The Warner Bros. Animation Archive recently conducted an interview with Micah Wright, creator of "Constant Payne". Presented below is that interview.




Click for Larger Pic Constant Payne is a new cartoon packed to the brim with action; I think of the look as a mixture of "X-Men Evolution" and "Cowboy Bebop." It definitely has promise. Billed as an American cartoon with anime roots, it could have an impact on the way action cartoons are made. While it may have lots of intense moments, the father-daughter relationship between Alexander "Doc" Payne and Amanda Payne has heart and personality, something similar to the glue that held the Simpson family together. Micah Wright, the man behind the toon, discusses his work on "Payne," "Invader Zim," "Angry Beavers," and "Ozzie and Drix" with the Archive.

WBAA:
Can you explain what Payne is all about?

Micah Wright:
"Constant Payne is about a family of adventurers... for as far back as recorded history, this is a job which has been handed down from generation to generation... and now, finally, one of the Payne family has decided that the job will end with him. He has no intention of carrying on the family tradition. This is killing his daughter who can't wait to grow up to become the next Doc Payne."

WBAA:
Do you like puns? Will Constant Payne have more puns?

Micah Wright:
"Puns are fun, but will not be a primary focus of the show. The title came out of the family's name, which started with the word 'Doc Something, err, Doc Tough, Doc Marble, Doc Iron, Doc Bronze, Doc Thunder, Doc Storm, Doc Pain... heyyyyy... Doc Payne!'"

WBAA:
What was the real reason Constant Payne was not picked up by Nickelodeon?
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Micah Wright:
"The answer to that depends on who you ask and on what day you ask it. Nickelodeon has made it very clear to me that they did not pick up the show because they were unhappy with my attempts to unionize their studio. These people make $800 MILLION Dollars PER YEAR off of cartoons and they pay the writers who make them NOTHING. It's not fair and they know it, but they'd rather fight to keep from paying us anything extra than to share the money fairly. Not picking up Payne was their way of showing their displeasure with my questioning of their greed. They also took steps to try and destroy my career... they put out word to their fellow toadies at other studios that I was "trouble" and not to hire me. Really juvenile stuff when I look back on it, but I sure hope I never run into some of those executives... I'll have some rather choice words to say to their cowardly, backstabbing, blacklisting suckholes."

"Additionally, it now looks that Nickelodeon is getting out of the animation production business... they are buying shows from other crappier animation houses rather than producing good shows at their in-house studio. They cancelled Zim, Spongebob, and Hey Arnold. They cancelled the 2nd Hey Arnold movie (which, I hear they might resume if the first one does Gonzo business). The Nicktoons studio is just about shut down and various executives have been heard shooting their mouths off that they want to convert it into a live-action facility with lots of office space for executives.

WBAA:
What does the future hold for Payne?

Micah Wright:
"The rights to the characters have reverted back to me. Nickelodeon isn't willing to let anyone else make a show unless they pay Nick for the pilot. In today's timid animation market, that's essentially a kiss of death with American Producers. I'm currently lining up foreign financing for the show... it may end up being series of films, rather than a tv show."

WBAA:
What has been your past experience with Nick? What was it like working there on Angry Beavers?

Micah Wright:
"I worked at Nickelodeon for seven years... I wouldn't have done that if it wasn't a good job. Unfortunately, over time the visionary people who built that channel into what it was left and they were replaced with dead-brained execu-dolts with MBAs and no creativity anywhere in their bodies. Nickelodeon is dead to me now... the cancellation of Invader Zim was a bright sign showing that they had lost their way. The show wasn't a big hit after two weeks so the bean-counting execudrones decided that it had to go. This is typical of dumb exec thinking: it takes time to build a hit. The ratings of Zim have gone steadily up, and up, and up. Meanwhile the other show they premiered at the same time, The Fairly Odd Parents, had a HUGE premiere and its ratings have steadily gone down, down, down. The execs who inherited a phenomenally successful channel have forgotten three lessons that they would know if they had been around when the channel was NOTHING:"

1) "Cartoons BUILT that channel. Rugrats and Ren & Stimpy made them what they are, but now all they want to do is more live-action. They don't understand animation, so they don't like to make it."

2) "Rugrats took SEVEN years to become a hit,"

3) "Different is Better. All the Nick execs say now is "we need a show like Powerpuff Girls" or "find us a new Spongebob" instead of thinking "Hmm, Spongebob, Rugrats, Hey Arnold and Ren & Stimpy were successful because it was different than anything else on TV... maybe we need something that's radically different!" No, they just cancel Zim because it's "too weird" and then replace it with the execrable "Butt Ugly Martians" and expect that kids will just accept this cruddy replacement. They're wrong. My prediction for Nick is that they're the #3 kids' network in five years."

WBAA:
What stories would you like to do with the characters?

Micah Wright:
"There are a lot... I don't want to give too many away because I'm still hoping that the show will get picked up somewhere. I will be posting some Payne scripts on my website at http://www.micahwright.com soon, though... so you'll get to see some of the storylines we'd be exploring."
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WBAA:
What would you change from the pilot?

Micah Wright:
"That's a hard question... I think we'd probably change the voice actor for Doc... David Keith is a great actor, but I think I forgot how much he uses his entire body to get that acting across onscreen. Voice acting is a totally different talent than film acting. I think that if given a second chance, I'd go back and cast Kevin Conroy... he did a great read for Doc Payne (I'll be putting an mp3 of that read on the website soon as well), but a few members of the ExecuDrek staff were wary that he was too vocally identified with Batman. I knuckled to executive pressure on that one... and it's my biggest regret."

WBAA:
I hear such big names from the DC Animated Universe like Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, and Kevin Conroy are helping with this project? Can you fill us in?

Micah Wright:
"I have nothing but respect for those guys... they really lit the way for all of us who wanted to do similar material... I've met Alan and Paul quite a number of times. Alan was very instrumental in helping me get the meetings I needed at the Kids' WB. Unfortunately, they declined to produce the show, but Alan tried his best. Paul is a fantastic writer whom I have nothing but admiration for. Unfortunately, we've never had an opportunity to work together. Kevin read for the part of Doc Payne, but the network resisted it, then tried to make us change it at the last second... AFTER THE ANIMATION HAD BEEN DRAWN! It would have been a nightmare. That's my biggest regret about Payne... that I didn't use Kevin Conroy from the start."
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WBAA:
How receptive have Warner Bros. Animation been to the idea of a Constant Payne series? Can you tell us a little about your involvement with Warner Brothers as a whole and their properties like Ozzie & Drix?

Micah Wright:
"Not very. Both WB Animation and Kids' WB turned the show down. They just have too big an investment in other DC/AOL Time Warner properties right now to be trying to launch a new character into a dying marketplace. I totally understand... the audience for kids is dying left and right. Now more than ever people feel they need a famous pre-existing character to get viewers. Other than that, I've written an episode of Ozzy & Drix, the Allergy Episode where Hector gets a Dog."

WBAA:
I always hear that steam and explosions are really hard to animate. But your 11-minute pilot has everything steaming and exploding! How do you pull it off?

Micah Wright:
By staring at Japanese animation for hours on end and studying how they did it. It also helped that we used a Japanese production studio, Madhouse Productions, to animate the pilot! Design issues aside (i.e. big eyes, big heads, etc.), I feel that American animation has a lot to learn from Japanese animators... their economy of animation... the way they compose their shots for the most dynamic emotion... we tried to replicate a lot of that filmic feel that the best Japanese animation has.

WBAA:
What other cartooning projects are you currently involved with?

Micah Wright:
"TV Animation seems pretty dead right now... everyone has cut back on their production slate, and most of the people who are making product seem to be going for the cheapest, weakest stuff they can find. Since no one seems very committed to doing quality animation right now, I've stepped out the animation world for the time being. I'm currently writing a Mature-Readers comic for Wildstorm Comics. "Stormwatch: Team Achilles" is about a group of human special-forces soldiers who kill super-powered criminals for the United Nations. I've also been commissioned to work on a new videogame where the producer is trying to merge the very disparate world of interactive gameplay with standard narrative structure without having a bunch of boring cut-scenes that the player skips through... this is a really exciting job for me. Videogames are now a bigger business than TV and Film put together... this is where the future of entertainment lies, especially for younger kids. When I talk to kids, the feeling I get is that they are rejecting animation and TV in lieu of videogames... why watch a boring episode of Max Steel when you can BE Max Steel in a videogame? Especially as the graphics get better and better and the videogame producers commit to making narrative STORY a bigger highlight of their games. Unless the animation producers get on the ball, they're going to find themselves in the uncomfortable position of not having any viewers at all."

The WB Animation Archive would like to thank Micah Wright. Look for this interview on the WBAA later.




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