Author: JP Ahonen (Adaptation from Belzebubs by JP Ahonen)
Producer: Terhi Väänänen (Pyjama, Finland)
Format: 13 x 22′
Target audience: Young adults / Adults
Technique: 2D Digital
Belzebubs is a family sitcom documenting the daily lives of an average devil-worshipping family, their romantic affairs and the sluggish evolution of the dad’s hapless black metal band. Sløth, the stay-at-home dad, has strived to push his black metal career forward for almost two decades, to no avail. The band has lost their drummer to Jesus, been fired from their record label and are now facing a deluge of debt. However, their satanic murmurs are finally answered when they find Samaël, a young, talented drummer. Will the band finally succeed in resurrecting from the dead? And most importantly, can Sløth handle the reins both at home and with the band now that things are finally picking up?
Belzebubs is a comedy animation series project that piqued our interest at Cartoon Forum 2020. A family sitcom with a unique setting, which centers on a member of a black metal band, ends up becoming heart-warming stories.
The project is to be the animated adaptation of a popular webcomic series of the same name by Finnish comic artist JP Ahonen. The original comic has a huge fanbase and its Facebook page has more than 280,000 followers. We heard the story behind the interesting project from JP Ahonen, the original author, and Terhi Väänänen, the producer of the animation project.
Interview with JP Ahonen and Terhi Väänänen
Hideki Nagaishi (HN): Could you please let us know the key points of your animation series project that you would like to appeal to the prospective audience?
JP Ahonen: Belzebubs is a family sitcom documenting the daily lives of your average next-door devil-worshipping family, their romantic affairs and the sluggish evolution of the father’s hapless black metal band. The focus is on mundane issues and the challenges of marrying a rather challenging career with kids, PTA meetings, satanic masses, you know…the usual family life.
Despite the devilish setting and partially macabre jokes bordering on macabre, the stories are heartfelt, even cute. After all, Belzebubs is all about perseverance, acceptance and love.
HN: How did the project start? What are key things that made you want to develop animation series based on the original webcomic?
Terhi Väänänen: Our studio collaborated in making two music videos for the Belzebubs band, and it was such a fun project that we decided to join forces with JP Ahonen in adapting his webcomic into an animated series.
We at Pyjama feel that Belzebubs is so rich, packed with relatable characters and fun situations, that it’s practically jumping out of the page, demanding to become a TV series. The enthusiastic fan base shares the same thoughts and repeatedly ask for an animated series.
The stars clearly aligned here in some occult way, as we were soon approached by YLE, Finland’s Public Broadcaster, who also wanted to see this developed for TV.
HN: What kind of message or experience do you want to deliver to the audience through the story? What do you take care in the most when writing the scripts of the series?
JP Ahonen: As I mentioned earlier, perseverance is a big theme in Belzebubs. The family sticks together, the band overcomes insurmountable odds, not only because they’re hardheaded and believe in themselves, but also because they learn time and time again how to turn their accidents around. Belzebubs originated as a self-therapy project of mine, when I was clawing myself out of a burnout and depression. I believe I have something to say about not giving up and battling personal demons!
I want to write memorable characters and relatable issues, and judging from the feedback from fans and the raving book reviews, I’ve managed to do so. This is of course very humbling, and I’m excited to dwell deeper into the characters and storylines in the TV series. We have a quick-witted writer’s room assembled, so it’s looking like a super fun show.
HN: We would like to hear about the visual design of the original web comic and animation series. Could you please let us know the most important characteristic of the visual design of characters and the universe for the story, and why?
JP Ahonen: The webcomic has evolved at its own pace; nothing’s rushed or forced. I’d drawn colorful and rather detailed comics and illustrations for years, but I wished to do something in black and white for a change. I’m having a ton of fun in this monochromatic realm, and we’ll stick to it in the cartoon series, too. The black metal aesthetics, corpse paints and occult imagery are obviously a key element here.
I feel Belzebubs is just a potpourri of a lot of things I’m interested in, ranging from art history and pop-culture references to Lovecraftian monsters, heavy metal to Looney Toons.
HN: Could you please let us know the story behind the composition of music for the series, particularly about the black metal songs?
JP Ahonen: Yeah, there’s an actual virtual band behind Belzebubs. We have a three album record deal with Century Media, which is one of the largest record labels in the world for heavy metal. The first album came out 2019, and gathered wide critical acclaim across the globe. The actual musicians are anonymous, though, so only the cartoon characters are in the spotlight. Belzebubs had been booked for Wacken, Hellfest and other massive festivals in Europe, but the coronavirus messed up our plans. Fingers crossed, we’ll get to see them live next summer.
The band is a super group of ridiculously talented musicians, though, capable of conjuring all kinds of arrangements and styles, so they’re composing the soundtrack for the series, too.