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The Origin of Dragon Booster

Interview with Kevin Mowrer

Published: 07/29/2004 12:00am

Dragon Booster is coming out of the box strong as an animated show premiering in October (see 'Score to Preview Dragon Booster CCG in San Diego'), and with licensees already lined up not only for a CCG, but also for toys and videogames (see 'Dragon Booster Gets Licensed').  At the San Diego Comic-con International, we took the opportunity to sit down with Story Hat CEO Kevin Mowrer, who with his partner Rob Travalino designed the new property. 

 

What is The Story Hat?

The Story Hat is a children's entertainment and intellectual property development and management company.  It's founded around the tenets and principles that my partner and I developed over ten years.  We used to work for Hasbro.  I founded their Fantasy Factory, which is where they create all their intellectual properties.  We believe that when you're developing an intellectual property, you have to develop it so it can do many more things than just a TV show or a movie.  That's the canvas that we're working with.  That's where the kids are reaching out.  Anyone who's experienced properties through all the different forms of gaming, toys, publishing, if it doesn't have that built into the story, it's very difficult for the property to move into those other forms of media expression. 

 

So the goal is to create intellectual property that from the conception stage is appropriate for multiple expressions and different product lines?

Yes.  What's key is that in that process you have to be what I like to call the story advocate.  Even though you're working very hard to stitch all those other abilities into the property, the key to it is making sure first and foremost that it is as great a story as you can possibly tell.  Gotta connect to the kids.  That's a very hard thing to do.  With Dragon Booster, it took us four plus years.  The first two and a half years we closed the doors.  Didn't do any sales, didn't take it out to anyone, did nothing but develop the story and the deep mythology, all the elements that are necessary to be able to do the things like with my partners at Score, and Konami, and Jakks Pacific.

 

Is this the first project of this sort for The Story Hat?

Yes, it's our premier property out the door.  Even though we're four years into The Story Hat, it takes that long to put the property in our company. 

 

It's anime style, but not anime.  Could you talk about that a little?

We're dealing with a generation of kids who are growing up on incredible anime art, manga, a lot of Eastern imports.  At the same time, these same kids are experiencing all the different Western forms of entertainment.  Looking at our first property to pursue, we chose dragons in part because almost every culture has tremendous dragon mythology.  We wanted to create a property that would seem both familiar and exotic.  We have shown this property to Japanese companies and have them ask us who's our Japanese artist, which I put my hand up...

 

Does The Story Hat create the visual look as well as the story?

Yes.  We create everything from the ground up.  We work with some very talented artists on a project-by-project basis.  There have been many involved with Dragon Booster.  We set the look, the story, we do the story editing on all the stories...

 

You mean for all the animation episodes?

All the animation episodes.  We're only just now in the process of doing our publishing deals, but we're going to have a very close relationship with whoever our publishing partners are.  For all those reasons, because there's a great deal of depth and mythology, you can't violate the story.  You have to be very careful to be very consistent or your audience will smell out what's not consistent. 

 

What kind of publishing are you looking at?

The entire spectrum.  Comics, children, YA, manga, virtually the entire spectrum.

 

When you say manga, are you talking in the same sense that the animation is anime?  Or manga from Japan?

Both.

 

There is good American manga, I'm not saying there isn't.  I was just curious about where you were headed.

There is good American manga.  Recognizing that we do have a show that has influences from both West and East, that's going to translate to a certain audience.  Manga has a much wider reach precisely because it stays within the approach manga takes visually.  At some point with Dragon Booster we're looking at translating Dragon Booster into classic manga.  That won't be out of the gate.  It will be after the series grows and we've developed a strong audience with other forms of publishing.

 

What's the target audience for the property?

It's quite wide--as low as six, but depending on the expression goes all the way up to late teen and the twenties.  Our friends at Konami are doing a video game that's going to be PG-13.  It's going to have all the power and the strength...

 

Is that an M game?

No, it's going to be a 'Teen' game.  The TV show is targeted at the classic boys' action core audience.  Starts at six and goes to about eleven.  What we're finding in early testing, we've not only hit that super solidly, but we have a tremendous amount of interested teenagers and adults.  I think it's going to go very wide.

 

Sounds like you're expecting it to skew male. 

We're expecting to pick up an extremely strong female audience as well.  In early exposure where we've shown this to small chunks of audience, no question we've got the male audience.  But we're also finding that females are very interested in the show.

 

Is there a female primary character?

Absolutely.  We have some extremely strong female characters.  For the guys, it's like having a race car that's your best friend and bodyguard.  For the girls, it goes right up the middle of the riding your horse fantasy.  That's very powerful stuff.  I think we're going to get an extraordinarily wide audience.

 

Anything you think retailers in particular should know about the property? 

Yes.  Dragon Booster is the first of a new breed of television shows.  Up to this point if you wanted to have a show that had strong gaming in it, what you did is you reprised the game itself in the television show.  The television show was about the game.  It was Yu-Gi-Oh, it was Pokemon, and on and on and on.  We believe that scenario, although it works, is getting fairly flooded.  The kids are really looking for that deep involvement with the property.  Dragon Booster has all the gaming elements within the property, only they're put in the context of a story that's about the kids.  It's not about the game.  It's about what happens in this world and all of the elements for gaming and play are fixed throughout the story, but it is not a story that's about a game. 

 

Can you compare it to Yu-Gi-Oh, which has cards in the show?  I take it this  would not have cards in the show. 

It does not have cards but it does have competition.  Very strong competition, with specific rules, and gear, and power, all the things you need to have a successful game. 

 

So it would be closer to a Pokemon model in terms of the relationship...

Closer to what Pokemon does, but it goes further down the road in storytelling.

 
 
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