HBO MAX & CARTOON NETWORK STUDIOS [Comic-Con@Home]: Infinity Train.

Chris “Holy Spirit” Sawin
@evilbutters

The HBO Max and Cartoon Network Studios: Infinity Train panel is an interesting one. They chose to give you a peek into the writer’s room rather than having members of the voice cast involved. The panel consisted of writer/moderator Lindsay Katai, series creator Owen Dennis (also the voice of Sad-One), supervising producer Madeline Queripel, and writers Alex Horab and Justin Michael.

There was a lengthy discussion about how the writers were chosen for their jobs and how they all came together. During Katai’s first interview, Dennis and MaQeripel asked her what type of programming she watches. Katai replied, “I like sci-fi.” When pressed for specifics, she mentioned Star Trek. When pressed further for which Star Trek she was a fan of, she said Voyager. This resulted in Dennis and Queripel throwing their hands up and spinning around in their chairs in celebration.

Justin Michael came back with a list of things he wanted to happen on the show in one of his first interviews. Horab’s writing samples were said to be so drastically different from one another. Dennis said that Horab had one that was from the perspective of a toaster. Dennis said that he knew Infinity Train was going to be an eclectic kind of show, so he thought someone would be valuable who had lots of weird ideas about lots of different things.

Katai asked Dennis when he knew he wanted to make the show an anthology show. It was a choice made halfway through the first season. They were really happy with the story they told in the first ten episodes. Dennis said they worked really hard to tell a tight story in those ten, but Cartoon Network wanted 20 episodes. Dennis stated that there was a desire to not have any filler, so the choice was made to explore different characters and themes more thoroughly in later books/seasons.

Most of the writers seem to hate coming up with new ideas for train car ideas. Michael has pages, but Katai isn’t a fan of the puzzles involved for moving from one car to another. Horab made a good point that it isn’t always about solving a puzzle, but it’s often about emotional growth.

Owen Dennis made a special video devoted to multi-plane effects used for the animation of Infinity Train. Multi-plane photography is typically an animation cel being placed on a background. A simple animation of Atticus walking is a loop of eight cels. The multi-plane effect/camera originated in the 1930s, but it’s done digitally now. In real life, the objects in the foreground move faster than objects in the background. The multi-plane effect is a series of layered backgrounds shifted slightly to seem more realistic. Dennis is quick to point out that it’s been utilized throughout the show even though we probably haven’t noticed. He then showed a montage of some multi-plane sequences from the show.

Book 3 was announced a few weeks ago. The writers discussed that fan speculation has been frustrating since some of it has been spot-on. Entire seasons have been guessed and laid out by fans in the past. The new season will revolve around returning characters Grace and Simon from the Apex car along with two new characters; a little girl named Hazel and a big, blue, imposing creature named Tuba. It was noted that Hazel is the youngest character to be on the train thus far.

When naming new characters, the process is basically the writers yelling possible names until one sticks or feels right. Michael said that Hazel is likely to be more mature and intelligent than we may be expecting a girl her age to be. Fans knew Grace and Simon would return for Book 3, who were teased in Book 1 and introduced in episode seven of Book 2. Thus far, the point of the show has been to get the number each character on the train is assigned down in order to get off the train. However, Grace and Simon only want to see their numbers rise. Alex Horab then talked about everyone making mistakes on the show. What these characters initially think isn’t always the case.

The panel ended with the world premiere trailer for Book 3 along with a streaming date of August 13 on HBO Max. The first two books/seasons are already available. Lindsay Katai mentioned that the titles for the first two books are The Perennial Child (Book 1) and Cracked Reflection (Book 2). Owen Dennis then revealed that Book 3 is called Cult of the Conductor. When asked about the future of the series, Dennis stated that they have at least eight different ideas and themes of where future books/seasons could go. They even have plans to dive into other mediums like comics, but the show won’t go any further unless everyone watches the show on HBO Max.

I’m behind on Infinity Train and need to catch up. I’ve only seen the first book, but I doubt I’ll be able to revisit it and the second book before the third premieres next month. This was exactly what I’d want from a Comic-Con panel. It provided behind the scenes information, had video of the animation process, teased what lies ahead for the series, and gave fans something new to tide them over until the new season premieres. This was a 45-minute panel, but it was fun and detailed without feeling long or boring. It basically renewed my interest in the show, which is always a good thing. 4.5/5 Never-ending Bibles.

-Chris Sawin

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