ComingSoon spoke to Super Giant Robot Brothers‘ executive producers Steve O’Brien and Jared Mass about creating the upcoming Netflix animated series in Epic’s Unreal Engine.
“Two squabbling robot brothers experience growing pains while battling bloodthirsty monsters, supernatural disasters, and mundane personal issues,” reads the show’s official synopsis.
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Spencer Legacy: Tell me about this unique process that you guys do.
Steve O’Brien: So just as background, we’ve been, historically, a film-oriented studio, so this is our first original series. We’re super excited about it. From a process point of view, 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’s important for that reason as well. 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’re more opportunities, right? So the show is storyboarded using a live-action camera technique rather than traditional hand-drawn storyboards. That gives you much more opportunity to iterate and to try different things in the animation process. Then the engine also renders in real-time, so it gives you the ability to look at more of a finished product as you’re making the product itself. So frame by frame, we’re seeing more [of] what the actual show is going to look like. And in the old traditional animation technique, you’re seeing hand drawings and playblasts and things of that nature.
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’re super happy with the results.
You said that you have a movie background. Did any of the staff members have a background in game development?
Steve O’Brien: Yeah, actually, quite a few. We built a team around the Unreal pipeline and built a brand new pipeline while we were making the show. I’d say bringing together people from film, episodic gaming … 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 a question for our director, Mark Andrews, but what he would tell you is [that] as a director and a storyteller, having the flexibility — as I mentioned earlier — to be on the stage with real actors, acting out the scenes, trying different things, different camera angles, and so forth, was kind of a new freedom to bring to the world of animation.
Do you foresee this becoming a more common way of production after your experience?
Steve O’Brien: We do, yeah.
Do you think that other teams might be able to adapt to it quickly? 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 much worth the effort. And I can see a future where we’ll make many shows in this pipeline.
What, in each of your opinions, makes Super Giant Robot Brothers unique and worth watching?
Jared Mass: Super Giant Robot Brothers is a show really intended for kids and families, but it sort of takes its hat from old Kaiju shows of the 60s, 70s, [and] 80s. Our showrunner, Tommy Blacha, likes to reference shows like Ultraman and Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot and Gamera. The intention here is to make a show that pays tribute to the Kaiju genre, but also brings in a real comedy [and] sibling rivalry between these two robot stepbrothers that I think kids are going to love because they’re going to see their own sibling rivalries that they have with their siblings in these two characters.
So it’s an action comedy where Kaijus are attacking Earth, and you’ve got these two stepbrothers who have just met each other and who come from totally 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 the comedy blending together to pay tribute to a genre that feels classic, and we’re bringing it to a brand new audience
Which of the brothers does each of you relate to more?
Jared Mass: I would say I relate more to Shiny, who is the red, bulbous, older brother, but in many ways, he’s the younger brother because he represents his inventor — Alex Rose, our female heroine. Alex invented him when she was just 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’s become a teenager now who carries a very large responsibility of protecting the Earth on her shoulders. So she’s created Thunder to be much more mature, robotic, responsible than Shiny, even though he’s the older brother [that] was invented by her when she was two. He’s really much more a character that works off of his gut reaction to things. He’s more reactionary.
But he’s got a huge heart, right? So he’s much more relatable, I think, to us as an audience and to kids, because he’s got a child’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 of them are forced together. So I would say that I relate more to Shiny, because I like tapping more into my childlike imagination and reactions to things. And I like less of the having to be mature and responsible side.
Steve O’Brien: What Jared referenced earlier is what really grabbed me about the show, and having raised three children who are all in college or beyond now, watching their personalities and their view of life change from toddlerhood to teenagers … and having the personalities of Shiny and Thunder reference that is really interesting. What I found is that, watching the final show that’s now staged on the Netflix platform, I found myself laughing at Thunder’s comedy just as much as Shiny’s, which is great, because as the straight man in the duo, he really delivers. So since Jared said Shiny, I’m going to say Thunder.