that because they want animation to be more adult and aimed at an older audience, myself included.  I don’t believe that animation has to be for kids, but we couldn’t take for granted that, you know, we weren’t speaking to middle aged Green Lantern fans, we were introducing this to kids who knew next to nothing if anything about the universe.  We very much approached it from a step-by-step Green Lantern 101.
BG: That would explain why we didn’t see a lot of car commercials during the Green Lantern animated series!  Or like live insurance commercials!
GV: Yeah, that Shirley Temple commercial’s always on!  There are a lot Green Lantern that want Shirley Temple DVDs!?
(Laughter)
BG: I think that’s what we really appreciated was that you struck, you found that nice balance that I can sit down with my son when he’s old enough and really enjoy the show on both levels.  It seems like you really touch on a lot of moral lessons as well as some deeper issues but keep it light enough for the younger fan to just enjoy as well.  I think going back to the whole movie thing, like too many cooks in the kitchen or not really picking a direction or demographic, it seems like you guys really tapped into a very fine line to be able to attract both sets of like hardcore fans and new fans and is that kind of like serendipitous thing that happened?  Or were you kind of like that is our ultimate goal and we just happened to reach it?
GV: Well, first of all thank you for so many compliments, but yeah, that’s what we were going for.  I have to admit even I was a little surprised how well it all worked.  We knew that we had to – you know as far as the hardcore fans are concerned – I’ve realized that you need to get the major facts correct which is Hal Jordan is the Green Lantern, he works as a test pilot at Ferris Aircraft.  He’s from Coast City.  If I were to suddenly to make him the lead singer of a rock band or something, some bad executive decision or something, the fans would be screaming bloody murder.  So we knew that we had to at least get those things correct but at the same time I have to put on my filmmaker hat that is just like, “how can we simplify this so that it’s easily digestible”?  
That’s why you see some changes here and there like Saint Walker’s origin, for example, is a little simplified from what it was in the comics and it’s not that I – I actually really liked the way it was told in the comics – but we didn’t have time in the episode to meet his family, care about his family, and then watch them die one by one as he climbed the mountain.  We just kind of simplified it and put him more a kind of a vision quest searching for the Ten Commandments or something like that, searching for this savior kind of thing.  Kind of cover his angst by saying that the Red Lanterns did something really bad to him and that kind of stuff so those are like filmmaker choices you unfortunately have to do where you sacrifice a little bit but in the end a lot of people even – I was happy that a lot of people said that we got even Saint Walker right, which means a lot that we weren’t screwing with the DC Universe.
While Saint Walker’s origin was tweaked, the producers definitely kept the essence of the character intact.

MR: Is it hard when you’ve got characters like that to try to add something new, for example Saint Walker’s a great example, where you really got the core of the character – we described him as a “blue Shaolin Monk” – one of the things you added was the way he blinks which we don’t see in the comics.  You’ve been able add something to the mythology that way.  Is it ever, do you ever get to a point where it’s difficult to balance how you pay homage to the source material and still be creative and do new things?

GV: To talk about that blink, that’s a holdover from the “Clone Wars’.  Actually, it’s a funny story.  When I was, it was my first episode on Clone War there was a character called Nuvo Vindi who was this strange alien who was concocting this virus kind of thing.  I was new to CG at the time and I learned just enough of the program to do this double blink for the character – I did it myself.  Somehow the file was never delivered to the overseas studio so I was always upset that I wanted this character to have this double blink and he never had it.  So I was slowly plotting an opportunity to put it back into an episode and I was glad I got to give it to Saint Walker.  I don’t know if there’s any symbolic reason why he blinks twice, I mean you make some artsy fartsy excuse that he sees things through two perspectives or what, but I just – it was just sort of a cool detail I wanted to get in there!  I mean trying to find a balance between, what was the question, like balancing what the character…
MR: How do you find the delicate balance between wanting to be able to create and add things of your own and be creative but being of kind of, I don’t want to say being chained to continuity, but you’re trying to remain faithful to the source material and so many creative decisions have been made with the product you’re given because it’s a corporate asset.  How do you strike that balance and that and trying to be creative and do new things – put your own spin on it?
GV: It’s going down that checklist making sure we get most of it right and then making these tough directorial calls and writing calls.  One of the early debates we had was if the Red Lanterns talked or not.  I was actually, if I can pat myself on the back, I was the one who pointed out that they don’t really speak coherent sentences in the comics except for Atrocitus.  We had a very short debate about that, like it’s going to be really hard to build a story around this, especially with Razor joining the team.  You wouldn’t want like this rabid dog on the Interceptor so we had to make these calls very quickly.  One of the things that I originally had asked for was that the Red Lantern did not make constructs.  I felt that rage it too volatile and destructive that they shouldn’t be able to make anything and it just got to a point where the storyboards were getting monotonous and repetitive where because it was basically the Green Lanterns would a cool construct and then the Red Lantern would break it.  So we eventually sort of bent that rule and let them make a cool weapon or something, but one of our rules of thumb is that a Red Lantern would never make something safe, like he’d never make a quilt or something!
(Laughter)
MR: It’s really kind of amazing if you think about how much you guys were able to introduce in these first twelve or thirteen episodes, and recently you tweeted about having to make some really tough choices about the finale.  Can you talk about or share anything about what we didn’t get to see in the finale that you guys wanted to put in?
GV: Oh, man!  What is it, your one year anniversary?  Ok, this your one year anniversary present!  The director Sam Liu will probably be happy that I’m sharing this!  What originally happened in that episode was Kilowog was at the maelstrom fighting off the Red Lantern armada and obviously gravely outnumbered.  Iolande showed up originally and that line about “one extra soldier isn’t gonna exactly turn the tide” I believe used to go to her and she brought out Thanagarians.  He was like how did you get those bandits, or whatever he called them, to fight for the cause.  She was, like, “easy, I paid them!”  You had cool shot of Thanagarians fighting Red Lantern ships and Iolande was side by side with Kilowog and then it still wasn’t enough and that’s went Saint Walker shows up with his friend Mogo.  The sequence was way bigger and crazier but it had to get cut for time and we also realized that on this TV budget we couldn’t afford to make that Red Lantern armada sequence very long.  One thing you’ll kind of notice when you watch the show is that at least fifty percent of any episode is usually two characters in a room talking and that’s offset by the crazy battles that happen so that it’s at least producible.  So there was a much bigger more epic fight – even the fight between Hal and Atrocitus was longer but we had to make some tough calls just to get it to time.

We almost got another appearance of the Thanagarians if not for having those pesky time constraints

MR: Now let’s talk about animation, the CG stuff.  I think a lot of fans were really surprised to see CG and Bruce Timm’s name in the same sentence together…

GV: Oh yeah!
MR: He mentioned in a couple of interviews before the showed started airing that doing CGI was more expensive and more time consuming because of the turnarounds you guys had to produce and how that affects the production in terms of budget and your creative choices.  Are there things about using CGI that impact what you guys want to do – do you have to change things because of CGI and there were creative choices you had to make because of using CGI over hand drawn animation and were there any benefits that you got out of it as a trade off?
GV: Yeah, there were definitely huge sacrifices we’ve had to make.  There’s this myth that CG let’s you do all these wonderful things and it’s so much superior to traditional animation but it actually requires a lot of sacrifice just to pull it off.  In a nutshell you have to have your character count a lot smaller on a CG show because again all of those models, that’s hours and hours of what they call “man weeks”!  Every single character costs all these hours of time and any time a scene is overloaded with characters it costs.  We had a very strict amount of character that we could put in this twenty six episode order and when we did the math at the beginning when we were starting to write we all got kind of panicked because it was kind of like, how are going to tell this epic story that we wanted to tell with so few characters.

But I feel like, and feel free to disagree; you don’t really notice it in the first thirteen.  There’s definitely – they’ll go to towns and it’s not quite as populated as it could be, but we pulled every trick we could to hide that fact.  But to answer the second half of your question about the pros of CG’s.  Obviously you can get a lot more dynamic lighting and more cinematic camera moves in CG which I think really pay off, especially like in the season finale it feels pretty big.  Scale is actually is easier to do in CG because basically the formula for scale is, in order to make something seem really big you have to animate it a lot slower, and if you’re drawing in-betweens that’s going to kill the animator.  But if the computer is doing the in-betweens though it’s as simple as pressing a button, so that’s how we got and that’s how we got a lot of things to look bigger and cooler!

(Laughter)
MR: One of the things that I noticed as the show went on for these first group of episode was, as it went on, the use of cameras, I don’t if it Bruce Timm or who was making some of those calls, but some of camera moves got more complex as we got further along in this series.  It’s almost as if he was learning how you could play with some these tools.  I know in high definition the show looks gorgeous.
GV: I think what that was when we first started the show I believe a very small percentage of the storyboard artists had actually worked in CG before.  So they just kind of inherently weren’t thinking of moving the camera in ways that they could.  When you’re animating in traditional naimation there’s certain camera moves that you just don’t do because it’s too hard to do that aren’t necessarilly true in CG so I think as the show progressed they started to realize, “oh, I can do that!”, and it’s apparent in the later episodes.
MR: Very much so!
BG: This is kind of an odd question, Giancarlo, but we were wondering, some of the things we’ve talked about on the podcast were, there were very few things for use to debate about with the animated series.  It seemed like we were always like nitpicking, but there was something that I had as a parent I was wondering if there was any flack or talk about the Star Sapphire’s outfits?
GV: Yeah, yeah.  Actually it was one of few Standards and Practices notes that we got was Carol’s outfit.  And it’s really weird how small of a difference it was.  She kind of has her cleavage is exposed – it was even more exposed originally and we had to kind of take it in a little bit.  Other than that no one said anything.  It was one of those calls; I’m usually pretty sensitive to feminism and that sort of thing, and not just treating women as sexual objects in these shows.  We all kind of agreed that’s kind of the whole Star Sapphire bag, I mean they are kind of like Sirens.  They lure with their seductive ways to that they can trap you in sapphires and stuff like that.  It’s like in anything else in this show or in filmmaking or in TV shows if you’re going to go there you have to make it very extreme and this is like all bets are off and we have to make them as sexy as you can get away with.  That was kind of the choice that was made for the episode but yeah they didn’t really complain about them, they did complain about Bleez’s outfit and it was modified as well.

Carol Ferris’ cleavage was only one graphic challenge that the producers had to face

MR: It’s funny that they didn’t complain about Queen Aga’po!

GV: Yeah, I know!  This is funny; we actually had to call a retake on her breasts!
(Laughter)
GV: It had sort of a lumpy shape to it!  They looked kind of like a bad boob job so we had to actually tell them to make them a little perkier and fuller!
(Laughter)
MR: That had to be awkward as an animator/director/producer to have to write those kinds of notes!
BG: I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall in that meeting, really!
GV: Yeah, it is at first but after a while when everyone gets to know each other then we’re just like totally cracking jokes about it.  Like, “Ew!  What happened to her boob!”  It kind of comes with the job.
MR: We have to talk about the two characters that everyone raves about on the show and that’s Aya and Razer, because they’ve really become fan favorites.  I don’t know if you guys are aware about the Razer/Aya shippers that are out there?
GV: Oh yeah, I’m on Tumbler and I see they call him “Rage bunny” or something like that!
(Laughter)
MR: The characters are great because they are original characters and they fit in so well and they’ve really become, like I said, fan favorites.  Do you guys have a long term plan for where they are going to go, I mean is there a target you’re shooting at or are you just kind of letting it unfold naturally?

There’s a plan in place for these two

  GV: We have a long term plan for them, I mean as Jim Krieg put it, sometimes the most exciting character in these types of series are the original ones because they’re fates are so much more open.  Like Hal Jordan – it’s harder to do something too drastic to his character because by default he has to be the leader, he has to be the good guy and all that.  We get a lot of questions about if he’ll ever become Parallax and I think we know the safe answer to that is probably not for a kid’s show….

MR: whew!
(Laughter)
GV: But with Razer and Aya we could do ANYTHING so I really had fun starting out Aya as just this ball, like this eyeball on the ship and slowly building towards even giving her a body.  It was really cool to stage out, like she didn’t really fight until episode nine, so you really get to see her grow.  And seeing Razer struggle with basically he’s kind of killer in the first episode and finds love by episode thirteen.  It gives you much further to go character arc speaking, that’s what makes it so fun to write those characters and tell their stories.
BG: We were wondering as far as how is the show – we don’t have any information – but how the show performing?  As far as through the network’s eyes, through the critics that you’re hearing from.  From our perspective it seems like it’s doing great but I mean is there anything you can tell us as far as from an industry standpoint are people very happy with this?
GV: Yeah, there’s all kinds of various to that question!  Cartoon Network has expressed that they’re really happy with the show.  They like the tone of it; they think it’s the right amount of comedy, the right amount of action.  Ratings wise I feel its very rollercoaster-y.  I’ve seen us as low as 1.8 and then as high as 4. something which is, 4. 2 or 5 is close to Sponge Bob numbers which is one of the kings of animation ratings.  It dips and it’s almost can’t predict when it’s going to dip or why so it goes up and down.  I’ve been tracking iTunes sales for the fun of it and we got as high as number seventeen on the season finale which I thought was really cool.
MR: Do the digital sales impact the numbers when the Cartoon Network looks at renewing a show – do those kinds of things play in at all do you know?
GV: I don’t know – it’s such a good question!  And unfortunately it’s even above my head, like I feel its whole other department that decides how crucial that stuff is and measures all these things but I do know that at the end of the day it all boils down to toy sales.  Which is a little frustrating because we haven’t really had a lot of toys outside of the McDonald’s stuff and the maquettes.  So I’m hoping that something will come out soon that can kind of cement that this is a property worth investing in.
BG: That was a month long of Happy Meals I went through!
GV: I know!  I don’t eat at McDonald’s all that much but, man, I was going there every day – it’s crazy!
MR: I resorted to eBay!
GV: Oh, yeah!
BG: But you gotta have the burger, too, you know!
MR: It’s true but you know I’ve been trying to lose weight and I was trying to be good….
GV: It was kind of a convenient excuse like that, I was like “do I play the producer card and tell them to send me a pack” but I was like “I kind of want to go to McDonald’s!!!”
 (Laughter)
MR: There’s got to be something I’m sure, Giancarlo, that as a creator to go to McDonald’s and see something you’re working on there.  There’s gotta be a little rush of seeing what you bring to life there and seeing kids enjoying it.
GV: It’s so weird, you know you daydream of that moment but then what actually happened is when I saw it I was kinda like, “Ew, Razer’s a little off model!”
(Laughter)

McDonald’s has offered one of the few merchandising opportunities for the animated series

GV: You start nitpicking it but I did see this kid at one of the McDonald’s that I went to pull Kilowog out of his Happy Meal and it was just the sound he made, it was like “Woah!” or something like that.  I couldn’t tell he knew who he was but he at least thought he was cool!

BG: I’ll admit that the Kilowog was the top toy from my opinion.  I actually have a funny story I’ll share real quick was I was in McDonald’s and I way hungry and I didn’t want the Happy Meal because I could really do a double cheeseburger and I asked if the Mighty Kid meal came with the toy?  And the woman was like, “if you WANT to, yeah.”  And I’m like, “Can I have Kilowog?” and she says, “Which one is that?”
(Laughter)
GV: Yeah, it was always funny to ask for that stuff, like sometimes I would say “Green Lantern” and they would seem slightly confused!  The worst one is that one where Hal’s got that wheel on his crotch!
(Laugther)
GV: I never quite understood what they were thinking when they did that one!
BG: That’s the Star Sapphire one!
(Laughter)
BG: Now is there anything fans can do to kind of help support the Green Lantern animated series?  I mean I’m not talking about an Occupy Warner Brothers kind of thing, but maybe something we can do?
DVD sales are crucial to the fate of the show

GV: Honestly the thing that will get the big wigs attention is dollars and I’m not saying this because I stand to gain any profit, I don’t own any percentage points of Green Lantern.  But buy the DVD, subscribe to the iTunes subscription if you can, buy the maquettes if you can afford it.  Anything that you can buy that has Green Lantern: The Animated Series on it get it – that’s like casting a vote and saying “we want more of this”.  There’s a part of me that feels even guilty just saying that because I think there’s something kind of nice about just paying enough to get Cartoon Network on your cable subscription and you just watch the show but if you REALLY want to rattle their cages it’s, they’re looking profits, they’re looking for merchandising profit.

BG: It’s refreshing to hear you say that.  I think it’s good for people to know and it’s one of those, you know you’re going to buy a DVD and you’re thinking about it, make that the purchase you make.
MR: Neither Bill or I get cable so we don’t get to watch it live, we have friends who record it for us on their DVRs and we go to their house to watch it and then we buy it digitally because we want to be able to see it in high definition whenever we fell like watching it.  I’m going to buy the DVDs – I’m hoping it they get smart and release it on Blu-ray because it really needs a high definition release, but who knows?
GV: I’m wondering if they’re going to do a Blu-ray for all twenty six or something, you know.  I don’t know.  They start with thirteen then the back thirteen and do like a collector’s or something.
MR: You know I’m the kind of person that I’ll buy one of each!
BG: And I’m the kind of guy that waits until he buys two and then I borrow one!
(Laughter)
GV: I can’t argue with that!  I even track YouTube hits.  We’re not stupid, we see people posting episodes on YouTube and there is, it’s weird the artist in me is just happy that someone’s watching it and so I remember when it first went it up we were lucky to get even a thousand hits on any clip or something like that.  I’m seeing the numbers grow more and more so I’d like to think that word of mouth is helping the show but you know only time will tell.
MR: I’m surprised that, I’ve been putting the preview clips up I don’t put the episodes up, but I put the preview clips up for the Blog of Oa and just to get people a taste of what’s coming up.  And I’m surprised Warner Brothers didn’t give me a cease and desist!
GV: I know, I wonder if they actually like that people do that.  I mean, I’ve been studying other networks and Disney is putting up the first episode of “Tron” and the first episode of “Gravity Falls” on iTunes for a free download.  Nickelodeon did the same think with “Korra” and I sometimes wish Cartoon Network or Warner Brothers was a little more savvy with that, like you kind of have to give away that first crack vile so that……
MR: Yeah, the first one is always free, isn’t it!?
GV: Exactly!
BG: I think it is great to see those thinks on YouTube because it does get people excited.  It’s good publicity but Giancarlo we are just so appreciative of your art and what you’re bringing to us.  It was only right that we keep you employed by supporting your art, especially because we enjoy it so much.
GV: Well, I appreciate it alot!
MR: Can you clear up one thing I’ve seen confusion about people talking about first season versus second season.  Now the initial order was for twenty six episodes – is that one season or is that two seasons?
GV: You know there’s no definitive answer to that question!  That’s one of those things that I just feel like maybe no one ever made actually the call but the best way I can describe it is that the first thirteen one story and the back thirteen tell a different story.  It’s still involves Kilowog, Hal and Razer and Aya but we kind of conceived it to be two seasons in that regard but as far as a production order is called they are calling it one so that’s why you’re getting that part one, part two that’s appearing on the DVD.  You know even me and Jim would refer to it, we’d switch back and forth between calling it season two and calling it the back thirteen.  I wish someone just put their foot down and declare it, maybe I’m the guy that has to do that but I think now that the DVD is calling it season one, part one I guess maybe we should stick with that.
MR: When will you know from the Cartoon Network, to give us an idea of the timeline, we’re going to have another set of thirteen episodes starting presumably sometime in the fall.
GV: Yeah
MR: When will you hear from Cartoon Network about whether there will be more?  Or is that something that they wait until the very end to tell you?
GV: Ideally we would’ve been starting the next ones by now, so they’re still playing the waiting game.  What I understand is that they, it goes back to the toy stores again.  It’s all sort of the ugly inside info on the business, but apparently the Green Lantern feature toys didn’t move units very well.  It was kind of terrible how they didn’t sell very well.  So when Mattel and DC were approaching Toys R Us and Wal-Mart and stores like that and saying “Hey, you want to stock this Green Lantern: The Animated Series show?” They were like, “Oh, no!  We’ve got enough Green Lantern on the shelves that we still can’t get rid of.”  It didn’t matter how many times we said, “No, you don’t understand, this is different, this is a different show”, they weren’t interested.  So this puts a lot of pressure on the show to stand its own and warrant toys to sort of demand the toys.  That’s kind of the awkward waiting game we’re playing.  I hope that the right things happen that will make things work forward soon.
MR: Now you talked one story’s over and another story is about to start, you’ve got a whole universe out there and the rest of the emotional spectrum at your fingertips.  Other than sticking Power Boy in……
(Laughter)
MR: Can you paint in some really broad strokes, because we’re all about the integrity and we don’t want to ruin anything for anybody, but can you give us a sense of the tone and direction where you’re going with Hal and the rest of the crew?
GV: I’ll try to do it without giving away too much.  I feel like it’s more of the same, if you like the first thirteen you’ll probably like the second thirteen.  There are a lot of people who are saying they like the second thirteen even more.  I’d like to think that’s the case, where we are all getting better at what we’re doing and finding the stride.  There’s going to be more Green Lanterns for sure.  There’s going to be a villain that I don’t think anyone’s saw coming which I’m really excited about…
BG: You’ve just made our day.  We’re going to be talking about this forever now!
GV: That was my intention!
(Laughter)
This fall Larfleeze will be ours!

GV: I believe it was leaked at some comic convention or something that Larfleeze will show up in the show.  I think it’s probably good that I warn it’s not until later in the season so you’re going to have to be very patient for him!

BG: Awesome!
GV: We actually picked the Comic Con footage that they’re to play at the DC Nation panel in, gosh it’s not even a month from now is it?  It’s like I can’t wait for this to get unveiled because I think a lot of people are gonna go, “I can’t believe they used that character and that character and that character!”  Or say, “Finally!  I’ve been waiting for this!”  I’m excited about it.
MR: Somebody leaked something about voice casting for a couple of characters.
GV: Oh, Really?
MR: I saw, and you don’t have to say yes or no because I don’t want to put on the spot, somebody mentioned Hector Hammond and Parallax
.
GV: Oh, I saw that actually.  I suppose it probably behooves me to neither confirm or deny that!  I will say I have seen enough on the Internet to believe you can’t believe you read, because I even saw some early episode titles that people were just making up and I was like, “why did they even. Where did they even get that from?”  So, yeah……
MR: It’s interesting as someone as, I’ve been doing the Blog of Oa for about three years now, and that’s something I struggle with is when I see information do I report on it or don’t I because it’s unverified ninety-nine percent of the time.  And I walk that line of am I just repeating it and if I do am I adding validity to it.
GV: That’s tricky!  I didn’t even think about it from your perspective.  I will say that we do have one episode of season 1.5 or whatever you want to call it that takes place entirely on Earth but for the most part it’s still that space romp, it’s still the Interceptor.  The other thing that’s worth pointing out is that in season one it was story point that the warp drive, er what do they call it, the hyper drive or whatever…
MR: Freudian slip!?
(Laughter)
GV: I know!  It was broken but it’s not anymore so they have a lot of freedom to go wherever they want to.
BG: I heard a rumor on the Internet, and you know this just might be a rumor, but there’s going to be a Bill Giancoli and Myron Rumsey lantern?  Maybe I’m just starting that rumor, I don’t know!
(Laughter)
GV: If you can whatever color what would you choose?
BG: Seafoam!
GV: Nice!
MR: We had a running gag in the beginning of our show where we were talking about all the colors of the emotional spectrum and maybe there would Anxiety be and Bill chimes in with “Seafoam!” and so then we went so far as to make an oath up for the Seafoam Lantern Corps.
GV: Seriously!
BG: We’ll send you a photo!
GV: Nice!
(Laughter)
MR: I actually got it all written out so that it matched the pacing and tone of the other oaths, the right number of syllables!  One of our listeners designed us T-Shirts and a logo and everything!
GV: That’s awesome!
MR: One of the things that really stood out for me with the show is the voicecasting.  Warner Brothers always does such an awesome job with voicecasting.  One of the funnest things is to see some of the different characters that showed up and to see Clancy Brown in the series and so on.  Are there people that you target particularly to take on certain roles?
GV: We had a pretty extensive auditioning process for the main characters, basically the ones that appeared in the first two episodes, but then it’s pretty astonishing how quickly things are cast on the subsequent episodes and I think that has a lot to do with Bruce’s experience in the business.  It was literally like the Casting Director, Lisa Schaffer, would turn around and say, “so, um, you know next episode we have Goggan.  Who do think would play that?” And Bruce would be just like, “you know, get this guy,” like he would just sort of like list who he had worked with previously who that would be perfect for the job!  That seemed to happen a lot, but there were a couple that were interesting debates.  I think Saint Walker was one where we weren’t really sure what he sounded like and so sometimes what we’ll do is like describe dream casting, not like the video game console, but if you get ANYONE who would play it dead or alive, didn’t matter what they were asking for paycheck wise, who would you get?  Then Lisa would kind of find someone who fit that description or something and it’s a fun process to work with those guys.  You get to meet some childhood heroes and they’re all so really cool and welcoming people, all of them.
MR: It was interesting to hear Robert Englund’s voice come out of Myglom!
GV: Yeah, he actually said in the booth like, “how do you want to do this?  Because I just don’t want to go to Freddy again!”  But he was also sort of like, “unless you want me to!”  It was obviously apropos that he’s the master of nightmares.
MR: We lost Ian Abercrombie who did the voice of Ganthet.  Are they going to re-cast that?
GV: Well we actually have, I suppose this isn’t too big of a spoiler to reveal, we actually have some of his performances in the can, if that makes sense, so you actually will see Ganthet again voice by Ian and I’m really happy that you…..you haven’t seen the last of him, let’s put it that way.  So we haven’t had to deal with who’s going to replace him yet, but that will be a discussion for the future.  I know Ian also worked as Palpatine on Clone Wars so I’m curious what call those guys make had to eventually make, but it was one of those unfortunate things.

While the voice of Ganthet has passed, he will be seen, and heard from again

MR: So in terms where the show is going you’ve given us a good picture of where things are going there, I’m trying to think of where I was going with that question, the show from a long term fan’s perspective it’s hit every beat that I would hope to see in a show and do you guys, are you aware of the feedback that people like ourselves have, do you guys hear any of that stuff?

GV: Oh yeah!  I would be lying through my teeth to say we didn’t pay attention to that stuff! There are some show runners that claim they don’t read the Internet response, but me and Jim in particular are like, it’s become our new past time to search for feedback on every episode, and you guys have been incredibly complimentary, so I thank you for that.  For the record you still have a total right to night like something if we get it wrong but it seems like for the most the general “Green Lantern: The Animated Series” response that I’ve, if I can collect all the data, is “I thought this was gonna SUCK!  But it was AWESOME!  I should have never doubted Bruce Timm!”
(Laughter)
GV: There’s still a couple of people out there, a number of people out there who don’t like the show and I’m sure the ones who really hate it don’t even watch it and don’t even bother to comment on it.
BG: I think you’re correct in that thought.  I was surprised by the show.  I didn’t know what to expect and it seems like you nailed it and I couldn’t be happier.
GV: Thank you!
BG: Just out of curiosity, is there, and this is more just, I don’t need you to give any spoilers, you’ve given us so much, but are there any characters in your reading of the comics that you’ve been like “wow, I really like this character?”
GV: There’s quite a few.  I not only read every Green Lantern since Geoff Johns took over, but I also read the Green Lantern Corps since around the same time period.  I liked all of those additional characters that they expanded on there, that was kind of one of the reasons why I put Iolande in an episode is because I really liked Soranik Natu in that kind of Iolande/Ragnar story she appeared to have been killed and I was genuinely bummed out when I read that issue or that graphic novel.  It was like “aw, man, I can’t believe they killed her!”  Then when I found out it was all a trick to out the murderer i was like “that’s cool!  I need to put that in the show!”  You know ideally we would have used her for that story but we didn’t have, the whole thing about her because she’s Korugarian and we couldn’t use Sinestro, we couldn’t introduce that character yet in the series so we, I’m kind of dancing around your question, but that’s one.  I really love Guy Gardner,  I just love how douchey he is!
(Laughter)
GV: I’m trying to think of others.  Arisia fascinates me – I tend to like the girly characters – I think I have a crush on all of them or something like that.  There’s quite a few, there’s even some designs that were done that haven’t made it in the show yet, so I’m kind of antsy for us to get a pick up so we can start modeling these new ones!
MR: In a way, I know you’ve said you couldn’t use Sinestro because of the movie and whatnot, I’m actually glad as a fan that you guys didn’t go that way because prior to this series every time  you saw a Green Lantern it was with Sinestro.  So this really allowed to you explore the Green Lantern without falling back on Sinestro as a crutch.
Sooner or later HE will appear!

GV: I think Bruce was equally relieved, because he’d been doing this for like twenty years now and it just felt like every Green Lantern story that he told he had to deal with Sinestro so he was really relieved to not have to do that.  But you know there are the fans that have been pretty vocal at ComicCon and Wondercon are like “where is he?”  I just recently tweeted that in our minds he totally exists in this universe, it’s not like we’re pretending he doesn’t exist, but we just haven’t got around to talking about him or showing him yet.  Obviously the orim crystals we introduced in the show was foreshadowing for him to build his yellow ring from, so we do want to build towards something and Sinestro is in the plans so I think it’ll be extra creepy when you see him appear in a room full of all these characters you’ve grown to love and you get this wicked character enter the room.  It could be really juicy stuff, dramatically speaking.

MR: I think that’s really what we all really want to see, that epic moment when we see Sinestro and Hal encounter each other, but it, I think when I look back at these first thirteen episodes you talked about building things and foreshadowing, everything that you guys put into place in those episodes, all lot of those things came into play later on.  So when we saw the Liberators in the pilot and then we saw Mogo later on and the Red Lanterns used the Liberators against Mogo I was like “that’s brilliant!” because you guys obviously planned that kind of thing all the way through and maybe being limited in your cast allowed you or at least put you in a position of having to be tighter in how you orchestrate those kinds of things.
GV: It was kind of those things that worked in our favor is that we had to, it’s exactly what you said, we had to be kind of prudent in what models we built so it actually worked out well.  For the most part there’s not really a full on filler episode in the series.  I mean you could argue that “Fear Itself” is probably the most expendable but you need it to introduce Galea so that she can become a Star Sapphire later and obviously there’s more orim foreshadowing in that.  It was fun to piece those things together and I think you’ll find similar stuff in season two but there’s also some things that we’re setting up that still don’t pay off until the next thirteen that we’ll do, God willing we get the green light!
BG: No pun intended, right?
(Laughter)
GV: Yes!  It used to kind of frustrate me early on when people would say “this episode was clearly a filler!”  Well, I don’t, is it?!  I know the hardcore fans that watched every single one of them got the fuller experience because they knew everything paid off eventually.
MR: I think when you read Geoff Johns’ run, he doesn’t waste a panel.  I kind of have a saying that “Geoff Johns doesn’t take a dump without a plan”
(Laughter)
MR: Because there are no throwaway panels.  Everything is there for a reason, so when I watch a show anymore I try to look at that long form story where something may seem inconsequential, but it probably isn’t.
GV: There’s a lot of pressure, again this is business stuff that from the network to not make the show too serialized because they have all these other agendas.  They want to repeat these things out of order ideally, you know.  So there’s a lot pressure every episode work on its own, which I actually don’t mind because every episode should have a beginning, middle and an end and it should have some sort of resolution but the fun stuff is like breaking those seasonal arcs first.  You have to that first before you do the individual episodes and we would really break it like a movie in that the midpoint is usually a crazy reveal which is about when you’ve got Razer sneaking back onto Shard to try and assassinate Atrocitus and then you learn more about the backstory of the Red Lanterns and his backstory.  Then having that dark low moment which happens when Hal and Kilowog and Razer are abandoned at the maelstrom and Atrocitus kidnaps the Interceptor with Aya.

That was all planned very early on and we knew that they need to get left in Frontier Space so that they could use the Zamorans to teleport back.  I remember one person said when the Star Sapphire episode aired, “does it bug anyone that they made this big issue about needing the Interceptor to get to Frontier Space and now you can just teleport back!”  He’s probably the one guy who realized what we were planning at the time.

MR: You know it was funny I was watching that episode tonight before the interview, just trying to get myself all hyped up so I watched the finale and I was watching that moment when transported Hal back and I looked at the some of the dialogue looking for little tidbits that might foreshadow things and they might never mean anything, but there was a comment that, when Aga’po talked about transporting over long distance could cause problems, I thought “gee, Carol teleported over long distance like that before”.   Are we going to that little evil bent that she did in the comics because her arc through these first thirteen episodes was so different from what the comics were like?  I enjoyed it thoroughly but it was a little bit of a departure because she was never controlled by the gem as much and I thought “are they alluding to something that might happen coming up?”  I thought “wow, that’s cool; I didn’t catch that the first time around”.
GV: Yeah……..maybe!  I know we felt like we had to like fast forward through her tale that she was kind of not, but it was triggered by her jealously of Giata and then she snaps out of it in the same episode.  But I actually kind of thought that was a good call because that made her stronger than all of the Zamorans who had kind of this twisted take on love and she sort of puts them in their place by telling them what love really is.  I think that kind of balanced out all of the cheesecake that we did by having a strong woman tell them what they were doing wrong.

Carol’s eyes changed color in the finale, accident or foreshadowing?

MR: I thought that was great – Bill talked about being a parent and about watching it with kids and I thought that was such a great life lesson right there about what love really is.  You kind of skillfully embedded that in there and showed how Carol rise above that.

GV: Yeah I really loved too that she kind of championed Hal to get his memory back in the season finale.  That was actually something we borrowed from the Green Lantern script, the feature script.  She had this talk with Hal, I’m talking about the movie, where she said essentially he was afraid to confront Parallax and she said that “they got it wrong, they think I don’t have fear but I’m full of fear” and she basically said the age old cliché of like “courage isn’t lack of fear it’s going on despite the fear that you have” and that was what bolstered him to go confront Parallax.  I thought that was an old choice that they moved that scene to a lot earlier in the movie so it wasn’t, it kind of wasn’t in the right place, like he needed to hit that low spot and then Carol sort of coached him to go take on this big threat.  So we did it in the show, we kind of copied their pattern in the show for what it’s worth.  So there are good things that come from the movie.
BG: You said we’ve been very complimentary about the animated series, although there’s one character, the new warden of the prison?
GV: Oh, Goggan!
BG: Yeah, he was coming as kind of the Jar Jar Binks of the show!  But other than that we loved everything!
GV: You’re not alone!  Bruce was kinda like “what are you doing?” when we put that character in the show, but I think he knew that’s a little bit of my Avatar roots is that I do like to kind of shake it up and there’s sort of this comedy somewhere in the series.  It’s always a tough call, like one of the things that a lot of people cite as their favorite scene from the show is when Hal insists that Kilowog and Razer shake hands and then they shake their hands in anger.  So you know sometimes comedy plays really well and sometimes it annoys people so we try to get it right.  I actually don’t mind Goggan but I know not everyone agrees.

Green Lantern’s Jar Jar Binks, or comedic genious – you decide!

MR: That episode where he was warden and there was the fart humor I went from 47 to 7 years old in a snap!

BG: That was Myron’s favorite part, so to kinda give you an idea of where we’re at!
(Laughter)
GV: We had a debate about that! Are we going too far?  I think there’s like one fart joke and then it became two, and then it became three, and so..
BG: Well, once you have the two you HAVE to go for the three!
(Laughter)
BG: Giancarlo I just want to end with the question – what are you reading, what are your influences, like a couple of your favorite movies or something, just to kind of give us a little intro into your mind kind of thing?
GV: Well, every time someone asks me that question I always get so stumped to answer and I’m not sure why because when I think of people I look up to I want to ask them the same question but it’s such a wild variety of all sorts of things.  My favorite movie of all time is probably “The Godfather”, it probably has something to do with my Italian roots, but I’m definitely kind of an ’80’s child.  I grew up on “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” and I think there’s a lot of that reflected in the show.  As far as what I’m reading you may be surprised to hear what I say.  Are you aware of, I don’t know how to pronounce his name correctly, forgive me, it’s Osamu Tezuka, the creator of “Astro Boy”.  I actually crazy about this work, there’s a lot of it available in bookstores and there’s something about his storytelling that’s very inspiring me even on Green Lantern, just how kind of clean and clear it is.  It’s a little bit like you were describing Geoff Johns and that like every panel sort of forwards the story a step.  So that’s a big influence for me.  Obviously when I was kid I actually read a lot of the older Jack Kirby Marvel stuff so I’m sure that has a lot of influence on me as well.  Does that answer your question?
BG: I think it’s good just to see, I think it’s funny that you did mention “Star Wars”, I think both Myron and I being big “Star Wars” fans we often compare the Green Lantern universe to the Jedi order and I don’t know if you would think that’s an apt comparison but I think it is.
GV: Yeah, it totally is, so much in fact I was doing Clone Wars for three years and I get this chance to run a show and it was more or less the same stuff, you know?  It’s like, yeah, it takes place in space, there’s this band of police or whatever that uphold good and arrest the bad people.  I’m really doing the same thing in just a slightly different mask or something like that, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Jim Krieg is a huge “Star Trek” fan and I think you can tell there’s a lot of influences from that show in Green Lantern.
MR: Right down to the sound effects!
GV: I know!  Bruce can actually recognize those when we’re in the mixes he’ll be like “Oh, yeah, yeah, use that.  Use that photon torpedo!”
(Laughter)
GV: I’m not actually a huge “Star Trek” fan but I’ve realized working on the show has made me more fond of it.  When it’s on cable or something like that I’ll actually stop and go “huh, these characters kind of remind me of the Green Lantern show!”
(Laughter)
MR: Well, Giancarlo, this really has been a treat for us and really appreciate you giving us some of your time.  I hope we can do this again soon, maybe when the next set of episodes start to run up and have you back on again.
GV: Thank you so much and I hope that I did a good job answering your questions.  I feel like I’ve droned on a few times so forgive me if I babble.
MR: Not at all!
BG: We’re gonna break this up into thirteen segments and release them!
GV: But is that season one or season one and a half.
BG: This is gonna be year one-a!
(Laughter)
GV: I also just want to say real quick thank you guys so much for having me on and being so supportive of the show.  There’s a lot of people on the crew that really look forward to reading your reviews and it really fuels our tanks of moral and inspiration when someone out there actually watches the show and appreciates it, so thank you!
MR: Well you know it’s funny when you said that in the email you sent me I was like “really?  I didn’t think you even knew I existed!  I started this as an experiment.  I thought this’ll last until the movie and then it’ll die out and no one will read it, so to hear that is very humbling but also it energizes me to want to keep it up so I appreciate that.
GV: That’s really awesome!  It’s the symbiotic relation!
MR: Well, thanks again, Giancarlo, we really appreciate it.
GV: Thank you, good luck and hopefully we’ll talk again soon.

About the author

Life long Green Lantern fan and co-host of the Podcast of Oa. I’m a Barbecue snob and aficionado of blues music. Hal Jordan is my co-pilot!

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