Writer, director, producer Jon Schnepp is best known for his work creating the beloved show “Metalocalypse,” but he’s buzzing about his new project: Hail to the King, an animated series of shorts created as a prequel to metal band Avenged Sevenfold’s upcoming iPhone game.
The entire six-episode series of Hail to the King can be seen right now on Machinima.com’s Happy Hour Channel.
Schnepp is no stranger to the metal scene, creating the legendary band Dethklok for “Metalocalypse,” so he was very excited to work with Avenged Sevenfold. “I got contacted by Machinima, and they asked me if I’d be interested in working with Avenged Sevenfold on this animated prequel to their iPhone game [Hail to the King: Deathbat] that also ties in with their album,” Schnepp said. “This was back in April of this year. So I listened to a bunch of Avenged Sevenfold songs; I hadn’t heard their new songs yet. And I read the treatment these guys had come up with, then read the actual video game, the earlier version, and I just thought all of it was really cool so I agreed to produce and direct a prequel animated web series entitled Hail to the King.”
Schnepp was in close contact with the band while creating Hail to the King. “I just started working on it with the guys,” Schnepp said. “We came up with the script, recorded all the voice actors, and we just started going with it. Got a couple of character designers, some background designers. While I was over at Comic-Con this past July, we were working on getting some of the characters designed and backgrounds done and just started making it from there. It’s a long process, doing animation from scratch. So I’m excited to see the reactions from viewers.”
Although the band members don’t appear directly in the series, they were highly involved in the creation of Hail to the King. “There’s one character that looks a little bit like one of the guys from the band, but none of the members are actually in it,” Schnepp said. “But they wrote the storyline, and they’re really heavily invested in this and the video game. So, for a band to be this involved is great. And I just wanted to make sure that every step of the way I went, from character design to the animatics–which are basically the radio plays, I had the band listen to the radio plays. And then the actual storyboarded radio plays which are called animatics, I had them check those out.”
“I wanted them to just approve everything as I went along because sometimes you’ll work on a project and the management teams and the other people who are involved with the project are like, ‘The band loves it.’ But the band’s not actually watching it. And when they see it, you might have gone a different direction they didn’t want or you were just going one way and they wanted another way, so I just wanted total communication. That way, even though those guys were super busy, they were in Europe doing their tour the whole time, I got notes back from them, and basically their notes were, ‘Keep going, man. This is all awesome.'”
And the synergy between Schnepp and Avenged Sevenfold continued from there. “There were some changes here and there early on, but once I started rocking and getting the actual episodes done, it was just a lot of fun,” Schnepp said. “It was really creative, and actually one of the most creative projects I’ve worked on this whole year. I had total freedom to pick the songs I wanted to pick from their album. I use a lot of instrumentation and weave that into the storyline. Just a lot of fun.”
Now that Hail to the King is completed and available for viewing, Schnepp is excited to see how audiences respond. “I’m really looking forward to getting viewer reaction to see what they think,” Schnepp said. “I read some notes that said, ‘It looks a lot like “Metalocalypse”‘. Well, I don’t know; I basically created the band Dethklok. I drew all those characters, oversaw, storyboarded, edited, directed a ton of episodes for the first two seasons, over 40 episodes. I’ve done all the music videos, the first two concert series of Dethklok. So if people say, ‘It looks a lot like “Metalocalypse”‘. Sorry. I helped make that look so… I’m not sorry.”
Perhaps some of the similar features are just aspects of Schnepp’s personal je ne sais quoi that he puts into all his work. “My editing style comes into play when I start making the finished visuals. And the songs and music we added after we got the actual cuts done… we just started playing with that,” Schnepp said. “So if it comes across with the same resonance or tone of ‘Metalocalypse’… but it’s not ‘Metalocalypse’ at all. It’s not about a stupid band who are a bunch of self-indulgent jerks. It’s actually a sword and sorcery epic about a guy who fights to become king, then gets betrayed, and then is vengeful. It’s got monsters and demons and goblins. It’s a lot of fun, and hopefully, if this is successful, I’ll do some more episodes for Avenged Sevenfold at Machinima.”
As far as Schnepp’s traditional blood and gore, it’s there. “Yeah, there’s definitely some gore and some of that kind of fun,” Schnepp said.
As previously stated, the Hail to the King web series is a prequel to the Avenged Sevenfold iPhone game. “I know Avenged Sevenfold wants all their fans and as many people to see it as possible,” Schnepp said. “It’s basically six mini-episodes that are the prequel to the iPhone game. It basically gives you the storyline that heads up to it if you want to play the game. You don’t have to play the game, the cartoon I made is a story that has its own beginning and ending, but if you play the video game, you’ll get more out of it by watching the videos.”
In addition to Hail to the King, Schnepp has some other projects he’s currently working on. “I’m doing a Kickstarter right now for a unicorn barbarian action series,” Schnepp said. “A cartoon called Unicrom! Unicrom, the unicorn barbarian.” Currently that fundraising campaign has been put on hold until March 2014, but definitely check out the concept and the promo video at the Unicrom Kickstarter campaign.
The last time we spoke with Schnepp, he and Benjamin Jackendoff were working on an animated project, Grimm Fairy Tales. Schnepp talked about the status of that work. “Grimm Fairy Tales has been shipped out to all the people who Kickstarted that project,” Schnepp said. “Everyone’s gotten their DVDs and Blu-rays and comic books. And we’re just closing a deal with a company for people to have it online.”
Dig the trailer for Hail to the King below, and if you like what you see, experience the entire series at Machinima.com’s Happy Hour Channel.
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