Super Science Friends (CAN)
Heroes have always been an important part of storytelling. Strong, awe-inspiring, and great at taking baddies down, they’re even more impressive when we learn of their superpowers. The world knows superheroes like Iron Man, Captain America and Black Panther, but here at we Melbourne Webfest have our own. These can be found in two of our animated Official Selection series, Kimchi Warrior (KOR) and Super Science Friends (CAN)!
The first festival superhero is the Kimchi Warrior, who obtains supernatural strength by consuming one of the most prominent Korean dishes, Kimchi. The web series came to life when creator Young Man Kang was in development and looking for inspiration for potential characters.
He found that spark when assessing the health benefits of kimchi, saying, “Kimchi is one of the world’s top 5 healthiest foods. It is believed it even prevented the outbreak of SARS in South Korea.. I wanted to promote Kimchi and Tae Kwon Do into the world of entertainment. This was the birth of the Kimchi Warrior superhero.”
From here the Kimchi Warrior was born, with a premise similar to that of Elzie Crisler Segar’s ‘Popeye the Sailor’ cartoons.
“The series is based on the premise of Popeye – but instead of eating spinach, the titular Kimchi Warrior obtains supernatural powers by eating kimchi. He strives to defend our health from the world’s most notorious diseases like Swine Flu, Mad Cow Disease, Malaria, and SARS,” Kang says.
Kang was also inspired by how superheroes are a big part of current popular culture, saying, “Superheroes like the Avengers are really popular, but I noticed that there are little to no superheroes with a more Asian (or Korean) background to their powers and backstory. This is what inspired me to create a superhero that’s different from those in mainstream pop culture.”
With an understanding that the perception of kimchi is different across the globe, Kang set out to make a superhero that would both poke fun at kimchi as well as educate people about the famous Korean side dish.
“Kimchi has a lot of ingredients such as garlic, pepper, or anchovies, so I used them as the Kimchi Warrior’s weapons. I also used the smell of kimchi as one of his weapons, since a lot of people don’t like the smell,” says Kang.
“For example, in my favourite episode, the Kimchi Warrior and his friend the Curry Warrior face an attack from a swarm of malaria mosquitoes. They’re able to beat the swarm by using a secret weapon: the smell of kimchi that’s been fermented for a thousand years!”
When asked about the biggest difficulties faced during production, Kang says that although there was a low budget and short time constraints, he is thankful to the commitment of his team. “I really would like to thank all of the voice-over actors and artists who graciously worked within our low budget restraint”.
From one hero to more, Super Science Friends follows a team of super-powered scientists (Freud, Einstein, Tesla, Darwin & Tapputi) who travel through time fighting Nazis, renegade Soviet cosmonauts and their own scientific rivals.
For Episode 6 of Super Science Friends in particular, creators Laurel Dalgleish and Bret Jubinville say that they wanted to change up their style completely and make it an anime.
“We wanted to mix things up and do something really different to shock our fans. It helped that pretty much everyone in the studio is an anime fan to some degree, so we thought ‘how hard could it be?’”
Dalgleish was in charge of directing Episode 6. The creative process began with an outline from Jubinville containing the major plot points. After this, Dalgleish fit in as many references to a range of her favourite anime as possible – which resulted in a much longer episode than the finished product.
“Brett took it into the edit and chopped it down to the essentials,” Dalgleish says. “As usual, Brett came in at the end of production with the idea that the villain should get blown up by Z3. Classic Super Science Friends.”
“We have a hard time ending our episodes,” Jubinville adds. “People usually just end up exploding in one way or another…”
When asked about their choice to turn historical figures into superheroes for their narrative, Jubinville says, “I don’t think watching cartoon versions of historical figures do boring research would be very fun.. [So] we took a look at other superhero teams and then started filling in the blanks: ‘We need a Flash. Let’s use Einstein. We need a shapeshifter. Let’s use Darwin.’”
“We added Marie Curie last, and from vicious fan backlash for not having enough women represented. In the end, she did add an essential element to the group which we had overlooked: the logical thinker.” Jubinville says.
Dalgleish adds, “She’s the ‘straight man’ to everyone else’s craziness.”
Despite challenges of working with an alternative anime style, Dalgleish and Jubinville say that Episode 6 was “probably everyone’s favourite to work on”, especially because it allowed the team to test the limits of their skills.
“One of the challenges that was unique to episode 6 was making sure the characters stay consistent and on model. When you draw traditionally you notice each artists individual style more, even in the way they draw lines,” Dalgleish says. “And we worked with a Japanese studio for a portion of the episode, so that added some additional inconsistency that we needed to account for.”
What are the plans for the series going forward? Jubinville says that the team will make seven full episodes for Season 1 of Super Science Friends, take it to broadcasters and see if anyone will pick it up, and “continue to do our short episodes (Sneaky Little Nazis, The Snake Pit, Marie Curie’s Periodic Pantry, etc) while we look for a good broadcast partner.”