Ben 10 vs. The Universe: The Movie's Supervising Producer Talks Azmuth, Space, and What Makes Ben 10 Special

The ongoing Ben 10 reboot at Cartoon Network is officially set to release its very first movie, Ben 10 vs. The Universe, this coming weekend. The movie sees Ben stranded in space as Gwen, Grandpa Max, and the rest of the gang have to deal with a major threat to Earth. Ahead of the release, had a chance to speak with supervising producer/showrunner Will Patrick all about it -- including the franchise return of Azmuth, Vilgax's escape, and more.

Fair warning: beyond here, there be spoilers. If you've already seen the trailer or released stills, nothing is likely to surprise you beyond a few details, however. You've been warned!

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(Photo: Cartoon Network) Obviously this is not the first Ben 10 movie, but it is the first for the reboot. How did the origins of Ben 10 vs. The Universe: The Movie sort of come about?

Will Patrick: Well, I'm sure it was mostly the brainchild of Man of Action. So they're the creators of Ben 10, but we've always wanted to bring back Vilgax and send Ben into space. So I think the best way to really have worlds collide like that is to stick it into something big and grand, like a movie.

It is an interesting choice to largely strand Ben in space for the majority of the movie.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Because Ben's strength really comes from his family like Gwen and Max. So really to kind of chase him up a tree, as it were, is to throw him out into space where he isn't comfortable and he has to interact with things that he's not used to.

Speaking of things he's not used to, there are some big introductions to the reboot here, obviously you've got Waybig, Goop, but specifically, why introduce Azmuth in this way?

Well personally, Azmuth is my favorite character from the old series, but yeah, I think making Azmuth then just sort of an anti-hero and he's more out for himself at the beginning and he kind of understands that, maybe Ben is the best hope for the universe. So yeah, if you're asking, why is Azmuth in the movie you might have to ask Man of Action because that was their call, but I was pretty delighted that he came back.

You've spoken a bit about how Man of Action figures into the current Ben 10 series. Can you speak more about your involvement? What happens? How do the mashed potatoes get made, so to speak?

So generally what happens with them is they kind of write an outline, just like a basic framework of what they're thinking, what's going on, and we give it to the board teams. So with a normal episode, one episode goes to one board team essentially. And then they kind of put their own personality into it. They write jokes for it, kind of make loose ends meet.

And so for the movie, we got the outline for the movie and we broke it up into six pieces. So each board team got a section of the movie and I think one board team got two. So it was a lot of collaboration between the teams, which is a little unprecedented -- we've done finales before, but generally they can kind of just sink their teeth into a single episode. So yeah, a lot of that coordination was on me to sort of make sure the movies stitches together well, that's kind of how that goes. I guess I can take you down the pipeline if you want, I don't know how interesting that is.

Be my guest.

So, generally, what happens after the board artists finish up, they pitch it and we do some revisions and it goes to animatics. We cut it together, we'll put the voices on it. And it goes to the art team. They start doing designs, character designs, spaceships, and then it ships off to Korea to get animated and comes back and we throw music and sound effects and edit it all together. And then you have a movie.

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(Photo: Cartoon Network)

Now you kind of touched on this a little bit, but obviously, the movie is a lot bigger than 11-minute episodes. Were there any specific hurdles to stitching all of this together?

Yeah, absolutely. You know, certain board teams will have ideas of what they want to do and concepts. I know for myself Azmuth, like I said, is a big deal to me. So I really wanted to make sure that his personality came through. So that was definitely a big part of it, just to make sure everything smoothly transitions between the sections and in broader terms, the movie has more time, so we can build more stakes and really make it feel big and important. And we really want to earn that Vilgax return.

Animation production timelines being what they are, every show and movie seems to have been affected differently, but what was the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the movie?

So fortunately for us, most of the pre-production was finished up before the pandemic hit. So we were still not in quarantine. So the board teams could still talk to each other in kind of a natural way. But when the animation was coming back, that's when we all had to start working from home. So most of the editing and the sound and music, they were all done from that room [behind me].

So when did you actually end up wrapping on the movie?

Maybe two months ago. I think I finally got the final mix and then of course it goes to QC and we throw some credits on it, but yeah, probably about two months ago, it finally left.

Is that pretty typical for The Before Times as well? Or is that a little close for your taste?

Oh, as far as when it airs, I think that's fairly typical. We didn't go over time or anything. It was delivered on time. We're good boys and girls.

And releasing during a pandemic is obviously its own hurdle. What do you hope people sort of take away from the movie when it releases?

I hope people like it. I hope they have fun. It's a big deal within the Ben 10 universe, so I hope it really lives up to that. And as far as themes, the movie's about Ben's need to save his family and the connection there, and even in a broader sense, caring about other people. So I hope people get and take that away from it too.

Obviously, there are some big names -- Vilgax is back from the Null Void, we get Azmuth introduced, Waybig, Goop. Kevin has pretty significantly changed here. How does the movie affect the show?

Well, yeah, it's obviously a big turning point for them; the summer is over. So we'll definitely see some more Ben afterwards, but I don't want to give anything away.

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(Photo: Cartoon Network)

What can you tell us about what's coming up for Ben 10? Anything at all?

I don't know. I don't know. Sorry. I don't think I can say anything.

We've talked about Man of Action's involvement in how they provide this outline. How much are you allowed to sort of deviate?

It kind of depends on what's there. In goofier episodes, we can really, really go off the rails and allow the board artists to kind of really make it their own. We want to make sure that the broad structure is still there. As far as the movie goes, because it's such a collaborative effort, a board team can't just like, "You know what? And then they're going to a mall, and they want to do this." Because everything has to stitch together. So definitely maintaining the framework from the outlines for the movie was pretty essential. But yeah, as far as dialogue and adding in jokes, they're pretty much free to do what they want as long as it's good.

The show has been going on for four years now, but initially, there was kind of a rocky reception, but it's now gone on longer than the previous reboot at this point and will continue on. What do you take away from the criticisms of the show?

Generally I guess what I see the most is people just want it to be the original series. And I mean, I don't know how realistic that is. I don't know. We can't just remake the original series, unfortunately. So yeah, I think we try not to focus too much on the criticisms and really just make the show that we like and try to keep what we think makes Ben special intact.

I started out as a board artist, so I didn't necessarily have a whole lot of control over the direction of the show in the beginning, but I know that the effort was to try to inject more comedy. So it's more of an action-comedy rather than just a straight action show. But through that, we try to inject a lot more depth into the characters and try to play with multiple layers of personality, especially with people like Gwen. So yeah, there's definitely a lot of love and effort put into the show just to make it as good as we can. And you know, hopefully people can appreciate that.

What makes Ben 10 special?

Really, I think it's a fun premise. It's really simple, which makes it really strong. It's like a kid that can turn into 10 different, essentially superheroes and fight off bad guys. So there's a lot you can do with that. There's a lot of places you can go, so it's the versatility of it that makes it really strong, but you know, at the end of the day it's about characters. It's about family, and it's about being a hero. And I think that really speaks to people and is kind of a timeless message.

It sounds like that's kind of your pitch to people who maybe haven't given the reboot a shot yet.

Yeah, I hope so.

Is there anything else you would like to say about Ben 10? About the movie? about your involvement, anything at all?

Oh, well nobody's asked me that before. I don't know. When it came back all finished, because all you can see are problems when you're working on it. "Oh, we got to do that. Oh, that's not working. Tthat animation looks way off." But yeah, when I finally saw the whole thing put together and all the beats working together I was like, "Man, this is a good movie." So yeah. I really stand behind it. I think it's very strong and I think everybody put a lot of effort and love into it. And I think that really shows.



Ben 10 vs. The Universe: The Movie is set to premiere globally on Cartoon Network this coming Saturday, October 10th. It will air in the United States at 10AM ET/PT. It will then release digitally across the major platforms the following day with a DVD release set for October 13th thanks to Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. You can check out all of our previous coverage of the upcoming TV film right here.