Joe Ruby on the American Mega Man cartoon!

Joe Ruby!Okay, a little backdrop first. A few years ago, Matt Karpowich (of the Obscure Transformers Website, among other projects) got in touch with Joe Ruby of Ruby-Spears Productions for some interview stuff. Knowing I was a Mega Man fan, I got the chance to do a dedicated set of questions based on the MM cartoon. Some interesting tidbits came from it, but for one reason or another, neither interview got published.

Until now.

So here we go. Here’s one of the big boys of animation, co-creator of Scooby-Doo, answering a few questions (and debunking a few rumors!) on the American Mega Man cartoon. Enjoy!

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When did the cartoon series first begin early production?

JR: 1994

Capcom had said that the series was originally to follow the Japanese character designs from the games. But at the time, test audiences didn’t care for the look, so the character designer was tasked with coming up with several different looks for the main characters. Can you elaborate on this process, and what other styles were tested?

JR: As I recall, the only designs we saw were of the original MegaMan. We felt he was too young for our audience, so we made him a teenager and proportioned him as a well-built athlete type.

Had you started this project, say, a year later, do you think that Japanese animation’s growing stylistic acceptance would have changed the way the series was made?

JR: Not necessarily. The concept was not hard adventure, but a lighter action series with some comedy, done in a retro 1980’s style.

What reference material was used when developing the series? Were you given any of the Japanese comics to look at, or simply the US games and artwork?

JR: There were no comics, but written material about the game and its characters, both present and future. Also, we were given all the character artwork that appeared in the games, and copies of the U.S. games.

MegaMan’s trademark is his ability to use the weapons of his beaten opponents. One aspect of this ability is that he changes color when he uses one of his enemy’s weapons in the games. Was this dropped from the cartoon simply for the sake of the animators?

JR: Yes. Especially with so many characters colored red, black and yellow, it would get visually confusing in animation. What we did is have an animated effect as MM absorbed the enemy’s power into his “power arm.”

What prompted the decision to make ProtoMan a villain? Even though he was painted as one in the MegaMan 5 game (which would have been the most recent game when the project was started), it was revealed to be a frame-job by Dr. Wily, the series’ perennial villain.

JR: I don’t recall exactly. But it had to come from Capcom to make him that way, either directly, or from the materials we were given.

You guys developed the most widely recognized canine cartoon star in the world, Scooby-Doo… I have to ask, how much of Scooby is in MegaMan’s robo-pooch Rush?

JR: Well, he didn’t eat Scooby Snacks. Actually, we tried to keep his character as different as possible. But a goofy dog that talks will always be likened to Scooby. Especially if we do it.

A semi-major character from the game series, Dr. Cossack, never appeared in the cartoon. Was this simply to keep the series from getting too complicated, cast-wise?

JR: That sounds right.

One of the things that really struck me about the cartoon was its portrayal of MegaMan’s sister, Roll. Her role prior had been little more than stay home, worry about MegaMan, and occasionally get kidnapped. The US Roll, however, jumps right into the action, and does her fair share of dismantling Wily’s robots armed with little more than souped-up versions of common tools. What brought on this change to a more gutsy Roll?

JR: It (excuse the non-intended pun) broadened the show, gave more interplay and gags, and hopefully would attract some girl audience. (Also, it showed were not male chauvinistic pigs as our wives think)

Scott McNeil, who voiced Wily, ProtoMan, and probably a few dozen other characters, had mentioned that originally, Wily was meant to have a British accent rather than the more stereotypical (yet far more fun) faux-German-Slavic accent. Also that ProtoMan was also to be voiced by MegaMan’s actor, Ian Corlett, to play up their “same plans” origins. Are there any other pre-production changes that you can recall in regards to the character portrayal?

JR: Wiley’s voice characterization came out of a Japanese MM educational film in which they portrayed him speaking Japanese with a German accent. We had been asked to recast and re-record the film into English and that’s how some of the voices came to be, or followed that theme.

How much say-so did Bandai have in the development of the series? The second season seemed to heavily feature the Wily Robots who had been made into action figures, as well as repeated appearances of MegaMan’s new armors and vehicles, which were slated to be produced for the toy line as well (but never released, sadly).

JR: As I recall, they had an exec that would go over the scripts to insure that the toy villains were being used. The second season, we had meetings with the execs regarding the look, selection, and use of the new toys in the scripts.

Outside of that, what say did Capcom have in which Wily Robots showed up in any given episode?

JR: I believe they went along with the toy company.

The Mega Man cartoon apparently scored big ratings in syndication. Why was the series ended after this second season? Did it have anything to do with the Bandai-made toy line being cut short (a fate it shared with other licenses like The Tick, Sailor Moon, and -for a time- Dragon Ball)? Or was it ultimately Capcom’s decision?

JR: Probably all the above and more, which we were not privy to. Obviously, we were looking forward to continuing the series, which was fun to do, and, had great ratings.

Had the series continued, would we have seen characters from more recent games, or even the Mega Man games that were exclusive to the Nintendo Game Boy?

JR: We were planning on integrating the new Mega X character and game materials into the new shows.

THE RUMOR MILL

Here, there aren’t so much questions, but nuggets of info we had picked up and have always wanted official verification/debunking of. Any of these you can comment on would be VERY appreciated.

Some of the most persistent rumors concerning the cartoon series are about the third season that never happened. According to rumor, the season was cut after only one episode was finished (“Crime of the Century”, in which Wily uses remote-controlled toys to pull off heists), but was planned as a full 13-episode run.

JR: Nothing was cut short. It was decided just to make the one additional episode. And that completed the package.

Another big rumor is that this third season would have introduced Bass, MegaMan’s new rival from the game series, who would replace ProtoMan as Wily’s Number Two in order to tie into the current game setup. And following that, Proto would become more the Racer-X to Mega’s Speed Racer, as is the setup in the games.

JR: Guess it was just a rumor. That thinking never reached us if that was true.

Of course, there’s the second-season episode “Mega X”, which featured the debut of Capcom’s related Mega Man X series to animation. Again, the rumor mill has it that Mega Man X was to get his own spin-off cartoon (and accompanying toy line), but that too never came to be.

JR: Yes, that was true, as far as I can recall.


Thank you for your time, and thank you for giving us the cartoon!

- Greg Sepelak

Hey! You’re very welcome.

- Joe Ruby

*****

Be sure to check out the other part of the interview at ASM, which also includes several pieces of production art for the MM toon, like character models and storyboards!

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    And this is part 2 of that interview
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