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Interview with ‘Long Live the Royals’ creator Sean Szeles

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Having debuted earlier this year in the States, Cartoon Network‘s new four-part miniseries Long Live the Royals will premiere on the network’s UK channel today, playing over four consecutive nights. The UK version of the show will also feature beloved UK performer Jane Horrocks revoicing the character of Queen Eleanor alongside the original cast that includes Peter Serafinowicz, Gillian Jacobs, Jon Daly and Kieran Culkin.
A graduate of CalArts,
Long Live the Royals creator Sean Szeles would eventually find his footing in the world of US TV animation and presently works as Supervising Producer on J.G. Quintel’s Regular Show, also on Cartoon Network. In anticipation of the UK launch of Long Live the Royals Skwigly chatted with Sean to learn more.

What was your journey like from studying at CalArts to creating your own show?

I went to CalArts for four years, though for a little while it was actually kind of hard to find work after I graduated. I had to get a job so I was delivering pizzas for a while! I was still working on my artwork on the side, then the first animation job of mine was for Warner Bros. Online who were doing these little Flash cartoons, and that led to a thing at Disney TV for a year on a show there, where I met a great group of people. We kind of all moved to Nickelodeon on a new show, then I came to Cartoon Network I think 7-8 years ago, working on Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack there, which is an awesome show. I jumped on to Regular Show when it started and have been working on that for seven years or so. Then I got to create my own show, Long Live the Royals!

What has your role been on Regular Show?

To begin with I was one of the first storyboard artists on the show, and now I’m Supervising Producer and I help J.G. Quintel everyday with all aspects of the show.

You have some pretty varied experience under your belt, from writing and producing to design, story art and all sorts of things. Is there any area of animated series production that you have a particular fondness for?

Well, I have a true fondness for writing and storyboarding, even though those are the hardest and most frustrating! They make you want to pull your hair out. Storyboarding is so hard, it’s basically filmmaking all rolled into one, designing all the shots, all the cuts, the angles, composition, after that getting all the posing for the characters, the acting and such. Then just making it exciting and drawing it all – so many drawings – but it’s really rewarding once you’re done and you have this whole big storyboard in front of you, of everything you’ve drawn.
Other than that I really enjoy the music aspect of it, and when we do sound mixes, adding the sound effects, that’s the most enjoyable for me, just making sure everything’s working together with the visuals and the music’s just right. It’s really important to get all the sound correct, so that’s probably the most fun.

And you’ve written some music as well, is that correct?

Yeah, I’ve played music kind of as a hobby my whole life, so I was able to create a lot of songs, starting on Flapjack, then a lot of the ‘Mordecai and the Rigbys’ songs in Regular Show I was able to write and perform myself and then they ended up using some of my performances. I did another song, ‘Summertime Loving’ for a Regular Show episode and sang that, and in Long Live the Royals I worked closely with my composer Scot Stafford to create all the songs. He had most of the input for the songs in this new show and I helped co-write the theme song, which I sang as well.

How did the show itself come about?

Cartoon Network have this shorts program where they are constantly developing these new shorts just to help develop artists within – and outside of – the studio. They’d been doing these rounds of shorts so I just went in and pitched some ideas and came up with the idea for this royal family and kind of developed it a bit, and they seemed to like it so they said “Okay, why don’t you go ahead and storyboard this short?” And it went from there.
It’s a really great program, it’s really fast, you pitch an idea and if they like it they ask you to storyboard it, then you pitch the storyboard to them and if they like that they have you move on to the next phase where you produce and animate the whole thing. So instead of spending years in development they have this great way of creating this content really fast, so that’s what Long Live the Royals came out of, this short I did first a couple years ago.

Did anything about the premise of the show change when it was expanded beyond that first original short?

Actually not really, it was always just about this royal family and seeing how they live their lives. One thing that’s changed I guess for this miniseries is we kind of wanted to give it a holiday special feel to it because in the US it came out around Thanksgiving, so I kind of mashed up all these holidays into one and created this Yule Hare festival for them to celebrate. It’s a mix of our Thanksgiving, our Christmas, Halloween with all these weird old medieval traditions filtered in. So that’s the only thing that changed, was just the story of the miniseries being about this week-long holiday and following that each day of the week. But the premise is still pretty simple, this royal family in this weird, ancient time period yet they have some modern technology as well, just seeing how they live their lives. That was always the concept.

Is there a plan or a hope perhaps for this to be extended into a longer-form series, or will it be a standalone four-parter?

It was designed as a standalone miniseries, telling this little story, but hopefully we can do more later as I’d love to keep working with these characters in this world, but we’ll have to see what happens with it! I guess I’ve always envisioned it as a longer series, telling longer stories and I think we’d be able to, with this world and these characters I’ve created. That was the general idea, but I was happy to do this miniseries for now, to get a taste of this world. I’d love to develop my own show, if it’s this or something else down the road, that’d be a lot of fun.

Catch Cartoon Network’s latest miniseries Long Live the Royals over four consecutive nights, starting Tuesday 6th September at 6pm on Cartoon Network UK

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