Although they’ve both embraced the medium tenfold, “Entergalactic” creators Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi and Kenya Barris did not originally envision their TV event being animated. “We got convinced by some Netflix execs, Mike Moon, Elizabeth Porter, maybe this is something for animation,” Barris told IndieWire over Zoom. “And we started talking about how we both loved ‘Heavy Metal,’ we loved ‘Bambi’ and ‘Moana,’ and those things live forever. And so when you sometimes bring those together, it could be something amazing.”
What started as an idea for anthology series where, according to Mescudi, “the throughline, the theme through every episode, was love, and every episode would be a different cast, different story,” morphed into one 93-minute animated television special where he and Jessica Williams voice the characters Jabari and Meadow, two NYC-based artists living in the same apartment complex, trying to determine if their in too messy a situation to fall in love with each other.
“I was going to do six to eight episodes, and I was going to have one episode be animated,” said Mescudi, elaborating on his initial “Entergalactic” pitch. “So [I said] what I can do is, I can take that one episode, and just expand it into a full series. And then that’s kind of how it was all born.” As for how it changed back into one feature-length project, Barris said “It’s gone through a few iterations. It was originally going to be a film, and it still kind of presents as that. We’re calling it a television event. We felt that that was the best way to tell the story and reach the maximum amount of people, and fit within the place of what Netflix needed this to be.”
The “Black-ish” creator added, “That makes it also feel really unique. I started in TV and will probably finish in TV, so I have a special love for that. And I think that TV, which used to be the redheaded freckled stepchild to film, has now become the leader of it. So it is a television event that we’re very, very proud of.”
Another innovative aspect of “Entergalactic” is how it functions as the visuals for the new Kid Cudi album of the same name. “I’ve always been in this place where I’m thinking, ‘What else can I do? How else can I stimulate people’s minds?’ And this whole concept to do this show, with the music narrating the story, has never been done before,” said Mescudi. “We’ve seen visual albums, but this is just a whole other beast.”
Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Netflix
The rapper and burgeoning filmmaker, who also produced Ti West’s well-received slashers “X” and “Pearl” this year, has the right to brag. Even the most critically-acclaimed visual albums and musical films either lean more on the music or the story, whereas “Entergalactic” sees the two components have a symbiotic relationship, where the soundtrack is an important piece of the narrative. “You’re gonna see a lot of people copycat, you’re gonna see a lot of people trying to jack the swag, I’m telling you right now. But this is a one of one. It can’t be duplicated, baby,” said Mescudi with a laugh.
Making sure the animation felt original was important as well. Even though he had little experience with the medium, Mescudi worked very closely with director Fletcher Moules to ensure “Entergalactic” felt like a unique experience on multiple fronts, “sitting and going through months of different sketches and different designs, saying no to this, saying yes to that, changing things here, changing things there, adding this,” said the musician-actor. “I knew I wanted the characters to look like the voice actors because that’s something we don’t really get a chance to see, and I thought that would be cool for the voice actors to see themselves animated.”
In addition to Mescudi and Williams, “Entergalactic” boasts a voice cast that includes Timothée Chalamet, Vanessa Hudgens, Christopher Abbott, Laura Harrier, Macaulay Culkin, Jaden Smith, and singer Ty Dolla $ign. Barris called it “one of the best animated casts of young people that I’ve ever seen come together,” and also made sure to mention that Virgil Abloh, the late Artistic Director of menswear at Louis Vuitton, designed the character’s costumes. “This becomes part of his legacy. And we get to always look and say that this was something he gave us. And it’s a true homage to him.”
Both creators are tremendously proud of their final product that has been around three years in the making. While Mescudi called “Entergalactic” his “biggest accomplishment as a producer, s a writer,” Barris said, “This definitely was the thing that I feel I took the biggest swing on, that I’ve learned the most from, of things that I’ve actually done, because it was so outside of the lane.”
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Though the producer has already left his reported $100 million deal with Netflix to launch BET Studios, he does see “Entergalactic” as the best example so far of what his ambitions were while working with the streaming service, and hopes to keep “Entergalactic” going. “The intentionality of animation is amazing. Every single scene that you see is intentional, there’s no accidents. So this is a really special project that I learned a lot from and it’s made me want to stretch my arms a little bit more and be a little bit more proactive in trying to do things like this,” said Barris. “We could do this with other artists, we could do second seasons of this, we could continue the Jabari and Meadow relationship. The IP for this really honestly came out for me saying this is something that is special and should continue.”
Mescudi shared the same sentiment, saying “I’m already bouncing some ideas around for Season 2. A lot of new characters. We’re gonna see a lot more of Meadow’s world this time around. More of her homegirls. We’re gonna see more of Jabari’s friends. A lot of my friends in real life I’m gonna incorporate in there.” He added, “There’s so many places this show can go. I mean, we have yet to see Jabari and Meadow as a couple, so that’s something we might want to see, and see what? Do they move in together? Is that a thing? Or is Meadow like, ‘No, I want to have my own space.’ These are all things that I want to explore in the second season.”
“Entergalactic” is now streaming on Netflix.