August 15, 2017

San Diego Comic Con 2017: ‘OK K.O.!’ Creator, Ian Jones-Quartey Interview

OK K.O.! is a new show on Cartoon Network. A young boy named KO who lives in a video-game-like world of leveling up for more power. Created by Ian Jones-Quartey, who has been in animation for years and probably most well known as a developer and executive producer on Steven Universe. Able to bring his show to life as a full series on Cartoon Network, formerly existing as shorts on their website. Cartoon Network was kind enough to allow for roundtable interviews with Ian at SDCC this year, let’s see what he had to say!

Comic Attack: You went to E3 and now you’re here for Comic Con, how was E3 and was this your first time there?

OK K.O.! creator, Ian Jones-Quartey!

Ian Jones-Quartey: I’ve been to E3 before, two years previous where I met the developers for Capybara Games, Nathan and Dan. I asked “Do you you guys want to make a video game with me?” We started talking and figuring things out. Two years later and here we are.

CA: Did you go to Capybara first or Cartoon Network?

IJQ: Cartoon Network knew we were fans of video games, that we wanted to make video games and they had a connection to Capybara so we reached out to them. They thought it sounded cool and a fun challenge. The project was so early on that we didn’t have to make levels based off episodes. Things didn’t have to tie in, just to make a game they wanna play.

CA: How closely do you work with them?

IJQ: We visited them in Toronto. They visited us a bunch of times. We talk on the phone every single week. We shared with them our development every single week. They’d come up with ideas for the characters as we did.

CA: How long has OK K.O.! been on your mind?

IJQ: In 2011, I was working on Adventure Time. Steven Universe didn’t exist yet. Cartoon Network came to me asking for a show, I came up with this long-winded idea and it just didn’t feel right and I scrapped it. Then I came up with this idea for something that just had everything I like and pitched it. They liked it and we went on from there.

CA: Will there be references to your favorite games in the show?

IJQ: Absolutely. The way I like to think about it, video games and cartoons are similar. They have lots of rapid development over time. As mediums they have a lot of similarity, they both are fledgling mediums outside the mainstream. There are ways animation grew when it first started, there are things in animation we all agree can happen. Characters can blow up and show up again in the next scene. The same thing is true for video games, characters have multiple lives and special skills and stuff like that. I like to think for every video game trope there is an equivalent animation trope and we try to meld those together.

CA: How blatant are the mechanics of video games, such as, leveling up or ultimate attacks, are in the show?

IJQ: We try to do more than just maybe they go into the episode and text pops over their head. We try to take a general concept from video games and blow that out logically and fill that up into a cartoon. So more than a reference and instead take our experience as gamers and try to translate what that would be like in life.

CA: Amazing World of Gumball did a great episode parodying video games, mostly RPGs, but this doesn’t seem to be a parody at all.

IJQ: Yeah, it’s got video games in its DNA but if it was just a parody we’d probably only be able to do an episode or two. This has a lot pulled from comics, anime, older cartoons, along with the video games.

CA: Can you tell us about the characters?

IJQ: Sure! There’s KO, Rad, and Enid. KO is a young, idealistic kid who just started working at the Hero Store the other characters work at. He basically loves his job, loves the world, sees the world in black and white in regards to good and evil. He’s got a lot to learn and to grow up. Guiding that journey are two teenagers, Radicles and Enid. Are sort of a shoulder angel and devil. So he looks to them for advice and because they are teens and have a lot of walls up, they tell him the right or wrong thing. He always learns how to do things his own way.

L to R: Enid, KO, and Rad!

CA: What did you take away from being an executive producer on Steven Universe?

IJQ: One of the things I love about Steven Universe is that Rebecca (Sugar) is allowed to create characters you can fall in love with. You can follow their journeys and feel their realness. That was really inspiring to me. Being involved with the creation of Steven Universe was amazing, I got to be there from the beginning and watch this thing grow and build.

CA: What are you most excited about audiences seeing with OK K.O.!?

IJQ: You know how in a lot of cartoons the character’s will show up and there’s a crowd of random characters and they don’t really have much character to them? Instead, we’ve tried to make it so every single background character has their own backstory. They have names, likes, dislikes, and history. We want you ro be able to do that with anyone of them and that they could be developed enough for their own shows to star in. As the show goes on, layers of that will be peeled and you can learn more about them. We have an official crew blow where every day we put up a profile on one of the background characters. You may see a guy who looks like a snowman and then go look him up and learn his name is Flurry, he lives in an igloo, he has a job, and he has hopes and dreams. We want it to be a living, breathing world.

CA: How much of you is in this show? Since Steven Universe is very personal.

IJQ: Steven Universe is really personal, it has a lot to do with my relationship with Rebecca. This show is also very personal. A lot of the relationships in the show are based off my familial relationships. Rad and KO is very much based off my relationship with my older brother. This sort of older protector who can mess around with you, they’ll guide you but also lie to you just to see what happens. Definitely a thing that’s important in the show is KO tags around with his mom, my mom was a special librarian. She works at a chemical plant now but she used to work at a university. She was in charge of this whole library and she let me tag along with her in this space that wasn’t meant for kids. So it was really neat for me to go places and meet people that I wouldn’t have met in kid spaces.

CA: There seems to be a Cartoon Network show for every kind of kid out there, who do you hope the audience for this is?

IJQ: I very selfishly made this show for myself. It’s the kind of show I would have wanted to watch. The show is influenced by a lot of older cartoons like Hannah Barbara and the early Cartoon Network cartoons. If you’re a kid looking for something a little cerebral but more on the side of it takes a conceptual setup and spins it into jokes. A show that will do anything to get a laugh but in the end you go “I went on a journey with these characters and I really like them!” If you’re a teen and see them it inspires them to want to make fanart, cause that was me as a teen and what I was looking for.

CA: The title OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes is quite long, how important is the word “Heroes” to the show?

IJQ: We just say OK K.O.! but the idea of Let’s Be Heroes! is sort of a rallying cry for the audience. The video game is called Let’s Play Heroes so it’s there to remind us that heroes are inspirational and that you can be a hero to if you try.

CA: What about the villains?

IJQ: We have a main villain called Lord Boxman who runs an evil robot factory. He lives across from the Plaza where everybody works and he can’t stand a bunch of do-gooder heroes making the world a better place. When the world is good, it doesn’t need evil robots, so he sends a bunch of evil robots over to the Plaza where the heroes have to fight them off. Even though the cast work in a convenience store every now and then they have an alarm go off and it’s like “Aw well, it’s time to fight evil robots!” It’s a part of their day to day lives.

There you have it folks! OK K.O.! had a bodega on the con floor and it was always packed with customers purchasing all sorts of heroic goodies. The show is now airing on Cartoon Network so go check it out if you haven’t already! See you next time!

Dr. Bustos


One Comment

  1. Iron_Matt

    Never heard of this but it sounds pretty fun. Great interview

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