Change was definitely in the air. Nickelodeon focus tested shows. Warner TV Animation flew by the seat of their pants ... or used to. I had zero faith in focus groups and felt at that point that neither show would ever see daylight.
Back into editing with Al and Boyd. Using some Steven E. Gordon art and Boyd's characters, we put together a Lobo focus group reel for whoever did focus groups. Al and I did likewise for Daffy. (I seem to recall Jeff Bennett providing the voice overs.) By now, it's late October, early November. If the network wanted a series in Sept. '99, we needed to start production soon.
On focus group day, I stayed in my office.
Jean gave me the results: boys and girls really liked Duck Dodgers. But boys had gone stratospheric over Lobo. (Lobo broke things and didn't take any lip. What's not to love?) Pre-production began for twelve half-hour Lobo episodes. (Once a production number is assigned, you know it's serious. ) Jean told me to start writing the first script. With marketing in our pocket, the Main Main looked solid. But Duck Dodgers was still in the hunt.
Mike packed up our pitch materials and we took the Duck Dodgers show on the road. Specifically from Sherman Oaks to Burbank and the executive building on the Warner lot. We'd be pitching to studio head Bob Daley. This was more of Jean playing three-dimensional chess. If she couldn't green light a show, she could still ensure that powerful players liked what she liked.
Bob Daley didn't laugh, or really smile at all. But he paid attention. You could see his mind working, following along with the story and characters. At the end, he pointed to one character model and said, "That guy doesn't look like any of the other characters. But other than that, it's Okay."
People started asking me which show I'd pick to run. But Lobo had the hot hand.
As I wrote the first script, there were pre-production meetings. Composer Richard Stone was fired up to do music. (We aimed at creating some kind of cool outer space theme blended with Metallica and Nine Inch Nails.) Andrea Romano would be voice directing. But Boyd Kirkland was suddenly being tugged in another direction. It looked like we'd need a new producer.
|Keane Eyes Gallery|
By early January, I'd finished the script. Basically, Lobo was a bounty hunter, hung out in Al's Diner with Al and Darlene, and had been summoned by Vril Dox. Dox hires Lobo to retrieve a witness who has information harmful to interplanetary super creep Ernest Mann. Mann wanted to help everyone by conquering all life and placing it under his loving care. He had created a force of eerie minions: children with big Margaret Keane eyes who morphed into horrid velociraptor-like monsters. Mann was defended aboard his huge space craft by massive robots, each with more firepower than a drug cartel.
He also carried the largest bounty in the universe.
Lobo disobeys orders and decides to dangle his witness as bait to draw out Mann. Traveling to a seedy dive on a depressed planet, Lobo and his nervous witness wait for someone to rat them out to Mann. It doesn't take long. Lobo ends up in a shoot-out with one of Mann's iron-packing robots and loses his witness, who is captured and transported to Mann's vessel. Lobo follows, sneaks aboard, rescues the guy, battles Keane children, more robots, and confronts Mann, but fails to capture him, barely escaping in a running fight that eats up most of Act III.
Finally, having delivered the witness, he relaxes back at Al's. But Lobo vows to eventually collect the bounty on Mann.
And that would be our season arc: first, middle, and last episode involving Lobo and Mann. I figured I'd write those and hired Mitch Watson and Ken Segall to tackle several of the other scripts. They would include villains like Sunny Jim and Cosmic Bob. Bob's character description billed him as "one of the deadliest men in the universe because he can shoot rays from his nose."
By now, it was early January 1999. Boyd Kirkland was gone, returned to Batman for, I think, a Mr. Freeze direct-to-video. Scott Jeralds replaced him as co-producer. As Jean had approved the script, Scott's crew jumped in and did a fantastic job boarding. Scott put his own spin on the character design, reducing Lobo's bulkiness even more while keeping the muscles and menace. Darlene became more wholesome, less jaded. Another crew was hired and artists started reporting in.
Meanwhile, Andrea Romano assembled a great cast. She'd once again lined up Brad Garrett as Lobo, and cast William H. Macy and Linda Hamilton for voice roles. (Macy would've been the witness, while I don't recall who Linda Hamilton would've played.) Paul Rugg had a part as Vril Dox assistant.
Duck Dodgers was backburnered. Lobo barreled on toward it's production start date.
Tomorrow: A meeting with Jean. Phone calls and reality. What came next.
Lobo on the WB1
Lobo on the WB 3