The mystical Jade Armor is a legendary superhero. And now, it is Lan Jun’s turn to be Jade Armor. Even she can’t quite believe her destiny is to be this epic hero! With the help of her friends, Theo and Alisha and the mystical Beasticons that accompany the Armor, Lan Jun is thrust into a series of action-packed adventures. Each day, she must contend with both an evil array of super villains and the very real trials of teenage life.
Directors: Chloé Miller & Denis Do
Author: Chloé Miller (based on a story concept created by Pongo Kuo)
Producer: Corinne Kouper (TeamTO, France)
Format: 26 x 26’
Target audience: Children 6-10
Technique: 3D digital
Jade Armor is a cheerful fantasy action series with a universal story, by achieving a good balance of Asian and Western cultures, starring a hero girl.
The series was co-directed by Chloé Miller (known for directing 2 of the 5 seasons of Angelo Rules, an international hit show by TeamTO) and Denis Do (famous for the multi-award-winning animated feature film Funan). Several big-name distributors acquired this series already, including France Télévisions and SUPER RTL (Germany), and Cartoon Network EMEA.
We heard the story behind the creation of the series from Chloé Miller, the director of Jade Armor, and Patricia de Wilde, the director of marketing and new business at TeamTO.
Interview with Chloé Miller and Patricia de Wilde
Hideki Nagaishi (HN): What part of the series do you think appeals to or entertains its target audiences the most?
Chloé Miller: I’m not a 10-year-old kid, but I do hope they like the show for its quirkiness and its funny, crazy characters. We also tried to make heroes who face everyday life struggles something that kids could relate to.
HN: Could you please let us know how this animation series project started?
Patricia de Wilde: We initially developed it with a Taiwanese game company. It was a kung fu story with a lead boy, created by Pongo Kuo. We then took over the project at TeamTO, and with Chloé Miller we turned it into a more universal story, centering around a hero girl still keeping the Kung Fu element.
Chloé Miller: At that time there wasn’t a lot of girl heroes, and I had always missed it growing up. I wanted to portray a modern girl as far away from a cliché as I could, one that today’s girls could relate to.
I am also a big fan of kung fu movies, and as a kid I was totally into anime magical girls such as Magical Princess Minky Momo or Creamy Mami, the Magic Angel or Lalabel the Magic Girl. I also liked a lot of funny shows like Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma ½, or the early episodes of Dragon ball. So, everything in this project was a calling for me.
HN: What part of the story created by the Taiwanese game company were attractive for you?
Chloé Miller: I liked that it was based on Chinese mythology (like the four beasticons) but with a modern twist to it, and I liked the family of female kung fu masters. But that is about it. The original project was a more serious boys action show with ’mecha’. Not really my thing.
HN: How did you modify the plot, so it becomes the story you wanted to depict?
Chloé Miller: The comedic part of the show was really important to me, as I wanted the show to be silly and fun. I was also very interested in creating a coming-of-age story with a lot of heart in which families are important; I wanted to talk about the parents’ expectations and how kids have to deal with their families and eventually forge their own path through life. I also made sure our heroin is an average girl: she fights but is not a tomboy, she has academic difficulties, but also has many diverse interests.
The action takes place in an imaginary city where crazy stuff can happen. We worked on a show that comes from a Chinese cultural background, and we tried to stay true to it, but as I am French and a lot of people from different countries were also involved in the show, we decided to bring aspects of all of our different cultures into the show. You can see it in the shops windows for example which have English, French, German and Chinese names. Everyone, from writers to storyboarders, gave us ideas and input, which enabled us to create a richer world.
HN: You co-directed the series with Denis Do. How did Denis join the project and what was it like working with him on this series?
Chloé Miller: I was looking for a co-director from the very beginning, and was looking for someone who share the same interest in kung fu movies and Chinese heritage. I met Denis when he applied for head of storyboard. He was enthusiastic about the project, especially because of his Chinese background and the kung fu aspect of it, so we were thrilled to work with him. After a few weeks, I suggested that he co-direct the show with me. As we shared the same love for kung fu battles and work well together on the storyboards.
HN: Could you please let us know what aspects of the series’ overall visual designs and action scenes were the most important?
Chloé Miller: For the visual design we worked with Pierre Croco.I’m in love with his work and we worked on the character design together from the very beginning of development. and he ended up doing the art direction of the whole series. We share the same anime influences, and we love colorful graphic artists. He was not used to CGI, but it was a great experience; we owe it to him for bringing the sharp lines and bright colors. I wanted a 2D look for the show but without losing completely the 3D aspects. We did a mix combining very flat textures and matte materials with some specular and shiny objects.
The other challenge in the show were the battle scenes. We had a very tight production schedule for this TV show, and needed to find a way to make the kung fu moves not completely realistic, but has some real-life influence and not completely made-up. That’s why we worked with stunt artists who are kung fu specialists. Denis was also very involved as he was a kung fu champion when he was young. For example, we gave each character its own kung fu style.
HN: Could you please let us know the story behind the composition of the music for the series?
Chloé Miller: I had a very strong vision for the music of the show. I wanted some modern music which could give an awesome vibe. Something very empowering. So, I decided not to go towards traditional kung fu music, or any Chinese influenced music, but rather go for hip hop and electro music. It was a real challenge because it was unexpected on fight scenes to have hip hop-influenced music, and we had to find the right tone; a tone not too serious because the show is a comedy, but not cartoony as well.
I love what the musicians did, it sometimes gave me chills when I was reviewing some episodes. They also managed to integrate the early 90’s hip hop influence I suggested but in a modern, revisited way! I know they went out of their comfort zones, but it turned out great.