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In The Mix
August 29, 2017

Outside In

An animated series about a buoyant kid develops outside the box.

Paula Hendrickson
  • The chipper KO is enthralled by heroes, but not so much by shoes.

    Cartoon Network
  • Ian Jones-Quartey

    Jeremy Freeman

When Cartoon Network asked Ian Jones-Quartey if he had any ideas for an animated series, he thought big.

“I looked at all the things I liked,” says the show creator, who at the time was a storyboard supervisor on the network’s Adventure Time. “Feelings that I had as a kid, stuff I wanted to explore when I was younger — I balled those up into one big idea. I quickly decided to create a world full of heroes where no one is normal.”

That became the seed of OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes. The animated series, about the heroic efforts of a kid named K.O. and his pals at a local mall, debuts in August.

But the series itself evolved in a way that was outside the norm.

Jones-Quartey’s first pilot, Lakewood Plaza Turbo, became a mobile game called OK K.O. Lakewood Plaza Turbo. “In that game we got to reinvent the world, reinvent the character designs,” he says. “We built out fun places for the characters to explore. A lot of new ideas came from that. There was organic growth to this. Cartoon Network had a lot of faith in the idea.”

By the time Jones-Quartey (a two-time Emmy nominee for Steven Universe) and Toby Jones (also a double Emmy nominee, for Regular Show)  began writing the new series, they were well immersed in the OK K.O. world. So was the creative team, many of whom had played the game or seen online shorts related to the story. “People were very knowledgeable about the world and  were able to add to it in some really fun ways,” Jones- Quartey says.

Looking back, he credits Cartoon Network for its thoughtful development process. “They gave me room to play with the world and the characters for a long time before even starting on writing the stories. The way this show was developed could be a fun standard going forward.”

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 7, 2017

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