‘Kipo’ Showrunners on Bringing the Series to a Close and Their Hopes for the Future

     October 15, 2020

Listen / download here:

The bittersweet news is that Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts has come to a close after only 30 episodes released over less than a calendar year. But what a year. Kipo, one of the best new animated series in recent years, is definitely a silver lining in 2020 and will be a memory I chose to revisit more often than, well, pretty much everything else from this year. The sweet part is that all of those episodes are still available to stream on Netflix and will be fore the foreseeable future. Who knows, maybe if enough people out there (re)discover the fantastic and progressive Dreamworks Animation story, we might just get more of it.

That’s what I tried to get co-creators / showrunners Rad Sechrist and Bill Wolkoff to confirm when I chatted with the duo recently. Looking forward to a hopeful future full of possibility was a better topic of conversation than lingering on the show’s natural end, which was apparently planned from the very beginning. Equally enjoyable was looking back at the show’s brief but meteoric rise to critical acclaim to really take stock of what Kipo was able to achieve and what the show, its story, and its characters mean to so many fans out there. All that and more can be found in my interview, so feel free to follow along!

kipo-season-4-cancelled

Image via Netflix

So, it’s a little crazy to think that Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts has really only been with us for about a year, even less than. As crazy as 2020 has been, what’s this year been like for the both of you bringing Kipo to fans around the world?

Rad Sechrist: Oh, man. It’s a weird mix of excitement to have people come out mixed with the horror of life.

Bill Wolkoff: Yeah. What a whirlwind. I guess, we predicted the end of civilization would happen on October 23rd, and sorry about that, because it feels like that’s what’s happening. Maybe now with Kipo we’ll be ready to handle it.

Was it like a rollercoaster for you guys? How would you describe launching this thing? We’ve got all the episodes out now and, as far as we know, you kind of have to say goodbye to it at the end of the year here.

Rad Sechrist: Yeah. It’s interesting because when we sat down to make it… Bill, can you remember? How long ago was it? We made them all in a row. We just sat down and made all 30 at once. We actually didn’t know once we sent them off to Netflix how they’d release it or when. For all we knew they could have done one a year. I liked that they did all in one year. I thought it was fun to do the three drops in one year.

kipo-season-4-cancelled

Image via DreamWorks, Netflix

Unfortunately, as good as Season 3 is, and as good as the whole series was so far, it is also the end of the show. I’m, obviously as a fan, a little bummed about that.

You guys said that you produced all 30 episodes, but you didn’t know what the release format was going to be. Did you always plan to have this concise, contained story or were there opportunities to maybe explore a little further?

Bill Wolkoff: We knew early on that we were going to be doing just 30 episodes, but we also, that in mind, wanted the edges of this world go beyond what we see. There’s absolutely potential for more stories, which both of us had talked about. If we can find the right place for it, I think both of us would be more than thrilled to keep telling these stories.

As for the story that we followed in 2020, we did want it to have a very satisfying ending so people could walk away feeling like they had really completed the journey. Like any book that has a great journey there’s always a new book in that same universe that could open up new avenues, and I think there’s plenty of avenues where we can keep telling stories.

Rad Sechrist: Yeah. Netflix was really just very clear with us. They were like, “When you get to 30, it’s like a mini series, it’s done. It’s not like if it does really well we’re going to order more. Just think of it like a movie or something.” So it wasn’t like, “Oh, maybe it’ll keep going.”

I’m sure in your minds, you obviously are coming up with more things you’d like to explore, more creative ideas. So can you maybe tease some of those things? What are some parts of the story you’d like to expand or explore or dig into a little bit more?

Rad Sechrist: I’ve talked about this before, but I think it’d be cool to do, like Wolf, when she’s older, like 15.

Yeah, and set in that same kind of world. Now that we know kind of how this conflict ended, maybe she finds herself in a different conflict.

Bill Wolkoff: One chapter within the world that we told the story that I feel has big potential is Jamack before he met Kipo and Wolf. He knew Wolf vaguely before he had met Kipo. I think there’s a whole story arc that needs to be told inside his office building that has a waterfall going through it. Where was Jamack in his heyday with the Mod Frogs before he got drugged out? I’m very interested in that prequel story.

kipo-season-4-cancelled

Image via DreamWorks TV, Netflix

I’ve got to say, even the scene where we were going back with Dave learning that there are a ton of Daves previously, he’s the last, but there were a ton of Daves, we also got to see the outfitting of the Mod Frogs, which I thought was a nice little aside. These mutant frogs walking around, they’re like, “That’s a nice suit. I’m just going to put that on.” Little touches like that, I really loved.

Spending time with the EDM Bees, getting to meet the queen, all that kind of fun stuff, it feels like you said, the first book in what could be a very long series of books. So I would love to see more stories, personally.

Rad Sechrist: Yeah. You know what would be fun, too, would be to do a Kipo feature. That would be a lot of fun.

Have you guys talked about any potential ideas of what you would build that around?

Rad Sechrist: We’re banging around a lot of ideas.

Bill Wolkoff: The great mutant outbreak is happening all around the world. There’s a lot more than just Las Vistas and that opens up also the chance for some really big senior-level storytelling.

That’s a really good tease because you guys would get to go outside of Las Vistas and get to explore some other notable cities around the world in your signature, post-apocalyptic, technicolor style, which would be really fun to see too.

Rad Sechrist: Yeah.

kipo-season-4-cancelled

Image via DreamWorks TV, Netflix

Since we’re talking to spoilers a little bit, I wasn’t a 100% sure how you guys were going to wrap up the Dr. Emilia villain. I really liked the way that character ended up. What do you think the day-to-day life was like for Dr. Emilia now that her ultimate fate’s undecided?

Rad Sechrist: It’s funny. Even at one point there was a scene where she was back in her old room where she grew up and there’s photos of her brother on the wall. She sees what she thinks is her brother coming towards her and it’s Fun Gus. In my mind that happened and she’s just being tortured by the memories of her brother for all of eternity.

Do you think for that character in some way or some future there’s any kind of redemptive arc for her, because you kind of introduced maybe the possibility, but every time Kipo gave her a chance to come back to the right side she just turned against it again. Do you think there’s any potential out there for her to be redeemed?

Bill Wolkoff: I’m taking a long hard look at the world that we live in right now and hoping that there is redemption for intolerance and fear. But I don’t see it yet, so I feel like we need to see how that can happen in the world at large and then maybe take another look at Emilia. Anything’s possible, but she does represent those same forces in the show but she is not a forward-thinking voice.

Rad Sechrist: Yeah. I think if she weren’t going to be redeemed being forced to face her path and really reflect would be the way to do it. So, yeah, I could see a possibility of it.

kipo-season-4-cancelled

Image via Netflix

So, you’re saying in the real world if we just take some folks who need to be maybe rehabilitated and just lock them up with a sentient Fun Gus for a while, they’ll be okay?

Rad Sechrist: Yeah, good idea.

Bill Wolkoff: That’s our prescription for the world to help save the world.

Yeah, that’s the take away. Exactly. On the positive side of everything in this show, Karen Fukuhara throughout the entire series was an absolute joy. The entirety of your cast is fantastic. So, looking back, did you guys have any favorite memories that you spent with this cast over the course of making the show? Do you want to highlight anybody as far as who you think is going to make it big in the future or where you think we might see them next?

Rad Sechrist: During the flashback of Benson and Dave there’s a song playing from our actor Coy [Stewart] and …

Bill Wolkoff: He’s in a band.

Rad Sechrist: Yeah, and he’s in a band called grouptherapy. He was supposed to go on this giant tour with his band right when this whole thing hit. I was 100% sure, I was like, “Oh, man. This thing’s going to blow up. It’s going to be crazy.” I still think that’ll happen at some point.

Bill Wolkoff: I would say this about all of our cast. We were lucky that we had a world-class cast rounding out our main characters, Sterling K. Brown and Dan Stevens, but then we had Karen and Coy and Sydney [Mikayla]. They’re all such incredible performers who are really hitting their stride now. Karen, she’s on The Boys, doing Glimmer and our show.

I think when we saw Karen and Sydney doing Episode 7, the Mulholland episode, where the depth of their emotion came out in a way that felt so real, but it was also true to the comedic approaches that they had both taken, both of us, we knew then that we were looking at huge future stars. Rad’s already talked about Coy. I can’t speak more highly of Coy. I feel like we got so lucky. We got these huge stars at the right time and, hopefully, once they blow up they’ll still want to work with us.

kipo-season-4-cancelled

Image via Netflix, Dreamworks

Exactly. Yeah, it feels just like a perfect cast that you guys assembled and I would just love to see another 30, 60, 90 episodes with them all together. But who knows maybe in the future.

Before I run out of time with the both of you, at the end of Season 3, which is also the end of the series, there’s a very fun, positive, uplifting kind of epilogue with a bit of a time jump to tie everything off. What message did you want to get out to the fans out there with this final sequence to say goodbye to Kipo and company?

Rad Sechrist: Oh, man. For me, it was just like that wish fulfillment thing. It just seemed so cool when it came up to cut and see them in the future. That was why I liked the idea. Bill, did you have some deeper meaning or thinking?

Bill Wolkoff: I would only add to what you just said. It’s wish fulfillment but it’s earned wish fulfillment. They worked so hard to achieve the world that they get to enjoy in that epilogue and we wanted the audience to be able to enjoy with them for a little bit. It wouldn’t feel right if they didn’t earn it, if they didn’t go, to the depths and back to get that world.

Then jumping forward five years let it really progress. We get to see… this is what Kipo was working towards and this is what Benson and Wolf saw in her and why they stuck with her on the surface. We get to live with them for just a few minutes to an amazing Venessa Michaels song [that] plays out a lot longer. That’s what I would say about it. It was earned wish fulfillment.

It was fantastic. It was a great resolution and I’m glad that was included and you guys didn’t leave us hanging. It was a very nice final moment to spend with Kipo.

kipo-season-4-cancelled

Image via Netflix

Speaking about final moments, my final question for you both today unfortunately, what’s up next for the both of you now that Kipo is coming to a close?

Rad Sechrist: I’m currently producing a movie and have a few things in development, so hopefully we’ll see some more stuff.

Bill Wolkoff: I still have a very large foot in the world of animation and I’m cooking things up. I go back and forth between live action and animation. I’m very fortunate to be working on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds right now with a group of unbelievable, incredible writers. I would say, I’m still in animation, too. I’m not leaving animation behind.

Well, that’s fantastic. I want to thank you both so much again for Kipo, for narwhals who sing like angels and have abs, because that’s the thing I’ve never seen in a cartoon before, so I appreciate it. Thank you so much for your time, best of luck with the rollout and best of luck with whatever comes next.

Rad Sechrist: Cool. Thank you.

Bill Wolkoff: Thanks for being such a supporter of the show, Dave.

Oh, absolutely. You make it very easy.

Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts is now streaming in its entirety on Netflix.

kipo-season-4-cancelled

Image via Netflix

Television