Ballmastrz: Rubicon Interview: Creator Christy Karacas on Anime Special

ComingSoon Senior Editor Spencer Legacy spoke with Ballmastrz: 9009 creator Christy Karacas about the show’s new special, Ballmastrz: Rubicon, and the legacy of Superjail! years later. Ballmastrz: Rubicon will premiere on February 20.

The synopsis for the special reads, “when secrets from Crayzar’s past threaten the future of the planet, will he grow some balls and unite ‘Team Earth,’ or add humanity to the intergalactic endangered species list?”

Spencer Legacy: The anime influence has always been there in Ballmastrz. So how did the collaboration with Studio 4℃ come together?

Christy Karacas: I go to a lot of animation festivals and a friend of mine, Silas Hickey who has a company called Custom Nuts, used to work for Cartoon Network Asia, and he works in Japan. He had these connections to these Japanese studios, and we were talking, and I was just like, “Man, I wish we could do it at a real anime studio.” And he was like, “Well, I know these people.” So he kind of set this up. I mean, I love Titmouse — I didn’t want to not do it at Titmouse, but I was like, “I kind of would love to do it at a real anime studio.” So since it was a special, we figured, “Why not?” So we made it happen, and it worked out really great.

What stood out the most about seeing a Japanese studio’s take on the show?

Well, I’ll tell you something very strange about working with Japanese studios. I … how do I say this? So when I met them, first of all, it was [during] Covid, so it’s all on Zoom. But I was thinking, “We’re going to see their take”. The first talk, we’re like, “We really want to be collaborative, this, this, and this.” And then when we started, they were very much like, “How do you want this to look? How do you want this to look?” They definitely put so much of their influence in it, and it was always awesome. But it was also … I guess it’s a culture thing or a language thing. It was very … how do I say this?

They’d always ask like a million questions and it would be like, “Yeah, just make whatever you want! Make it look awesome!” I mean, look, Studio 4℃’s amazing. I’ve been a fan of them since I was in my twenties. Mind Game‘s one of my favorite films and they do tons of things that just look totally different. So then [Takashi] Nakamura-san, he was the animation director of Akira. He’s worked on so many things, so I would do rough sketches and drawings and send to them, and then they’d redo it in their style and send it back and they completely redesigned everything. What I was trying to say before was [that] in the beginning, in my head, I thought, “Oh man, they’re going to totally change everything.” And then, when we started working together, they were just so respectful that I was like, “No, it’s okay.” You saw it, a lot of the stuff changed a lot. Lulu looks the same, but just the different interpretation of the characters.

What anime specifically have served really as the biggest inspirations for Ballmastrz as a series?

I don’t think there was one. When I was coming up with this show … it’s funny, I’ve always loved anime since I was in junior high. But I thought I couldn’t draw good enough, or I was like, “I can’t make an anime. It’ll suck or it won’t be good enough, or it’ll just be kind of crappy.” I remember when I was coming up with it … how do I say this?

When you’re working on a show for Adult Swim, there’s no deadline when you’re developing the show. But I remember Ollie [Green], the producer, called me. She’s like, Are you serious about this show or not?” I was like, “Ollie, I can’t figure this show out.” I’m a David Lynch fan and I can’t remember if I read some interview with him or I watched Mulholland Drive and there was some commentary or something, and he was talking about like, don’t try to make what other people make.

It was something about how his films … you’re getting in his head and it’s his dream and make what you can make, kind of talk. And I thought, “This just needs to be me making my version of anime.” And when I stopped worrying about trying to make it all perfect, it kind of just came out. But there were tons of influences. I mean, I love a lot of different anime, so it was anime, but it was also things like wrestling. It was things like, B-movies, you know, obviously Rollerball, dystopian things. It’s funny, Baby Ball, the character — do you remember the movie Major League?

No, I don’t.

Major League‘s this sports comedy and the poster was this baseball with like a mohawk and sunglasses and all this. It’s got Charlie Sheen and it and stuff. When I was a kid, I was like, “Oh my God, I want to see this movie so bad.” And when I went and saw the movie, that thing is never in the movie. I thought it was going to be a character. So that was one of the things, I was like, “What if the ball’s alive?” So Baby Ball’s based on that poster.

Also, at the time, all these really amazing anime were coming out, like Kill la Kill, Ping Pong: The Animation, things like that. Also in anime, there’s so many sports animes of every kind of sport. I mean, it could be ice skating or swimming, running, basketball, whatever. And I was like, “Wow, there’s not really a sports cartoon in Adult Swim.” So that was kind of the other reason. Again, I’d loved wrestling, I’d loved stuff like Rollerball or B Movie fake sports stuff. So I was like, “Maybe it’s like an anime fake sport thing.” So it was kind of like all these things combined.

Natasha Lyonne’s career has continued to grow to even higher heights. What stands out most about working with her and that she like enjoys doing this crazy show?

I mean, she’s amazing and I’m shocked she even still works with us because she’s so amazing. But I don’t know, she’s just very nice. She’s amazing. She’ll come in and — I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a voice record, but usually the actors will go through the script. They’ll do a bunch of takes of each line, all this. And she came in the first day and she’s like, “Do you care if I just read through this script?” I go, “Yeah, sure.” I didn’t want to say anything. And she read through the thing and I was like, “Oh my God, this is the character.” Like, I’m not even exaggerating. It was perfect.

She’s amazing. Like, I rarely have her redo any lines. She comes in and bangs it out. She’d come in before and do like three scripts at once and we’d have scheduled something like [a] three-hour record and she’d be done in like 20 minutes. It’s nuts. I’m always like, “Thank you for doing this!” Where she’s like, “Oh, it’s fun!” I think she’s very talented. I really do.

The special is also particularly interesting because you get to see Crayzar’s family and explore that dynamic with his brother. What did you like most about fleshing out that element?

One thing with the first two seasons is we always — I say we, me and the other writers — we’d get worried, like it was always about Ballmaster and Gaz and Ace and all that. And we worried it was starting to get kind of old, this team stuff and all that. People just think Crayzar’s so funny and we’re like, “Maybe we focus more on Crayzar and what this real problem is going to be.” It was fun to think of like, who is he? Where is he from? They’re these weird omnipotent beings and — this is spoiler stuff — but you know, his race, they’re not necessarily bad guys. Because he’s kind of a mess up that isn’t doing what he’s supposed to do and he is kind of hiding out from them.

So they kind of came to, and his brother is clearly sadistic. There’s a whole backstory between him and his brother that’s not in the special that I hope we get to do more, because there is a backstory. Crayzar is from a really ancient, powerful race, but they’re being threatened by this new thing in the universe. And this will all come out later if we get to do more. So it’s a big setup for a big kind of epic story, but Crayzar and Team Earth are going to help.

You mentioned wrestling earlier. Crayzar looks a lot like 90s Goldust from WWF. Was that an inspiration or coincidence?

I mean, it looks just like him! I feel bad because I love wrestling, I — well look at Superjail! It’s The Warden. I mean, I can’t believe they let me make that guy look just like Willy Wonka. But yeah, Goldust was a huge influence. I remember I was designing all these versions of him … the same thing happened with The Warden. I do all these versions and I kept going back. I was like, “He’s kind of just Willy Wonka though.” With Crayzar I kept drawing him and drawing him. With animation here, you want something to be simple. I was like, “He’s just in this body suit. He’s kind of heavy metal, but he’s kind of glam rock.” But yeah, Goldust was a huge influence. I love Goldust.

Speaking of Superjail!, Adult Swim’s been doing Aqua Teen and Venture Bros. specials and movies. Any interest in a potential Superjail! special down the line?

I would love to, but it’s up to them. I have ideas. I really do.

How do you view that show’s legacy? It seems to have gotten more appreciation, especially for its incredible animation as time’s gone on.

This is a reason I’d love to do it, because … how do I say this? I think when Superjail! came out, it was a little too abrasive. So people either loved it or hated it. I think now, the bar’s been raised with things like Tim and Eric and Rick and Morty. Things have gotten weirder in general and crazier. So I feel like now, Superjail! doesn’t seem that abrasive or crazy as a show. So I feel like it would almost do better now because, I won’t lie, when I meet someone and talk about Superjail!, they’ll be like, “Oh my God!” Like, they like it. It’s weird. When it was out, it wasn’t really that big. I mean, we had four seasons, but I don’t think we had crazy ratings. But it seems to be a cult thing, you know? I hope Adult Swim watches all these interviews. I would love to do more. I love working with Adult Swim. I love Ballmastrz. I love Superjail!


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