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Cartoon Network’s Ben 10 takes on the whole galaxy (literally!) when Ben 10 vs. The Universe: The Moviepremieres worldwide tomorrow, Saturday, October 10. The TV movie will be available for fans across the globe with the US/Canada airing taking place 10:00 a.m. ET/PT, only on Cartoon Network. The movie will also be released digitally on October 11th on all major platforms as well as on DVD October 13 by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
Ahead of the action-packed TV movie’s debut, we had a chance to chat with showrunner Will Patrick about all things Ben 10, including just where this new adventure will take the character and the franchise, his favorite moments from the movie, and just how cool it is to get an early look at the Ben 10 toys. This new story focuses on a blast from Ben’s past returning to do double the damage on Team Tennyson and planet Earth itself, forcing Ben to go interstellar to save the day. Meanwhile, Gwen and Grandpa Max team up to help protect the world in Ben’s absence. But when our boy hero is confused for the villain in space, Ben must figure out a way to get back to Earth to help save it!
Ben 10 is currently in its fourth season and is also available on the CN App as well as VOD. The series is produced by Cartoon Network Studios and created, and executive produced by Man of Action Entertainment (Big Hero 6, Generator Rex), with John Fang (Mixels, Generator Rex) as executive producer. Read along with our interview below:
Before we get into why we get to talk today, I usually like to start my interviews with a simple wellness check. So simply, how are you doing today?
Will Patrick: Oh, well thanks for asking. Doing okay. Hanging in there. We’re actually, we just moved into a new house and discovered that the power is totally not working.
Will Patrick: We have to rewire the entire house.
Will Patrick: Yep. Yeah. So that’s going to be fun.
How has the upheaval that folks have been dealing with throughout this year? Has that affected your kind of day-to-day production work at all? Have you had to adjust, make any big changes?
Will Patrick: Yeah. Working from home can be a little difficult when my job is mostly coordinating people and talking to people. Most of my day is spent on the phone with some kind of screen sharing program. So yeah. It was more difficult at first when nobody knew which program to use and nobody knew how to deal with this but we’ve managed to figure most of this out but it’s not the same as just being in the same room as somebody.
All the folks that I get to talk to from the animation industry, it seems like the animation industry has been kind of on touch or they’ve been able to more easily adapt to the situation since you don’t necessarily have to be there in person. Has that been your experience, too? Has there been any kind of production setbacks or any delays you weren’t expecting? Or is it kind of business as usual as far as production goes?
Will Patrick: For the most part it’s been business as usual except for, well like I just said, our power went out.
Will Patrick: Yeah, that’s kind of an issue for us. My wife also works in the industry and yeah. We’ve mostly adapted. I haven’t had too many issues with deadlines or anything like that. It’s just little frustrating things like the power going out or the internet going wonky or whatever.
Exactly. Before we get to jump into the movie, Ben 10 vs. The Universe, which is why we get to talk today, I wanted to travel back a few years and some 160 plus episodes to the beginning of this rebooted version of Ben 10. How did the opportunity initially come up for you to come on board as showrunner?
Will Patrick: So I started out on Ben 10 as a storyboard artist. I had made these DC Nation shorts years ago, Animal Man and Tales of Metropolis and I guess the current showrunner at the time, John Fang, saw them and was like, “I want to get this guy on my show.” He was such a fan of Animal Man I guess he would shout, “Animal Man,” at me. Yeah, so I just got brought on as a board artist and then they promoted me to director after a little bit and then John eventually moved on to bigger and better things so he thought I would be good enough to be show runner so that’s how I’m here.
That seems like it worked out pretty well so far. When you were a board artist on this reboot, do you remember any particular directives or challenges that you and your fellow artists had with rebooting? Finding a new look? Finding a new style? How to keep things fresh?
Will Patrick: Yeah, I know in the beginning it can be a little difficult to figure out the balance between comedy and action with this iteration of Ben 10 and how cartoony we wanted it to be because the original had jokes, definitely, but was definitely more of a straight action show.
Yeah in the beginning it was, I think they were trying to lean more towards very Looney Tunes but then I think the humor started to kind of find its own voice. I know it got a lot more character driven. Jokes like, Zombozo getting defeated and then trying to sell broken watches on the street kind of thing. I think that kind of comedy entered in and we all sort of latched onto it.
Yeah, I’m happy to say that there’s a great balance between this particular brand of humor that works really well for this Ben 10 and some fantastic action and solid animation throughout, so I think you guys did a great job of balancing that in the movie.
Will Patrick: Oh, thanks.
Since the previous versions of Ben 10 obviously had their own movies, how long has this particular movie been in the works? Were you there from the beginning? Or when did this all come about?
Will Patrick: I know it must have been decided before I was showrunner because I sort of got on as showrunner and I think it may have originally just been the season finale and I think because it was such a big story of Vilgax coming back. They decided to go big with it and make it into a movie.
So basically, you were storyboard artist and then you got brought in as a director, transitioned up to showrunner and then they’re also like, “Hey, you’re also going to be supervising producer on this movie that we’re working on.”
Will Patrick: Yeah.
How did you kind of handle those dual responsibilities? I would imagine you didn’t exactly shut down production on the TV version while you guys were also working on the movie. How was that balance for you?
Will Patrick: The movie was made by the crew, like it’s the same crew that does the TV show and we basically handled it like it was six episodes. So each board team got a section of the movie. There was a lot of coordination between the teams. A lot more than what we usually do with standalone episodes because you just don’t need to coordinate as much if the … One board team is per episode so yeah.
Did your working relationship with Man of Action, your writers and animators, and your fantastic cast, did that change at all when shifting over to movie production? Were there any kind of hurdles that you had to clear or was it pretty much just kind of looking at it as a group of episodes all together?
Will Patrick: Yeah, it was mostly just a group of episodes but like I said, it was more coordination. I know the team saw it as a bigger endeavor. I think everybody was really trying to bring their A-game, especially for the movie.
What does a movie format allow you to do to expand the Ben 10 universe or take some risky story chances? What does it allow you to do that might be a little more difficult in the limited space for a TV episode?
Will Patrick: Well, with a movie there’s some more time so you can build bigger stakes than you can in 11 minutes. For example, the first section when the meteor is coming down to hit we have that great sequence where they all think the planet’s about to be destroyed and there’s such great stakes there and I don’t think we would have the time to do something like that in a normal episode.
Towards the beginning of the movie when we meet Ben, he’s a very accomplished hero at this point. He’s kind of spent the whole summer learning his powers, battling bad guys and he’s almost bored with it. He’s looking for a bigger challenge. Did that kind of come through with the creative team, too, of like, “We need to give this kid a bigger challenge to take on in this movie.”
Will Patrick: Yeah, I mean, we’ve made 172 episodes I think. So yeah, it can start to feel like a grind after a while so I think there is some level of that within the team, too, that they’re always trying to one up what they did last time and the movie was a great opportunity for that.
Does your creative team behind the scenes involve or include a lot of folks who have worked on previous iterations? Is it people who know the franchise well enough and they’ve brought their own style to it for this new version?
Will Patrick: Yeah, absolutely. There’s a great mix of new people and people who were on the original. John Fang himself boarded the second episode of the original Ben 10. So yeah, he’s been around Ben 10 for a long time. But yeah, we also have new voices in there, too, on the board teams. Then people who grew up with the show who were fans of it. So yeah, it’s a wide spread.
What are you most looking forward to fans discovering with the upcoming movie? Again, keeping spoilers in mind, obviously.
Will Patrick: Oh, gosh, I don’t know how to talk about that without spoiling it. Well, I think it’s pretty obvious that Ben’s going out into space and seeing the wider universe and kind of getting to see the world of Ben 10 open up. I think that’s the most exciting part of the movie to me.
Absolutely, yeah, and we get to see some new characters, some returning franchise characters. I think for long time fans of Ben 10 there’s going to be a lot of really fun moments and also some new stuff for this particular version, too, yeah.
Will Patrick: Yeah.
All the different iterations of Ben 10 have generated a ton of toys, a ton of merchandise. Are you a fan of all the different toys? Do you happen to have any of the new ones that are coming out?
Will Patrick: Well you know, one of the perks of my job is they actually give us toys. So yeah, I have a couple of Ben 10 toys but a lot of them are stuck in my office at Cartoon Network. I don’t know how I’m going to get them back.
Well, the good news is they should be in pristine shape whenever you get a chance to get ahold of them again.
Will Patrick: That’s true.
What can you give as a tease for where Ben 10 as a show goes from here? Season four is continuing, we’re kind of smack in the middle of it now, where does it go from here? What are some of the big story arcs you can tease?
Will Patrick: Well, I can’t say too much but I will say that the summer is not over. We’ve got more bigger adventures for Ben coming up so yeah. I mean, it’s definitely not over.
That’s a good tease. We’ve got Ben 10 vs. The Universe: The Movie to look forward to coming up soon, but what’s up next for you? Is there anything on the horizon, Ben 10 or otherwise, that you’d like to tease for fans out there?
Will Patrick: I’ve been so focused on wrapping up the movie and doing the next stuff for Ben. Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know what’s next for me. It’ll be a new adventure for me, too.
The adventures continue. But for right now it’s all Ben 10 all the time. Well, thank you so much for your time today. I know everybody out there’s looking forward to checking out the movie and I absolutely encourage them to do so.
Will Patrick: All right, thanks so much.
Ben 10 vs. The Universe: The Movie premieres worldwide on Saturday, October 10th at 10:00 a.m. ET/PT, only on Cartoon Network.