At NYCC 2022, Marvel and Disney brought the upcoming series Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur to fans, offering special first looks at what to expect when it premieres this month. The series follows Lunella Lafayette, a 13-year-old super genius who sets out to protect the Lower East Side from bad guys with the help of her 10-ton dinosaur.
During the convention, we had the opportunity to participate in roundtable interviews with some of the cast and creative members behind the show. We spoke with cast members Diamond White (Lunella), Fred Tatasciore (Devil), and Gary Anthony Williams (Pops), producer Pilar Flynn, executive producer Steve Loter, and supervising producer Rodney Clouden.
Note: Responses were edited for clarity.
Pilar Flynn and Gary Anthony Williams
Nerds & Beyond: I got the chance to watch the premiere episode, and something that I really loved is that the Lafayettes just have this really, really lovely family dynamic. Specifically for Gary, what was it like for you to be able to be a part of that, behind the scenes and with your voice on screen? And for both of you, why is it important for you to be able to bring something like that to the screen?
Gary Anthony Williams: For me, it is seriously like coming home, because I was raised in an environment where everybody’s there. Like you could not walk in my house and there weren’t seven people there. That included my grandma or one of my uncles or nieces and nephews. Everybody is there supporting each other all the time. Giving each other stuff when they needed stuff given to them, but everybody’s there supporting each other all the time. So, to do it is like coming home. A lot of the elements in Pops now and my voice I just steal straight from my dad, the memory of my father. So, it means everything to me when I get to step in that booth and be that guy.
Pilar Flynn: For me, I personally am a Latina myself, and so it was so reflective of my own family where we usually live with our multigenerational [family] – our grandparents and parents. And when we created the family – because so many of us on the on the crew and leadership are diverse – we knew we wanted to create a show and a little girl that didn’t feature struggles. They actually featured an authentic little girl who’s diverse, who lives with her family, who is in a loving family, a supportive environment. That was just so important for us, for little kids to be able to see themselves and their own families reflected on screen back at them in a positive way.
Nerds & Beyond: What are you most proud of with this show?
Gary Anthony Williams: I go back to that whole family thing, that whole family unity thing, because that means everything to me. That’s my pride in it, just being able to portray that family unity, whether they were Black or white or Latino. Whatever it is, just that whole bringing that family thing together.
Pilar Flynn: I’m most proud of – we wanted to take a show, we knew it was special from the start, and we wanted it to look good. But it was just as important to us that the cast and crew were authentically represented both on screen and off. So, the fact that we’ve assembled a crew that is so diverse – that is mostly women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community – and that we have this incredibly collaborative team, which is not usual for animation, where we ask everybody for their thoughts, their notes, their ideas, if something doesn’t look right, if something should be different. We’ve really created this diverse, inclusive, collaborative environment that I, personally, after 25 years of working in the industry, have never seen. I’m so proud of that, because I think once you watch the show, especially as it goes, you can feel that in the fabric of the show. You can just feel that love and passion that our family brought together to this family, to Lunella’s family.
Diamond White and Fred Tatasciore
Nerds & Beyond: I think that in just this first episode, we really see a great dynamic between Lunella and Devil, which I just love so much. What was it like to bring that to the screen? Why do you think it’s important to portray that relationship the way that it is shown?
Diamond White: Well, I mean when you bring a 10-ton dinosaur out of a portal, it goes a little bit awry at first. He doesn’t really listen to her until hot dogs are involved, and she learns his language. So, then they form this bond that’s pretty unbreakable.
Fred Tatasciore: Yeah, he would do anything for her. And it’s not so much – it’s more of a partnership than a pet. There’s a trust, I think, that’s great, because she’s dealing with what she’s dealing with and trying to save everything, and I’m coming from, what you’ll find out, I’m coming from a very scary place, this [creature]. So, he comes out and really just prefers to be with her. This is his home. This is more home than anywhere else. Most creatures you would think would want to go back, “What am i doing? I’m out of my element,” and it’s like, “No, actually. This person hears me, understands me.”
Diamond White: Yeah. And a lot of times when Lunella is weak, Devil is strong.
Both: And vice versa.
Diamond White: Oh, we said that at the same time. [all laugh]
Steve Loter and Rodney Clouden
Nerds & Beyond: I just have to commend the way the show looks, because it looks so incredible. It really feels like you’re watching a comic book come to life. Was that animation style always planned, or was that something that you found along the way?
Steve Loter: It was kind of always planned. I mean we knew going into it, visually, where we wanted to go. The fact that it’s set in New York City was important to us to authentically kind of embody what New York City is – not just in vibe, but in actual architecture and look and tone and feel. So, you’ll see a lot of street art was inspiration. Murals, graffiti, Basquiat, Warhol’s screen-printing process was all kind of part of the visual dynamic of the show.
Rodney Clouden: Marc Hempel was an inspiration.
Steve Loter: Marc Hempel the comic book artist was a huge inspiration. And also, the character designs.
Rodney Clouden: Yeah, the character designs, you see that the style is more of an inky style. That’s what you’re seeing in terms of getting the visual comic book. [There’s] this thing that we have called spotted blacks, these black areas that are in the characters. So that also contribute[s] to that look. We wanted to do the visual comic exactly. That’s what we wanted and I think we were [pretty] successful.
Nerds & Beyond: The music is also a really incredible aspect, and it seems like it’s going to be playing a big part in the show, just based off the first episode. Why was it important to you to find that sound? Why was it important for you to incorporate music the way that you have?
Steve Loter: I’m a huge music nerd. Pretty much my entire filmography, every show I’ve worked on, has had a strong musical component to it. For this project I knew that I wanted to capture New York City, and I wanted to capture a vibe. To me, New York is a plastic tub drummer on one corner and a violin player on another corner, and the only person that, 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, his producing, his solo albums, his everything. He’s a genius. He’s constantly working, he’s very much in demand, and we wondered, “Oh, is this someone that we could possibly get on the show?” So, I decided to kind of go the direct route, and he was doing a record signing at a record store in LA. I was first in line, and I brought my record, and 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 on to the show. So, he signed my record, and I got him to sign on to the show.
NYCC Press: Did you bring a contract with you?
Steve Loter: Yeah, almost. I was like, “Can we get the picture of the handshake?” And I do have a picture of the handshake, by the way. But what Raphael brings to the project is absolutely incredible, because he reads the scripts, but then we have a meeting when he talks about, “Okay. I know this song goes here, but I want to talk about the emotion of the character, because that’s what I’m keying off of.” So, he takes that and he kind of runs with it, and it’s just – I know the word genius is used quite often and probably misused a lot, but I can tell you from working Raphael Saadiq he’s an absolute, hundred percent genius.
Rodney Clouden: In terms of even just the aspect of asking those questions about an animated show, you know that there’s a level of sophistication that you are gonna get from him. There’s a level of sophistication that we get from the writers, the writing of the show, the visuals of the show. We wanted to make sure that we don’t talk down to the audience, talk down to kids. We wanted to respect everybody. And also, we wanted to just kill it. [laughs] We wanted something that people are just gonna be like, “Wow. This is incredible.” This is so different from anything people have seen or different from Disney.
Steve Loter: And Raphael Saadiq is a one take wonder. The main title for the show – normally when you do a main title of a song, you work it, you demo it, you do it over five times to make sure you know it’s appealing to every demo.
Rodney Clouden: Shopping it to every executive.
Steve Loter: You shop it to every executive. He did it in one take. The first song we heard, the first version he did, that’s the main title that’s on the show. That never happens.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur premieres Friday, February 10 at 8 p.m. ET on Disney Channel. It will be available on Disney+ beginning Wednesday, February 15. Watch the trailer below: