WonderCon 2017 with Voltron Executive Producers

2017 marked WonderCon’s return to the Anaheim Convention Center for its 31st anniversary. With the Wonder Woman film slated to release later this year, DC decided to paint Anaheim red and blue. Not only were convention hall walls covered in Wonder Woman symbols, but passing buses and nearby restaurants were also plastered with Wonder Woman advertisements.

Celebrating Street Fighter’s 30th anniversary, Capcom prepared big prizes to attract contestants to their WonderCon tournament. The yearlong celebration promised remastered locations, as well as hilarious photos of Ryu, Chun-li and Juri in high school outfits for April Fool’s.

Prior to the Voltron panel, Asia Pacific Arts sat down with the show’s executive producers Joaquim Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery behind the successful Netflix and Dreamworks’ animated series. The pair spoke about their favorite scenes and how the original Japanese series inspired their show.

APA: What can you tell us about the subtle, emotional facial expressions for the characters in the show?

Lauren: It depends on what the story is like. If we know the character is feeling something in the moment but there is something down the line that has yet to be revealed, we try to nod to it. It’s really just to make the characters more human, not just kind of standing there with a blank face not reacting to things. When each character reacts in character, it makes them feel more unique.

Joaquim: We’re weirdly like actors through these characters. You look at it with us in the story, the directors, or when the animators are drawing them, you’re inserting what you think is appropriate for the character. So you’re kind of acting. Though with TV animation it’s a little more tough though because you can’t overly emote or you run the risk of things getting a little weird.

APA: Each of the Paladins have a very distinctive style in their facial makeup. For example, Keith looks very shounen anime-style, while Lance is almost the more modern style that’s going on right now. How did you guys come about that?

Joaquim: That’s really due to our character designer Christie Tseng, who is an absolutely amazing artist and a fan of basically every genre that’s out there. Honestly, half the terminology that she’s brought up, it’s like “Oh, yeah just do that.”

Lauren: She definitely does her research. There are things that we don’t realize that are so connected to the old characters. I now realize like how incredibly tied together this design language is and it’s a testament to her talent, dedication, and hard work.

Joaquim: We’ll have design handouts, but her breakdowns for explaining what a new design needs are far more detailed than we would ever bring. Like, “Just make that the coolest character you have ever seen.” She basically has their backstory mapped out and what their emotional state is. It’s really impressive.

APA: How do you balance the fun moments with the more emotional moments?

Lauren: You just have to feel your way through it. When you’re in a situation where everything is so intense, throwing a comedy in is not really going to help the situation and is going to derail the emotions, so then you’ll avoid it. But if you’re in a situation where you know there’s a moment to breathe or maybe you need a little more levity, we just kind of try to feel our way through it.

Joaquim: I think from the get-go we set out to make a show that can be as broad as it needs to be. Other shows that we worked on might not have been appropriate, but I think from the get-go we wanted to make a show that could tug at your heartstrings then make you almost slapstick comedy laugh.

Lauren: And you also have characters that are young and funny in this crazy world. But you’re never going to see characters like Zarkon do that. He’s a serious guy. Pidge, Coran and Lance can do that though.

Joaquim: You can have a Blade of Marmora and the mall episode in the same universe.

APA: With this being a show on Netflix, what is your work schedule and the timing like? For example, a lot of season two had already been completed by the time season one was released. Is that the same thing that is happening with season 3?

Joaquim: Animation is such a huge endeavor. A lot of times you’ll see online comments who would want to see it one way, but there’s nothing we can do because our story is locked. Without giving too much away, we’re already far ahead of where people think we are.

APA: Will Pidge resume the search for her father and brother?

Lauren: She’s never really stopped looking, but she has reprioritized. She’s no longer this mindset of “me before everything else.” It’s now “Voltron is important too.” She hasn’t completely put a stop to it, as we can see she was still looking for them while carrying out a mission. That’s a thing that’s going to continue.

Joaquim: With all these characters, we can’t devote too much time on one character. The assumption is that she’s been doing things off camera.

APA: Is there anything you can tell us about how the other characters reacted to Keith’s Galra heritage reveal?

Lauren: They’re not as exposed to the horrors of the Galra as Allura is. They’re fairly new to it so they associate Keith more with Keith. Allura’s reaction is very different because she knows what the Galra are capable of. It was something harder for her to accept. Even though she knows Keith as well as the rest of the guys, she witnessed him be a good person. It was still something she had to come to terms with on her own, which she did. Like any good person, she learned from her mistakes, apologized, and they moved forward. It’s safe to say that there was some shock amongst the Paladins, but none of them turned their backs on him.

Joaquim: Hunk’s reaction is probably the best representation of their reactions. Like, “Hmm, how much of you is Galra?”

Kalai Chik

Pop culture writer focusing on animation, music, and games. Los Angeles native, USC alumni, and contributor for Asia Pacific Arts since 2015. Follow me on Twitter, @kalai_chik.

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