In this Exclusive and in-depth interview, we speak with writer, director and co-founder of TKO Studios, Tze Chun. TKO is home to great graphic novel titles such as SARA, SENTIENT, THE BANKS and of course The Fearsome Doctor Fang and The 7 Deadly Sins, which Tze co-wrote with Mike Weiss. Coronavirus has not been kind so comic distributors and comic stores so we ask Tze how TKO has weathered the pandemic. How TKO separates itself from other comic publishers such as Marvel, DC and IDW and more.
We talk with Tze about his current project, Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai. The animated series will debut on HBO Max in 2021. Will we see other forms of Mogwai outside of Gizmo? Will Howie Mandel return as the voice of Gizmo? Will the cast from the original movie make cameo voice appearances? Tze also talks about the hybrid animation style and more. Tze also served as a writer on Fox’s Gotham so I had to ask about this thoughts on HBO Max announcing the new Gotham GCPD series and what his plans for a 6th season of Gotham might have been had it went further.
GVN: I just want to thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. I’ve been excited to speak with you for a while now. One of my other writers actually spoke with you back before Gotham aired its fifth season. We love your work and have been following TKO, which we’re gonna talk about here in a few minutes. Just once again, thank you for joining. I have got a couple of questions to get started before we really get in to the heart of speaking with you, which is about TKO Studios. You have got a couple other projects that you’re working on. I wanted to kind of ask you about them to get an update. Let me ask you, how are things going, man? Ah, you know, 2020 hasn’t been very kind to a lot of people. Especially to comic book distributors, writers and producers. So, first off, how are you and your family doing?
TZE: We’re pretty good. You know, we’ve been lucky in a lot of ways in that, obviously, things are hard times, but with both TKO and with Gremlins, we’re pretty set up to work remotely. I’m you know, right now, actually, I just took my family on a cross country road trip. We are still moving forward on all fronts. Because TKO is so independent, we were actually able to avoid a lot of the shutdown, you know, support comic book shops and to just sell directly to our customers and kind of get it that way. We’re very lucky in that respect.
GVN: That is good, I am glad to hear that. Good to know everyone is doing well. I was going to ask you about Gremlins and since you brought it up, can you give us an update? As a fan of the film and growing up in the 80s, news of this project hit home and I am really looking forward to it.
TZE: Yeah. I could talk a little about Gremlins definitely.
GVN: Have you actually began the process of shooting the series? It is an animated series, correct?
TZE: That’s right. So it’s an animated series that we are doing with Warner Bros. Animation and Amblin for HBO Max. It tells the story of the old Chinese man, Mr. Wing, who runs the shop where Peltzer first gets Gizmo. He is kind of his protector and our show is actually an animated prequel that takes place in 1920s China. It follows young Mr. Wing when he was only 10 years old. He meets Gizmo and they go on adventures in China. It is a very serialized story. It is against the backdrop of Chinese mythology, that time period, with a lot of Mogwai mythology as well. It won’t premier until sometime in 2021 but we’re pretty deep in the process right now.
GVN: In the movies we only got to see Gizmo, of course you know he produces the Gremlins when he got wet. Will we see other forms of Mogwai? Will they have a totally different look than Gizmo did?
TZE: We will see evil Mogwai. But I think that is as much as I can say for right now. But what we really wanted to do was create more stories set in the Gremlins universe. We also wanted to service the fans . You know the fandom for Gremlins is so strong for movies that have been around for almost 40 years. We definitely have a lot of Easter eggs and Gremlins mythology that hopefully will satisfy long term fans while also bringing in new fans. The idea is that this will be a co-viewing show. Some of the models that we are looking at are Pixar, studio Ghibli movies, things that adults, kids and teenagers can all watch together.
GVN: Will we see Howie Mandel return to voice Gizmo?
TZE: Howie Mandel is not returning to voice Gizmo. But we will have some casting announcements soon.
GVN: That sounds good. Thank you for giving us an update on Gremlins. Can you share any updates on actors from the original film that might make an appearance?
TZE: There is definitely going to be some exciting cameos from people. What has been really exciting is that Joe Dante is a consulting producer on the project. He looks at scripts, he looks at the artwork. It’s been really amazing. And I know that a lot of people on the crew and the writers are huge huge Gremlin fans. So it has been really great.
GVN: Can you say exactly what kind of art style you are going for? Is it all 3D generated or will it be normal animation? Are you going for a particular style?
TZE: We are doing a hybrid. They have been calling it kind of a 2.5D and also there is certain technical things that we are doing because we wanted a very cinematic look. For some of the references were movies like Goonies and Indiana Jones. We certainly want to move the camera in a cinematic way but we ant to try to get the best of both worlds. The show has a lot of heart, so I want to make sure that the acting is really excellent as well. In terms of animation, very early on the supervising producer and I talked a lot about creating a very organic look and making sure that it does not necessarily have that kind of CG look to it, even though there will be portions of it that are in CG. Some other visual references are Spirited Away.
For more of our in-depth interview with Tze Chun including our discussion on Gotham and his comic book company TKO Studios you can listen to the full interview on all major podcast outlets or from Spotify here
DC Fanboy! Superman is the greatest comic book character of all time. Favorite movies are Man of Steel, Goonies, Back To the Future