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Brenna and Brittany Interview

Seth Kearsley

March 1998

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Seth Kearsley was the Producer and Director for all 42 episodes of Mummies Alive!

Seth has granted us this interview, and has allowed us to put it on our web pages.

Brenna and Brittany: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Seth Kearsley: Well, I'm fairly new to the business. I've been working in animation for four years now and have worked on a lot of fun shows. I started off on a show for MTV called THE MAXX which was an adaptation of a comic book by the same name. After MAXX I went to work on one of my favorite shows and one of the reasons I wanted to get into animation in the first place, THE SIMPSONS. I spent a year on the SIMPSONS before moving on to Disney TV animation. While at Disney I worked on Timon and Pumbaa, Nightmare Ned and in Development. While I was working at Disney the possibility of directing my own series came up and it was something that I just couldn't pass up. So I went to DIC to work on Mummies Alive.

B & B: Could you give us a bit of history as to how the show came to be?

S.K.: Well the show had already been sold by the time I came into the picture so my involvement with the show was more to take what was sold and turn it into the best cartoon possible with the help of all the artists on the staff and working in collaboration with the toy designers at Hasbro.

B & B: The writing for the show is so imaginative! There are so many humorous quips and puns and sight gags. And the cartooning was so well drawn. Obviously you had a lot of talented people around you.

S.K.: Yeah, we didn't have the huge budget that some other shows have but we were lucky enough to find people that were interested by the show enough to work on it. Our story editors were some of the best in the business and had worked on a lot of hit shows before mummies like X-men and Gargoyles just to name a few.

I can take the credit/blame for some of the worst/best puns in the show. I never wanted us to take the show too seriously so I would constantly throw things in to kind of make fun of our own show or there would be things that the characters were doing that I couldn't believe we were making them do so I would have Ja-Kal say something like "I can't believe I let them talk me into doing this" Or there were lines that I didn't like ......like I was never that crazy about "Let's kick tut". So to have some fun with it I was always having them say things like "Move Your TUTS!" or "I fell and hurt my TUT" or "Your TUT is mine Scarab". I mean if you're going to substitute TUT for Butt why not take as much advantage of it as possible.

We were also lucky enough to have a lot of great artists on the crew. We had a pretty young crew of artists....most of us under 25 and we all talked a lot about what our favorite shows were growing up and how we wanted to make a show that kids today would say in 15 or 20 years that they ran home from school everyday to watch it or they got up early every morning to watch it. Some of our favorite shows were shows like THUNDERCATS, SILVERHAWKS, and VOLTRON and I think you can really see some of those influences come through in the show.

B & B: We have also had many good comments from fans about the music for the show. How was that put together?

S.K.: John Campbell was the composer and we both agreed pretty early on that since the show has such a lush visual look that the music should be just as rich. We were both a little bored with the music typically done for cartoons and wanted to treat the music for MUMMIES more like a feature. The more dramatic the music is the more fans would get sucked into the show.

B & B: But above all, the voices for the characters really make the show. We are really curious as to how you selected the voice actors, and what it was like during your recording sessions.

S.K.: Well in selecting the voices there were quite a few people to please. It's one of the most important parts of the show and everyone wants to make sure that there isn't a voice in the show that they don't like. We (the Executive Producers and myself) listened to what seemed like hundreds of different voices for all the main characters. There were some that we knew were right the first time we heard them and others that we went back and forth on for weeks. It's hard to get that many people to agree.

As for the recording sessions, all the voices were recorded in Vancouver (except Nefer-Tina, who was recorded here in LA) and with the schedule we had I didn't get to go to many recordings. I went up for the first two episodes and then would listen to the tapes of the recording sessions after that and if I had any comments I would have them re-record a line here or there. Occasionally we would have to re-record a whole character if the person that was used didn't quite sound right and there were times when I listened in on parts of sessions over the phone. I wish the schedule would have allowed for me to have been at all the recordings because it sounds like they had a lot of fun......maybe next time.

B & B: How long did this take for all 42 episodes?

S.K.: Forever. No it just seemed like it sometimes. I think I started in late September of '96 and finished the last episode mid November '97. Once things got going we were doing two episodes a week. Which means that each week we would start design on two episodes. Then the next week we would start to work on the color for those two and start the design on the next two. So by the time we were sending the first episodes overseas to be animated we were at some point of production on 26 episodes at the same time. Then for a period of about 2 months we were doing 3 episodes a week. It can get a little crazy at times.

B & B: Did you have any favorite characters?

S.K.: It's hard to say.....I went back and forth on this depending on the episode we were working on at the time. I think if I had to settle on one of the mummies I would have to say Ja-Kal. I felt like we gave him a lot of depth with his longing for his family. I wish that we could have touched on it more so everytime we did have it in an episode I tried to play it up as much as possible.

Ammut was also one of my favorites but just because he was the one main character that I designed solely on my own. All the other characters went through endless redesigns before they were finally signed off on but Ammut was signed off on with the first drawings I did of him. At the Wrap party for the show my Associate Producer had a doll made of Ammut and gave it to me....it was really pretty cool.

B & B: Do you have a favorite episode?

S.K.: Well on this one I'm completely biased.....I wrote MY DAD THE HERO so it's one of my favorites. I made a lot of fun of the show in that episode with things like Ja-Kal forgetting an animal saying and Nefer-Tina telling him "We never have understood your little sayings we just humor you because we know how much you love to hear your own voice". Also I got to make fun of our "LET'S KICK TUT" catch phrase by having Scarab blast them through the dock before Armon can finish the line and say "I've always hated that line".

I also liked this one because I got to touch on a very real subject. Cartoons are full of orphans. You see one parent but you never see the other and it's never really explained why there isn't another parent. For example, Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Ariel in Little Mermaid, Jasmine in Aladdin. You never hear what happened to the other parent. I was glad to be able to bring Presley's Dad into the show and make it clear that Presley's parents were no longer together because they had grown apart and that his Dad was kind of a bum at the beginning but turns out to be a good guy. I also liked the fact that I got to share a little more about Nefer-Tina and what made her disguise herself as a Charioteer in ancient Egypt.

B & B: Did you help develop any of the other episodes?

S.K.: I wrote the premises for 10 other episodes, including: Family Feud Parts 1-3, Who's Who, Honey I Shrunk the Mummies, A Dark and Shrieky Night, Pepped With Good Intention, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Huxley, True Believer, and Show Me the Mummies. With some of them I just called the story editors and gave them the basic idea and with others I wrote out detailed premises. Some of these I ended up liking and some others didn't quite come out the way I had intended or the thing that I thought was funny ended up not being that funny after all was said and done......but you live and you learn. WHO'S WHO I think turned out to be one of our funniest episodes. I had a lot of fun working on that one and playing with the whole mind swap idea as far as I could push it. I ended up re-boarding about half of the show myself on the plane to and from Japan when I went over there to see one of the studios that was doing the work.

B & B: Were there any of the episodes you did not like?

S.K.: There were a few that I didn't like....some that I couldn't stand, but when you're doing that many that fast they can't all be pearls.

B & B: The last episode, Show Me the Mummies, was a great summary of the whole series. We especially liked the flashback clips to previous episodes.

S.K.: A lot of people don't like that episode because it's just a compilation of the other episodes. We worked it so we actually had new animation and developed a better story around it than the usual compilation show where everyone just sits around and says "Remember the time when....."

The name of the radio station KKIM was named after one of the production coordinators on the show, Kim Smith. It was called KDIC but we had to change it for legal reason.

This was the last episode that we did and the last line at the end is kind of my goodbye. It's a little mooshy but hey I was short on sleep.

B & B: Mummies Alive was produced by DIC. So how is it that Disney is coming out with Home Videos of some of the Mummies Alive episodes?

S.K.: DIC was owned by ABC when Disney bought ABC. I don't know exactly how it all came about since I was just making the show and wasn't really involved in the sales of the show.

With Disney at least involved on that level it doesn't seem to hard to imagine that if Disney knew there was this much interest in the show that they might want to have DIC do a second season for them to put on ABC Saturday mornings. They don't have an action adventure show and since MUMMIES has been doing well in the ratings............. Who knows........

B & B: So what does the future hold for Seth Kearsley?

S.K.: I am now working on a prime time show for UPN based on Dilbert the comic strip. To keep myself busy until Dilbert starts I've been picking up freelance work on a lot of other shows. I've also sold a show of my own: Thor: God of Thunder. It's based on the Nordic myths and will probably be on the air in '99. It will be similar to MUMMIES in some ways because all the characters in the show and a lot of the storylines will be pulled directly out of the Nordic Mythology. THOR was Designed to look like Fabio who will be giving his voice to the show as well as being a partner in the show.

B & B: Wow! You are definitely keeping yourself busy. Would you still be available for a second season of Mummies Alive if it comes to be?

S.K.: Nothing could keep me away from doing a second season. This was the kind of show that I loved to watch as a kid. It was a lot of fun to do and I had a lot of freedom to put a lot of myself into the show. I do have a plan for the second season and have already written about 30 premises for it. I also want to change a few things about the show. Some minor....some major but mostly things that bothered me while I was doing the show and things that fans have pointed out as bothering them. For example, Presley's Mom isn't very watchful over her son and comes off a little dumb because she never clues in on what her son is up to. In the second season I want to clue her in on the whole story. Also when I was writing thinking about the second season originally I was thinking that it would happen a year later....so Presley would be a year older. It seems trivial but at 13 in ancient Egypt, Rapses would have been considered a man. So when Presley turns 13 he goes from being the prince that the mummies have to protect to Pharaoh they have to obey.....It's a minor change that will have a major affect on the rest of the show.

B & B: Thank you, Seth, very much for taking the time and allowing us this interview with you.

S.K.: It's been my pleasure. I'm just glad that there are people like you that like the show enough to put up your own web pages to support the show. I know that everyone wants a second season and I've had a lot of people ask me about a second season and I tell them all the same thing. It's up to you, the fans, to prove to the people that make the decisions that there's enough interest in the show to do a second season.

Seth Kearsley's own creation: Ammut


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