On a Thursday panel at New York City Comic Con, Co-creator Joe Bennett was joined by the writers and directors Benjy Brooke, Sean Buckelew, and James Merrill to unveil the pilot episode of their new Max Original series, Scavengers Reign. Based on the nearly eight-minute wordless animated short Scavengers by Bennett and Charles Huettner, the space crew of the Demeter 227 crashes onto an unknown planet before their ascent with its life sustains them as they attempt to find a way back home.
Here are a few takeaways from that panel:
- The creators Bennett and Huettner started out with animated shorts, but a thought had been cooking which would eventually be Scavengers. Bennett combined exploration and wild but logical physics in everyday interaction through a sci-fi lens. He asked Charles if he’d be interested in an idea of this magnitude. Lo and behold, Scavengers was made, having aired on Adult Swim’s “Toonami” block “sometime in the early morning.”
- The principles of “cause and effect” factor heavily into this world they architected. The way the stranded souls of the spaceship Demeter discover life and eke out a way to survive on this planet is such a joy to watch unravel, I believe Rube Goldberg would have been a bit jealous but also very proud.
- Though initially wordless, they brought on additional writers to create story arcs for this twelve-episode first season. The writers directed the actors from line readings to give them an idea of what to bring, which isn’t typical at all for Hollywood (so massive kudos to them!)
- In keeping with that spirit of traversing further into the unknown, Bennett and Huetter found their team of animators through Instagram, eschewing more traditional avenues. This largely disparate stable of international talent wouldn’t seem like a likely setup for success, but somehow they made it work. Nobody came from a television background, which gives the show a very “ragtag” feel to its DNA, not unlike the rogue survivors themselves.
- The planet has no name. The creatures have no name. They are all unidentified. This gives the series a very audacious feeling. The humans constantly find themselves in very touch-and-go situations. Whatever it is they’re going through, we’re just as unfamiliar as they are. Things are being seen that have never been dreamt up until now.
- Artists are from all over. They eventually found their groove in the process of making the show. The actors were encouraged to use their native accents and slang. In fact, to prepare, the creators would watch interviews with the actors rather than watching their previous work. Just like the planet and the flora and fauna included, everything had to be organic. This also includes ad-libs that were animated if they totally made sense to the overall product, even if they had to go off script.
- They were particularly steadfast on each ecosystem being self-contained, with its own rules. The creators made up their own organic logic by reverse engineering the Rube Goldberg process in order to get to the main function of life existing. That is pretty damn impressive.
- The stranded humans aren’t looking to unite because nobody is aware of the other’s existence. The whole process of making the cartoon was painstaking and “nothing was cheated on.” The whole team made sure the big set pieces were just as amazing and magical as the fleet, ephemeral, incidental moments. Nothing is treated as just ‘existing’ and for my money, it shows.
Having watched the pilot episode, I was enamored by the expansion of the creatures equally as much as the characters through the dialogue. Adding in voices only enriched the experience and my heart swelled and was tugged at more than just a few moments. If the rest of the episodes follow suit, I have a feeling this series will be something extremely special. Its Jean Giraud aesthetic isn’t a veneer and it isn’t the sole soul to it. It’s something way bigger. I haven’t felt this mentally stimulated watching animation since MTV’s The Maxx or playing Another World on Super Nintendo. This is destined to be dissected (much like all of the life on this alien planet) for years to come.
The, what I call “psychedelic symbiosis” of all life forms is naught short of breathtaking, whether gasp-inspiring, suck-the-air-out-of-you gorgeous, or both. It almost feels like the television screen is merely a window into a biosphere.
Scavengers Reign premiers on MAX on October 19th.