Posted on May 08 2021 by David Lasby
The following interview was conducted Thursday, May 6, 2021 by David Lasby, Copy Editor for ZeldaDungeon.net. David Howe is an editor for Powerhouse Animation Studios, Inc. His responses reflect his own personal views and not those of Powerhouse Animation. Content warning: The linked video of the interview does at times contain adult language.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, David. I’m a huge fan of the Castlevania anime and obviously share a passion for Zelda. I was elated when we interacted on Twitter the other day and am excited to sit down and chat with you.
If you don’t mind, tell our readers a bit about yourself. How did you get into content editing?
“I’ve basically been doing video editing since high school…doing the video announcements for the broadcast club…and that got me way into editing and I found out that it was a skill I had at that point. Then I went to the University of Texas with a degree in Radio, Television, and Film, so I did a lot of editing then; I shot my first film–it was a short film–called Unipsycho. Since then I’ve worked for a lot of random companies, such as an e-learning company where I did a lot of audio engineering and editing. Then I shot a short film that I wrote called The Woo…and then a feature film that I edited and directed called Call Me Brother…
So I’ve always been into film, but as far as Powerhouse is concerned I was actually unemployed for a while, kind of banging my head against the wall. It was at that time that I had this messed up back surgery that left me in the hospital, and it was during that time that a friend reached out to me and said, “We’re looking for editors.” So I actually applied and edited the test while I was in the hospital bed…I was in the hospital for three weeks and I got the job right afterwards. It was definitely good timing for my mental health.”
Currently, you work for Powerhouse Animation Studios and have been working on the Netflix anime Castlevania. What specifically do you do as editor there? What has your experience been like?
“Before I got hired on at Powerhouse, I was already a massive fan of the show. I got hired on in Season 3. At Powerhouse, I’m an editor, and I work on animatics. So I’m at a couple points in the production pipeline. Early on, I’m with the storyboard artists, and we’ll get the storyboards all stitched together in an animatic form. At that point, it’s really early in the process, before anything goes to outsourcing or in-betweening…I’m working directly with the storyboard artists and adding in all temporary sound effects and music…I’m messing around with timing, editing, and flow; I’m figuring out what the tone is going to be… I’ll do that for every single episode.
The second part of my job, once we get all the in-betweening back from outsourcing departments and all the people we work with, then I’m working with the compositors, getting each one of those shots that’s completed filled up with effects, lighting, coloring, and stuff like that. It’s doing a second round of timing and editing, making sure all the dialogue and action is flowing well as we get it into premiere.”
Having had the chance to interact with you on Twitter, I know that you’re a fan of The Legend of Zelda series. Tell us about that. Any personal favorites?
“Yeah! I mean, I know it’s a little old hat at this point ‘cause it’s everyone’s favorite, but Ocarina of Time was the transformative game for me. Before that I’d played a little bit of Link’s Awakening, and I’d played just a brief bit of A Link to the Past. But it was really Ocarina of Time that was the first one I really sank my teeth into. I guess I was like ten when that first came out, it was 1998, so my brain was filled with wonder….the whole world-building aspect of the Zelda series really jump-started my creativity a lot…so those will always be the special ones to me; though I will say that Breath of the Wild is the first Zelda game I’ve played since then that gave me that same sense of excitement and wonder. I mean I love Twilight Princess and I love The Wind Waker, but Breath of the Wild is what it felt like when I first played Ocarina of Time.”
Speaking solely on your own and not on behalf of Powerhouse Animation, you’ve mentioned that you’d support the idea of a Zelda anime. Why do you think the iconic Nintendo franchise would make for a great anime?
“Well I think there’s precedent for it…I personally own a couple copies of the Ocarina of Time manga, so they’ve already adapted it into a serialized manga format…and I think if something works in a manga format then it would work in an anime. And then there’s also the world building.”
Any preference or perceived advantages to an animated series as opposed to a film adaptation?
“I personally would much rather see a serialized format for Zelda as opposed to a movie; I mean I think a movie could work, but having time to really explore that, the breadth of the world, in a serialized format would work really well. It would also follow the structure of the games that are, you know, temple based or boss based–you could really lump those together in couple-episode arcs.”
That’s something I’ve thought a lot about, writing for Zelda Dungeon and trying to imagine what a Zelda anime would look like. The games are so puzzle based, how do you bring that to the screen? No one wants to sit around and watch characters figure out a puzzle for 15 minutes. But you bring up a good point about serializing it and having chunks deal with different themes or regions.
“I think that’s something that anime already does really well anyway. I’m watching Demon Slayer right now, and there will be single episodes that deal with little side-quests, or there’ll be five episode arcs that will be like–the Shadow Temple or something–they kind of go to different areas.”
Coming from a similar generation as you, I think one thing that’s always worried folks like us who grew up watching the 1980s Zelda cartoon is this question, Can it be something that is taken seriously? And you raise a good point about the manga working out so well, that it could just jump to the screen.
“I think so…we’re at a different point now with video games than we were in the 80s. Video games are considered an art form now so much more than they ever were in the 80s; it was still very much for children, you know, and that Zelda show was fun to watch, but it was a Saturday morning cartoon…
If there was my dream of a Zelda anime adaptation, it would definitely be for adults–I mean it wouldn’t be a hard R-rating like Castlevania–I think that would be alienating for a lot of people. But I think just taking it seriously and giving the characters and the world the respect they deserve. I think that would be a lot easier to do these days than it was in the 80s.”
How common is that perspective? More specifically, are there others in the animation and production business that are pulling for a Zelda anime to finally happen? Certainly, Castlevania has really helped change the narrative around video game adaptations.
“Totally. I know for me personally and probably for some people I’ve talked to as well, whenever the rumors of a live-action Zelda Netflix show came up, obviously we were pumped; but at the same time we were always like–I feel like this would work better as an anime…I don’t want to speak for my co-workers, but if you look around the office at Powerhouse Animation, we’re all nerds. We’re all huge fans of Zelda and Metroid…I feel like anyone would chomp at the bit to make a show like this.”
Through your work on the Castlevania anime, have you drawn any inspiration or gained a vision for what a Zelda anime could look like? If so, tell us about what you envision.
“I think it’s the gravity and the stakes. Like we were talking about earlier, it’s taking it seriously and giving it the reverence. Castlevania works so well because it’s treated with respect, like it’s a prestigious franchise.
Another thing that works so well for Castlevania, and this is really for anyone who might be adapting the Zelda franchise, is not being so faithful to the source material to where it doesn’t work as a story. That’s what Castlevania does really well that I’m a big fan of; yeah there are plot points from the games, there are elements that are directly lifted from some of the games, but all in all, it’s very much its own thing…they took what worked and formed that into a story in itself.
I would hate for someone to be so faithful to the source material that it doesn’t work as a story. For example, one of the big hurdles in adapting the Zelda series is what you do with Link. Because he’s silent in all the games, what do you do? I personally think it would be pretty awkward if you had a completely silent protagonist in an anime. So a lot of the struggle then is figuring out what voice we give this kid–or adult–depending upon which version. Hey you can have both if you do Ocarina–please! (laughter). So you’d need to spend a lot of time in the writing process early–getting a good pitch document together–making sure you have a shared vision of where it’s going to go…”
The Castlevania anime has become known for its dark and gritty content and production, definitely marketing itself as a show for adults. Could something like that work for the Zelda series? Are there any particular Zelda games that might best be adapted in a similar fashion?
“All the swearing and nudity of course! (laughter) Kidding, obviously…I’d love to see a Majora’s Mask adaptation….I think it would make a good movie honestly. It’s more self-contained.”
Given that a new Mario movie is coming in 2022, what would you say are the odds that Nintendo will allow The Legend of Zelda to make it to the big screen or perhaps to a platform like Netflix?
“It certainly seems like they’re trending more towards the big screen; which don’t get me wrong, I’m all for. I’m going to be there day one…Like I said before, I’d probably prefer it in a serialized format; I just think they’d have more freedom that way, and it’d be part of the public consciousness longer as a show rather than a movie. We’ll see. I don’t even think Nintendo themselves even know. I think they’re talking to the CEO of Illumination right now–I think that news just came out. They’re talking about more animated projects, which gives me a little bit of pause. I don’t know how cartoony or CGI I want my Zelda–if that is what they’re doing…but I think they’re doing a wait and see approach…I think once Mario is out, and the box office numbers are in, that’s when Nintendo will evaluate doing this with all their franchises.”
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
“Sure. You know I’ve been reading Zelda Dungeon for a long time, so it’s cool doing an interview with you guys. I’m pulling for it. I mean I’m only speaking for myself and not on behalf of Powerhouse Animation. I would love to see a Zelda anime made.”
Where can people find you?
“You can find me on Twitter and Instagram; I’m @monolithfiji everywhere on the internet. Also if I can give a little plug, I do a Nintendo podcast once a week called Super Switch Headz. Call me Brother is up at callmebrother.com. Definitely an R-rated comedy, so maybe not for the younger audience. And finally, check out the new season of Castlevania, available 5/13.”
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. All of us at Zelda Dungeon appreciate it and are huge fans of the work you’re doing. Thank you for your time.
David Lasby is a staff writer at Zelda Dungeon. His favorite Zelda games are Breath of the Wild and A Link to the Past. You can find him on Twitter to talk all things Nintendo, sci-fi / fantasy, and creative writing.