In the following interview, resident blogger, Jason McConnell of thatguywiththeblog.tumblr.com and aangthenomad.tumblr.com talks to Giancarlo Volpe about his work and prospects on the recent cartoon, “Green Lantern: The Animated Series.”
Here’s a short intro/background for everyone. :)
A few weeks ago I got to interview one of my favorite animation directors (and directors in general), Giancarlo Volpe! Giancarlo is probably best known to the Avatar fandom as directing practically a third of the entire series, including fan favorites like “The Ember Island Players,” and “Appa’s Lost Days.” “Appa’s Lost Day’s” later went on to win a Genesis award, which is an award for individual’s in entertainment and media who support public awareness of animal rights issues. He also received an Annie Award, which recognizes outstanding animation, for his directing on “The Drill.”
Currently, he is a producer and showrunner of the new “Green Lantern: The Animated Series.” I was a little reluctant when I first saw the series. The animation was vastly different from the familiar 2D Bruce Timm style that we’ve seen in past DC animation. But I was quick to change my mind when I started on the series. Volpe masterfully combines the classic GL storylines with a fresh and compelling new premise that brings famous Lanterns Hal Jordan and Kilowag into the deep corners of space, where they discover a whole new set of villains previously unbeknownst to most of the rest of the Corp, like the Red Lanterns. The villains and supporting characters stem from more recent plots like the Emotional spectrum. The comical banter and tight dialogue that is familiar in all Bruce Timm productions is no stranger to this show and I believe is one of its strongest points. Many younger crowds have struggled with the recent surge of Hal Jordan. Many like myself grew up with John Stewart as our main GL from the JLA and JLU series, but I believe “Green Lantern: The Animated Series,” is a strong compliment and gratifyingly marvelous addition to the vast mythos that John Broome and Gil Kane created years ago.
One of my classes in the previous semester was taught by former DC Comics President, Paul Levitz! And one of our assignments was to make up mock interview questions for a person of our choice! Well I ended up getting in contact with Giancarlo and here is that interview!
JM: What initially drew you to this project? Was the GL mythos something you always had wanted to tackle?
GV: Initially, no. I wasn’t a huge Green Lantern fan. I had read a handful of comics when I was a kid, but that was it. It was decided before I was even asked to do the job that they were making a Green Lantern series to follow the GL movie in 2011. They approached me about producing because of my experience on Clone Wars. I was really wanting an opportunity to be a show runner, and this seemed like a great offer. So I knew I had to become a Green Lantern fan really fast.
JM: When working with someone like Bruce Timm who has established a legendary resume in 2D animation, how do you convince or work with him towards something that is entirely new for Warner Brothers?
GV: Again, that was another choice that was made by our Executive Producer, Sam Register. He knew that a lot of studios around town were making CG shows, and wanted WB to stay competitive. And what better way to assure high quality than to have Bruce Timm run the show? Bruce had some reservations because he had never done CG before. So it was a good fit – I could guide him through the CG process, while simultaneously learning how to run a show with one of the best in the business.
JM: The Green Lantern universe is a vast one, and along with the Hal Jordan storylines, there is quite a bit of material. How do you decide to hone in on a specific setting or storyline?
GV: A friend of mine told me about all the stuff Geoff Johns had written since he took over the title, including the color spectrums and all that. So I literally bought every volume he had written on Amazon and read them all. That definitely played a huge part in our inspiration. But we also read some of the silver age books as well. Sometimes the old stuff is the best way to figure out what the essence of a classic superhero is. Some of those story lines are a little corny by today’s standards, but the spirit was definitely there.
JM: Obviously animation directors and live actions directors face a lot of different challenges. Have you ever considered directing live action? And if you did want to, what do you think would be some of the challenges for you?
GV: I would love to direct live action. In fact, I’m very interested and intrigued by fellow animators that have made the transition (namely, Tim Burton, Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton.). I would imagine my biggest challenges would be mostly technical : knowing what lense to use, what lighting set ups to call for, etc. But I’m kind of assuming that’s what the cinematographer is for. In animation you have incredible control over every single frame because any one can be redrawn (or re-rendered) later. I imagine I’d have to learn to live with a lot more things that aren’t exactly the way I pictured them, but probably work just fine anyways.
JM: What is the best experience or moment you’ve had in your career in Animation?
GV: There’s two of them. One was winning the Annie award for my work on Avatar the Last Airbender. I still think that is one of the greatest animated projects ever, and I’m not just saying that because I worked on it. I was so proud that the show got recognized, and that I was there to represent it. Another great feeling is how many people approach me to this day and say that Avatar changed their lives. They claim that it made them get in touch with their spiritual side, that it made them want to be better people. Words cannot describe how powerful an emotion that evokes. I am very lucky.
JM: Are there any specific career goals or projects you hope to develop in your lifetime?
GV: Absolutely. I am very interested in writing and directing my own animated features, and eventually trying live action (as you mentioned earlier). So far I’ve made my career fleshing out other people’s ideas, but I’d really love to say I came up with the whole universe from top to bottom. And I’m ready to go!
JM: After only one episode, GL was nominated for an Annie. Do you think that develops a lot of pressure to continue on a good path or is it more or a relief?
GV: I think it was great for morale. Anytime you work on a show, it involves a very long start up time where you’re working in a bubble. You don’t know if anyone’s going to like it. You just make a bunch of calls based off your own tastes and hunches. When GL finally got out there and we got so many great reviews, it was very vindicating. It made me feel like we were getting it right, and had nothing to worry about. As far as our future, the same care went into upcoming episodes, if not more. I really think we’re getting better at what we’re doing. A lot of us thought “Man, if they liked the premiere wait till they see what’s coming up!”
JM: You were also a director of Nickelodeon, and both that and Warner Brothers are the animation giants on television right now. Are there any major differences between the two companies in the way that the shows are run?
GV: For the most part, no.. But there are personality differences which are dependent on who’s in charge of the studio. I think for the most part WB is a little more “macho” than Nick was, namely because of their reputation of doing super hero shows. Nick also tends to have bigger budgets than WB, which can make things tricky. But GL got more than average budget (as CG tends to require) so I’m not complaining.
JM: What is your personal hope for the show? Is there a certain direction you’d like to see it take at some point? Or is there a certain storyline you want to explore?
GV: Our writer producer Jim Krieg and I were planning out a four-season arc. We really want to get all the lantern colors in the show, and all the earth Green Lanterns in at some point. So far we’re still waiting for a pick up, so I feel like we’ve only told half the story we set out to explore. It’d be great to finish the tale properly.
JM: You’ve done a lot. You’ve done CG with Lucasfilms, 2D with Nickelodeon and now with Warner Bros. What position or job title do you feel most comfortable in the field of animation?
GV: I’m lucky in that with each job I’ve gotten, I seem to have climbed another rung on the ladder. Show running is definitely a thrill because you get to come up with EVERYTHING from the basic concept all the way down to locking the final picture. It’s a truly complete storyteller’s experience. But it also means you have a lot more responsibility. Sometimes I long for the “simpler life” of just being an episodic director, but I’ve found every job in animation is pretty laborious. There is no easy gig. So if it’s going to be hard work, I’d rather be the guy in charge so I can at least have fun calling all the shots!
JM: Any hope of seeing a Daffy Duck cameo?
GV: Ha ha, who knows? There’s some wacky characters in the Green Lantern universe – namely, Ch’p the Green Lantern squirrel and Dextarr the Red Lantern cat. Anything’s possible!
There you have it! I hope you enjoyed this awesome interview. Thank you again to the wonderful Giancarlo Volpe for having this interview with me. On behalf of all the fans from Avatar, Star Wars and now GL, we are excited for all the great work that is sure to come from you!
Question for the readers: If you could have any character appear in the GL:TAS show, who would it be and why?
Thanks for reading!
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