Back in 2015, Marvel launched Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur by writers Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder and artist Natacha Bustos. The series teamed young super-genius Lunella Lafayette (the titular Moon Girl) with the fan-favorite Jack Kirby creation, and delighted readers of all ages before ending with issue #47. The unlikely pair from the Lower East Side are now poised to make the jump to television with the new Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur animated series premiering this week. First announced back in 2018, this series has been a long time timing and an incredible passion project for all involved. It’s already been generating a lot of buzz, exemplified by the fact that the series has already been renewed for a second season.
During NYCC last October, The Beat had the pleasure of participating in press roundtables with the cast and crew of Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, including voice actors Diamond White (voice of Lunella/Moon Girl), Fred Tatasciore (voice of Devil Dinosaur), and Gary Anthony Williams (Pops) well as executive producer Steve Loter and supervising producers Rodney Clouden and producer Pilar Flynn. Among the topics discussed were the theme of family throughout the show, the importance of representation and inclusivity and much more. Check it out below!
Gary Anthony Williams: Fred and I have known each other forever. Everybody else I’m just meeting in person for the first time. My very first record was when COVID started so I’ve been recording from my private booth in my house. Just to see everybody and that they have the ability to stand is amazing! I’ve done one record with Diamond where we recorded together but other than that it’s been separate.
Pilar Flynn: I’m personally excited because we’ve been living with this for 3-4 years. We all felt so passionate about the show. To know that this is the last moment before we get to keep it to ourselves before we share it with the world is just incredible. This is the superhero we’ve been waiting for so now for her to be the superhero we think this next generation has been waiting for is so exciting.
Williams: I can’t wait for my nieces and nephews in Georgia to see it. I live out in L.A. but my family is still in Georgia. For them to see this [show], I cannot wait.
Taimur Dar: I think it’s safe to say that most Black teen superheroes owe a huge debt to Static Shock. At the time there was a belief by the powers that be that Black superheroes couldn’t sell, compared to today when you have characters like Black Panther, Miles Morales, and now Moon Girl proving that notion false. How do you feel the culture has shifted in that regard?
Flynn: The culture definitely has shifted especially because of Spider-Verse when that came out. But to us that didn’t matter. We wanted to make this. Laurence Fishburne brought this Marvel and Disney and said, “It doesn’t matter that she’s Black. What matters is that she’s an amazing character and needs to come to life.” When I was pitched it by Disney, I felt this was the superhero I wanted as a little girl. She is going to be amazing and blow everyone’s minds.
Williams: I can’t wait to see every little White girl walking around with a Moon Girl doll because that is going to transcend any color or anything in the world because she’s just that cool.
Flynn: That’s what Moon Girl’s magic is. It’s for everybody. It’s about being yourself and being proud of who you are and not being afraid to shine.
Williams: It’s echoed in other parts of the show. I play Lunella’s granddad. He started this roller rink for everybody to be inclusive of the community. That kind of thing plays through in the entire show.
Q: How exciting is it to be attached to the Marvel Universe?
Flynn: So exciting! Most of us are huge Marvel fans and to get play in their playground and partner with them has been a dream come true. Marvel has been such a dream to work with on this. They are so excited about this property. They have been amazing partners. You may or may not see some Easter Eggs in Season One. We can’t wait to do more.
Williams: It’s another level as a voice actor. I can’t even imagine in my career that you would not want to be part of that world. Then you have something this quality that actually means something.
Q: Family is major theme of the Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur series. How important was it to bring that theme to the screen?
Williams: For me it is like coming home because I was raised in an environment where everybody is there. You could not walk in my house and there weren’t seven people there. That included my grandma or uncles or nieces and nephews. Everybody is there and supporting each other all the time. All of the elements in Pops I steal from the memory of my dad. It means everything to me when I get to step into that booth.
Flynn: It was so reflective of my own family where we lived in a multigenerational home with our parents and grandparents. When we created the family, because so many on the crew and leadership are diverse, we knew we wanted to create a show that featured a girl who’s diverse and lives in a supportive environment and loving family. It was important for us that little kids see themselves and their own families reflected back at them in a positive way.
Like Pops said, you’ve got to roooooll with it 🎵 #MoonGirlAndDevilDinosaur pic.twitter.com/ezaOPatAm1
— Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (@DisneyMGDD) January 23, 2023
Q: It’s great to see you add new elements that weren’t in the original comic. For instance, Pops is an original character for this series. How did you develop the character?
Flynn: Something that inspired us for the show was the documentary United Skates of America. It’s about the roller skate and Black community and early roller rinks. Seeing that and the comics inspired us to bring it into the Lower East Side and have it be this family that supported one another. That’s how we came up with Pops and him starting the rink. It gave us a natural way to feature the community and history of roller rinks.
Williams: As far as how I build a character, I look at the words and I listen to the creators of the show. They give me an idea of where it’s going. I definitely look at his physical attributes. The important part of that character for me is that warmth and love and support that he has for his family. I make sure that my voice plays that out. The reality of who that guy is I want to be in every fiber of his voice. It’s all dictated by the words on the page. When you’ve got good words you can really do some good stuff.
Q: What are you most proud of with this show?
Flynn: I feel like our whole cast and crew is a family. We started off with a shared mission but now we’re so close and feel so proud and passionate about what we’re doing. This isn’t just a cartoon we’re doing. We’re making a true movement in animation.
Williams: I go back to that whole family thing because that means everything to me. That’s my pride in being able to provide that family unit.
Flynn: We knew the show was special from the start. It was just as important to us that the cast and crew were authentically represented. We’ve assembled a crew that is so diverse with women, POC, members of the LGBTQ+ community. And have this incredibly collaborative team where we ask people for their thoughts and notes and ideas. After 25 years of working in this industry I’ve never seen this kind of inclusive and collaborative environment. I’m so proud of that because once you watch the show you can feel that love and passion.
Q: Lunella and Devil Dinosaur have a great dynamic immediately in the first episode. What was it like bringing it to the screen?
Diamond White: When you bring a ten-ton dinosaur out of a portal it goes awry at first. He doesn’t listen to her until hot dogs are involved. They form this unbreakable bond.
Fred Tastasciore: He would do anything for her. It’s more of a partnership than a pet. There’s a trust that’s great. She is dealing with saving the LES and I’m coming from a very scary place as we’ll find out. He comes out and prefers to be with her. Most creatures you would think would want to go back. This is more home than anywhere else.
White: A lot of times when Lunella is weak, Devil is strong and vice versa.
Oh. My. Gamma. Rays! Lunella has got the moves AND the brain power! ✨ #MoonGirlandDevilDinosaur #MoonGirlMagic pic.twitter.com/gCwiITNSHv
— Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (@DisneyMGDD) January 3, 2023
Q: What does it mean to you to be part of the Marvel Universe?
White: I still can’t believe it. Every time we do a comic con or a D23 I go, “Am I really this character?” Growing up I needed a character to teach me that one girl can make a difference. You can be into quantum physics and everyone calling you a nerd but that’s still cool. I’m so happy we finally get to have that.
Tastasciore: It’s a timely and culturally relevant show that needed to happen a long time ago. It’s an honor to be part of that in any way. I’ve played a lot of different Marvel characters over the years and you want to bring as much humanity as you can even if they’re villains. They’ve given me so much leeway not just in terms of character. He’s a little different from what I expected. I thought we were going for more scary creature. He’s a ten-ton dog with a big heart. He’s a force of nature but he loves music and art and cuddling. The other side of that for me is that’s an audio thing. It’s really a musical job. I have a sentence and then I [Devil Dinosaur creature sounds]. It’s like showing up with this broken saxophone and trying to make sense out of whatever sentence we’re trying to say. It’s very art and sound driven.
Q: How did you develop the Devil Dinosaur voice?
Tastasciore: It was weird. We wanted to approach it starting from where we thought might be a real T-Rex. We can’t make him that scary and then that becomes one note. We wanted to create a sort of language. I generally will do multiple passes and we will layer sometimes. If there are big roars I have a system where I want two sound files on top of each other for certain sounds. It’s in the back of the throat. Sometimes it goes into Scooby. There are times even when I go into a sentence, [Scooby-Doo voice]. And then I’ll try [to] translate that into [Devil Dinosaur sound]. It’s all about emotion and sound with him. We work with Sam Riegel, our incredible voice director.
“Rawr” means “I love you and can I have some hot dogs” in dinosaur 🦕 #MoonGirlAndDevilDinosaur pic.twitter.com/rvYET91rI8
— Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (@DisneyMGDD) January 6, 2023
Dar: Obviously, this was recorded remotely as opposed to in-person in the studio. Did you ever get to record together or Zoom or was it completely separate?
White: A lot of the times me and Libe [Barer] who plays Casey, my best friend on the show, will be in different studios. She lives in New York and I live in Los Angeles. So we’ll have a Zoom session. But it actually goes really well considering the internet problems and all that. We get to overlap and have these little playful moments that aren’t scripted which end up in the episodes.
Tastasciore: I can see why they get you guys together because it is chemistry and it’s quick and you guys are firing off of each other. I’ve been solo but I would be happy to record in group. Most of my stuff has been solo because of what I mentioned doing multiple passes of stuff and layering. It may take up time.
White: I’d wait for you!
Q: This show is a great entry for young people to get into the Marvel Universe. What does that mean to you?
White: The Marvel Universe is just incredible. I can’t believe I’m voicing this character. It gives a sense of community. That’s also a big part of the show. I’ve seen so many people cosplay as the characters.
Tastasciore: It’s a very different kind of Marvel show because of what we mentioned. It’s a very musically driven show. It’s a wonderful way for kids to get into the Marvel Universe and learn that science is cool.
Q: Any Marvel character you’d want to see appear in the Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur series?
White: I’d love to team up with Spider-Man.
Tastasciore: Black Panther might be interesting. And not because I play him but Hulk and Devil Dinosaur would be a fun match. I’ve played Hulk where he is friends with Devil Dinosaur.
Q: The animation style is really unique and feels like a comic book come to life. Was this always planned or something you found along the way?
Steve Loter: It was always planned. We knew going into it visually where we wanted to go. The fact that it’s set into New York City is important to us to authentically embody what New York City is. Not just in vibe but also architecture and look and feel. You’ll see street art was inspirational as well as murals and graffiti. Basquiat and Warhol screen printing process were all in front of the visual dynamic of the show.
Rodney Clouden: I think even Mark Hempel was an inspiration.
Loter: Mark Hempel the comic book artist was a huge inspiration. Do you want to talk about the character designs?
Clouden: The character designs you’ll see is more of an inky style. We have this thing called “spotting blacks” where we have these little black areas in the characters. That also contributed to that look of a comic and I think we were pretty successful.
Q: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur definitely seems to have a Spider-Verse influence. Is that indeed intentional?
Loter: Spider-Verse, in my opinion, changed the entire animation industry. It was one of the most brilliant things I’d ever seen, ever! And with that we acknowledged that we wanted to compliment that but we needed to be different. We didn’t want to just copy Spider-Verse.
Clouden: Especially since we don’t have the budget!
Loter: We also wanted to do something that felt very hand drawn with a pen and ink sensibility [as well as] modern and fresh and new.
Q: You can never go wrong with any inspiration from Jack “King” Kirby creations. What did you incorporate from his body of work into the Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur show?
Clouden: We have the Kirby Krackle. You’ll see that peppered in with some of the effects. We also have these mix-tape moments. There was a period when Kirby was doing these really colorful illustrations. There’s a little bit of that influence in the mix-tape moments that are set to the music of Raphael Saadiq.
Loter: You can’t honestly do moving comic books and not have Kirby as your cornerstone of inspiration.
Dar: There are always changes when adapting any comic property to another media. Whether or not it comes into play later, I completely understand why you would eliminate Lunella’s Inhuman powers and origin in order to focus on her intellect. How did you decide not to incorporate the Inhuman aspect into the show?
Loter: The mantra we had going into it was that she’s a 13-year old girl who happens to be a superhero, not the other way around. That was always our intention to make sure all the stories were relatable to a 13-year old from that perspective so we understand it and we could say, “We lived through that as well.” You’ll also find out through the series the superhero aspect always combines with whatever Lunella is going through. Let’s say there’s a story about jealousy or patience, the superhero aspect compliments that. It was always the intention that it was the human first and superhero second.
Q: Family is an important theme in Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. How did you approach that aspect?
Clouden: When I came onto this project I saw that it was opportunity to show a Black family in animation which you don’t see too often. And also a multigenerational aspect of the family with the grandparents was something we wanted to highlight.
Q: The music is incredible. How did you find this sound?
Loter: I’m a huge music nerd. In my filmography, pretty much every show I’ve worked on has had a strong musical component to it. For this project I knew I wanted to capture New York City and a vibe. To me New York is a plastic tub drummer on one corner and a violin player on another corner. The only person in my mind that I felt could do this show justice was Raphael Saadiq. I’ve been a huge fan of Raphael since Tony! Toni! Toné! and his writing and producing and solo albums. But he’s a genius. He’s constantly working. He’s very much in demand. We wondered if this was someone we could possibly get on the show. So I decided to go the direct route. He was doing a record signing at a record store in L.A. [and] I was first in line and brought my record. In the 30 seconds it took for him to sign the record I pitched him the show. By the end of those 30 seconds he signed onto the show. He signed my record and I got him to sign onto the show!
Dar: I don’t suppose you brought a contract with you to the signing!
Loter: Almost! I got a picture of the handshake! What Raphael brings to the project is absolutely incredible. He reads the scripts but then we have a meeting and he says, “I know the song goes here but I want to talk about the emotion of the character. That’s what I’m keying on.” He takes that and runs with it. I know the word genius is used quite often and probably misused a lot, but I can tell you after working with Raphael Saadiq that he is a 100% genius.
Clouden: In terms of just asking those questions about an animated show, you know there’s a level of sophistication that we are going to get from him as well as the writers and visuals of the show. We want to make sure we don’t talk down to kids. We want something that is so different from what they’ve seen from Disney.
Loter: Also Raphael Saadiq is a one take wonder! Normally when you do a main title of a song you work and demo it and shop it to every executive. The first version of the song he did is the main title that’s on the show. That never happens.
Q: With the Marvel Universe as big as it is, can expect a few fun cameos?
Loter: Of course! We are a Marvel show. Part of the fun is weaving the Marvel Universe together. There are definitely some surprises. Marvel has been an incredible partner on this project. There have been times when we’ve asked them if we could use characters and there have been plenty of times when they’ve brought characters to us. You’re going to see some deep cuts.
Clouden: Some very deep cuts like I don’t even know who this character is! They are allowing the latitude to play around with the character and mold it into the Moon Girl style.
Q: If you had free rein in the Marvel Universe which characters would you like to see Moon Girl team up with?
Loter: It’s tricky because some of them are in the show. Marvel is producing so many great films but they’ve got so many in the works that when you ask to use a character they say, “Maybe not right now,” you know you’re going to probably see this character in a film coming out soon!
Clouden: And sometimes it’s not owned by Marvel.
Loter: That’s happened a couple of times too. Initially we wanted Lunella and Devil to basically exist on their own in a way so they kind of prove themselves before we bring in characters to support them so that they’ve earned their moment. But Cobie Smulders is showing up. I can’t imagine it’s a surprise what character she may be playing!
Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur premieres on Disney Channel on February 10th. The first six episodes of the series will be available to stream on Disney+ on February 15th.