The novel coronavirus pandemic may have slowed down television production across the world, but animation is one area where things are still happening. The McElroy brothers are hard at work on the pilot for Peacock’s The Adventure Zone animated series—a show that may come with a few surprises, including a potential new voice cast.
The Adventure Zone podcast creators Griffin McEloy and Travis McElroy chatted with io9 over the phone about the release of their latest graphic novel, The Adventure Zone: Petals to the Metal (you can read the interview here). During the chat, we asked the McElroy brothers to give an update on the planned The Adventure Zone animated TV show for new streaming service Peacock, which was announced by NBC in January. Travis said they’re “in the process of really fine-tuning the pilot,” with the goal of making the show accessible to viewers who’ve never read or heard of The Adventure Zone before. But it’s a unique challenge trying to turn an actual comedy and adventure play podcast into a scripted TV show.
“We are still in that first two years period where it is a completely different set of questions. We are going to be probably bound to a specific length per episode, which is different from the graphic novel. It is going to be different from the podcast. There are a lot of the same questions that we had to answer for the graphic novel that now have to answer again,” Griffin told io9. “I would argue [it’s] even a little bit more complicated this time around, because—maybe I’m just saying that because I’m kind of used to how the sausage gets made with regard to graphic novels. And I’m still—despite the fact that we had an award-winning six-episode TV series on Seeso, pour one out—the TV process is still sort of mystifying.”
“Just to clarify, we did not win any awards,” Travis added.
The challenge is not only that TV is its own monster, but play podcasts thrive on out-of-character interactions that may not work in a scripted series. So, how will The Adventure Zone show handle those moments, particularly the ones where the characters directly engage with the Dungeon Master? The brothers said those parts aren’t being removed entirely but, much like the graphic novels, the show will focus more on telling the Balance Arc story as-is than interjecting fourth-wall-breaking Dungeons & Dragons gameplay, which have been a staple in the podcast.
“So much of [the podcast] is a combination of the story we’re telling and the four of us learning to tell the story. Learning to play the game. It’s about us not necessarily knowing how D&D works—and some might argue it is still that,” Travis said. “I think that in the graphic novel, and now the TV show, we’re really interested in focusing more on the story and the characters, and not so much getting bogged down in the intricacies of how Dungeons & Dragons works. While not losing that same fun, and that same feeling of discovery. How do we tell the story, keep all those elements, but not get distracted away from the characters and the plot?”
Even though The Adventure Zone’s “beleaguered Dungeon Master,” played by Griffin, will still be part of the TV show… he may not actually be voiced by Griffin. When asked whether the stars of The Adventure Zone podcast—Travis McElroy as Magnus Burnsides, Justin McElroy as Taako, Clint McElroy as Merle, and Griffin McElroy as their DM and non-player characters—will be voicing their characters in the show, Griffin said it was still being discussed but they’d prefer to bring in new actors.
It’s a move that could turn off some longtime podcast listeners, who enjoyed their portrayals of the characters, but there’s a good reason for it. Griffin told us, “My preference would be no. Just because we’re not—I mean, we’ve been in Trolls World Tour, but we’re not, like, accomplished voice actors.”
“Another thing we’ve considered is when we’re making the podcast, the people making it are being restricted by the fact that it’s the four of us because we’re family, and that’s why we’re doing the show together,” Travis added. “I don’t want us to be limited in casting, like here are four white dudes doing the voices, just because we have done it before. I really want to be able to open up casting possibilities to find the best people for it, and make the right character choices and think with an inclusive kind of framework. Not just say, ‘Yeah, we’re just gonna stay with the four white dudes, because that’s who made it before!’”
The Adventure Zone TV show is still in early development and an expected release date has not been announced. The Adventure Zone: Petals to the Metal graphic novel is now available, and the podcast is in the middle of a new campaign, Graduation, helmed by DM Travis McElroy.
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