Disney XD channel’s Motorcity is set firmly in the future – things like robots, laser barrages, floating buildings and robodogs are dead giveaways – but there’s plenty to the tone, theme and feel of the the half-hour cartoon that echoes the past, too.
The show debuts April 30
on Disney XD. Disney provided GeekDad with copies of the first two episodes, “Battle for Motorcity” and “Power Trip.”
Motorcity pits villainous overlord Abraham Kane (Mark Hamill), who runs the shiny and sterile city of Detroit Deluxe, against Mike Chilton and his rebellious gang of Burners, who hold fast to their cars and freedom in subterranean Motorcity, which Kane naturally wants to demolish and annex.
Show creator Chris Prynoski’s studio, Titmouse Inc., partnered with Disney Television Animation to produce Motorcity. Prynoski, a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York, can not only list Avatar: The Last Airbender and Star Wars: The Clone Wars on his record, he was co-creator of the geek-culture-rich cartoons Megas XLR and MTV’s Downtown. (Megas XLR co-creator and animation writer George Krstic, who also penned several Clone Wars episodes, is working on Motorcity as well.) Other notable contributors include John O’Bryan (Avatar: The Last Airbender) and Craig Lewis (Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends).
“My dad was a big car guy,” Prynoski said in a telephone interview with GeekDad. “I went to a lot of car shows in New Jersey growing up, so that was definitely an influence on this show. I also worked in a garage in high school. And when I was a little kid, they reran Speed Racer all the time, and that is definitely an influence. Growing up in the ’80s, you couldn’t help but absorb Star Wars … and it was (also) Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Blade Runner and Alien – and for this show, even The Dukes of Hazzard was an influence.”
The Japanese animation of the era – Star Blazers and Battle of the Planets in particular – also made a big impression on Prynoski, and it’s apparent throughout Motorcity, from the frenetic energy of the action sequences to the barrages of laser bolts to the richly-painted background environments.
“It’s the kind of stuff I dig, and we really just wanted to make it fun,” Prynoski said. “It’s an action show, but it’s not a serious action show. But it’s also not as much of a parody, like Megas was.
“It’s almost like how with our fathers’ generation, the big (entertainment) things were westerns and horses. The cars are the horses of this genre, and it’s kind of like a modern-day western. It’s not that I want to set up something super-heavy, but Kane is about oppression and control: He wants to destroy Motorcity, so he’s basically built his city of the future right on top of their city without a care for them.
“Kane hates cars and everything they represent. They’ve been forgotten over the years, and they’re illegal, but because this is set in Detroit, there are old car factories and car parts, and [the Burners] can build these cars and fight. It’s kind of like the new Battlestar Galactica … where they pulled all the ships’ [computers] offline. Because cars are essentially mechanical, Kane doesn’t have the ability to tap into them.”
Hamill, Prynoski said, was perfect for the role of Kane, although Prynoski admitted he was hesitant to cast Hamill only because the actor has a key role in the Titmouse-produced Metalocalypse. “Because of that, I thought maybe we shouldn’t cast him on Motorcity,” Prynoski said, “but he just blew everybody else away. He delivers every time. That character (Kane) is pretty complex: He’s got to have this charisma, this salesmanship; he’s pulled the wool over this entire society’s eyes into thinking he’s this benevolent leader … but he also has to pull out the super evil angry guy, and he (Hamill) can deliver on both of those really well.”
Led by Mike Chilton, the Burners include Dutch, Julie, Chuck and Texas, each bringing a different set of DIY skills to the team. They’re helped out by grizzled Motorcity resident and ex-KaneCo genius Jacob, voiced by Brian Doyle Murray.
Disney has 20 episodes planned for Motorcity‘s first season, and though it’s not designed as a serial, Prynoski said, once the first few episodes set the stage, there will be more of a story arc. As the season unfolds, he said, viewers can expect character-focused episodes that dig a little deeper into each of the Burners’ personalities and backstories.
The first episode, “Battle for Motorcity” will be available as a free download on iTunes on April 16.