The entertainment veterans on the journey from book to animated series, how it’s different than most kids’ shows, and why it’s not just boys who love it.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Ron Burch and David Kidd, the producing and writing partners behind DINOTRUX, the Dreamworks Animation series whose second season premieres on Netflix today. DINOTRUX is a fun family series featuring, you guessed it, characters who are half-dinosaur, half construction truck, and all fun!
DINOTRUX is a great series for Dads to enjoy with their kids. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend checking it out. You can find more information about the series, as well as Ron Burch & David Kidd, after the clip and interview.
Note: Due to the interactive and conversational nature of the interview, I have combined Ron and David’s responses as “RB/DK.”
GMP: Congratulations on the success of Season 1 of DINOTRUX. It’s a great show and I’m sure you’re very proud of it.
RB/DK: We are. We love the show. We’re very happy with how it turned out. We love the stories and how it looks.
Even though it’s a show for kids, it speaks to everyone, we hope. It’s gratifying to us because we decided at the very beginning that we weren’t going to write down to our audience. We are going to write as complicated and interesting a show as we would write for adults—within reason. We wanted really strong, compelling stories and great characters—the same kind you would want to watch as a grown-up. We love it when parents say, “I sat down to watch your show with my kids, and really like it.”
We don’t try to be too heavy-handed with messages. There’s always an arc for a character, but we try to put it within that character’s story. We don’t start with the message. We start with the questions, “Is it a fun story?” You take characters who are good people and you put them in difficult situations. You see the way they deal with it and remain good people. That creates a challenging story, that as it turns out, has a lesson in it. We never start by saying, “Let’s do an episode about sharing.”
Kids especially respond to that. They don’t feel like somebody’s tricking them. They get wrapped up in that character’s story.
Our general storyline is about a group of disparate trucks who must learn to work together. It’s about sharing, working together, and being a team. That’s built right into the show from the beginning.
GMP: As a viewer and as a Dad, what I find so refreshing about DINOTRUX is that it deals with very human themes of friendship, loyalty, and understanding. These are things we all relate to whether we are kids or adults.
RB/DK: That’s important to us. We want to make sure that the stories are relatable to kids and adults. That’s something we do talk about, especially with younger kids. Will they understand what the story is about? Will it have universal themes?
When we started writing the show, we thought about our audience and what was going on in their lives. We baked that into the overall situation, where we began with a world full of creatures who stick with their own kind and stay in their own herds. Just like little kids, their herd is their family.
Then you go to school and start mixing with other herds, and you have to deal with people who are different than you. You have to learn to get along with them. You can keep learning those lessons over and over again your entire life. It’s always the same challenge about learning, growing, and being a better person. You never run out of those stories. It’s relationship-oriented.
GMP: What was it about DINOTRUX that appealed to you as producers?
RB/DK: We saw very clearly how we could build a show that could last episode after episode. When you have that kind of relationship to the material, it’s fantastic.
Just on a gut level, you never lose the little boy inside you who is attracted to dinosaurs and trucks. When you have kids, you suddenly are interested in dinosaurs and trucks again, after not being interested in them as an adult.
GMP: We normally think of things like dinosaurs and trucks as something boys are more interested in. Have you had a positive reaction to DINOTRUX from girls and their Moms?
RB/DK: Yes, definitely. It hasn’t been a surprise for us, but we’re also of the younger generation and we have never accepted the notion of the strict girl/boy dichotomy. We always fought for strong female characters. There were many arguments with the powers that be over whether or not boys would be drawn to the female characters, or whether or not toys of the female characters should be made. Would boys buy a female character’s toy? At the end of the day, boys love Skya. She’s our third most popular character, and she’s very cool.
Girls, on the other hand, are also drawn to Skya, but they’re drawn to the other characters as well. They’re drawn to the relationships that we have in the show, the characters’ stories that we tell.
The great thing is that we hear about the stories themselves—how much they enjoy the stories, the values, and what they are about. It’s the stories more than the fact that they are dinosaurs or construction trucks. It’s not those things that attract them—it’s the characters and the stories, which is really gratifying.
GMP: Unlike a lot of shows for kids today, DINOTRUX doesn’t have a cynical or mean-spirited edge. How intentional was that on your part?
RB/DK: In this cynical age, sometimes sincerity gets mocked. We wanted to create the show in a way where it didn’t feel saccharine. We have characters who genuinely struggle to be good. It’s not an easy choice all the time.
There’s an episode where one of the characters wants to help the bad guy. Being the good guy is not always easy. I think that allows us to have a show that’s not cynical, and yet at the same time isn’t some kind of fake show, where when the kid gets to a certain age they look upon it with scorn.
We didn’t want to write cynical characters. We wanted to write fun, likable characters who you’d want to hang out with. Sometimes the cynical characters can take a toll.
GMP: What advice would you give to aspiring scriptwriters, producers, and artists who want to pursue animation as a career?
RB/DK: I think whether you’re drawing or writing, the people who do the best job in our business are the people who want to tell stories—at every level, whether they’re acting, writing, or drawing. That has to be what draws in viewers. Just writing, drawing, thinking, observing their own world. That’s probably the best training for any kid.
In terms of other practicalities, you come to LA and you get a job doing anything you can in the business, whether it’s working on the production side at first or doing something else. You keep working on your art until you get the break. It’s very important to see all sides of the business because there is so much involved in making these computer-generated shows. One episode takes roughly nine months, so there are all kinds of elements involved. You tell stories, you come out here, and you get involved in the process.
I want to thank Ron Burch and David Kidd for taking the time to speak with me, and for sharing so many insights in DINOTRUX and their creative process. We wish them and the DINOTRUX team much continued success!
In addition, I want to thank Sydney Robertson from Click Communications for making this interview possible.
DINOTRUX SEASON 2 SYNOPSIS
Ty and his best friend Revvit are back, building and battling in an all-new Season 2! The turf war escalates when D-Structs unveils a buzz-saw tail, battles with battering-ram Skya and kidnaps Revvit. Together the team saves the Ottos from a meteor crash, goes underground to escape the Desert Scraptors and builds a racetrack with Ton-Ton’s friends the Dumps. The fun never ends with the crew that’s half dinosaur, half truck and all awesome!
RON BURCH & DAVID KIDD – WRITING AND PRODUCING PARTNERS FOR DINOTRUX
Writing and producing partners Ron Burch and David Kidd got their start on the 1998 CBS sitcom, The Closer, which starred Tom Selleck, Ed Asner, David Krumholtz and Susie Nakamura, and for which they were nominated for a Primetime Emmy for the song “You Don’t Know Jack,” performed in the show by Michael Feinstein and Bernadette Peters.
Burch and Kidd segued to features with the simultaneous sales of Head Over Heels to Universal and Glamour Girls, with Minnie Driver attached, to New Line Cinema. Released in 2000, Head Over Heels, produced by Robert Simonds, was directed by Mark Waters and starred Freddie Prinze Jr. and Monica Potter. Burch and Kidd also served as story consultants for Inspector Gadget (Disney) and Elmo in Grouchland (Columbia TriStar), and their movie The Jane Plan was purchased by Disney.
Their remake of Yours, Mine & Ours for Paramount and Robert Simonds Productions was released in 2005, starring Dennis Quaid and Renee Russo. Burch and Kidd have developed and (re-) written a number of family movies for many major studios, including Beverly Hills Chihuahua for Disney, starring Drew Barrymore and Jamie Lee Curtis. They have also developed television pilots for MTV, ABC Family, Warner Brothers, FX, Fox and TBS. Their latest movie, Rap to the Future, is being produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura.
Together, Burch and Kidd are executive producers for Dreamworks Animation’s Netflix original series DINOTRUX, season 2 premieres March 11.
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