Originally published on 7/26/21

Disney Television Animation (TVA) hosted an epic panel for the creative talents behind two of their current series: Amphibia and The Owl House! In a meta reveal, Disney announced not only a crossover panel between the two shows, but also a crossover animated special still in the works! (“The prophecy is fulfilled,” as the panel declares!)

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Doug Bensimon (Executive Director of Current Series at TVA) kicked off the panel with a sneak peek for the upcoming The Ghost and Molly McGee.

Meet Thai-American teenager Molly McGee (Ashly Burch) and the biracial McGee family, who just moved to their dilapidated new house (which Mr. McGee sheepishly downplays as “a bit of a fixer-upper”). However, our energetic and unflappably optimistic protagonist delightedly claims the attic as her new bedroom. Unfortunately, as she cleans her new room, she discovers that she has a surprise roommate. The house is also haunted by a ghost named Scratch (Dana Snyder), who is the only being on Earth just as pretentious and ill-tempered as Squidward Tentacles. When Molly refuses to leave, Scratch curses Molly that he will haunt her for the rest of her days. Rather than react in fright, Molly delights in her new “best friend”. Molly busily starts planning all the activities they will do together. Scratch realizes with horror that really Molly cursed Scratch…

Molly McGee and Scratch in The Ghost and Molly McGee

The Ghost and Molly McGee premieres on Disney Channel this October 2021.

Now onto the current shows! The panel begins with Doug interviewing Matt Braly (Creator/Executive Producer of Amphibia), Dana Terrace (Creator/Executive Producer of The Owl House), and Ricky Cometa (Art Director of The Owl House). Given the oft-competition between the fandoms of these two shows for the honorific of “Disney’s Next Gravity Falls” (both Matt and Dana worked on Alex Hirsch‘s Emmy Award-winning mystery/comedy), it’s good to see a collaboration between the two creative teams. Assume SPOILERS for both shows from this point onward. (Even Matt was spoiled, since this panel was recorded in June, when only The Owl House S02E02 had aired.)

Doug Bensimon interviews Amphibia creator Matt Braly, as well as Dana Terrace and Ricky Cometa from The Owl House creative team.

For the first time ever, the creative minds behind Disney’s Amphibia (Matt Braly; top right) and The Owl House (Dana Terrace and Ricky Cometa; top left and bottom left, respectively) meet at San Diego Comic-Con, with Doug Bensimon (bottom right) moderating.

This City is the Pits!

Dana and Ricky discussed The Owl House S02E06 (“Hunting Palismans”), and the creative process behind creating Latissa: the latest city in the Boiling Isles. The name comes from “latissimus dorsi”: a large and flat muscle on the back. Dana mistakenly thought this was the name of the muscle in the armpit, which is where Latissa is actually located in the Titan corpse that makes up the Boiling Isles. This leads to the hilarious in-universe belief in Latissa that they are part of the Titan’s back, when they are so obviously located in the hairy and boil-ridden armpit.

The Owl House S02E06, from storyboard to screen

The panel begins with Ricky Cometa showing a clip from Disney’s The Owl House Season 2, showing the first and final looks of a scene from S02E06 “Hunting Palismans”.

As a busy port city, Latissa needed room to expand. Latissa (and by extension, The Owl House creative team) did so by literally carving into the surrounding bone marrow and muscle tissue. The inspiration for this came from a concept art that eventually became the Blight Industries factory. Carving the factory entrance out of one of the Titan’s bones, Dana and Ricky brainstormed what it would look like to have an entire city as a honeycomb within the bones themselves. Ricky revealed how important these storyboard visualizations are for giving ideas to the directors and the writers.

After deciding how best to organize the visualization into smaller scenes, the art team adds color. Despite a haze of body odor and glowing golden boils surrounding it, Latissa looks oddly beautiful. “I love making gross things pretty,” says Dana, “I love that crazy dichotomy.”

Concept art and pre-animated visualization of the city of Latissa on The Owl House

In creating Latissa, The Owl House designers share a gorgeous city within a tough and dingy area.

Often, the designers retrofit and repurpose early concept art of previous characters for new episodes and scenes. For example, two characters that eventually became the fathers of Willow Park were reused as background incidentals for Latissa. Ricky shares just how much gets prepared before it is sent to South Korean studios to be fully animated. In addition to the storyboards, The Owl House team provides additional resources to the overseas studios. Disney TVA wants very specific animations. Ricky and his art team try to make all that detail as “consumable” as possible.

Pre-animation mockup of an entire scene, prior to animation in South Korea.

The Disney TVA team wants to provide as much information to the animators in South Korea as possible, providing examples of art, color, how characters move, and even examples of special effects.

Fish Amphibians Out Of Water

The panel then pivoted to Matt to discuss the upcoming Amphibia Season 3 and that wild Season 2 cliffhanger! Again, MAJOR SPOILERS discussed.

Amphibia Season 2 ended with Anne and her friends in their darkest hour. King Andrias of Newtopia revealed himself an aspiring multiverse conqueror. With the Calamity Box to power his flying castle and other war machines, Andrias prepares to invade Earth. Anne’s friend Marcy managed to steal the box long enough to help Anne and the Plantar family escape to another world. The last thing Anne saw before being teleported was Andrias’s laser sword through Marcy’s chest. (Wow, this “kids’ show” is DARK.)

Matt shared how the big twist that Anne and the Plantars wind up in Los Angeles (Anne’s hometown) almost didn’t make it into the final episode. Originally, the season just ended, with no idea if or where our heroes teleported? Matt explains how they added arriving in LA to show a massive change in the show’s status quo. “It’s been such a big secret,” Matt confessed, “Like anyone who works on the show has known this for, like, over a YEAR!” Not only are the Plantars stuck in LA without a way to get back home to Amphibia, but now it’s the frogs’ turn to be the “fish (well, amphibians) out of water”.

Before unveiling an exclusive sneak peek from the Season 3 premiere, Matt finally answered a long-asked fan question: Does Amphibia work on “Narnia time”? (referencing The Chronicles of Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, where only one year passed on Earth for every ~52.1 years in Narnia) Therefore, despite spending several months in Amphibia, only a day (two days at most) would have passed for Anne’s family in LA. Matt is happy to confirm … NO. It is not like Narnia time! There are some very big implications for the missing girls and their parents after going missing for almost half a year!

As a way to relieve fans after an intense Season 2 finale, the Season 3 clip shows the Plantar family adjusting to our strange world. Polly excitedly celebrates her new legs, while Hop Pop tries to protect Sprig from the “dangers” of Los Angeles. With Anne and the Plantars convinced Marcy is still alive, they need to find a way back!

But first, Anne returns to her home to see her parents. As the Plantars hide, Anne reunites with her relieved mother and father. Mishearing a bird call as Anne’s signal to come out, the Plantars reveal themselves to Mr. and Mrs. Boonchuy. Mr. Boonchuy promptly faints.

Anne Boonchuy with her parents in Amphibia Season 3.

After months in the fantasy world of Amphibia, Anne Boonchuy shares a tearful reunion with her family in Los Angeles.

Matt also shared that not only was Mrs. Boonchuy voiced by his mother (On Braly) in Season 1, but Matt’s mom would be reprising her role for the character in Season 3! Both Mrs. Boonchuy and Mr. Boonchuy (Brian Sounalath) will be joining the main cast for Season 3. Matt was especially excited to work with Brian, as Mr. Boonchuy was originally supposed to appear in Season 1, but the scene had to be cut for time. “He kind of nailed the Thai accent. He’s Thai as well and he grew up surrounded by it,” Matt recalled, “It’s very authentic and very, very pleasing on the ears for me. It sounds, like, just like one of my uncles.”

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Just Like Me

After a quick break, the panel reconvened with voice actors from both Disney shows: Brenda Song (Anne Boonchuy on Amphibia), Justin Felbinger (Sprig Plantar on Amphibia), Bill Farmer (Hopediah “Hop Pop” Plantar on Amphibia), Amanda Leighton (Polly Plantar on Amphibia), Sarah-Nicole Robles (Luz Noceda on The Owl House), and Wendie Malick (Edalyn “Eda” Clawthorne on The Owl House). The panel then began a long-requested table read of a proposed Amphibia/The Owl House crossover!

The crossover begins with Luz attempting to recreate the portal to her home in the Human Realm, based on the notes in Philip Wittebane’s journal. An appleblood-inebriated Eda prematurely activates the delicate spell.

Luz and Eda appear some ways away in Wartwood. Anne and the Plantar family run out of the nearby woods, chased by a terrifying badger-beetle! Luz immobilizes the monster with some Plant glyphs, allowing Anne and Polly to whack the badger into submission. As the defeated creature returns to the woods, both groups formally introduce themselves. Eda and Polly instantly bond over their shared chaotic energy. Anne is astonished and excited to meet another human girl “trapped in a medieval fantasy rigmarole too”. Luz corrects that the Boiling Isles are more of a “kid-friendly Hellscape atop a giant’s carcass”. As the two start planning a sleepover at the Plantar Farm, the portal to the Demon Realm starts flickering. As Luz and Anne promise to have their sleepover someday, Luz and Eda return to the Demon Realm.

(Cue a surprise appearance by Mae Whitman as Amity Blight, trying to build up her confidence to finally ask Luz on a date. However, she immediately runs away upon seeing Luz appear.) Luz complains about not having more time to talk with another human girl. When Luz discovers that Eda stole Hop Pop’s wallet, Luz begins reassembling her portal.

Brenda Song (left) as Anne Boonchuy and Sarah-Nicole Robles (right) as Luz Noceda.

Disney Channel’s Amphibia’s Anne Boonchuy (Brenda Song) and The Owl House’s Luz Noceda (Sarah-Nicole Robles) finally meet face-to-face … or rather, screen-to-screen and script-to-script!

How does this crossover episode end? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see to find out! (I know, I was disappointed too that we only got the first ten minutes.)

Doug applauded both teams, stating his eagerness to see the fan animations of that table read. The panel then wrapped up with a Q&A for Dana, Matt, and both casts.

“The hardest part was just trying to imagine this world, and bring these characters to life without actually SEEING anything … !”

Brenda joked about how much time it takes to ease into Anne’s voice (the two are very similar). She is blown away by how much growth every character on Amphibia has gone through. To that point, Doug asks Bill if he expected Hop Pop to have so much depth revealed? Bill shared that he knew Hop Pop (like any character) had a range of emotions. Releasing them would be a fun challenge. “It’s kind of like going through the layers of an onion,” Bill explained, “They’re all in there, but being able to let it out and take a character in a different direction than you might imagine is so much fun for an actor to add those little things.” Amanda shared the changes Polly has gone through. Not just the physical addition of legs, but also the growth in Polly’s mental and emotional health.

Sarah-Nicole Robles admitted her opinion of Luz and The Owl House has been the same since Day 1. She recalled her audition (Luz reading the book report in S01E01). As she read through the script, Sarah-Nicole thought about Dana: “This woman is CRAZY, but in like the best way!” Luz doesn’t put up walls or try to hide her feelings. Sarah-Nicole was surprised with how emotional she was able to take Luz.

Sarah-Nicole identified action scenes and “effort grunts” (doing scenes with fighting, falling, etc.) as the most challenging part of her voice acting. Dana and Matt sympathized, as the storyboard animatics often add “scratch efforts” (ADR done without the actors to help determine a scene’s timing). The creators often do these pre-V.O. efforts themselves. Dana recounted how hard it is to scream into the mic for some scenes. Matt admits that he uses one of those keyboards with the pre-recorded sound effects. “We have to do crazy stuff in this [industry],” Matt summarized, “Like, all of us.”

Sarah-Nicole added how many of these noises are things that the actors have no frame of reference for. (i.e. Who could possibly know what “drowning in soup” sounds like??) “Okay, we’re shooting you out of a trebuchet,” Matt demonstrated, “You got that?” “How far away is the camera, and how far am I going,” Sarah-Nicole responds, “That’s what I needed.”

Brenda and Sarah-Nicole sympathized over similar difficulties with making sounds for drinking or eating. “Sometimes I’ll like chew on my finger,” Amanda shared, “Or I’ll like put my finger in my mouth, like this-” As she demonstrates, Sarah-Nicole thanks her for the “pro tip”! Amanda admitted she makes a lot of physical movement during efforts. Brenda agreed, sharing her lines needed to be re-recorded so many times from her closet because you kept hearing her knock into all the clothes hangers.

The panel wraps up by asking Wendie about Eda’s relatable traits? Wendie responds the found family that Eda has cultivated with King and Luz. “And I think – particularly for young people, but for adults too – that is such a reminder that [what] we all need is that everybody has to figure out,” Wendie explains, “What is it that makes you tick, what make you uniquely you, who can you find who will celebrate that and how can you spend time with those people who empower you?”

Doug hopes fans of both shows enjoyed a taste of that crossover. He also encourages fans to petition Disney for that crossover special to come to the TV screen! We at Geek Girl Authority are definitely excited at the possibility of the Plantars in the Boiling Isles! Maybe Anne can learn some glyph magic from Luz? Also, … cross-dimensional slumber parties need to be a thing. C’mon, Disney: let us have this!

Season 3 of Amphibia premieres on Disney Channel on October 2, 2021. Seasons 1 and 2 for both Amphibia and The Owl House can be watched on both Disney Channel and Disney Plus.

Disney Television Animation: Amphibia and The Owl House:

 

Tyler Boyce
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