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NYCC 2008: Nicktoons's "Three Delivery" - Like "The O.C." In Chinatown. With Dragons

On Saturday morning at the New York Comic Con, Nickelodeon showed off Three Delivery, the latest new show from the Animation Collective that is scheduled to debut on the Nicktoons network on June 27, 2008 at 7:30 PM. Attending the panel was Larry Schwarz (creator and executive producer), Pei-Chen Chen (cultural consultant), Alan Foreman (art director) and Robby Sharpe (voice actor for Tobey). Nickelodeon Director of Marketing Craig Coleman moderated the panel.

Three Delivery Panelists
(l to r) Robby Sharpe, Alan Foreman, Larry Schwarz, and Pei-Chen Chen

Growing up in New York City was a big inspiration for the show, according to Schwarz. He described sneaking down to Chinatown as a kid with his friend and younger brother, usually to try and buy fireworks or throwing stars. These experiences eventually led to Three Delivery, where three kids named Sue, Sid, and Tobey battle the evil Kong Li to prevent him from acquiring several magical recipies scattered throughout Chinatown. Schwarz said that the series began while they were working on the second season of Kappa Mikey, and really wanted to do something different.

Balancing the magical and the real was very important to the crew. They scouted a variety of Chinatowns throughout the United States, blending them together to create the environment with real character for Three Delivery. Like Chinatowns, Chen wanted to try and place Chinese culture into an American environment, trying to give the older aspects of the culture a modern twist. At heart, though, Schwarz noted that he wanted to make the show really cool, fun, and real for the kids that are their target audience. Foreman also said He closed by saying that the interplay between the relatively small cast made the show feel more like a drama, saying it was “like The O.C. With dragons.”

To prepare for the show’s action sequences, Foreman said that he watched every kung-fu movie he could lay his hands on, ranging from Sonny Chiba to Jet Li, and also did research on the Shaolin monks to keep the fighting as accurate as posible. Schwarz briefly mentioned that the Three Delivery website will include a section where viewers can watch fight moves the characters do on the show.

At this point, Coleman shifted some attention to Robby, whose said his background in stage and musical theater helped to prepare him for the role here. He said that his casting was due as much to luck and connections as his own acting talents, quipping that his advice on how to become a voice actor is to have a lot of friends in the voice acting industry who can recommend you for parts. Schwarz also joked that it was the first time that they had ever cast a part on the show based on the actor’s hair.

Three Delivery Cast
The cast of “Three Delivery”

From there, the staff segued into describing the characters. The assertive take-charge Sue is balanced by Sid, her hard-hitting, tough, cool guy older brother, and their wacky and slightly spaced-out friend Tobey. The trio are led by Nana, an older guiding figure who defeated Kong Li years ago, and pulled the three from an orphanage for reasons that will gradually become clear as the series progresses. Schwarz hopes that the humor on the show will come out of the natural interplay between the three characters, which they hope to make more like the natural humor of old friends ragging on each other.

Several clips from the show were shown throughout the panel, including a big battle sequence between the trio of kids and a giant dragon, and one “mobisode,” or a brief short made for download and viewing on mobile phones. Foreman mentioned that doing the mobisodes seemed to be a natural fit, especially since the kids rely on modern technology as much as on magic. Unlike many other shows, the mobisodes tell an actual story arc, and will be available soon. In addition to being the art director, Foreman also provided the theme song and some of the score, incorporating modern punk and pop punk rock with traditional Chinese instruments.

The multi-cultural nature of Three Delivery aligns nicely with the aspirations of the show and the general attitudes of Nickelodeon. Little snippets of Chinese dialogue are sprinkled throughout the show, such as how Sid will call Sue “Mei Mei” (little sister), as well as Chinese characters. There’s even a hidden gag in the show, where transitions sometimes happen using a card that says “Scene Change” in Chinese. Schwarz added that exporting the show was very important for them as well, and the show was quickly picked up by Canada’s YTV, since demographic shifts in Canada make Chinese-themed programming an easier sell.

Addressing the growing number of Asian-influenced shows on Nickelodeon, Coleman said that Nickelodeon began looking around for something appropriate as anime grew in popularity, settling on Avatar as a perfect blend of action and humor that would fit well on the network. In contrast, Ni Hao, Kai-lan was a result of the success of Dora the Explorer and Go, Diego, Go! For Three Delivery, Coleman said that the story of the show really grabbed their interest, and the cultural component was an added bonus.

Three Delivery seems like a slightly younger-skewing version of Avatar, with a distinctive visual style that is radically different from the styling of Kappa Mikey or the new Speed Racer series also done by the Animation Collective. If nothing else, it seems to be a much better and more respectful attempt at Chinese kung-fu chop-socky animation than Cartoon Network’s Chop Socky Chooks.

(Return to Toon Zone’s New York Comic Con 2008 Complete Coverage)

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