Mix Master Final Force is a Korean, boys action 2D animated TV series that will debut soon in the U. S. on multi-platform network Kabillion. Mix Master Driving Force is a potential title for the biography of Marc Handler, the oft LA-based writer/voice director/casting director behind the successful English-language adaptation of the show. Indeed, Handler’s career is a smorgasbord of the finest titles in televised animation, many of which originate in Asia. Highlights include Cowboy Bebop, Naruto, Transformers, and Astro Boy. The LA Animation Examiner recently grilled this metaphorical cartoon mixologist on his recipe for success, among other things. Here are excerpts from that conversation.
LA ANIMATION EXAMINER: How did you become involved with Mix Master Final Force?
MARC HANDLER: Sunwoo [Korean animation studio] knew I had written the English language scripts for the previous version, Mix Master King of Cards, but they didn’t know me personally, so they checked in with me.
The producer, Makyung Kim, showed me the plans for Mix Master Final Force, including the promotional piece. The standard thing is to say, “Oh, that looks great, I love it,” but I didn’t do that. At some risk, I told them this was not the best way to sell the show in the West. I offered to write up an alternate presentation and told them if they didn’t like it, they could discard it; if they liked it they could use it; no charge either way.
They had taken a poetic approach, but, as an American, I’m always going for the high impact approach, especially for a presentation. In the end, they liked my approach and used it for the promo, which succeeded in launching the series.
That’s how I got started with them.
At first I was just going to write the English scripts as I did on King of Cards. But they invited me to bid on the voice recording too. So I gave it a shot and was surprised when they accepted it. They knew the voice talent in LA would be awesome; I’m sure that was a major factor. So I ended up writing the scripts, and also casting the actors and recording the voices. One stop shop.
LAAE: What was the best part of your association with this project?
MH: The best part of any good project is the people you work with, and the worst part of any bad project is the people you work with. This was a good project.
The people at Sunwoo were terrific, as was the [LA] recording studio, Soundworks. This taught me that you must always be ready when opportunity knocks you up and gives you a wide birth to that narrow window on the long road up the ladder of . . . Oh, wait a minute, I’m getting a text. It’s the metaphor police. They’re telling me I’ve exceeded my limit.
LAAE: Oh, Marc, you are a card, possibly, the king of cards! Please continue!
MH: When you write scripts, it’s very isolating; you’re in your own little La La Land. But when you direct, it’s very social. You’re constantly interacting with all of these smart, creative people. It really is a privilege, and it keeps life interesting.
LAAE: Do you have any advice for professionals or aspirants interested in similar career pursuits (in other words, the localization of foreign content)?
MH: This is the dreaded question. I always want to have some bright, optimistic answer to this, but actually, it’s very difficult. The animation world that I know is Byzantine and moves at a glacial pace. Having said that, we did use a number of new actors who are now working on other shows. And a new writer, Deborah Crane wrote one of the scripts.
Deborah is probably the best “breaking in” example I could cite. She actually wrote and produced her own ADR video using aspiring actor friends to do the voices. The quality of this sample video is quite good, and it showed how serious she is about breaking in. I was impressed enough to have her write a script.
It’s very tough to get enough voice work or writing work to actually make a living. The best way to really make it happen is to create your own projects.
LAAE: Are you able to reveal anything about your other animation activities since completing Mixmaster Final Force?
MH: Only if you know the secret handshake. The animation code of secrecy is very strict. If I say the wrong thing, I could end up sleeping with the fishes. Okay, they’re cartoon fishes, but still . . .
After Mix Master, I voice directed Kioka, which won first place at the Shanghai TV Festival, and I wrote for Power Rangers Samurai and Power Rangers Mega Force. James Bates is the story editor and guiding light who got me through that sometimes grueling but very fun series. You can never go wrong with color coded heroes.
And I’m now living in Shanghai, where I’m working on a TV series for Disney China. This is where the secret handshake comes in; I can’t say anything about the show for now, but I can tell you that it’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had on any project.
I’m very hopeful that you’ll soon be seeing Chinese shows produced with international partners reaching global audiences and really acting as bridges between cultures and peoples.
Big goals keep life interesting.
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To view the fruits of Marc Handler’s labor on Mix Master Final Force, consult Kabillion.com for the yet-to-be-determined U. S. release date. Episodes and games related to Mix Master King of Cards currently exist on the dedicated kids portal. Consult the corresponding site menu, and bon appetit!