It’s been some time since word first broke about a potential Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur animated series. But the interim saw the show cast and produced as executive producer Laurence Fishburne, stars Diamond White, Libe Barer, and Fred Tatasciore — along with EP Steve Loter and supervising producer Rodney Clouden — appeared at a Television Critics Association presentation on Monday to update the status of the series, currently scheduled to debut on the Disney Channel and Disney+ later this year.
The program is, of course, based on the Marvel comic book of the same name by Brandon Montclare, Amy Reeder, and Natacha Bustos (following on ideas initially conceived by Jack Kirby). White stars as Lunella Lafayette, a 13-year-old mechanical wiz who bonds with a time-lost T-Rex affectionately known as Devil Dinosaur. Tatasciore voices DD while Barer lends her talents to Lunella’s best friend Casey. And as a new threat appears in her neighborhood, Lunella learns to balance her everyday life with her desire to be not only a hero, but the smartest person on Earth.
Fishburne said he was introduced to the concept while meeting with Marvel on various projects. “I thought this was perfect for our time,” he said. Loter added that the main character’s age and love of technology set her apart both in comics and in animation. Building upon the theme of the times, Fishburne also noted the writing staff is “over 50% female.”
“[They] have all been thirteen-year-old girls,” he added. “They have a sensibility and reality they bring to the show.”
That authenticity helped both White and Barer prep to record their parts, although Barer felt it really clicked when “Diamond and I started recording together. It took on a life of its own.”
White added, “It was because we’re just having fun. Those cute moments are just us being human and tapping into our kid-like selves.”
Clouden noted that the “realness of the conversation really comes through” thanks to the writing and performances.
White said it took a little bit of work to find the right sound for Lunella, though. Thinking back to her childhood, she asked, “What does my nine-year-old self even sound like?” Working though the process, she said, “I did some therapy and Lunella arrived.”
“With this character, there is a strong sense of being Black and Black women are strong and go into anything – especially for her family,” she explained. “There’s also a strong sense of community and she saw her grandmother and mother grow up and be strong, so, of course, she’s going to bring her dinosaur to help out.”
Tatasciore, meanwhile, has the task of conveying that dinosaur’s emotions and thoughts via grunts, snarls, and roars. “It starts with a T-Rex,” he explained. “So there has to be the terror. But he loves Lunella so much, so how do we marry scary sounds with friendliness? Nature and power can be kind and good.”
Fishburne, who called voice-acting one of his “great loves,” also recurs as The Beyonder. Although his purpose in Lunella’s neighborhood is yet to be revealed, Fishburne said he actively tried to make the Beyonder’s voice different. “I’ve been working so long and my voice is quite recognizable,” he explained. “So how do I make this fun and lighter from what I’m known for?” The answer will be revealed later in the year.
The graphic style of the show is something of a departure from modern children’s animation and the Marvel look in that space. The show’s feel is quite 2D, hearkening back to a 20th Century aesthetic. It makes sense as Loter said much of their inspiration came from the New York of the 1980s and 90s. “You’ll see a lot of colorful street murals and graffiti,” he explained.
“New York is a very diverse city and we wanted to make sure the characters, even in the background, are diverse,” Clouden added. “Showcasing and highlighting that is all part of everything. New York is a character.”
That sensibility also trickles down into the actual movement of the characters, a style Loter said is “a unique identity among the superhero offerings.”
Of course, potential fans will have to wait a little longer to see just how unique Moon Girl will be, but the good news — the wait will be over before the end of 2022.