From May 2004 to January 2005, 26 glorious episodes of Megas XLR hit the airwaves. The show was about two modern-day slackers (Coop and Jamie) who inherit a giant robot from the future named Megas XLR (XLR standing for eXtra Large Robot). They are joined by Megas’ original pilot, Kiva, and together they lay waste to New Jersey on a near-weekly basis.
In the 10 years since Megas XLR was cancelled, the show has developed a cult following, with several attempts by fans and the showrunners to revive the series.
I had the opportunity to talk to one of the co-creators of Megas XLR, George Krstic. We discussed the show’s past and future, as well as a few popular animation industry topics.
You and Jody Schaeffer created Megas XLR. Can you provide a breakdown of who created what, and tell us what your favorite contribution to the show is?
So since I can barely sign my own name, let alone draw a straight line, Jody was the Art Director and I was the Story Editor – a fancy way of saying Jody drew, and I wrote. We teamed up because we wanted to tell a story incorporating all of the things we loved – giant robots, video games, anime, smashing stuff, old-school physical comedy – you know, typical Saturday morning kind of stuff. (I recently read they’ve done away with Saturday morning animation, which is sad; because if you can’t afford a streaming service or cable, you may be effectively locked out of enjoying animation in America.)
My favorite contribution? That’s a tough one because making a show is such a collaborative process, every one adds so many things and our crew was beyond amazing – always dropping/sneaking cool ideas into the mix. But I guess for better or worse, the thing I still take pride in were all of the “Pop TV” snipes. We were still sore about the way MTV treated Downtown at the end, so that was my way of getting back at them. Petty? Sure. Satisfying? Very.
Megas XLR finished its run almost ten years ago. When the show concluded in 2005, did you think you’d still be talking about it a decade later?
I’m humbled and stunned by the continual love and support the show has been getting over the past ten years. Personally, I thought I’d be living in a van down by the river and no one would remember Megas a few months, let alone ten years, down the road. And while I’ve finally realized my dream of living in a van down by the river, Megas has taken on a new life of its own online and overseas.
You’ve been involved in several shows, and appear to be working on several more! Where does Megas XLR rank with you personally?
Megas was my first show as a creator, and it was exactly the show we wanted to make. The creative execs at CN were amazing and supported us in everything we wanted to do, but it has to rank as second place, with Downtown being number one. Even though I didn’t create it (Megas supervising director Chris Prynoski did), Downtown was an amazing experience for me, as well as for most of the crew that went on to Megas and then Motorcity.
Downtown was awesome because it was my pals and I, just a few years out of art school, working at MTV in Times Square, given the keys to the kingdom, getting wrecked every night, having offices looking out onto the city, filling them with action figures and vintage game consoles, and really breaking the system…as the opening narration of “Conan” states, it was a time of high adventure…
Did Megas XLR come out at the wrong time? Because a TV show about giant robots that appealed to gamers, gearheads, and geeks would be a surefire hit these days. Who wouldn’t want to watch that?
I was just talking to a TV exec who pretty much said those same words to me. Although the timing may have been off in one way, I don’t think they’d let us (or anyone) do this kind of show now, as action is dead, so I think for us, the timing was perfect.
An episode of Megas XLR featured video cassettes and Blockbuster Video, which are both now extinct. Overall, how do you feel the show has held up after 10 years?
It was never meant to – it’s a snapshot of early 2000s and late ‘90s culture and the things we wanted to say about it. Much like Downtown was an exploration of our days at art school in early 90s Manhattan and Motorcity a view of the future through the prism of 2010’s culture. Kind of our animated triptych.
Speaking of physical media, is it safe to say a DVD release for the show is not going to happen? Can we look forward to seeing Megas XLR on a streaming service (like Netflix or Crunchyroll)?
Yeah, I think even if we could get CN to greenlight a physical release of any kind, my gut tells me that ship has sailed. And actually Megas is on Xbox Live and iTunes, oddly enough.
Megas XLR poked fun at a lot of pop culture (Transformers, Voltron, MTV, Nintendo); if the show resumed tomorrow, would you incorporate any new targets from the past 10 years? Please say Michael Bay.
Of course – it would be open season! Internet culture would no doubt be a huge aspect.
Another hypothetical: are there any video games or gaming trends from the last 10 years that Jamie and Coop might touch on if the show returned?
Oh man, so many! MOBAs, MMOs, mobile games, the death of consoles, e-sports, the list goes on.
The million dollar question: any chance Megas XLR will return from the grave via Kickstarter?
So here’s the ugly truth from what I understand, and I’m neither a lawyer or accountant so my understanding could be off – Megas was written off as a tax loss and as such can not be exploited, at least domestically, in any way, or the network will get into some sort of tax/legal trouble.
Effectively Megas has been put in Carbon Freeze, shot into the heart of a sun, and the entire universe around it has been imploded. We’ve been trying everything and anything for the past ten years to try and get things going again – from buying the rights back, to licensing to a sanctioned reboot and the answer has always been “No way.”
(Note: for more on the cancellation of Megas XLR, please read this)
Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra was removed from broadcast TV and is now streamed online exclusively. Do you think that might become a trend with animated shows that struggle with TV ratings? Given the option, would you have allowed Megas XLR to continue as a web series?
Honestly, I think in five years, the rating system will be defunct and most good content will be streaming. We’d absolutely love to do Megas as a web series, but as the rights issue has us effectively blocked from our own creation – so we’ve done the only other thing we could, we listened to our fans and created a new show for the web. Chris Prynoski and I have teamed up on a new series called “Engineering” – kind of like “The IT Crowd” meets “Star Trek,” and it’s for all the people who stuck with us through the cancellation of our other shows. Our hope is to get it funded and online by late 2015. And yes, its got plenty of easter-eggs.
There was much talk about how Young Justice was cancelled because its audience had a high percentage of girls who “did not buy toys”. Should showrunners be wary of merchandise sales in addition to ratings?
This is a slippery slope, and due to the changing landscape, one that many showrunners are currently on as merch drives shows – or at least it used to. I think things may be changing soon, but the broadcasters always want to hedge their bets, and story usually comes last, with revenue steams first.
In a similar vein, did the lack of Megas XLR toys or merchandise play a role in the show’s cancellation?
Not at all – we were cut because we got caught in a regime change (happens all the time in the industry) and the focus shifted from boy’s action/comedy to live-action and girls. This immediately made us an outlier and we got cut soon after.
Guillermo Del Toro announced a Pacific Rim animated series a few months ago. What was your initial reaction to the news, and do you have any advice about making a giant robot cartoon for Del Toro?
He already knows the most important lesson – It’s not about the bot homie, it’s about the guy driving the bot.
Fellow CN alum Samurai Jack gets a lot of Hollywood love in regards to a possible film return. Do you want to take this opportunity to talk smack to Genndy Tartakovsky?
Haw! Are you trying to start some kind of animation feud? No way man – his work was an inspiration to me before I came to CN, and while there I got to work with him, which was like a dream come true. I wish him, and Sam Jack all the success they are both due!
And that concludes the interview! I want to thank George Krstic for taking time from his very busy schedule (he has five shows in development) to answer some questions.
On a personal note it’s a thrill to talk to the person responsible for one of my favorite shows ever. In fact when I went to animation school in 2007, Megas was the first thing I ever modeled in 3D (it’s shown in the header graphic).