Mike: I'd say a lot of, "Well let's not do it THAT way.... ." [laughs]
Bryan: Yeah, but between the two of us we've pretty much had any job you can have in animation. I've directed, on King of the Hill and Family Guy, and Mike did his own independent films, some of them were at Sundance.... I've done, designs, storyboards, and I've been Mike's assistant director a few times. And we've both done a lot of retakes, and we've both just had all of these different positions--I was an art director too--And, so, we've just pooled all of these tools we have gathered.... and we still have to use them all on a daily basis.
Interesting. And I've noticed that the background artwork and set design is very detailed. How important is environment and atmosphere for this series?
Bryan: Very important. We have always said that we've wanted the series to have more of a cinematic feeling. You know, it's not like we're trying to make some carbon copy of anime work or something....
I was a landscape painter in school, so I just take a lot of that training and a lot of my love for landscape paintings, and I'll try to just push the backgrounds to a more atmospheric function, and try to make the drawings have a broader scope. And you know, we do a lot of research into architecture to inspire our art.... to give it a little.... "gravi-tas," is that what it is? [laughs]
So yeah, we are just doing what we can do to raise the standards from what you might expect out of a television series.
That's great. Can you guys talk about the music for this show a little bit? There are times, when it's really tribal or really organic sounding. Is this something that you guys had an idea for early on into production?
Bryan: Yeah, definitely very early on. The musicians and the sound designers are, two guys--one was actually my roommate--he and his school buddy, and they started up a small company called The Track Team. And way back when Mike and I were doing the earliest development on Avatar: The Last Airbender, about three years ago on the pencil tests, we hired them to do like a sound and music test... on those pencil tests.
But yeah, we always knew that we wanted it to be eclectic and try and stay away from, contemporary music forms and things like that. You know, we mix it up a bit, with what you might consider European orchestral themes for the scores.... but they are real, constant musicians. They play a lot of those instruments live themselves, so it can get pretty crazy. A lot of the drumming, and the flute playing, is just a part of a lot of the stuff they do.
How involved were you guys in selecting the voice actors for the show?
Mike: We were very involved.
Have they met your expectations so far?
Mike: Yeah, everyone's awesome.... we have found a group of great, young actors who really latched onto the characters and really brought them to life.
Bryan: Definitely added to them....
Mike: Yeah, especially for someone like Sokka, Jack De Sena does his voice.... we had something in mind for him, but he brought a lot of comedy and stuff into the character that we hadn't thought of initially, but he's really funny.....
Bryan: And Uncle Iroh's character, as played by Mako.
Do either of you have an aspect of visual design that you're most proud of? Whether it's: clothing or costume design, calligraphy, some of the animal designs maybe, or even the fight coordination?
Bryan: I wish I could take credit for the calligraphy.... [laughs] But we use a real, Chinese-American calligraphy artist for that. He's been working on that his whole life with so much outstanding talent.
I'm proud of everything, we have so many great people who lend their talents and hard work to the show; and all of the way from the writing, to the people designing and storyboarding, and directing, and coloring here.... And all of the way to the people that are our friends and artists in Korea, whose actual animation production has such an amazing level of life and spirit and vitality, and Mike and I just feel honored that we get to work with all of these people and to pool it all together into one project.