Centaurworld Creator Megan Nicole Dong Talks Netflix’s Animated Comedy

Centaurworld is out today on Netflix. The animated comedy series features plenty of musical numbers and some spectacularly weird, yet still adorable, designs. The series was created by Megan Nicole Dong and features a voice cast featuring Dong, Josh Radnor, Kimiko Glenn, Megan Hilty, Jessie Mueller, Chris Diamantopoulos, and Parvesh Cheena.

“A hardened war horse transported away from battle finds herself in a land that’s inhabited by silly, singing centaurs of all shapes and sizes,” reads the official synopsis.

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Centaurworld creator Megan Nicole Dong about the latest animated comedy from Netflix, its great voice cast, and her unique art style.

Tyler Treese: There’s a really incredible dramatic opening sequence that leads to this warhorse being transported into Centaurworld. How’d you come up with that sequence? I ask because it’s so incredible and action-packed, and even though I really enjoy the show, I kind of want to watch that show, too.

Megan Nicole Dong: I think from the beginning I always wanted it to feel genuinely like we had a character from one show that was dropped into the others, so we wanted it to feel as authentic as possible. And we worked with two different studios to make the two different styles of the show. So we worked with Red Dog Culture House, a studio in South Korea that has artists and animators that have worked on a lot of action shows before this. So we worked with them on that sequence and a lot of the other sequences that came from horse’s world for that. And then we worked with Mercury Film Works for all the squashy stretchy Centaurworld stuff, but I’m really glad to hear that it felt like you would have wanted to watch that show because we wanted to invest enough into it to feel like it was its own thing.

You have this great book of sketches available and you’re able to create these cute, kind of creepy animal designs and we see plenty of them here. When did you discover that you had this knack — or maybe it’s a curse, I don’t know — to come up with these designs?

It might be a curse. I’m fascinated by biology. I love animals because the natural world is so strange. And if you look at all the actual animals that exist in the world, they are really bizarre and I’ve always enjoyed artistically just kind of taking what’s already there and pushing it or pushing it to places that’s sometimes visually uncomfortable. That’s something that’s always kind of made me laugh and that was definitely something that we wanted to incorporate into the show or draw some of the humor from.

Centaurworld‘s designs are certainly unique.

I love that core bond between the horse and rider and it’s on this quest to be reunited. How’d you come up with this idea? And are you a big horse or equestrian fan yourself? How’d that come about?

I love animals. I’m not actually a horse girl. I didn’t grow up riding horses. I enjoy them as, as animals. But that, that bond between human and animal was one thing that I wanted to explore. And I did want our main character to be an animal and a warhorse felt like the perfect character for this particular tale.

Music is such a large part of the series. What led to you going in that direction? And did you work on crafting the songs yourself?

Yeah, I love musical theater and the whole inspiration for the show came from me being really, really focused on studies and then accidentally getting put in a show choir by a scheduling mix-up. Like I just ended up in a show choir my freshman year of high school, and I felt really out of place, but it kind of like led me to pursuing the arts. Like it was the thing that kind of made me realize that I had to do something creative for a job. Music is really important to me. I wrote a lot of the songs and my co-executive producer, Dominic Bisignano, wrote a lot of the other ones. So we didn’t, we were in the writers room through the whole process and we were also writing the songs and then our composer, Toby Chu, helped produce them.

So working on the music was a really collaborative experience. But also I think us being so intimately familiar with the characters, with the story, working on the visuals, also helped us work on the music. I think we just felt really connected to these characters. And I always knew that I wanted the music to help tell the story and for the songs to not just be like songs that were happening, but for them to be narrative and character-based.

You have such a talented voice cast in the show and Josh Radnor really stands out as the very wacky Durpleton. How fun was putting him in the silliest role possible?

Josh was great to work with. I think that character in particular, Durpleton, was almost a tricky one to cast, too, because it would be very easy to play him and to kind of make fun of who he is, because he’s not the brightest character of the bunch, but he has a lot of emotional intelligence despite not being the smartest centaur there. I think Josh naturally picked up on that. He played the character with a lot of sincerity and I think that’s what I loved about his performance. He made that character really, really lovable and had so much genuine affection for who that character was.

Kimiko Glenn is great in the lead role as Horse and really knows the musical performances. Can you speak about just working with her?

Yeah, Kimiko was excellent. She’s such an amazing singer, but also she’s super funny. And I think that the character of Horse was always was always tricky because we didn’t want her to feel like just the straight man in this world of all these silly and absurd characters. We wanted her to be able to hold her own. And Kimiko’s performance brought a lot of surprises to us and really helped inform who this character was and how silly she could be. And I think in particular I loved the amount of mischief she brought to the role and how much she really played up how excited Horse would get about war-related things or fighting. And I think she really did an amazing job.

You recently shared sketches of the original drawings for these characters. How rewarding is it getting to see this idea fully go from concept to the final project?

I can’t even put it into words. I started drawing some of these characters like five or six years ago. So seeing, seeing them now, moving and with the voice cast that we have is really surreal. I’m just so happy that it’s finally here.

In Japan, there’s a very popular genre, Isekai, which is super popular in anime and light novels, where people go into another world. Did that serve as an inspiration for this idea?

I think there are a lot of different shows right now that are exploring that. A lot of big creators are around the same general age. And I think a lot of us had watched things like Spirited Away and Miyazaki movies in particular that I think are baked somewhere into our brains. It’s so fun to be able to create a world from scratch that a character can go into. That’s probably why there are so many different people exploring that concept.

Why should people check out Centaurworld?

I think that the show is something that’s pretty unique. It’s very difficult show to describe, but I think that we put so much into it and so many different elements into it. I think that there’s going to be something that will surprise everyone. And I think that the messages that we’ve put in there are hopefully ones that will speak to a lot of different of different age groups too. I think they should check out the show just to be surprised. Also, they should check it out for the music, the visuals, and for the performances are actors game and all of the amazing visual work that our crew put in into it.

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