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Interview with 'Crossing Swords' creators Tom Root and John Harvatine IV

Interviews

Interview with ‘Crossing Swords’ creators Tom Root and John Harvatine IV

The creators of ‘Crossing Swords’ discuss the show, season 2, and what they miss about SDCC.

When Hulu’s Crossing Swords initially came out, AIPT spoke with Tom Root and John Harvatine IV along with cast members about the show. We had such a good time, we decided to talk more with the show’s creators but without the hectic schedule of a press day.

This time around we dive a little deeper into the stop motion fantasy comedy series and check in with how season two is coming along. We also discuss the current state of adult animation and what they miss most about not being at SDCC in person.

AIPT: You guys are at SDCC@Home promoting your latest series, Crossing Swords, but both of you have worked on other shows previously. Do you find you have a preference working with already established IPs such as Stargirl, WWE and the various action figures that are used in Robot Chicken or do you like projects that are new and original such as SuperMansion and Crossing Swords? I imagine Crossing Swords is a little bit more special because you created it.

Tom Root: I think it feels safer using other properties as a launching pad for shows but ultimately, it’s more fulfilling to create something from the ground up and see it through all the way to air. I think in that regard, when we get to work on projects like Crossing Swords or SuperMansion, which was created by Zeb Wells and Matt Seinreich, we take a different kind of pride in those kinds of projects.

John Harvatine IV: I’ll add to that, Root, I think you’re absolutely right when we do Robot, we’ve been doing it for so long that we kind of know the language and we know how everything works. When we create new shows, it’s riskier and you kind of explore things but its more fulfilling to see on the screen to see if things are working or not. It’s a lot of fun.

AIPT: An aspect I enjoy is the colorful cast of background characters that you introduce in Crossing Swords. You’re building this community of people outside the main cast such as the yeti pelt vendor, Trina Franklin, and Bungles the Clown. It’s kind of like in the mold of The Simpsons and Family Guy where a minor character with so little screen time can make such an impression. How much extra effort is it to bring so much detail and personality to these minor characters while creating the main plots?

Root: Well, I don’t think it’s extra effort just because I’m there in the writer’s room when we’re talking about this stuff. Really a lot of elements like those characters come from the writers entertaining each other while we’re in the room all day. Like when we have a character we need, say, an extra to show up, or a background character to say one line and get out of there, we always think “Who have we already used that we can use again?”

Oh, Trina’s fun. She always has a point of view. She’s always trying to earn money for her scholarship. She’s always got that tragic back story. It’s funny to us to use her and take her story a little bit further. It’s more interesting than to sort of put in a brand new character named Joe who has nothing interesting going on and just be a functional character instead of a colorful character.

Harvatine: I’ll add to that, when we did the “flyer guy”, Tony Hale’s performance was so good, that his character really grew because he was so funny. He added so much to the character that we actually added little more for him to do because it was such a bizarre character he created. It was really through his voice, he just put so much in it.

Crossing Swords Flyer Guy
Flyer Guy with Patrick during a plague (Photo: Sony)

AIPT: It wasn’t too long after Crossing Swords premiered that the series was renewed by Hulu. I know animation, for the most part, hasn’t been as affected by COVID compared to other parts of Hollywood. I know your process is a little bit different with stop motion, but how far along is season 2? Will we receive any new news during your panel on Friday?

Root: The panel is prerecorded. I can’t remember if we broke any news. Do you remember, Harv, if there’s any awesome breaking, stop the presses news in the panel?

Harvatine: No. Nothing ground breaking. I think what was good about it was we really got into season one and how we made it and obviously working with the voice casting. Root was gone for a while, which was a lot of fun because his internet went out so we talked sh*t about him for fifteen minutes, which was fun. Nothing super groundbreaking.

I will say the amazing scripts have been written for season two. We’re really excited about that. We are deep into designs. We’re getting close to finishing up designs and storyboards are finished. We can say that right, Root?

Root: Uh-huh.

Harvatine: And we’re now in animatics and passing the show through the animatic process. Pretty quick here, we’ll be making puppets and making sets and before you know it, we’ll be starting to animate it, which will be exciting.

Crossing Swords Patrick's Siblings
Photo: Sony

AIPT: Hulu is holding its first HAHA awards in a few days. Your show has received some nominations. I know it’s not the Emmys but I think you’re probably happy to have the king in the running for best fart performance. I was curious on your guys’ take on the present state of adult animation. Is it easier to break through with so many options such as network, cable and streaming or is it more competitive with more options out there, you have to distinguish your show from all the others? A fact Hulu gave out is that 40% of users watch adult cartoons each month.

Root: First of all, I want to know if the king doesn’t win who is going to beat him in that category. So, we’ll see. Are the awards going to be handed out live? Is there a ceremony? I don’t know.

Harvatine: Can we get that right now? We should just be the winners. It should be no contest.

Root: I think adult animation is one of those things where it stops feeling like it’s such a special category. It’s like is your TV show black and white or is it in color? Color eventually stopped feeling so special when they were in color. Whether or not you’re doing a comedy, live-action, or animation or if it’s animation for adults as opposed to children, it’s just another way to tell your story. It’s so well accepted now after 30 years of The Simpsons and everything that follows. Twenty years of Family Guy, etc., etc.

To us, it doesn’t feel like we’re swimming upstream anymore. It feels very natural that Hulu would want to have big animation blocks for adults and any network or streaming service would want the same thing. It’s a distinction that we don’t really worry about anymore. There might be some really elderly viewers out there who still think cartoons are for children. They won’t watch anything but Bullwinkle. For the rest of the world, we’ve all moved on.

Harvatine: Bullwinkle. Come on, man.

Interview with 'Crossing Swords' creators Tom Root and John Harvatine IV
Imagine bags bigger than this filled with those precious SDCC exclusives

AIPT: Finally, because SDCC has gone virtual this year, I’m sure you’ve both attended your fair share of shows. What do you miss most about not being there in person?

Harvatine: I won’t speak for Root, but I’ll say the hardest part is that I’m definitely a toy hoarder/collector. I really miss going there, walking around and seeing the booths. Seeing all the cool figures and things that are coming out this year. There’s the online stuff, where you wake up at six and go to Walmart.com. That experience is terrible. It’s no fun. I miss walking around and seeing all the stuff and being tricked into buying stuff I don’t need and carrying those super huge bags that are full of shame. You can’t wait take it back to your hotel room to hide them. I miss that. The walk of shame with far too many toys and running back to your room. That is tragic. Root, how about you?

Root: Well, we spend all year concentrating on how divided we are as a nation, as a culture and then for these four or five glorious days at Comic-Con we get to go and everyone is so positive and excited for doing stuff. The energy is so different from the discourse that we’re drowning in the rest of the year. Not to get too profound about it. It’s such a nice break for your brain to be around a different kind of energy. It’s a healthier outlook. It’s weird to say that the nerdy energy is so much better for you than sitting at home watching CNN crying yourself to sleep every night.

AIPT: I definitely feel that San Diego’s one of those events where you get lost in it and the rest of the world isn’t even happening. I get what you’re saying. I’d like to thank both of you, Tom and Harv, for speaking with me and I appreciate you taking the time.

Make sure to catch the Crossing Swords panel at SDCC on Friday, at 4:00 pm PST.

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