Crossing Swords Creators Share The Keys To Their Deranged, Demented Comedy [Interview]

"Crossing Swords" creators John Havartine IV, Tom Root, and Seth Green are no strangers to stop-motion mayhem, but the medieval Hulu comedy is definitely a new realm of insanity for them to play in. The creators, who are best known for their work on the long-running Adult Swim series "Robot Chicken," created a show about the lives of some very unfortunate peg people, something like "Toy Story" if it were made by sadists. The first season followed the adventures of Patrick ("The Great" star Nicholas Hoult), a lowly squire who gets caught up in loads of medieval mischief. His adventures are full of vulgar language, grotesque violence, and enough sexual content to make anyone's grandma blush. 

Through the magic of Blinkerquartz the incompetent wizard (or maybe some fun performances and great jokes), Hulu greenlit a season 2 of the silly series, which debuts today on the streamer. I sat down via Zoom to chat with Harvatine, Root, and Green about what makes "Crossing Swords" so hilariously unique, why they decided to tell dirty jokes with (not-Playmobil) figures, and when their voice cast surprised them.

"We really wanted it to feel like some of the earliest childhood toys that you might have owned."

What made you decide to do the kids' toys? I know you've done a lot of stop-motion animation before with "Robot Chicken" and that kind of thing, but what drove you to do sort of the Playmobil toy style for "Crossing Swords"?

Green: Wait, just a minor correction, because Playmobil has both arms and legs, hands and feet. These are more based on like the most basic of peg people and that's kind of the fun of it is how limited, but I only emphasize that because it's kind of what led to this show looking like that, but you guys should talk about it.

Root: Yeah. We wanted something so reductive that it was just sort of these chunks of wood hopping around because we really wanted it to feel like some of the earliest childhood toys that you might have owned. And we wanted the show to feel like the camera is sort of down at living room floor level with you and your toys as you're making them interact with play sets and make up adventures for them. And really the show is meant to be taking your toys on these adventures, except you as an adult viewer are taking them on grown-up adventures. So it was important to us that they look like toys and so that's why the aesthetic is these worn-looking toy where the paint is sort of worn off. They're kind of these well-loved toys, but without that aesthetic I think it would really change the show.

"Because we can throw anything at any of them and they will make it better."

This cast is just amazing. Is there any moment where any member of the cast really surprised you either with a line reading or just with a decision they made?

Green: Well, the upside of a cast like this is they're going to not just consistently surprise you, but endlessly impress us. No one's shocked when Nicholas Hoult is a brilliant comedic talent, but we sort of pinch ourselves at our good fortune from having been able to assemble such a stellar cast. Because we can throw anything at any of them and they will make it better.

Root: I directed all the voice records and then much later we do storyboards and animatics and we see the voices with the pictures. And we got to a point where late in the season, this character, he's sort of a PR representative that's walking around with Patrick and he has this very fun, chipper voice. And I was like, who did that voice? I know I directed it. I don't know who that is. And I was like, I don't want to look it up because I know it's going to come back to me. And it never did come back to me. And I was like, I have no idea who did that voice. And I finally had to ask somebody and they said, oh, that's Luke Evans. I was like, that's Luke? I had no idea. And, we kind of have a cast like that where they're continually surprising you. Because they're just all so talented.

"We just want to make people laugh."

What do you think makes "Crossing Swords" different from any of the other animated adult series out there?

Root: Well, there's no limbs in our series. Nobody has arms or legs. I think we also have a very kind of unique perspective, or not perspective. I mean, we're doing kind of silly comedy so I don't want to get too academic about it. But I think our brand of silly comedy is very specific. We really just want to do stuff that we think is funny and we're kind of serving the comedy first and the story second in a lot of ways. And we kind of have set up the entire show so that we can have these excuses to be funny. And I'm sure there are lots and lots of funny cartoons, but I don't know if anyone's doing it exactly like we are.

Green: I don't think there's anything quite like this collection of things and it's not like we're so unique or original. It happens to be this show that we're making. I don't feel like there's anything comparable to it. We just want to entertain. We just want to make people laugh. And all of this convergence of ideas, these limbless peg toys going through incredibly dramatic, emotional, violent circumstances. Patrick's real quest to maintain his morality, even as it butts up against his own desire to grow and transform. But it's set against these ridiculous wooden blocks. I don't know. It just does something to your brain. It makes me laugh personally.

"This one feels nightmarish. I wouldn't wish this on anybody."

If you could live in a fantasy world, would you and who would you want to be?

Green: Any fantasy world or this one specifically?

Oh, say this one.

Green: This one feels nightmarish. I wouldn't wish this on anybody. Maybe Broth. Broth seems to be able to survive.

Root: I was going to say Blinkerquartz and then I realized he doesn't actually know any magic

Green: Miserable. He's a miserable person who can't believe he hasn't been murdered.

Root: Yeah. People are being murdered all day long.

Green: (in Blinkerquartz voice) I was certain they would come for me. That's like the character in "The Great" that's so good. The mystic.

Harvatine: Oh yeah.

Green: He's always just like, okay I'm going to leave now.

Oh, Archie?

Green: Yeah.

Harvatine: He's a good Blinkerquartz!