Parker Simmons is both directer and writer as well as the brilliant mind the new show Mao Mao. We had the privilege of getting to chat with him. The show premiers in South Africa first only on Cartoon Network.
Tell us about yourself (How he immerse this into the show)
I come from a large family myself. There are 9 kids including me. I’m the youngest of them all and that was something that was incorporated into the show where Mao Mao who struggles with feeling like he’s not getting enough of the spotlight and that’s a lot of what drives him to try to be the best possible Hero. Perhaps mistakenly he thinks that’s what’s gonna get him the love and attention from his family (how sad is that). But it ends up being actually very funny in the show and I try to add as much as my of mine, even if it’s not 100%, own insecurities, and frustrations with life and put them into the character and the into the show itself.
How did you get into animation?
Well, I think like most people who do it I was compelled to draw my entire life and it seemed like there was no way around it always something that was always going to happen. if I look back I’m like “yeah there’s no way you’re not going to be in animation”, so I went to Art School and then I think my first actual animation job was working on some projects for Titmouse. Who does some adult Swim shows; they’ve done shows for Disney and Netflix you name it. I worked for them for a very long time I think for about 10 years now on many different projects they’ve been super generous and it has been great to work with them.
Tell us about your stint working on DC Super Friends
I worked on DC Super Friends, and it’s a series of shorts that’s on the DC YouTube Page. It was interesting because we’re working with WB (Warner Brothers) consumer products but we were also working with their animation team and so we were constantly trying to ride the line of you know making something funny that kids would like while also making the corporate people happy but ultimately it was nice to just work with these crazy superhero characters who I have always loved and been able to say “yeah Aquaman gets to look like this and Batman should have all black instead of blue and grey” I feel like there are so many iterations of it so we were just so concerned with having fun with it more than anything else.
What shows did you watch growing up?
I watched Batman the Animated Series I didn’t work on but I watched it to death, I think that’s one of my favorite animations of all time. I loved Dexter’s lab and you know the Power puff Girls are also up there in being my two all-time favorites. of course, Rocko’s Modern Life just because I loved that character. He and Dexter and are both characters are very frustrated and I think a lot of kids feel like that because they’re young and they’re not in charge yet and it just it’s super relatable and funny.
Do current trends influence your style?
That’s a very interesting question, I honestly, would say probably not, weirdly enough, to a pretty big degree. One of the kinds of unwritten aspects of the show is there is a strange feeling of nostalgia do it when you see the characters in the world. We really wanted to dial in just to something that felt a little more classic and so we drew on a little inspiration that was from my own childhood which you know was in the late 80s and early 90. So not current trends so we kind of drew from this old stuff and then using our modern experiences and voices trying to be like “you know that show maybe wasn’t as great as we remembered it. What if we took all the stuff we loved about it and used what we have now to try to make it sincere and genuine and not just a bunch of puns” which a lot of those 80s cartoons are and you’re like do kids like that? I Don’t know
Do you think that 3D animation loses some of the more fun aspects that traditional animation brings to the table?
Here is something very interesting, I think animation is animation ultimately and what you’re trying to accomplish depends on the director and the project. I would say if there are people out there who are saying 3D animation is feeling a little bit samey it would be fair to feel that way and they could broaden their Horizon because specifically, anime is doing a lot of crazy stuff with 3D animation right now where they are breaking the models and manipulating the camera itself in such a way to give things that more organic and hand-drawn feel. So I don’t think it’s limiting it’s just about using a tool to accomplish what you want to accomplish. You know there are digital techniques even in 2D animation that are really just there to help you facilitate getting the best final product possible so I think if you start broadening your horizon you’ll see some 3D animation that can compete with some of the best 2D animations. It’s getting better and better I think
How did you dream up Mao Mao?
It’s interesting. I think I can’t say there’s not like a Stan Lee story when I looked at a spider and I thought Spiderman. it was sort of a strange subconscious process where someone reached out to me and they said “hey we saw your shorts films, you should make a show” and I thought “I don’t know that I can do that but hey I’ll start drawing some stuff” and the first thing I drew was this little angry cat character with a sword. That really was it! I kept expanding from there. At that point, I had been in animation and working on various different projects for like 6 years or so and there are definitely some trends that I had seen and I thought “what do I want to draw what do my friends and coworkers want to draw what do we want to animate … cute animal characters; badass action; swords; explosions; robots; pirates; everything that we could possibly want that we could never get to do while working on these other, more sitcom kind of shows and that was the stuff that we drew and I focused on developing. it’s very fortunate that it’s also what Cartoon Network wanted to buy because they very much could have said we don’t want this, so I’m very glad that it worked out
Any last words to the youth out there?
That’s a deep question. I’ll try my best. I would say if the animation is truly your passion nothing will stop you from getting into it. Ultimately the people that do this for a living do it because they have to do it they have to draw they cannot help themselves they have to tell stories they can’t help themselves. You know markets and the need for animation and content is getting bigger and we need everyone’s voice so don’t ever think that your story doesn’t matter tell it and don’t wait for someone to tell you that you can. Do it now.