Man of Action's Steven T. Seagle, Duncan Rouleau Talk Sonic Prime, Hello Neighbor, and What's Next
Sonic Prime is on Netflix, attracting plenty of attention from old fans and new, but for production company Man of Action Entertainment, that's far from the only thing they have on their plate. The small organization, run by comic book and animation veterans, has a lot going on right now, including a new project called Sky & Luna, and a just-announced animated series taking place within the game of Hello Neighbor 2, which marks the first time an animated series has debuted inside of a video game. The latter two are taking place with Creation Station, and Sky & Luna is teaming Man of Action with People of Culture.
Sonic Prime is pretty self-explanatory, but here's a rundown of the other projects, for anybody who hasn't seen previous stories: Hello Neighbor: Welcome to Raven Brooks focuses on the new girl in the neighborhood, Trinity (Kimberly Woods), who moves in across the street from creepy neighbor, Mr. Peterson (Armen Taylor). and quickly befriends Nicky (Kieran Walton), who is already obsessed with finding out what horrific secrets are hiding in Peterson's basement. They enlist their less courageous friends to join them in their terrifying stealth missions to help rescue whatever is trapped in that horror house basement.
As reported by Deadline, Sky & Luna centers on the lonely 11-year old Sky, who has finally found a new best friend who is totally out of this world... literally. Luna is a shapeshifting alien sent to earth to study humankind. Instead, she ends up hunted by a top-secret government organization tasked with eradicating extraterrestrial threats – an organization run by Sky's own mother.
Two of Man of Action's principals -- Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau -- joined ComicBook.com for a quick Q&A about how things are shaping up with Sonic Prime now out there in the world.
ComicBook.com: For Sky & Luna -- was it kind of a natural that a company called People of Culture would partner with Man of Action?
Duncan Rouleau: Ha. Lots of implied people in those company titles. Seriously though, Labid [Aziz] and Andy [Cosby] are both accomplished professionals, and what they're doing with POC is both amazing, and much needed. MOA is happy to be working with them to help bring in new voices and new creative talent into the mix. It's an exciting time.
Steven T. Seagle: We owe the connection to Omar Spahi and Dillon Gemmill's new venture Creation Station. We'd previously met Carl from Lion Forge and Labid and Andy from POC, but the partnership with Carl was crafted by Creation Station off of their original IP of SKY & LUNA and then expended by them to also include POC.
ComicBook.com: That's a new IP without the backing that Sonic or even Hello Neighbor have. Obviously Man of Action has had great luck generating new stuff from scratch, but how are the challenges different when you're doing that, versus when you're dealing with an existing property and its owners?
Seagle: There's always a pendulum swinging between outlets wanting originals or existing IP. You can go mad trying to follow where the trend is. The best bet is to follow a story that resonates with you and that you can convey will resonate with viewers – whether new or existing – and present that to the buyers.
Rouleau: True enough. While both have their own hurdles to clear the obvious differences are that one already has an audience and the other is looking to find one. When we are choosing to work on an existing IP we look at it with the eyes of a fan first. Are we true fans? Is there something we'd want to see that hasn't been done better? What hasn't happened yet we want to happen? If it doesn't come from that place, you are immediately creating a barrier between you and from the very source of the IP's strength. That can seem like a no brainer, but it truly requires a degree of honest self reflection.
ComicBook.com: With Sonic Prime, what was the mission statement going in? There are a lot of different takes on the character out there.
Rouleau: A very clear one, "make new fans but don't lose the old ones." It's a clear enough mandate and one you will find with any existing IP, but like you said the big challenge is sifting through 30 years of the IP's lore to find a clear and concise take. For us it was simple enough. While there are plenty of ancillary sources to draw upon – comics, old cartoons and now movies – it is and always has been the games that are the core of the character. We are fans, know those games well. Pulling from that source we focused on those as our chief inspiration. It wasn't creating something new from whole cloth as much as weaving together several visions into one new and unified experience.
Seagle: Sonic is both a classic, and an ever expanding franchise. Sega has very committed creators keeping track of the lore of Sonic, they keep us on point in that regard. Our job is to go where the character hasn't been in terms of other works, situations, and themes. So it's both keeping the essence and making up something new. That was the mandate, and it will continue to be the mandate!
ComicBook.com: The fandom for Sonic is incredibly passionate. Are you guys watching social media for responses, or trying to keep your head down and get the work done?
Seagle: It is absolutely one of the most passionate fan bases on the planet! Love that! But Man of Action's work on this started five years ago with our friends at Sega America, and evolved with our partners at WildBrain, Netflix, and Marza for the next four years. So in animation, we tend to finish our work long before it reaches the fans. That's why Sega's Sonic lore team is so critical to everything we do. Do we hope fans dig it? We do! Can we control that? We can't!
Rouleau: We have some experience with a motivated fan base, but Sonic is unique. So many have been following the exploits of this character for 30 years so we are actively out there dialoguing and will continue to. It's part of being a fan as well as being the 'temporary custodian'. Our goal has from the start to take something we love and share that with the community, so social media is part of that process.
ComicBook.com: The show almost feels like a more traditional take than the movies. While they've done well, I have already heard some fans saying they prefer Prime's take. Was that a conscious choice, to really differentiate the two Sonics that people are seeing in pop culture right now?
Seagle: The movies are their own phenomenon. They've done incredibly well. So there's really no point trying to just replicate that story/feel/vibe in a show. Sega encouraged us to go our own way, build our own world, tell our own story, but keep the heart of Sonic and his friends in mind. So that's what we did. We wanted to go epic, long-form, and be all about how Sonic views his friendships through a suddenly shattered lens.
Rouleau: Absolutely. As said up top we are pulling from the key source Sonic games. It was where he was born. It is where his greatest strength comes from.
ComicBook.com: How did the Hello Neighbor project take shape? Obviously it's been in the works for a while, but it feels like evolved a lot.
Seagle: Once again – Creation Station. Omar and Dillon were looking for some guidance as they launched their new creative house with Sky & Luna and assuming producing duties on Hello Neighbor. Since they had both written for Man of Action, they asked if we would be Executive Producers with them and help them get their sea legs as they launched. Because the projects they were doing didn't really resemble anything we had done previously, and because they're great people, we said yes.
The Hello Neighbor series (now on YouTube) had a test pilot a few years ago, and while we inherited assets and a great crew from that, we creatively wanted to revisit the show and try to align it more with the vibe of the games visually, textually, and audibly. That's mostly where the time went. But it's great fun working with Alex and John from Tiny Build on this. They are very open collaborators!
Rouleau: We were presented the opportunity through our pals at Creation Station – Omar Saphi and his business partner Dillon Gimmel. They had the initial talks with tinyBuild and began developing the project with them. When they shared it to us we were excited because the story and content was very different than the other IP we had worked on and the desire to tell something that was genuinely scary appealed to us. We so excited to be part of this and people should check it out, because it's really good.
ComicBook.com: Was this something you all kind of fell in love with, or did you have to convince somebody "No, putting it inside the game would totally work?"
Seagle: That was an eleventh hour surprise to us. We literally heard about it the week before it happened. But again, it speaks to how adventurous and nimble Tiny Build is when it comes to trying new approaches.
Rouleau: The owner Alex Nichiporchik presented us with that idea. We think it's brilliant. Everything about this project's release has been very different from the traditional methods and it is exciting. From releasing it on YouTube where story construction need not follow strict network time constraints to surprising the tonal shifts that keep the story fresh and an audience on their toes, its been a joy to work on.0comments