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Toon Zone Interviews John Delaney on "Futurama" in Comics and "Chaotic"

Longtime readers of the Toon Zone Forums will remember the John Delaney sketch poll with fondness. Familiar to many readers as the artist for Justice League Adventures and other animated tie-in comics from DC, Delaney is now leading the team bringing Chaotic to the 4Kids! Network. Chaotic centers on two teenaged boys who discover a world behind their favorite card game, where the monsters and duels played in the game become real.

Toon Zone News interviewed John Delaney via e-mail to talk about Chaotic, as well as his work on the Futurama and Justice League Adventures[i] comics.

TOON ZONE NEWS: Just for the record, you’re not the John Delaney who’s the oceanographer or the one who’s the former mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, right?

JOHN DELANEY: Right. I’m the John Delaney who has been a professional animator/director for 22 years and a comic book penciller for over 12 years. I have also been teaching animation and comic book art at the prestigious Emily Carr Institute of Design & Capilano College for 11 years

The cast of 'Chaotic'TZN: How did you go from a comic book artist to going to Chaotic?

JD: Actually its more like the other way around. I was working in animation for about 9 years before I got my first comic book job at DC Comics, doing Adventures in the DC Universe.

TZN: Regarding Chaotic, which came first: the game or the show? Or were the two developed at the same time?

JD: I believe the intent was originally to develop the game first and create the show around it. However, once we began on the show it began to take on a life of its own and much of the show and game crossed over into each other’s development.

TZN: How much involvement does the card company have on the direction of the show? Does it flow in the other direction, where an idea for the show makes its way into the game?

JD: The card company generally creates the cards and the more organic and painterly versions of the characters. It is then our job to interpret the characters into an animated style that will best serve the Flash/mixed medium method of animation we are using. However there has been a couple of occasions where the card art was reworked to better represent what was going to be shown in the series. Maxxor & Taki-Nom both received make overs in card art after we had redesigned them for animation. The card company is doing such a terrific job on the art that we are usually able to just take what they give us. Thus far all weapons & vehicles have been designed by us at Bardel and incorporated into the card art.

TZN: Was there some idea that you came up with for the show that the licensor said you couldn’t do?

JD: By and large we have been able to do most of the ideas we have put out there. Having 4Kids as both broadcaster and producer has helped enormously with slogging through the red tape of what can and can’t be done. Additionally we want the show to appeal to as wide an audience as possible so its in ours and 4Kids best interest to do things that work for the show and not against it.

A Chaotic trading cardTZN: How exactly is Chaotic animated? It looks like Flash, but better than a lot of the other Flash cartoons out there.

JD: While it is predominately done in Flash there are significant differences in approach that you may be noticing. Where many shows use Flash as a way of moving symbols around to achieve animation, on Chaotic we are using it in a way much closer to traditional 2D animation. Instead of simply moving symbols around we are “drawing through” animation as well as adding in antics and slow ins and outs. We treat our show as if it were a 2D show but use Flash to achieve it. We have multitudes of choices regarding things like hand positions, facial expressions etc. etc. We also incorporate actual 2D animation in some scenes which we then break down and realize in Flash.

We also employ traditional 2D animation for more dramatic style movement that Flash by itself is simply not capable of conveying well, and we use 3-D for almost all the weapons and vehicles. Almost all our effects are hand drawn and then effected in After-Effects. As a matter of fact, everything goes through a compositing and after effects pass to give it that extra pop.

As each show is completed we are refining our look and approach. You’ll start seeing some really nice looking stuff in the next bunch of episodes as we have really begun to firm up the look and feel of the show. I am very proud of show 1 & 2 (“Welcome to Chaotic” parts 1 & 2) but we’ve made tremendous strides forward since completing those shows (including a redesign of Maxxor). The next couple of shows will really blow your mind when it comes to what people are used to seeing in a Flash show. By the time we are half way through our first season we should have the whole style and approach solidified and it is our goal to make Chaotic the flash show that will raise the bar for what can be accomplished in flash.

TZN: 4Kids has made statements that the story will roll out over seven years. Does that apply to the card game, the TV show, or both? If the TV show, how much planning has already occurred, and how much room does that give you to explore the worlds of Chaotic?

JD: There is definitely a plan for the show but we still have a fair amount of latitude when it comes to pushing things in different directions. We have a great relationship with 4Kids and they with us. There is so much give and take going on and so many ideas that I truly believe this show could go on even longer than 7 years. Its that ripe with possibilities.

TZN: Do you know why there was such a long delay between the sneak peek and the debut of the regular weekly show?

JD: Yes. We took a look at what we had done and what we decided to do a bit of a retooling to make the show look and feel better. You’ll notice that the overall palette and design of the show becomes much more refined by the third episode and onward. We even redesigned Maxxor.

TZN: What’s the most valuable thing that you’ve learned from your experience on Chaotic?

JD: That there are a lot more things that can be done in Flash than most Flash productions have explored.

Futurama #18, page 1TZN: Switching gears to the Futurama comics, how did you manage to land that job?

JD: I had been working for DC Comics for about 8 or 9 years when a friend of mine (and fellow Futurama/Simpsons penciller) James Lloyd recommended me to Bongo. I did some samples up and got the gig. Coincidentally I had met Matt Groening and Bill Morrison a couple of years previous at the San Diego Comic Con when I was working on Adventures in the DC Universe with writer Steve Vance who helped found Bongo Comics so it was nice to actually work with them as well.

TZN: The comics feel like they have the same comedic timing as the show. Do you work full-script with these, or is it done more “Marvel-style”? How much involvement do you have with the writer of an issue you’re working on?

JD: Its generally done full script. We are given free rein as to how we want to pencil the panels and we can talk with our editors if we have some ideas, but personally I am always so entertained by the writer’s scripts that I just try to add in visual gags instead of trying to inject any writing into the equation. Come on, I’m working on Eric Rogers & Ian Boothby scripts. Believe me they are plenty great on their own.

Futurama #18, page 2TZN: How much involvement do the show creators have on the comics? The same question I asked above is also relevant here: did you guys ever try to do something that the licensor said, “No” to?

JD: Bongo handles all those “problems” before the script ever gets to me and were I to draw something that they felt was inappropriate I am sure my editors Nathan Kane and Bill Morrison would flag it before it got out. They have always been very encouraging when it comes to pushing the envelope.

TZN: With comics like Futurama and Justice League Adventures, there’s a requirement that you have to stay “on model” to ensure that the characters and locations are recognizable from the TV shows they’re based on. How do you balance that need with your own artistic instincts and impulses? How much leeway do you have to put your own stamp on the artwork for these licensed comics?

JD: Both Justice League Adventures and Futurama comics are based on very successful TV shows so model is extremely important to both DC & Bongo on these properties and it is very important to myself as well. I put all my instincts and impulses into the visual storytelling and panel choices. I love working in an established style as it allows your concentration to focus on the composition of your panels and the emotion and posing of your characters. Much in the same way as when I am directing Chaotic or any animated show.

Futurama #18, page 3TZN: Who are your favorite characters to draw from these 3 different projects?

JD: For Futurama, I really like drawing Leela and Zapp Branigan. For Justice League Adventures I would definitely go with Superman and Wonder Woman (Batman is always cool to draw as well). With Chaotic, there is a character I designed (based on the card art) called Intress that will be coming up in show 12 that I really dig.

TZN: Are you working on anything in comics or TV that we can see, “Created by John Delaney” on?

JD: I have original projects developed in both mediums and hope to have time later in 2007 to move forward with them.

Toon Zone News would like to thank John Delaney for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk with us. Chaotic airs on the 4Kids! Network on Saturday mornings at 11:30 AM; check the Chaotic website for local affiliates. Futurama is published by Bongo Comics bi-monthly; issue #30 is scheduled to be released on March 28, 2007.

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