John Harvatine IV and Tom Root, best known for their work on Robot Chicken, created a new adult stop-motion animated comedy entitled Crossing Swords. Viewers could catch the show last week when it debuted on Hulu.
Recently, AIPT was able to virtually tour the set of the series and speak with the creators and cast members, Adam Pally and Yvette Nicole Brown. Here are six takeaways from our conversations about the entertaining and funny medieval adventure.
Old School Inspiration
Harvatine and Root were captivated by the look of the original Little People toys from Fisher-Price. They thought they looked fun and saw a challenge in getting them to convey their emotions. They built the concept for Crossing Swords from the ground up and began thinking up cool playsets and environments that would be conducive for storytelling. Eventually they went with a fantasy theme and kept adding upon the ideas until the show was born.
The pair had so much fun making all the characters and sets and imagining what they would look like as peg people. If fans are interested in owning action figure replicas, they are standing by for any offers from toy companies and are ready to get them out to the public.
(Intensive) Labor of Love
The two creators along with Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, constructed a bunch of mini soundstages for filming. Mostly everything was fabricated by hand out of wood with an occasional fabric or metal piece. In addition, almost all the shots were done with practical effects and sparingly utilized green screen.
Based off of the peg figure aesthetic, they could have easily gone the cheesy route with shooting scenes but Root and Harvatine wanted something more serious and cinematic. For example, in the third episode that mainly takes place on ships, they incorporated the rocking of the ocean increasing the complexity of the visuals and also the shoot time.
Filming occurred at a snail’s pace with a single animator usually creating an average of 10 seconds of footage each day. In order to speed up the process, multiple animators were brought in and five different episodes were shot concurrently to make it more efficient. By doing this, it would take approximately two weeks to finish a single episode.
Coming Aboard Crossing Swords
The voice talent had different paths joining the project. Brown had previously worked with the creators on SuperMansion and they reached out to her when casting. She accepted the offer without reading the scripts and was taken back on her first day. “I didn’t read the script before I went into the booth,” Brown shared. “So, I got in and found out just how naughty the show is. That was a surprise but it was a joy to work with the gang of people I have worked with before.”
Pally had a more conventional audition process to get onto the series. He thought it was an opportunity different from his past roles. Pally said, “I was excited because it’s the guys who did Robot Chicken and I’m a big fan of that. I thought this was a cool project and I haven’t done something like it tonally. I try to jump around a bit tonally with my projects and this kind of fit really nicely.”
Adjusting to COVID
The plot of the eighth episode involved the characters heading up to the mountains to avoid a plague devastating the kingdom. No one could have anticipated our current pandemic so the creators had to go back and make sure none of the jokes were in poor taste.
“We took a hard look at that episode because it was written at least a full year before anyone had ever heard about coronavirus. Probably longer,” Harvatine said. “By the time it was ready to come out, there were some moments that could seem insensitive so the network and Stoopid Buddy looked at the cut of the episode and looked at little trims we could make. Things we didn’t need to make fun of during an actual plague. Nothing changed fundamentally for the episode. Little cuts here and there.”
The voice talent looked back on the first season and spoke of their favorite and memorable parts. Pally stated, “All the sex scenes are really funny”.
Brown had two scenes that stood out. “The most memorable to watch was the murder contraption that the king drew that ended one of our favorite folk heroes. That was hilarious and alarming to watch. I kept hoping that he’d make it. I didn’t think it would end the way it ended. As far as what I played, I love Sergeant Meghan’s entrance. I think it’s so cool that she comes down almost like Spider-Man, upside down. I thought that was a great entrance for the character.”
Now that the first season is over, all four discussed what they’d like to see from the show in the future. With respect to his character, Pally would want “Broth starting dating. I think that would be funny.”
Brown had a less romantic vision for Sergeant Meghan. “I really hope the squires never get it. The moment that Patrick figures out how to be a real great squire would be the end of Sergeant Meghan. I kind of hope that there’s always more for them to all learn or if not that, she gets a job in the king’s court because I love this show. I think it’s so naughty but hilarious and I hope I can continue. I hope that she continues to whoop these squires into shape.”
It’s fun to speculate about the other characters but in the end, the story concentrates on the lead’s journey. Harvatine said, “It’s Patrick’s story, so it’s all about where Patrick goes next. He is doing this to be a knight and is doing this to protect the kingdom and help people. He’s learning that it’s really difficult to accomplish that goal and it might be impossible and yet he never gives up. He’s either going to keep fighting that fight or he’s going to find a different way to go about it.”
He added, “The future for Patrick is about staying true to that mission and not letting the corruption change him too much. Or, the worst story we could tell would be the corruption changing Patrick to the point where he turns into Emperor Palpatine. It’s like Breaking Bad where we get to see the birth of a villain. Whatever happens, it would be Patrick’s story.”
That would truly be the worst story. I don’t think anyone would want to see Patrick turn to the dark side. Binge the entire season of Crossing Swords now on Hulu.
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