How The Cuphead Show Creators Adapted Such A Minimalist Game For TV

"The Cuphead Show!" debuts on Netflix today, February 18, 2022, with 12 episodes at 12 minutes each. Before you go binging it in one sitting (as I will probably do), here's some more info for you. The series is based on the 2017 video game "Cuphead: Don't Deal with the Devil," but in this show, Cuphead and his brother Mugman absolutely do. "The Cuphead Show!" creator Dave Wasson and Art Director Andrea Fernandez spoke with about adapting a video game that doesn't have a ton of narrative content and that devilish storyline that runs through the episodes.

I've added the trailer below and damn if it doesn't make me feel like I took a handful of hallucinogens and washed them down with a gallon of vodka. In the very best way, of course. By the way, no title of a show deserves an exclamation point more than this one. 

Wasson told the site about the challenges of adapting a game like this one into a series. He said:

"Well, the biggest challenge and the biggest joy of doing it was we had this amazing visual smorgasbord of characters to choose from, but none of them had real personalities yet. So I feel like I always say the Moldenhauers dropped these breadcrumbs for us. We knew that the Cups were brothers. We knew that they lived with their Elder Kettle in the woods. And so we wanted to stay true to as much of the mythology that was already there, we wanted to stick with, but we got to create characters, and give them real personalities, and cast the voices. That was super fun to do."

Doubling down on the mythology

The voice cast is one of the best parts of what I've seen so far, other than the brothers dipping cookies into the milk in their heads! The cast includes Tru Valentino (Cuphead), Frank Todaro (Mugman), Joe Hanna (Elder Kettle), Luke Millington-Drake (Devil), Grey Griffin (Ms. Chalice), and Wayne Brady (King Dice). They've got that whole snarky, 1930s vocal style down to a T. 

Fernandez took what Wasson said about the show and expanded on it, talking about the backstory. She said: 

"I also think that, like you were saying, a lot of like games come with all this backstory, and with watching how the show was developed, so much of it was the story team in the writer's room with Dave and Cosmo and our story editor just having a good time, and figuring out who the characters were and what they were doing. It was a lot more about comedy than it was lore. And I think that's a little different than other projects that come from that video game space. This team was really invested in getting real characters with great comedic performances that were going to bring you through an entire episode without really having to have played the game."

Fernandez said that this was all about getting the look and the aesthetics right, and then building a story around it.

Dealing with the Devil

These may be short episodes, but the story of Cuphead's interaction with the Devil is the throughline. Wasson said:

" ... we also have a running story with Cuphead and the Devil, but it's peppered in between other [episodes]. We knew we also wanted to have standalones that pretty much feel like one-off cartoons. So that was fun and that evolved. Initially, I was thinking they would all be kind of one-off cartoons, like the old shorts from the '30s and stuff. But then, since it was going on a streaming service, it seemed like we'd be crazy not to take advantage of wanting people to binge-watch stuff. So that's where the idea of doing these connective Devil stories came in. So that was also really, really fun, but it was also strategizing how often do we drop in a Devil story to keep that moving along, and where do we put in these one-off episodes?"

Dealing with the Devil will never go well, but from the clip that was released early last week, it's a whole lot of fun for the audience. 

Here is the synopsis for "The Cuphead Show!":

"The Cuphead Show!" follows the unique misadventures of the impulsive Cuphead and his cautious but easily swayed brother Mugman. Through their many misadventures across their surreal home of the Inkwell Isles, they've always got one another's backs. The new series will expand on the characters and world of Cuphead, with an animation style inspired by the classic Fleischer cartoons from the 1930s.

I'm going to go binge this and then read the dictionary to set my brain back to zero.