Spoilers ahead if you aren’t caught up on Skylanders Academy, which you can add to your wishlist now!
Big changes are coming for Activision Blizzard Studios’ Netflix series Skylanders Academy. Next month, the crossover hit that features characters from the fan-favorite toys-to-life video game series will be bringing in all new names and faces both on the screen and in the creative team that works behind the scenes. Creator Eric Rogers is stepping down as showrunner, and he’ll be replaced by the showrunning duo of Clayton Sakoda and Ian Weinreich starting with Season 3.
Having had a chance to see the new premiere before getting to talk with Sakoda and Weinreich, I can safely say the series is in good hands. The magical adventures that fans have come to know and love are still front-and-center, as are the hilarious dialogue exchanges and sometimes complicated character relationships that make the show such a joy. There are lots of surprises ahead as well, including both new and returning characters and some high-powered voice actors joining the cast. Find out what the Skylanders are in for in Season 3–which arrives on Netflix September 28th–by reading my interview with Sakoda and Weinreich below, but first, check out our exclusive new image from the new season:
Yep, it’s Dark Spyro in all his glory! We’ll get into the character much more in the following interview:
How did this opportunity come about for you to transition over to showrunners for Skylanders Academy?
Ian Weinreich: Well we were lucky enough to get to work on season two just in the capacity as writers. We had written a few episodes for season two and then fortunately Eric Rogers, who show-ran seasons one and two, who was awesome and really great, he had a competing project that left someone available for season three and so when that happened, Activision Blizzard was able to come to us and give us the opportunity to sort of carry the baton forward. It helped that we had already been involved with helping previous seasons.
You wrote the season two premiere, “Spyromania,” and “Belly of the Beast.” So what did you guys learn from the experience writing for the show that has helped ease this transition into being showrunners?
Clayton Sakoda: Before Skylanders we were staffed on a Disney XD show called Mighty Med that was very much in the same tone, and kind of, it was like superheroes, and comedy and action, and so we brought that with us, and that really helped us just kind of segue right into the show, and it became such a natural fit. I think the biggest adjustment for us was learning the simultaneous limitations and freedoms of writing for animation, which is, you kind of think that, you know, you can write anything, you can create anything, but at the same time it’s very limited on what they can animate and how difficult it is. It kind of both freed us and gave us new restrictions that were a lot of fun to put on our writing, but at the same time it made it just a whole new challenge that we were prepared to take on.
How far into production or planning was season three when you guys took on this new role? Were there any storyboards or even animation already laid out, or were you there right from the get-go for this?
Weinreich: Well, what was nice was that Season 2 ended on a cliffhanger, and so there was already this sort of story line that needed to be told, into season three, and so we came in really early on, but it was nice that Eric had crafted this great story that we were able to sort of take and run with on our own and develop it the way we had seen it, the way we wanted it to go. But a lot of the legwork was already done as far as setting up all these threads that we got to sort of tie up together.
Sakoda: Yeah, it presented a challenge in that season two ended with this new uber-villain Strykore kind of materializing and turning everyone’s favorite hero Spyro evil, where he’s turned into Dark Spyro at the end of the season. And so it sort of left this huge cliffhanger like, “Well, now what? What do we do with an evil hero?” We kind of developed the idea that became season three: Strykore sends Dark Spyro back to the Academy to retrieve this ancient artifact that’s hidden somewhere in the school, but he sends him back as an undercover agent, so that kind of drove the whole season, which was this espionage tale of our hero; everyone thinks that he’s back to normal, but he really is up to no good. That created this great suspense and tension that we played with the whole season.
Can you talk about inheriting the character of Dark Spyroand how Jason Ritter fit into that role?
Weinreich: Since Dark Spyro looks different, we wanted him to sound different, and so we made the creative decision to hire the new actor to play him. Justin [Long] had done such a great job with regular Spyro, and so we wanted to give him something beyond just the look, to let the audience know that this wasn’t exactly the same Spyro. And so Jason came on board, and was so awesome, and does such a great job that it feels like a completely different character but at the same time the whole idea is that people still think that it is Spyro, so he has a lot of the same attitude and a lot of the same humor, and when the door is closed he’s able to turn on this sort of evil glint that wasn’t there before, and takes it in a whole new direction for a lot of the season. He really helped us sell that this is not just your ordinary Spyro anymore. That there’s this great dark side to him.