Hazbin Hotel, the animated story about a hotel run by the Princess of Hell, Charlie Morningstar, has a massive fandom. It made the jump from the pilot on YouTube to an upcoming full-season release on Prime Video. Over the weekend at New York Comic Con (NYCC), we had the chance to sit down with the creator behind the show, Vivienne Medrano.
Because of the fandom, and because it’s such a fun story (Who wouldn’t be excited about a princess from Hell?!) the show was scooped up by A24 and Fox’s Bento Box Entertainment. In September, after some back and forth on the release date, the show found a home on Prime Video. The animated musical comedy will have a two-season release (to begin with).
Enter the NYCC fanfare. To a packed panel, the voice cast for Hazbin Hotel was revealed, along with a catchy song “Happy Day in Hell.” The song has a hallmark memorability that Medrano is known for. After the panel and in the interview rooms of the Javits Center, we spoke with Vivienne Medrano about her vision for the series, if she saw any Charlie Morningstar cosplay, her dreams of a Hazbin Hotel Broadway musical, the delayed release for the show, and so much more.
The interview with Vivienne Medrano about Hazbin Hotel
[Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. Audio of this interview is available in podcast form below or most places podcasts are available.]
Ayla Ruby: “Hi, nice to talk to you. So this you just said is your first comic con. Have you gone down to the show floor? Have you seen any cosplay from Hazbin Hotel?”
Vivienne Medrano: “No. Well, I haven’t gotten to the show floor yet here. But I have seen cosplayers, like at other cons and stuff like that. And I know they go hard. So I can only imagine what they are for this con.”
Ayla Ruby: “I saw Charlie, it was amazing. Oh, that’s awesome. Definitely, if you get the chance. So if you can talk a little bit about the transition from Patreon and YouTube for the pilot to A24. What did that look like? How did that all happen? That’s the dream.
Vivienne Medrano: “Yes. Oh my gosh. So yeah, everything I’ve made for really like my whole early career, and my whole life has been through crowdfunding and through commission and freelance and just like working my way up. And thankfully, like I kind of was fortunate enough to gain an audience for my work early enough that, you know, I started to be able to rely on things like Patreon and crowdfunding, eventually merge to kind of sustain these projects, and build them. So the Hazbin pilot, when I first made it on YouTube, it started very small, like I put my savings into it. I kind of put everything I had into it to start it up, to pay for, like the people helping me in the beginning. And, and then as it went, through the crowdfunding and through the support, we were able to afford, like, you know, more people and it got bigger, and has songs and all these things, and it just grew. And so to be able to have like a studio behind that, that is just supporting it from the word go, and be able to kind of just make it on this bigger scale, was definitely like a learning experience. But it was really exciting. And it was amazing that we were able to do that.”
On working on a pilot vs a season
Ayla Ruby: “You talked about the learning experience a little bit. So obviously a pilot is very different than like a season of television. Can you talk about anything that was challenging, or you know, alternately really gratifying about pulling that off, that’s quite a feat.”
Vivienne Medrano: “Yeah, it was a very big difference. Obviously, focusing on one 30-minute short for like multiple years was definitely like, we could kind of put our whole focus in it. And it was, you know, really scrappy and made with love and everything like that. Whereas the process for a full season is obviously… it’s multiple episodes. So it requires much more of a pipeline and requires much more planning and much more development. And thankfully, I had a little bit of experience with pipeline because in kind of the development of Hazbin, I had another series that’s very similar. So I was able to kind of like, even though that one was still Indy as well, I got to like learn how my studio operates and how I’m comfortable working. And so when we went into production for season one of Hazbin it felt very natural. And but it was a huge challenge to just in general work with a studio and kind of this bigger pipeline for the first time.”
Ayla Ruby: “Now I know season one is coming out in January. It got a two-season order. Can you share anything about season two? Are you in development on it? Where are you in the making of?”
Vivienne Medrano: “So we currently are writing it, which is really exciting. It’s a very, very exciting new story. Obviously, it follows the events of season one, which people haven’t seen yet, but I’m so excited. I think it picks up in a perfect way it focuses on a very fun villain and it’s a villain that we do meet in season one. So it’s very exciting. And yeah, I’m very I’m very excited by this process starting again.”
On Charlie Morningstar’s story in the first season
Ayla Ruby: “What can you tell us about Charlie’s story in season one, you know her arc, anything that she is going to go through?”
Vivienne Medrano: “So Charlie’s biggest challenge in season one is that, right in the first episode, we kind of find out that there’s a kind of new challenge to the hotel that kind of creates a ticking clock for her to prove it. And that ends up being the kind of challenge of the first season, is that she has this like obstacle to overcome, just proving it’s possible in the first place. There’s kind of a time element. So there’s you know, I think that like gives a good sense of what the season will kind of be but it’s also full of like getting to know these characters and getting to understand like why Charlie is the one at the center of it.”
On the music in Hazbin Hotel
Ayla Ruby: “So we just got to see and hear the music from that opening in the first episode, is there going to be more music as we go on through the series? You know, it’s like your hallmark. Can you can you talk about that or tease anything?”
Vivienne Medrano: “Absolutely. So every every episode has more than one song in it. So it’s super musical-saturated with songs. The songs are totally varying in the kind of genre, and the kind of sound, and who performs them. It’s very based on what character is performing. So, you know, there’s so many different kinds of music that kind of fit the different kinds of characters performing. And I’m very excited for people to hear it because it’s… yeah, there’s a lot of music and the show.”
Regarding the delay of release from last summer to January 2024
Ayla Ruby: “So I think originally Hazbin Hotel what’s going to premiere in the summer, now announced in January. Can you talk at all about the delay or scheduling?”
Vivienne Medrano: “So the biggest thing about the change was really just that, at first Hazbin didn’t have a distribution partner. And so when Prime Video came in, it was so exciting, but obviously, a lot of things had to like, go into play for that. And so it kind of pushed out, you know, when the original like aim was, when it was with A24 exclusively. So it was really, it’s really exciting. And I think it’s a better time for it. I think it’s fresh, and it’s exciting, and it’s going to be way more accessible. In that way.”
On the fan reaction to Hazbin Hotel
Ayla Ruby: “Did you know when you created these characters, when you created the series, did you ever expect that there was going to be this kind of fan reaction and just, you know, it resonating so much with people.”
Vivienne Medrano: “When I first made it, I did not. Like, it had a following in the sense that, you know, I’ve been growing my audience and I had a following, and I knew people were gonna watch it, and I knew it was gonna be for them. But it exploded in a way that I never thought it would. And it kind of went past that, that audience that I’d already built, it like it was like the world all the sudden. And so and that’s now become like such a passionate fan base for like, for all like my Helliverse projects. And it’s so, so cool. And I’m so honored that it’s it’s a really passionate fan base. So I want to do right by everybody. And I think I think we do.”
Medrano on what characters she would be and why the show resonates with fans
Ayla Ruby: “So if you were a character in the hotel in season one, just who would you be? And why?”
Vivienne Medrano: “Oh my gosh, I always joke that I wouldn’t fare very well. I would fare very well with Charlie. So I’m wondering if there’s a character that like, obviously she’d like, be friends. I feel like all the characters are cooler than me. So like, I couldn’t really be any of the characters. But if I was like a sinner in this world, I would want to go to the hotel because Charlie would actually be nice to me, in this hellish world.”
Ayla Ruby: “Why do you think? So it resonates a lot. Why do you think that?”
Vivienne Medrano: “Thank you. I really think what made it different was that the show, and it kind of came from this inside me, is that I really liked when things and shows and stories allow the characters to be flawed, and allow them to grow and to change. And I think that’s something that’s, you know, the world is not black and white. And I like things that explore the gray and that and the complexity, of life and of mistakes and of things like that. And I think there’s also a very, very Queer element in the show. Like, it’s an incredibly Queer show. And that’s also something that matters a lot to me, but I think in media especially, there’s a lot of media that doesn’t allow Queer characters to be flawed or to, you know, not be like a perfect representation of what you know, whatever identity they have. And I think that really resonated with a lot of people and a lot of like, Queer people because it is a show that says, ‘Hey, it’s okay to be kind of like yourself and make mistakes and coming into yourself.’ So I think that’s really what resonated about it. Or at least I feel like it resonates with me so maybe that’s what resonates with others.”
On expanding the Hazbin Hotel /Helluva Boss Helliverse
Ayla Ruby: “Was there anything… so you know, you have Helluva Boss, you have Hazbin Hotel… Is there anything else floating around that maybe you’re thinking about adding to this universe that you can share?”
Vivienne Medrano: “Um, there’s so many things that I want to add to this universe, this universe itself is expanding, is very big, and there’s so many sides to it. So obviously, Hazbin is a very, it’s like, the main side it deals with Lucifer and and Charlie being the princess of Hell and Heaven and these kind of big grand themes of redemption. And what does that mean? And it’s much more, kind of like biblically sourced. Whereas I have another series in the same universe called Helluva Boss, and that one deals with the sins and the Hell-born species and kind of how that exists separately to the things happening in Hazbin. And so for me, there’s so many stories in this universe. So there’s lots of things that could either be added to Hazbin, or be their own thing, or just things like that. But it’s a very like, it’s kind of an ever-expanding Helliverse, I call it.”
Medrano would love to see a Hazbin Hotel Broadway musical
Ayla Ruby: “Do you ever see a live-action version happening at some point? Or do you think animation is, is your happy place?”
Vivienne Medrano: “I love animation, obviously, it’s my world. And I feel like it’s where the characters get to be the most expressive and the most of themselves and the most freedom of like, who we can cast and whatever. But I would love someday for there to be a Hazbin or a Hazbin-related Broadway musical. Because a stage like the stage is what inspires so much about what I do. And it would be so cool. It’d be the coolest thing ever, like Broadway already is such a big influence on me. And I’m such a big, like theater fan, that it would be like unreal to have like characters I made it like on stage, in any way.”
On the differences between the Hazbin Hotel pilot and the new series
Ayla Ruby: Okay, so there are some differences between the pilot and the new season. Can you talk about that at all, you know, talk about how that works or anything like that.”
Vivienne Medrano: “Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, the biggest changes are obviously the visual style is very polished versus what it was in the original pilot. The original pilot, like was the first big project that I ever made like that. So it’s very messy. I hadn’t yet learned to like overhead things in the way that I do now. And I’ve kind of learned to really get that cohesive look to things. And so I did so much learning on that original pilot, and on like the early seasons of my other series, that I was able to apply to has been when it when we started on it. So it’s so much more polished, the characters kind of have like a little bit of an upgrade in their looks, they’re a little bit more animation friendly and a little bit more eye-catchy. And it’s just it’s been like a really cool thing to see how, how much more realized the new series is. But the events of the original pilot, I did want to kind of honor, so the series somewhat kind of piggybacks off the events established in the pilot, but kind of with a fresh coat of paint and the new kind of storyline.”
Vivienne Medrano on her writing process, inspirations & influences
Ayla Ruby: “Can you talk about, you know, your writing your writing process? Do you have an idea for the episode? What does that go through in your head? How do you turn that into a season?”
Vivienne Medrano: “So I very I jokingly say this and it’s kind of become like an adopted, like, catchphrase for the show, is that Hazbin is a comic book show, like a comic book show. Only the comic doesn’t like physically exist, it kind of exists in my head. So it is kind of like a very intense lore and it’s a very, like, there’s mysteries and there’s twists, and there’s turns, and there’s arcs for the characters, and there’s big reveals, and there’s secret characters to come, and all these things that kind of like a traditional comic book would have. So you know, it’s the writing for it, for me it’s like so much in my head. And then when we get into the writer’s room, and when we create the map for this season, it’s just like kind of all the same with all this info-dumping. And like all this, like you know, this is what’s going to happen so maybe we should lay the foundation in this episode and kind of let it play out and stuff. So there’s so much of like, things to keep track of, but it’s really exciting for me.”
Ayla Ruby: “Is there anything that you feel has inspired you when you’re creating this show? Any influences that you know have been in your head while you’ve been making it?”
Vivienne Medrano: “My biggest influences are really with music and with like the musical side of things. I obviously like to turn to music for inspiration. And even, to get a vibe of a character, I kind of like put on, I make a playlist for what I think the character would listen to, or what songs just remind me of them. And that kind of helps to get into the vibe. I can’t really… I have so many influences as just a filmmaker and as a creator, but Hazbin does feel like it came from like my desire for- I also adore adaptation of any kind, especially a pre-existing mythos, or lore, or folklore, and things like that. And so Hazbin obviously comes from biblical sources or like demonology and it’s my take on kind of pre-established things”
Ayla Ruby: “Okay, so is there anything you want your fans, you know the greater Hazbin world, to know that we haven’t talked about?”
Vivienne Medrano: “Oh my gosh, I’m really just excited for people to see it. It’s been so long in the making, and so long in the waiting, and I know everyone’s really like dying for it. It’s been so long as so anticipated. So for me like obviously I don’t want to spoil anything. But I can say that I’m so proud of it, I feel like the season really does deliver. It’s eight episodes of just nonstop jam-packed music and story and I feel like every character gets their moment. And there’s obviously a really fun new villain that people haven’t seen yet. And I just- I can’t wait for people to see these characters in action in this way. And I can’t wait for them to see where the story goes.”
When and where to watch Hazbin Hotel and Helluva Boss
Hazbin Hotel premieres on Prime Video in January of 2024. You can watch the delightfully, catchy, and not-safe-for-work clip from NYCC, featuring the song “Happy Day In Hell” here on YouTube.
If you can’t wait until January and the song released at NYCC isn’t enough for you, you can check out the original pilot that started it all on YouTube. Just keep in mind, as Medrano said in our interview, the YouTube pilot for Hazbin Hotel is a bit different than what you’ll see next year.
While you’re visiting Vivziepop’s channel on YouTube, you can also check out Vivienne Medrano’s other series in the same universe Helluva Boss!
For all our past NYCC coverage, including more interviews coming this week, check it out on the NYCC tag.