Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Animated Series! (Mania.com)
Date: Wednesday, June 27, 2001
One of the fastest growing franchises in Hollywood history, Buffy and her "vampire slaying" gang of friends are currently staring down the Hellmouth into a world of fear and uncertainty: that of Saturday morning cartoons. With a BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER animated series officially announced and in the works, series creator Joss Whedon wants nothing but the best for his latest brainchild. To that end, he has appointed comic book scribe Jeph Loeb (SUPERMAN, FANTASTIC FOUR, DAREDEVIL: YELLOW) as executive producer of the project.
Hailing from a film production background, Loeb a self-proclaimed fan of the live action series credits his recent work in animation as the reason for landing this gig. The series of events that led up to his appointment, however, still manage to amaze him.
"I'm a gigantic fan of the show," says Loeb. "How can you not be? I also have another animated series currently on television Maurice Sendak's SEVEN LITTLE MONSTERS. So I had a background in animation and I knew the show and it's no secret that Joss is a comic book fan. So I went to a meeting [with Joss] largely because I wanted to meet him. It was one of those very strange things where he wanted to meet me. He's a comic book fan and was a fan of my work and I was incredibly flattered."
Mutual admiration aside, the two creators saw eye-to-eye when it came to translating Buffy's world to that of Saturday morning cartoons. Using another popular franchise as its benchmark, the team went about identifying the traits that would make for a successful adaptation.
"As with everything Joss gets involved with, he was determined to do the best Saturday morning animated series that's been done since BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, which for us was the high water mark," says Loeb. "There was only really one question in the interview and that was 'how do I see the show?' I thought it was a trick question because I sat there and I said, 'Like the show.' Everyone in the room sort of exhaled with relief. I guess they had been pitched BUFFY THE VAMPIRE'S FRIEND and BUFFY BABIES. I just said, 'The challenge which is before us is that BATMAN ANIMATED had to have a voice of its own, but it also had to be respectful to the original franchise and it had to give a nod to the movies and the original television series.' That's a lot to take on, yet it did it and it did it brilliantly."
Cover art for BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #35
© 2001 Dark Horse Comics
Making the series accessible to viewers unfamiliar with the BUFFY mythology was paramount during the initial planning stages. Yet at the same time, hardcore fans needed to be rewarded for their years of loyalty.
"It's hot fudge on top of the world's greatest ice cream sundae," says Loeb. "If you've never seen BUFFY it is a great entry-level way of getting in because it has the humor, it has the drama, it has the excitement, and it will have the look of a BATMAN ANIMATED kind of series."
The most difficult challenge in the creation of any new series is finding a network and a time slot with which to air. Luckily, Loeb found that having both Whedon and the BUFFY franchise were an embarrassment of riches.
"It wasn't as much a problem of where to take it, as much as it was where not to take it," says Loeb. "Joss had a very clear idea in mind as to the type of creative environment he wanted and we found it, right out of the gate. We're set up at Fox and this will be a Fox Kids show. It's a Fox Television show that's actually going to air on Fox, unlike what's been going on with the WB and the UPN. We could be on as early as February 2002; it's more than likely we will be on the fall of 2002. We're targeting a Saturday morning slot that will then fill in on the afternoon the same way that BATMAN did."
With story and script development the current focus of the production, Loeb is finding this to be the most enjoyable "chore" he's ever had to deal with. After all, the writing team behind the animated series comes from a rather impressive background.
"Right now, we are developing scripts," says Loeb. "That was the other big draw for me we have the best writing staff in Saturday morning animation ever and I can say that because we have the BUFFY staff. The staff writers of the series were all like, "Can we write one? Can we write one?" And I was like, "Absolutely, please!" The gang that writes that show, aside from being some of the nicest people I've ever dealt with, are brilliant."
While conceptual artwork and character designs have yet to be created (that comes into play much later in the production process), Loeb and Whedon do have a specific "look" in mind for the series.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #34, Dark Horse Comics.
© 2001 Dark Horse Comics
"We're at that level of developing the scripts and developing the bible," says Loeb. "We haven't gotten yet to the design stage or the animation stage because that's just not the way things work in animation. You need to get your material down and locked before you get on to the next level. We have people in mind; it's premature to discuss that. So all we can say is that what we're looking at is of the level and quality of BATMAN ANIMATED."
As far as storyline is concerned, the animated series will be exploring an area in the mythology that Loeb writes best: its early years. Who better to examine Buffy's first few days as a slayer than the man who did the same for Batman and Superman?
"For the time being, the animated series is what we affectionately refer to as BUFFY: YEAR ONE," says Loeb. "[The Scooby Gang] are sophomores in high school and it's still our principle cast of Xander, Willow, Cordelia, Buffy and Giles and some surprises which we don't want to let out yet. Basically, it's Buffy's first season. The trick is to and people who know me from the world of comics, primarily BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN or SUPERMAN FOR ALL SEASONS one of the things that I like to do is tell stories that fall between the pages of stories that you already know. So this is a way for Joss to be able to build on the BUFFY franchise by filling in some of those tales that, because you're limited to doing 22 episodes a season, you can't tell but would've gone on in the first year."
While some may view being locked into a pre-established continuity as a hindrance, Loeb sees it as a thrilling opportunity a chance to let his creative juices run wild.
"For me, its actually exciting for two reasons," says Loeb. "First, I like working in a world where I know what's going to happen in the future. You can have what I like to refer to as tragic irony or comedic irony. You can have Buffy say, "I'll never do that!" and yet we know she's going to do it later on her TV life. Second, and this goes into the core of BUFFY, is the metaphor of teen angst which is so deliciously put together with the monsters of our lives and the real monsters that come out of the Hellmouth. BUFFY, present season, I love, but you can't do that joke anymore where Buffy comes downstairs and says to mom, "I have to go out tonight or the world's going to end." And mom says, "Every teenager feels that way, dear. You're grounded." We get to go back to that kind of world and I think that makes it eminently accessible for anybody who's seen the show and anybody who's never seen the show. We've all felt that sense of alienation from adolescence. So it's really exciting from my point of view."