Some times a show goes undeservedly under the radar. One can definitely make such a case for Three Delivery.
Created by Animation Collective!, the series debuted on Nicktoons earlier last summer. It’s a bold new art direction for the studio, best known for animated shows like Kappa Mikey and Speed Racer: The Next Generation. Yes, it still uses Flash, but supervising art director Alan Foreman has added a rougher, grittier style suitable for its modern Chinatown setting.
The story itself also has its good points. Back in the day, a grimoir ancient Chinese spells was disguised as a cook book. An evil sorcerer, Kong Li (Lex Wutas) got his hands on it, but was stopped at the last moment and the pages of the book were then scattered throughout what looks like Manhattan’s Chinatown. Now it’s up to three young martial arts students to collect those pages before their nemesis does. This can be problematic as other people in the region have some of the pages and, sometimes inadvertently, are causing all kinds of chaos throughout New York City.
Can Sue (Stephanie Sheh), Sid (Johnny Yong Bosch) and Tobey (Robby Sharpe), with their aid of their adoptive grandmother, Nana (Nan Wu), collect all the spells in time? Well, that’s what makes for a good series.
We sat down with Foreman to talk about this show. Here’s what he had to say:
Newsarama: How did Three Delivery get off the ground?
Alan Foreman: It was about 3 ½ years ago when our founder, Larry Schwartz, was walking around Chinatown and got the idea. So he wrote a little sheet on it. At that time, I was working on Kappa Mikey. So Larry showed me his notes and asked me what I thought. I said I liked the project. So we got into conversations about the visual style. From that point, I began working on supervising the project until Summer ’06. Towards the end of ’06, we started making two-minute shorts that are on our website.
NRAMA: Was New York’s Chinatown an inspiration for your guys?
AF: Absolutely. When we started work on the series, we spent time in Chinatown taking pictures. Then I flew out to San Francisco and spent a weekend taking pictures out there. We were trying to make this world as real as possible, so one of the ideas I had was to go to a lot of Chinatowns and use the photo references for backgrounds.
NRAMA: Now New York City has at least three different Chinatowns that I know of. Manhattan, Flushing and in Brooklyn. Did you use the last two also?
AF: We did that. We also have a Chinese cultural consultant and she took pictures of a big Chinese garden in Staten Island. I didn’t know it, but they have one there. Another co-worker went to London and also photographed that one. We were really trying to incorporate as many Chinatowns as we could.
NRAMA: So did those photos end up as the backgrounds?
AF: Some of the backgrounds came directly from the photos.
NRAMA: Now what about the three lead characters? Are they two brothers and a sister?
AF: They are a brother, a sister and a friend. Sue and Sid are siblings. Tobey’s the friend. Nana is their teacher, and she’s sort of their adoptive grandmother.
NRAMA: How did you come up with the grimoire as a cookbook concept?
AF: It was something Larry came up with. That concept was all his. I came in more on the art side.
NRAMA: I was going to bring that up. Animation Collective usually does exceptional bright colors and clean, simple line work. This one is darker and, for lack of a better word, rougher. Was that intentional?
AF: When I was a film major, I was interested in hand-drawn animation for the longest time. When I got out of school, I figured that as a lot of studios were moving into Flash, I’d better do the same. Now when using Flash, your work tends to look very flat and basic. With this project I wanted to push the barriers of what Flash is capable of. I really wanted the show to look hand drawn. I felt it would give the show a much more visceral look and mood. When I was a kid, I was a big fan of shows like Liquid Television and other more oddball stuff.
NRAMA: Was Ralph Bakshi an influence? He took a lot of photo backgrounds and drew on top of them.
AF: No, but that’s great.
NRAMA: So how would you describe the kids? Let’s start with Sue.
AF: She’s the leader, the serious one. She’s even keeled, level-headed. She always tries to balance her smarts with her skills.
NRAMA: What about the two boys?
AF: Sid is the Bruce Lee of the group. He’s not hot-headed, very cool. He wants to be a man of action. Tobey is living in his own world. He’s very energetic, almost ADD. He’s a little spastic. A little more Jackie Chan to Sid’s Bruce Lee.
NRAMA: Were kung fu films an inspiration?
AF: Huge. I always liked kung fu movies and they were an inspiration when it came to the animation style. When it was time to start creating the show, I probably watched a kung fu movie a night. I know in conversations with Larry, one thing he wanted to do was a little more cinematic, especially on how the shots were set up. In fact, Larry and I traded DVD titles back and forth. I watched everything from 70s Shaw Brothers movies to the most current. We tried to shoot the animation as if it was a live action film as well as some of the conventions from our favorite movies.
NRAMA: One episode that impressed me was involving the Jiang Shi. What was the inspiration for that?
AF: Part of it was trying to incorporate as much of Chinese culture as we can to make it even more authentic. We wanted to do a zombie episode. That’s where the hopping vampires came from. So our cultural consultant did a lot of research for us.
NRAMA: What’s this person’s name? She sounds like she’s important to you.
AF: Her name is Pei-Chen Chen. She’s worked for the company for a long time. I think she’s from Taiwan originally, but she really helps out a lot. She not only does research, but helps us with Chinese text and pronunciations as well as the various mystical and mythical creatures.
NRAMA: How’s the reaction been so far?
AF: So far it’s been really good. Our message board has been very positive and the ratings have been decent. I don’t know the exact numbers, but from what I’ve heard they’re good. Also, all my friends and peers have said good things about it.
New episodes of Three Delivery starts this Halloween, beginning with the aforementioned Jiang Shi episode. It will be part of Nicktoon’s as part of “Laser Awesome Friday Nights” on Friday at 7:30. It has also been picked up by Frances Canal +, starting today; and YTV in Canada, BBC in the UK, and Nick Australia in early 2009.
CARTOON NETWORK RENEWS TOTAL DRAMA
Cake Distribution today announced the sale of Total Drama Action: , the spinoff to Total Drama Island:, to Cartoon Network U.S. TDI has quickly established itself as a hit on Cartoon Network's Thursday night line-up and has developed a substantial following both on-air and on-line. Viewers on the program's interactive Web site have created over two million unique avatars within three months of the series premiere.
"We were very excited when Cartoon Network took the plunge in launching this mould-breaking show," said Ed Galton, managing director of Cake Distribution. "The creators and producers at Fresh TV have found such a natural continuation for the series, and we are thrilled that Cartoon Network has come on board to further build this success story with us."
Total Drama Action: picks up where Total Drama Island: left off and takes 15 of the original contestants to a new location - a deserted film studio lot. Here the contestants will be exposed to new challenges with the chance to win an even bigger prize. New to the concept will be a number of talk-show episodes where former contestants and fans comment on the competition. Total Drama Action: was created by Fresh TV's Tom McGillis and Jennifer Pertsch and is commissioned by Teletoon Canada. Total Drama Action: is currently in production and premiers in 2009.
BANDAI PLANNING GIRL WHO LEAPT TIME LAUNCH PARTY
Bandai Entertainment Inc. and Kadokawa Pictures USA announced the English language version of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time will have a DVD launch party at the Los Angeles store Anime Jungle on Tuesday November 18th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.
Voice actor Andrew Francis who plays Chiaki Mamiya in this version will be appearing at the event to sign autographs. Mr. Francis has had numerous anime roles which include Dilandau in the TV and movie versions of Escaflowne, Hiten in Inuyasha, Haseo in .Hack//Roots and many, more. Mr. Francis’ appearance has been arranged with the cooperation of Ocean Studios.
There will also be a “pudding eating” contest honoring the lead character’s first time leap from the story -- the winner of the contest will receive a signed Limited Edition DVD box set.
Anime Jungle is located at 319 E 2nd St. #103, Los Angeles, Ca 90012 in the heart of Little Tokyo. For more information: Check out the URL: www.animejungle.net.
NEXT COLUMN: Warner Bros./Hanna-Barbera has released a gigantically cool retrospective on The Flintstones. We take a look at the history of the series and how it shaped animation history..