ComingSoon spoke to Super Giant Robot Brothers‘ executive producers Steve O’Brien and Jared Mass to create the upcoming Netflix animated series in Epic’s Unreal Engine.
“Two bickering robot brothers experience growing pains as they battle bloodthirsty monsters, supernatural disasters and mundane personal issues,” reads the show’s official synopsis.
Spencer Legacy: Tell me about this unique process that you guys are doing.
Steve O’Brien: So, just by way of background, we’ve historically been a film-oriented studio, so this is our first original series. We are super excited about it. From a process standpoint, this is perhaps the first series of this scale and quality made using a game engine — Epic’s Unreal Engine, practically from start to finish. So it is also important for that reason. Very innovative production techniques.
What are some of the challenges that come with using Unreal?
Steve O’Brien: I wouldn’t say there are challenges, they are more opportunities, right? So the show is storyboarded using a live-action camera technique rather than traditional hand-drawn storyboards. It gives you much more opportunity to iterate and try different things in the animation process. Then the engine also renders in real time, so it allows you to see more of a finished product while you are making the actual product. So picture by picture we see more [of] how the show itself is going to look like. And in the old traditional animation technique, you see hand drawings and playblasts and things like that.
What made you choose to use Unreal?
Steve O’Brien: We had been looking at it for a long time and experimenting and when this show came along we just felt like it was the ideal opportunity. Netflix was brave enough to jump in with us. Although the pressure was on us to deliver with this new technique, it all worked out and we are super happy with the results.
You said you have a film background. Did any of the employees have a background in game development?
Steve O’Brien: Yes, quite a bit actually. We built a team around the Unreal pipeline and built a whole new pipeline while making the show. I would say you bring people together from movies, episodic games… so it’s a unique team that we have in place now.
What was the most exciting part of making the show with this new method?
Steve O’Brien: That’s more of a question for our director, Mark Andrews, but what he would tell you is [that] as a director and storyteller, having the flexibility – as I mentioned earlier – to be on stage with real actors, play the scenes, try different things, different camera angles and so on, was a kind of new freedom to bring to the world of animation.
Do you expect this to become a more common way to produce based on your experience?
Steve O’Brien: We do, yes.
Do you think other teams might be able to quickly adapt to it? Was it an easy transition to using it or were there any bumps along the way?
Steve O’Brien: I wouldn’t say it was easy, but it was worth the effort, let’s put it that way. Very worth the effort. And I can see a future where we’ll be doing a lot of shows in this pipeline.
What, in each of your opinions, makes Super Giant Robot Brothers unique and worth watching?
Jared Messe: Super Giant Robot Brothers is a show really meant for kids and families, but it kind of takes its hat from old Kaiju shows from the 60s, 70s, [and] The 80s. Our showrunner, Tommy Blacha, likes to refer to shows as Ultraman and Johnny Socko and his flying robot and Games. The intention here is to make a show that celebrates the Kaiju genre, but also brings in some real comedy. [and] sibling rivalry between these two robot stepbrothers that I think kids will love because they get to see their own sibling rivalry that they have with their siblings in these two characters.
So it’s an action comedy where Kaijus attack Earth and you have these two stepbrothers who have just met and come from completely different sides of the personality spectrum who now have to work together to defend Earth from impending doom. My favorite part of this is just the action and comedy mixing together to celebrate a genre that feels classic and we’re bringing it to a whole new audience
Which of the brothers do each of you relate to the most?
Jared Messe: I would say I relate more to Shiny, who is the red, bulbous, older brother, but in many ways he is the younger brother because he represents his inventor – Alex Rose, our female heroine. Alex invented him when she was only two years old. Then he disappears and 10 years later he returns to Earth and Alex is now 12 years old and has since invented Thunder.
Thunder represents Alex Rose as she has now become a teenager who carries a very large responsibility to protect the Earth on her shoulders. So she has created Thunder to be much more mature, robotic, responsible than Shiny, even though he is the older brother [that] was invented by her when she was two. He’s really much more of a character who works off of his gut reaction to things. He is more reactionary.
But he has a huge heart, doesn’t he? So he’s much more relatable, I think, to us as an audience and to kids because he has a kid’s heart and imagination. Thunder is more responsible even though he is the younger brother. He has to deal with his older brother’s immaturity and lack of experience, and the two are forced together. So I would say I relate more to Shiny because I like to tap more into my childish imagination and reactions to things. And I don’t like having to be the mature and responsible side.
Steve O’Brien: What Jared mentioned earlier is what really grabbed me about the show, and having raised three kids who are all in college or beyond now, watching their personalities and their outlook on life change from toddlers to teenagers… and having personalities like Shiny and Thunder reference. it’s really interesting. What I found is that when I watched the final show now staged on the Netflix platform, I found myself laughing as much at Thunder’s comedy as Shiny’s, which is great because as it just man in the duo, he really delivers. So since Jared said Shiny, I’m going to say Thunder.