Adult Swim’s Black Dynamite!
By: Max Nicholson
Following in the footsteps of its live-action feature source material, Adult Swim’s new animated series Black Dynamite centers on its title character (played by Michael Jai White), a funky government agent-turned-assassin who is hellbent on stopping “the man,” while also protecting his eclectic family of pimps, prostitutes and orphans. While most of the original film’s cast and creative team have returned for the new show, The Boondocks creator Carl Jones has also come aboard as executive producer.
IGN recently spoke to some of the cast and crew to talk about the new series and how they worked to adapt the movie into a half-hour animated series. Jones recalled that it all started after he saw the Black Dynamite film, which White had written and created.
“As soon as I saw [the movie], the first thing that came to my mind was that this would make an amazing animated series,” said Jones. “Coincidentally, a week later, my manager called me and told me that the production company that did the movie was trying to reach out to me about developing a cartoon. So we met with Mike, started kicking around some ideas and then we took it to Adult Swim.”
During production, the new series quickly took on a life of its own, deviating from the low-budget, B movie look of the 2009 blaxploitation film and focusing instead on a slick and stylized aesthetic. “There are advantages in cartoons,” Jones continued. “You can do things that you can’t do in live-action. It actually opened up a lot more doors for us to explore. Just like the movie, we do film parodies. But now we can do a film parody of King Kong and then actually have Black Dynamite fighting a giant albino gorilla on top of the Watts Towers.”
However, White noted that there are still many similarities to the movie, particularly with the characters. “The essence of the characters is still there. That strange family unit is still evident in the cartoon. It’s not all that different, character-wise.”
Byron Minns, who reprises his role as Bullhorn on the show, felt that the series opened up new doors, allowing the characters to really flesh out their storylines. “The thing that makes the animated series special is that we’re able to delve into the characters in full,” he said. “In the series we have ten movies, and each episode is about a different character. We get to really see who these people are in different situations, how they interact as a family. In that way, it takes the movie so much further.”
Not unlike The Boondocks, Black Dynamite explores its mature themes through the use of comedy, offering entertainment for older and younger viewers alike. “I love the adult cartoons,” said White. “When a kid and an adult can watch it and get different things out of it — this is one of those things where I think a teenager and an older adult will get different layers out of it. This is the kind of stuff that I would watch.”
Added Jones, “The interesting thing is, we have a whore house in the show, but you never actually ever see them whoring. I made it a point; you won’t ever actually see Black Dynamite being a pimp, and you won’t ever see the whores actually whoring because that’s not what [the show] is about. It’s just a way to give the world a texture that actually existed in that era, but the stories actually have nothing to do with it.”
Although the series is set in the 1970s, Jones said that the show is very modern in the way its presented. “The music of that time period, the colors, the styles, the fashions — these are things that I think younger people can get out of it because the point of view is very young and fresh, but it’s also set in a world very familiar to people that are 30, 40, 50 years old. To me, it plays on so many different platforms and levels. You have a whole audience of fans that love animated action and fighting, stuff like that. Then you’ll get the Dave Chappelle, Boondocks social commentary and that type of comedy. There are so many ingredients that I think make it palatable for just about everybody.”
Black Dynamite also aims for a unique vision that really utilizes the animated medium while also taking advantage of its distinct period setting. “These people come from a particular slice of life,” said Minns. “They all have different backgrounds. You have a lead character, an ex-CIA assassin who goes back to the neighborhood and takes care of these prostitutes and orphans — and in his world, that’s noble.
“We have ten crazy episodes that will explore almost any ‘70s icon that we can come up with, and that’s the beauty of animation,” he continued. “We can have these people as guest stars on our show. We can bring back Elvis, we can see little Michael Jackson.”
As Kym Whitley, the voice of Honeybee, concluded, “I believe it’s going to be a hit because when I watched it I enjoyed the animation, the story — it moved. I liked the characters, and it was something I’d not seen before on Adult Swim.
Black Dynamite premieres Sunday, July 15 on Adult Swim. If you don’t have cable, you can watch the episodes the following day on the Black Dynamite Youtube page:
Black Dynamite Online