This month has seen Cartoon Network‘s recent reboot of the wildly popular Ben 10 franchise reach our screens, with a Stateside premiere to follow in 2017. Following multiple variants on the original series, including Alien Force, Ultimate Alien and Omniverse as well as a host of feature-length outings both live-action and animated, this new series embraces the roots of the franchise’s initial 2005 outing, albeit with an assortment of multi-platform considerations for the current digital era. Heavily involved in this side of things is Cartoon Network VP of Multi-Platform Tramm Wigzell, who we caught up with prior to the series’ launch. Tramm’s production and management credits also include Sym-Bionic Titan, Mixels, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Teen Titans Go! and Mighty Magiswords.
Can you elaborate on what being the VP of Multiplatform Development entails?
We’re seeing that the way kids are consuming content now is not limited to linear series, they want to be able to explore these characters and worlds more. So what we’re doing is creating content that is platform-specific, and that includes gaming, short-form content, whatever really allows our audience to engage with these characters and in these worlds in a much deeper, richer way, and also allows the creators, who are the center of everything that we do at Cartoon Network Studios, to engage more within their own creation. It gives them more avenues to be able to explore, this brilliant stuff that they come up with outside of the linear series.
Is this version of Ben 10 essentially a new iteration or is it an extension of the original?
The new Ben 10 series is executive produced by Man of Action Entertainment, who created the franchise and are working on the show right now as well. They came in with this genius idea about this kid who could turn into ten different aliens by finding this alien device. Over the years we’ve done multiple iterations of it and with this new iteration we’ve really gone back to the basics of what Ben 10 is really about, this kid who has these adventures, very simple, straightforward and a lot of fun. The things about Ben in particular are that he’s one of the few superheroes out there who’s a kid, there’s not a lot of those, and secondly there’s no tragedy in his backstory, it’s all based on just a fun summer adventure and being able to do these things. Also Ben’s a good character, it’s not like he’s immoral, he definitely saves people and is a hero, but he also does things with the Omnitrix that a kid would do, and it’s always been something that’s been very relatable, so the new series really reflects back on that.
On top of the variety of multiplatform applications, are there any other ways in which the premise has been contemporised?
Ben 10 in many ways is a timeless idea; until kids can actually discover alien watches and transform into things (!) it’s always going to feel very new and interesting. Just in terms of the visual style it feels very new and contemporary, it’s an updated style, Man of Action has been very behind the notion of making this feel quicker and more fun, getting to the heart of it being about Ben. It’s easy to sidetrack into the villain backstories or side-stories, but Ben is front and center in every one of these episodes, as he’s really who our audience connects to. So in many ways getting back to just the core idea is the updating of it; simplicity is the update.
Are you involved in any other properties in your position or is your primary focus on Ben 10?
Ben 10 and Mighty Magiswords are the main two projects that I work on at the studios right now. I was involved with Teen Titans, the original series, and served as the Network Executive for Warner Bros on Teen Titans Go! I also worked on Mixels, which was a project that we did with Lego the last couple years, and a bunch of other stuff that unfortunately I can’t tell you guys about because they’re in the works right now.
And Mighty Magiswords began as a primarily online venture before becoming a series for broadcast?
We initially developed fifteen-second shorts with an interactive component for our CN Anything app, and we loved what we saw there and over time we developed more and more content. It truly was a multi-platform thing and we worked very closely with Kyle (Carrozza, Mighty Magiswords creator), giving him all these avenues to explore and these wonderful things with these characters and this world he’s created. This is now been developed to become a linear series and we’re really excited about what we’re doing with that.
Catch Ben 10 every weekend at 10am on Cartoon Network. Mighty Magiswords is set to hit Cartoon Network UK next year in 2017.