In February, comic book fans saw the first episodes of Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. The second half of the season just premiered, and we’re so excited to talk about it. Over zoom last January, I chatted with Steve Loter and Rodney Clouden, executive producers for the hit animated series.
Steve Loter made his mark on animation as the director of numerous episodes of Kim Possible and Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and producer of The Legend of Tarzan. Rodney Clouden also has a strong animation background–he directed many episodes for the iconic show American Dad. Loter and Clouden have both earned prestigious Emmy awards; Loter for his work on The Penguins of Madagascar and Clouden for his work on Futurama.
In our interview, we chatted about everything from the show’s art style, to famous guest stars, to some of the central themes of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. You can catch our interview with Loter and Clouden on The Cosmic Cafe below or on most apps where podcasts are available.
- 00:30 – Intros
- 01:20 – What is Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur?
- 02:11 – What inspired you to bring these characters to TV?
- 03:10 – How did you get introduced to Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur?
- 04:50 – What was the inspiration for the art style of this series?
- 07:25 – What was the process for pairing the music with visuals?
- 10:23 – Pitching the series to Raphael Saadiq
- 13:10 – What can you tell me about Lunella’s journey in season 1?
- 17:20 – Ayla’s daughter asks, “Does Lunella’s parents know she is a superhero, will they find out later?”
- 18:05 – Guest stars on the series, Mae Jemison, Cobie Smulders, and May Calamawy
- 21:20 – Anything else you’d like to share about the show this season?
- 23:30 – Outros
What is Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur?
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is about a brilliant young girl who wants to help her community. In trying to do so, she accidentally summons a giant red dinosaur through an interdimensional portal. (Everyone’s done that before, right?)
The uber-talented Diamond White voices Lunella Lafayette, otherwise known as Moon Girl. She’s the main character of the show and one of, if not the, most intelligent folks in the greater Marvel animation and cinematic universe. Her best friend Casey Calderon, who is wise beyond her years with her media sensibilities, is voiced by Libe Barer. And veteran voice actor Fred Tatasciore gives Devil Dinosaur life.
Lunella’s family is vital in the story, and Disney/Marvel filled out her personal world with some legendary actors. Pops is voiced by Gary Anthony Williams. Her grandmother, Mimi, is voiced by Alfre Woodard. James Jr., Lunella’s dad, is voiced by Jermaine Fowler, and giving voice to Lunella’s mom Adria, is Sasheer Zamata.
The show has several villains, but one of the biggest is The Beyonder. Laurence Fishburne voices the character, and the actor behind the trickster villain is one of the biggest reasons the show found its way to television.
The second half of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur season 1 just started airing. There’s been overwhelmingly positive chatter surrounding the show – and the hard work of the folks behind it paid off – Disney renewed it for a second season.
A few highlights from our interview with Steve Loter and Rodney Clouden
Our full interview is available on the Cosmic Cafe podcast, but we’ve highlighted some of the most exciting bits of the conversation below.
[Editor’s note: This text has been edited slightly for clarity.]
About that unique visual style
Moon Girl’s visual style has been called out as “slick” and “stylish” by some reviewers. It’s striking, and we asked Loter and Clouden about their inspirations when bringing it to the screen. It turns out Lunella’s hometown of NYC has much to do with it.
SL: “Absolutely, yeah, I think that it starts with the fact that both Rodney and I grew up in New York City. And we grew up there at a time before gentrification kind of took over. So it was kind of the idealized of New York City, where it was really creative and vibrant. So a lot of the inspiration of the overall art style kind of came from that. And I’ll speak to kind of the overall graphic look of it.
And where we kind of went with that is we were inspired by New York artists, Andy Warhol and the screen printing process and Basquiat. And also, we looked at a lot of the murals that were up in New York City at the time, but I think a primary inspiration for both of us was graffiti artists, because we were kind of also growing up around the time when graffiti artists were really turning into artists and being recognized as true artists of New York City. So I think a lot of the visual inspiration came from that.”
RC: “Yeah, we really wanted to lean into just representing New York visually in the most authentic way. And the most cool way because, you know, New York, in certain instances and shows, are like really clean, but you know, it’s not clean, it’s gritty. It’s got edge and texture.
And we also were inspired by not just the graphic style of comic books. So you see the with talking about the Andy Warhol on screen printing, and you see that kind of offset thing going on with the textures and color blocks and, and also, that it’s a comic book, how do we want to represent the comic book? So you have a nice inky line style and graphicness of the characters. So you have that fine balance of the comic book aspect of the characters and a little bit of that old school look, with the backgrounds, they kind of have been working together but not competing against each other.”
About guest stars such as Mae Jemison, May Calamawy, and Cobie Smulders
The most recent episode of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (“Goodnight, Moon Girl”) featured May Calamawy. MCU fans might recognize her as the actress behind Layla El-Faoul in 2022’s Moon Knight. She plays Fawzia in the episode, a classmate of Lunella’s. Calamawy is one of many big names guesting on the series. Cobie Smulders, Daveed Diggs, and astronaut and scientist Mae Jemison are just a few of the people that voice characters in Lunella’s world.
We asked Loter and Clouden about some of those famous Marvel and non-actor names that appear on the guest star list.
SL: “Yeah, it’s like, it’s like, we would love to share more. But we also, you know, we love that audience discovery of these characters. I mean, I think that across the series, we have a really rich set of Marvel legacy characters and original characters, and every character we bring into the show kind of points and reinforces the thematic notion of what that episode is about.
And so because of that, we have a lot of deep cut, Marvel villains and characters that you would be surprised to see in any animated form, maybe at this point. So because thematically it fit in, it made a lot of sense. I think Marvel was very excited for us to be able to kind of reincarnate some of these characters that may have been around for a while.”
RC: “Like, Hey, how about this person, this person, and I had never heard of this person. But yeah, let’s make them cool. And then make it into our own style. And also about, just going back to the Mae Jemison aspect of it, is that you know, Lunella is smart; she’s one of the smartest people in the Marvel Universe.
So, you know, science STEM, that’s important. And I think it’s important to have that showcase, especially when it comes to girls, especially young black girls, to see that. And we also like to throw in little asides of mentions of scientists, important scientists and things like that, so that you know it when she references them, or you know, maybe somebody will Google and learn something about somebody they’ve never heard of before.”
On bringing legendary singer, songwriter, and music producer Raphael Saadiq on board
Raphael Saadiq is a musical legend. He’s got several Grammys to his name and has been nominated for dozens of other awards. He’s the executive music producer for Moon Girl, charged with bringing NYC’s music scene to the screen. The story of how he came on the show is quite interesting.
AR: “Now I read that. I think I read that the pitch for Raphael Saadiq to join was like at the Amoeba Awards. Now, was that something you had kind of planned in advance? Or was it you know, you? You saw him, and you, you know, just took a shot?”
SL: “Yeah, actually, it was at Amoeba Records in Hollywood.”
SL: “So what happened, so it’s? It’s a crazy story. So when, because I was such a huge fan of Raphael Saadiq prior to the show. And when this opportunity to work on this show came up, I thought he’s the only person that can do this. But everyone thought, well, he’s a working professional musician. He tours, he’s working with John Legend producing this album, and he’s on this show. And so they thought, I don’t think he’s going to be able to do this.
But I always like the personal touch when you’re trying to bring someone on to a show to kind of give them the full perspective of what you’re trying to pitch. So he had a record that had just come out at the time, Jimmy Lee, which is a fantastic album, by the way. And he was doing a record signing at Amoeba Records in Hollywood. And I thought, Okay, this is a good opportunity.
So I got there early, I was first in line. And I had my record. And as he was signing my record, and in the 30 seconds he was signing my record, I was pitching him the show. And by the end of him signing my record, we had a handshake deal. And he wanted to do the show; we kind of locked the deal in place on that on the spot. Because he saw the potential of the show.”
About the relatable storylines, throughlines, and why they’re important
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur features cinematic storylines, stakes, and emotions that are relatable and especially relevant for kids and families. Clouden shared his views on what Moon Girl is about and some of the takeaways from the series.
RC: “And just for the common thread that’s through the episodes is that it’s about family, family, the importance of your community, protecting your community, and the choices you make, that can affect both. So Lunella learns from her, her mom, you know that one girl can make a difference, you know, and if that message resonates throughout the whole series, and the importance of protecting your community, and the choices that when she made a choice to become a superhero to it was not thrust upon her.
She made that conscious decision that I’m going to do something about that, so that you hope that that inspires more people to have that outlook and process of taking care of your community. You don’t necessarily have to be a super smart genius, a 13-year-old superhero, but there are ways that you can do that to help.”
How to get more Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur
If you’re interested in even more behind-the-scenes of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, check out our exclusive interview with Pilar Flynn, EP, and co-showrunner. And if you’re interested in reading some of the comics that inspired the hit show, check out Vin’s comic reading guide.
New episodes of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur air every week on the Disney Channel and are also available on Disney+.