Creators Talk Static Shock's "Frozen Out"

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This weekend, as regular TZN readers know, will be the premiere of a new Static Shock episode called "Frozen Out" which deals with mental illness and the problem of homelessness. Below is an excerpt from three recent interviews that TZN has done with the creators behind this much anticipated episode. "Frozen Out" airs this Saturday at 8:30am (ET) on Kids'WB!

Chris Simmons: [Full interview <a href="http://forums.toonzone.net/showthread.php?s=&threadid=20083">Here</a>]

<a href=http://news.toonzone.net/staticshock/staticshaq/01.jpg target=_blank><img border=0 src=http://news.toonzone.net/staticshock/staticshaq/t-01.jpg width=150 height=111 align="left"></a>"Frozen Out", an episode dealing with a serious issues, is airing on February 23rd. Any comments on the episode?"

""Frozen Out" is one of our episodes with serious themes mixed in with the action and humor. It deals with the power of religion, as well as homelessness and mental illness. What made this episode work from Day One was the deft, sensitive, assured handling of such heavy themes by Len Uhley. Truly, Len is a great guy and one of the most thoughtful guys doing what we do. And though it's airing a bit out of season (it was originally designed to be shown at Christmas time), the messages of tolerance and faith are timeless."


Len Uhley: [Full Interview <a href="http://forums.toonzone.net/showthread.php?s=&threadid=20351">Here</a>]

STATIC SHOCK has dealt with some big issues in the past, such as racism and the death of Virgil's Mother. Are these stories done to have viewers relate to Static and the supporting cast?

The most effective stories always speak to the human experience. It doesn't matter if you're writing a half-hour TV cartoon or a major motion picture (of course, the latter pays much better, but I digress). Now, you don't have to do 'A Very Special Episode' every time out -- that would get old pretty fast. Still, occasionally, it is nice to do a show that is about something besides finding the treasure or blowing up the alien space wedgy.

You also have to consider the sort of program you're doing. If you're writing for Fluffy the Funny Furball, you're not going to shoehorn in a two-parter about Third World debt reduction. Fortunately, Static Shock is the kind of series that naturally lends itself to exploring contemporary issues -- as long as we continue to entertain.

<img src="http://wf.toonzone.net/wfsites/virgil.gif" align="left">After all, our hero, Virgil Hawkins, is a fifteen-year-old African American male. Now, right off the bat, that's groundbreaking stuff for Saturday Morning TV. However, if we want the audience to identify with him, Virgil must inhabit a world that at least partially reflects reality -- even its unpleasant aspects, and even if it is 'only' a cartoon.

For example, you mentioned the episode about racism. It was "Sons of the Father," written by Christopher Simmons. This was the best show of the first season, period. It should have won armloads of awards. Anyway, my point is, this is the very type of story that Static Shock (or any show like it) should do. If we avoid issues like the loss of a loved one, or bigotry, or school violence, or drugs, or you-name-it, then we abandon the rich story possibilities that are at the heart of the series. We ignore the unfortunate facts of life for a lot of kids in this country. And we insult the intelligence of our viewers. None of which we want to do.

Phew! Sorry. I'll get off my soapbox now.


Dave Chlystek: [Full Interview <a href="http://forums.toonzone.net/showthread.php?s=&threadid=20464">Here</a>]

What drew you to the script for FROZEN OUT?

Well, we as directors are assigned scripts as they come in. But from the moment I read the script I knew we could have a very special episode. Having been a board artist on Sons of The Father, (which I thought was brilliant writing by the way) I pride myself on being able to spot a good script, and Len Uhley really outdid himself on this one. The script had just enough of everything, and was very well balanced. It is a socially conscious episode, but one that never gets too preachy, and we played up the action. Every act has at least one really cool action sequence in it. I would say that it has more action than Big Leagues. Overall, I would have to say that it is one the most well balanced shows I've ever worked on. (And I've worked on a good deal of very good Batman Beyond episodes) The Pathos of the character Permafrost was most compelling. She is like most of us do sometimes, in the sense that she feels out of place in the world. And the fact that she is "homeless" makes her all the more invisible. I really wanted to address the issue that we really do "ignore" our homeless.

<img src="http://wf.toonzone.net/wfsites/smalls.jpg" align="right" vspace=2 hspace=2>One of the storyboard artists on the episode, Marcus Williams, who does a really great chase sequence in the show, had worked for years with the homeless, and he brought enormous insight into the show from his experiences. I told my crew that I didn't want this episode to feel "forced", that we were trying to be preachy. It is to everyone's credit that the show doesn't feel that way. We let the story unfold as Len had written. I looked at it as a challenge to do a really great show. We pulled it off.

And I say that with all modesty. I was very fortunate to have some great talent at my disposal, and they all rose to the occasion.

Static Shock "Frozen Out" airs this Saturday morning at 8:30am (ET) on Kids'WB! Discuss the much anticipated episode <b><a href="http://forums.toonzone.net/showthread.php?s=&threadid=20352">HERE</a></b>.
 

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