Mighty Magiswords – the brainchild of new Cartoon Network talent Kyle Carrozza, is set to make the leap from short-form, webisodic content to a full animated series. The show, about atypical adventurers Vambre and Prohyas and their worldwide quest to collect the Mighty Magiswords (magical swords with an array of special purposes – none of which include swordfighting), began life a series of online-only, interactive micro-shorts before being incrementally developed into a full series.With a US debut scheduled for later in the year (and a UK broadcast to follow in 2017), Skwigly were able to get some time with Kyle during this year’s Annecy festival to discuss the show’s offbeat world and creative origins.
Can you tell us a bit about what Mighty Magiswords is all about?
It’s a show about two warriors for hire, a brother and sister team named Prohyas And Vambre, whose last name is literally ‘Warrior’. They do their jobs with the help of Mighty Magiswords, which are these crazy, sword-shaped weapons that are never used as actual swords, they do crazy things; they have the Excaliburger Magisword which shoots burgers with propellors on them, and Prohyas’s best friend is Dolphin Magisword who is a pet dolphin he’s had for his entire life.
So nothing’s ever actually sliced or skewered?
No, they have no idea what actual swords are!
What led you down the path of creating an animated series?
I’ve been absolutely obsessed with cartoons ever since I was a small child, so I’ve been laser-focused on it. I had started working at a CD-ROM studio in Connecticut, and then eventually because there was no other animation work there I moved to LA and very gradually made a career happen.
Was that working on another TV series or similar projects?
Well, it was unusual, the first credit I had in television was a pilot I did at Nickelodeon called MooBeard the Cow Pirate for a shorts program they had called Random Cartoons. It was actually the same program they had that Adventure Time and Fanboy and Chum Chum came from.
After that I started doing storyboards on the second season of Fanboy and then I was at Disney on Fish Hooks for a while, I did some work on the second Spongebob movie, I did some things for Doc McStuffins, which was also a Disney property but I was doing it in a small studio called OddBod, which is actually where I worked with a lot of people who are my crew now.
Where did the original idea for Mighty Magiswords come from?
I’ve actually had the characters since I was in high school. The first ever drawings of them are from 1996 (I’m glad I wrote dates on things)! Around that time I had a friend who had gotten me into the video game JRPGs at the time, Chrono Trigger and the early Final Fantasy games that were on the SNES. I really started to like universes like those, I wanted a set of characters like these teams that you assemble in these games, so I came up with them – and then promptly forgot about them!
Then later on, in the mid-2000s, I found those old drawings of them and started developing them to resemble a little bit more what they look like now. The sword element was actually the last part of it, I didn’t add that until I started pitching things to Cartoon Network – I felt like the thing I was missing was a hook, and the sword was the hook that I eventually came up with. I like an element like that, because it adds a visual element of cartoon fun to the whole thing, instead of being a regular swords’n’scorcery tale. It gives it something different.
What’s unique about this show is how it’s all been distributed digitally rather than broadcast…
So far, yeah.
Was that a scheme that Cartoon Network had in place?
I just pitched it as a normal show, then they called me and the first thing they had me do was make fifteen second cartoons for the CN Anything app where the first five seconds was the setup and then you would actually interact and choose the sword in the middle of it to see how the situation played out. Between the two you kinda had a good ending and a bad ending but you got a joke either way, and then you would try to find that cartoon again so you could choose the other one and see what happens. But in the middle of that they had me start making some three-minute ones. So I made ten of those which sort of acted as a segmented pilot, in a way. It wasn’t a continuing story but I kinda preferred it this way, because you see the characters develop as it goes along. With a pilot you just have one story that you hope represents your show well – with this I’ve been able to do a bunch of different stories so you can see how they work in their home base, in their town of Riboflavin, what it’s like when they’re in far-flung areas and you get a better-rounded view of what a larger version of the show could be.
So there is a larger version of the series on the horizon?
Yes, there’s a linear TV version on the way, as well as more web content and interactive material. In the US it’ll be on in the fall.
What kind of say does CN have in the development and direction of the show? Are you afforded much free reign?
I do receive notes, although I am allowed to explain what I was going for and push back on them, if I wish. They usually seem to understand what I’m throwing down. I would say that I let them guide me on the earlier stuff a little bit more, especially since I had these characters for a while, but it wasn’t really my ‘baby’, it was more something I had recently put together for a pitch. That was actually kind of freeing, because I’m not really being precious about anything, I’m letting it find itself and develop in the process of this. So I was open to the suggestions that they had and early on it really helped shaped it. But now that we’ve been doing this for a while they seem pretty open to letting me run with it, even in situations where I’m like Boy, is this getting too weird? they’ll let me do it! Especially now that we’ve probably written more than half of our run now, so now we’re getting into later episodes I’m like Alright, let’s get into some weirder stuff! They’re happy to let us do it, because everyone’s established by now.
You also do a few of the voices in the show. Had you had other experience doing that?
I had done a little bit of voice work on the pilot I had done at Nick and I had done some for some interactive games when I was working in Connecticut, but the way that came about on this show was that, being approached to do a 15 second cartoon I’m like “Well, I don’t know exactly how much to storyboard for 15 seconds, it’s an unusual length.” So I was doing the animatics myself in Storyboard Pro and I was doing the scratch voice for just about all of the male characters myself, and they got to like them, so I ended up doing them in the final version of the show.
Do you do voices for other shows?
I don’t currently do voices for other shows, but if I was asked I would probably be happy to do it, it’s really enjoyable. The only thing tough about that is how tight my schedule is right now, but I’m certainly interested in it.
Get a first-hand look at Mighty Magiswords via Cartoon Network’s CN Anything app (FREE to download on Apple & Android). Mighty Magiswords is set to hit Cartoon Network UK next year in 2017.