LeSean Thomas is a unique individual. It is rare to be able to speak to someone who has had experience with the American, Korean, and Japanese animation industries. He has worked on such diverse projects as The Boondocks, The Legend of Korra, and Black Dynamite.
Mr. Thomas has even created his own comic series Cannon Busters which he Kickstarted with much fanfare to produced a proof of concept animation which has the potential to be turned into a full series. He is someone who could be a guest at an American comic convention, at an anime convention, or a school to give a lecture on international animation.
We sat down with him to discuss his success with Cannon Busters, his thoughts on Kickstarter, and his views on International collaboration.
Reverse Thieves: Congratulations on the release of Cannon Busters. It is awesome!
LeSean Thomas: It is really humbling. I’m glad people liked it. I know how fickle the animation fanbase can be. You never know, when you’re doing completely new things like that, how people will respond. But the response has been really positive. Everyone loves it!
RT: And we heard you had a great turn out [for the showing at Otakon].
LT: Oh yeah! It was a nice reminder that its got legs.
RT: So you took your project to Kickstarter and it seems to have become a very powerful tool for creators. Do you think it has the power to change how networks decide what projects to take chances on?
LT: That’s a good question. But no. Projects like Under the Dog, Little Witch Academia, Cannon Buster, Urbance, those are just isolated incidents. Aside from LWA, include [Cannon Busters] yet, has been turned into a series.
The people who make the decisions in terms of financing shows look at money. They look at things that generate profit. Even when they pick up shows, they are focused on generating profit. And I don’t think that any of those projects have generate any mainstream success yet.
Now if LWA, which is going to be on Netflix, and Under the Dog got turned into a multimillion dollar film, and if all these projects became big shows like a Bee and Puppycat, I think that may get a lot of other artists in the industry to try [Kickstarter] but I don’t think its going to have a real effect on the people at the top.
I think KS biggest strength is bypassing the bottleneck of content acquisition at these networks. When it comes to financing things like pilots and stuff like that, KS gives you an opportunity to be financed to create something that has the potential to become big.
But I personally don’t see that yet. There would need to be massive successes at the KS level for networks to say, “hum?” And they still have to wait and see who decides to create a KS.
I think it could have a bigger impact on the working force, the artists who are working at these networks who have their own ideas but are too busy making the studios projects. [If] they see these [KS] becoming series and say, “you know what? I’m going to take a crack at this.” And then maybe if that happens at a big level. . . . I think that’s where it has to start.
I don’t think there are enough animation KS out there though.
RT: So Cannon Busters is a co-production and it isn’t the first one you’ve worked on. Is that type of global creative process something that is important to you?
LT: Very much! I’m never looked at animation as a nationalist medium. And I think it is silly to think so.
I don’t have an issue with an American animator, or a Japanese animator, or a French animator . . . if you’re good enough and fit for the project that I want, that’s what matters to me.
Right now, the type of people that I want to work with, the talents I want to work with, and the styles I want to work with are not being pumped out of American colleges. They are being pumped out of Japanese and French colleges and so forth so I’m going to gravitate naturally to those people. Be it Korea, be it Japan, France those are the talents that are attractive to me and it just so happens that they are three different countries which speaks to the globalized collaboration.
I just think the world is too small for us to have an aversion to working overseas with other people and so much better stuff comes out of that.
I mean look at Pixar, all the stuff that they do is a result of international collaboration. Look at the credits: people from France, India, Japan, China, they pull the best to work with them.
RT: Having worked in America, Japan, and Korea what do you think is the biggest difference in their production styles?
LT: Korea you don’t storyboard anything, you aren’t really involved in the pre-production, it is very rare.
Japan you do everything, Pre-production, main production, post-production. They write their stories, they storyboard it, they design it, they go into production, they edit, they mix.
Korea when you compare the volume of TV shows being put out to Japan, they don’t really have a market. They are largely a service oriented country. There are a few filmmakers putting out things for film festivals and some children’s programing. We send all our work there to be animated. And it is very difficult for them to do work outside of the sub-contract work because they are so busy and focused on other people’s projects.
In America, we just do pre-production. Aside from a few shows, we don’t really animate our shows here. We ship them to Korea. Steven Universe, Adventure Time, Family Guy. We storyboard, design, write, and edit in post but we don’t really animate anything.