Entergalactic Executive Producers Talk Working With Creative Geniuses And An Army Of Animators [Exclusive Interview]

"Entergalactic" is a new Netflix adult animated feature from the minds of Kid Cudi and executive producer Kenya Barris. In the film, boasting an independent story that's inspired by and features tracks from Kid Cudi's new album of the same name, Scott "Kid Cudi" Mescudi stars as rising New York artist Jabari. Jabari's life has almost everything... friends, new opportunities, and a thriving artistic career, but his stasis is interrupted when he meets and falls for his photographer neighbor Meadow (Jessica Williams). Between the pressures of their dual careers and Jabari's struggles with an ex who still has feelings for him, the pair have to navigate love in the city. 

It's an engaging exploration of the glories of young love, with beautiful animation, a top-tier cast of voice actors, and a great soundtrack (featuring tracks from Kid Cudi's new album). Leading up to the film's release last week, I spoke with executive producers Karina Manashil and Dennis Cummings about the movie, its beautiful animation style, the process of casting so many top-tier performers, and more.

This interview is lightly edited for clarity.

'This needs to be hand drawn'

"Entergalactic" has a rather unique visual palette as far as the animation style is concerned. What was it like landing on that visual design and getting animators on board?

Karina Manashil: Even the first conversation that we had with Scott, when it was talking through the idea of making this animated, which Kenya Barris was a huge inspiration for, the first thing he said is, "I really love this, but they can't wear the same outfits the whole show. It can't be a cartoon where nobody changes, because if this is New York, and this is real life, style and fashion and all of it needs to be a part of it." We sat back and we were like, "He's right. Why not? Why couldn't you do that in animation?"

I think, even in that aesthetic, there was such an origin idea. When Fletcher Moules came on, who was the director of the project, he came in with a slideshow. We were sitting in EastWest Studios, all of us together. [He] came in with a presentation of exactly how he was seeing it [stylistically]. As deliberate as the idea is, we can't do this 3D-motion where [...] the computer renders the move, so everything looks digitally perfect... this needs to be hand drawn. There needs to be imperfections, and everything has to be a human choice if you're going to feel the warmth.

And I remember, too, Fletch also came in with the "Entergalactic" logo that he put over an old painting that he had. And Scott, the first thing he said is, "That's the 'Entergalactic' logo. We're not changing it, it's done." So there was something ... maybe it's a huge blessing, but it was so organic, where every single person who came in was reacting to the same vision. And it went from Fletch to 350 animators all over the world, all making those deliberate hand drawn choices, all human-created, into what "Entergalactic" ultimately became.

Dennis Cummings: We also got lucky because of the timing. We got a lot of talented people that were out of work because of the pandemic.

Manashil: That's true.

Cummings: It's serendipity, I think. And it just worked.

'... he did a lot of outreach to the people that mattered to him'

Speaking of the talented people, it has a wonderful cast. Tell me about bringing on Jessica Williams and the rest of the casting process.

Manashil: A lot of the casting actually started with Scott. As you can see, there's a lot of people peppered throughout the show that are Scott's true friends, so he did a lot of outreach to the people that mattered to him, Timothée Chalamet being the first person he went to. Even Ty Dolla $ign, he originally crafted the character named Kai based on Ty and had always known that this was going to be Ty Dolla $ign. He's never done [that] before, so there was such a clear confidence in what he was going to do. Then the other half of it was partnering with Carmen Cuba, who was our casting director, who brought so much of the color to the table. Jessica Williams, to speak to that choice, ... Carmen is like, "This is Jessica." 

Cummings: She knew it.

Manashil: She knew it, and she was the first person who just defined who Meadow was. Initially there wasn't a clear idea for Meadow.

Cummings: Yeah.

Manashil: Carmen really made that just perfect.

'You need the show to be animated'

Non-genre, adult-oriented animation doesn't have as big a profile in the U.S. Do you think "Entergalactic" might have a role to play in raising that profile?

Cummings: I think so, and I'm of the idea that I love a challenge. I think that this raises the bar, and from there, people will follow up behind it. I think that the fact that animation is getting this stigma, that helps because we're going to blow past that stigma.

Manashil: I think what's really unique about watching "Entergalactic" is that you watch it, it's animated, but at a certain point you forget.

Cummings: Yeah.

Manashil: I think understanding that storytelling can exist in that way, [...] It's interesting because you need the show to be animated. [It wouldn't work] without the colors, without the movement into outer space, and the love story projecting itself with unlimited possibilities. Animation allows you to move the camera through anywhere, to light up the sky with any colors that you want it to be... there's no version of "Entergalactic" that is as successful as an animated version. Also, as an audience, you're so into the story that you kind of reflect, and you sit back, and you're like, "I didn't even realize." I think that feeling is something that, to Dennis's point, can change a little bit of what the dogmatic rhetoric is about the genre.

'Creative geniuses make our jobs very easy'

What was your experience like in the process of collaborating with Kid Cudi and Kenya on this?

Cummings: I think working with creative geniuses makes my job really easy. It's like... you let me know what I need to do and execute. I feel like a coach, right? I see the playing field, and just put the right people in the room. Made my job really easy.

Manashil: It's such a good way of saying it, because it really felt like that. In so many ways Scott was the north star in having this feeling that visuals and music were so disconnected, "how do we create a new experience?" And "Entergalactic" was his brainchild out of that frustration. "I do an album, I do two music videos, and then I do a next album, and that's it?" Scott even says, and Dennis says this too, "I see music in colors." How is this the end of what music is supposed to be? And then Kenya came into that ideating. He brought the idea of animation. He really godfathered this. It was so important to have this vision from Scott. with this godfather in Kenya, and then bring in Fletch Moules, and Ian Edelman, and Maurice Williams, and the cast and Virgil Abloh and Brian Donnelley, and all of these different people who lent their vision to this. Creative geniuses make our jobs very easy. Back to your thesis, it sums it all up.

"Entergalactic" is now available on Netflix, and Kid Cudi's album of the same name is out now too.