New animated series 'Motorcity' channels the spirit of Detroit

While developing his new Disney XD animated series "Motorcity," New Jersey native Chris Prynoski always knew he had to visit Detroit.What the founder of the Los Angeles-based animation studio Titmouse and his crew of art directors discovered during their trip, however, was a series of unexpected themes that connected his electro-charged fictional future with the spirit found in today's Detroit.

"I've been working on this concept for such a long time that when I got there I was just blown away by that sort of underground art scene, the city's architecture and energy, and the passion of the people there,"

 said the 40-year-old visual artist, whose credits include "Metalocalypse" and "Beavis and Butt-Head Do America."The 20-episode first season of Prynoski's "Motorcity," which debuts at 9 p.m. Monday, is an ambitious adventure series aimed at young males -- specifically hot-rod-loving cartoon addicts.
But with a heroic group of teenage freedom fighters called Tte Burners doing battle with evil billionaire Abraham Kane (voiced by "Star Wars" icon Mark Hamill) at the heart of "Motorcity," there are universal themes and transcendent philosophies that could appeal to just about anyone.

"You know, even though the show is pretty rough around the edges and sort of grunge-y, it's definitely a lot of fun," he said. "And maybe that message is for a kid, where we're saying that something that's a little dirty and gritty can be as cool as something all shiny and perfect."

The bad guy rules the world: In the series, set about a century from now, eccentric evil billionaire Abraham Kane has virtually complete control over Detroit Deluxe, the automobile-free, sterile world he built on top of the original city. Prynoski said getting Hamill (best known as Luke Skywalker from "Star Wars") to play the big baddie of the series, the eccentric and outrageous evil overlord, was a coup.

"Hamill's just perfect. He has this ability to hit both sides: That classic evil stuff with the creepy angry voice and wicked evil laugh, but he also can pull off that whole fake politician infomercial voice of someone who's pretending to be a caring figure," Prynoski said. "Hamill really pulls off Kane, this ultimately really complicated bad guy who thinks he's actually doing the right thing."

The Burners step on the gas: The show's ragtag heroes are the Burners, a group of crafty hot-rod-building teenagers committed to protecting their Motorcity, a subterranean refuge just outside the reach of Kane's seemingly unlimited power.

"The Burners want to be able to continue to drive their cars and live in their city the way they want to," 

 Prynoski said. "The main Burner, Mike Chilton (voiced by Reid Scott, "The Big C"), used to work for Kane but left because he had moral issues once he learned about Kane's evil plan to control everything. So now he's leading the revolt, and these guys are always messing up the evil billionaire dude's wicked plans."
The drive for freedom: Although he was born and raised in New Jersey, Prynoski said he's always been fascinated by cars, and that there'd be only one place to set an animated series like this: Detroit.

"My father was a big car guy, I worked in a garage during high school and I've always been going to car shows and learning about that culture," he said. "When I was conceptualizing the series, which I've been doing for a very long time, where else would we want to set a futuristic world about cars? If you wanted to scavenge old car parts or find dilapidated car factories ... there could be only one place, Detroit."

Kane has outlawed cars and despises what the machines represent. "Kane doesn't have the capability to tap in and control the Burners when they are in their own custom-made cars. When you have your own car you have freedom and when Kane doesn't have that control it drives him crazy."
Looking for landmarks: "I have to think of the best way to say this so Disney doesn't get mad (laughs): We were very inspired by what we saw when we were in Detroit but you're not going to see any specific landmarks on the show," Prynoski said. "We wanted to actually have the series look like what Detroit 150 years from now could naturally look like, which is not at all what the city looks like today. Plus, this is Kane's world now, where he's basically destroyed the old buildings and has built his Detroit Deluxe on top of that."
But the visit to Detroit was an inspiration. "The arts scene there is so cool that if things were different for me, if I was just finishing art school for instance, I'd move there right now."

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