Blank Panther, Spider-Man, Wolverine and more are all based on creatures with extraordinary abilities, so what happens when you take the slow, charming demeanour of a Koala and channel it into a superhero? Well, not a whole lot, and that’s what makes Koala Man so great.
The brainchild is Australian animator Michael Cusack, who you might know from his most recent effort, Rick & Morty parody Bushworld Adventures, and a slew of other bizarre and funny shorts, all of which he animated himself.
Koala Man, however, marks a change for Cusack, with the idea picked up as part of ABC’s Fresh Blood and given a full-length pilot after a number of shorts. With the pilot now streaming and more episodes in the works, we caught up with Cusack to get an insight into the new project and what’s to come.
Tell us a little bit about Koala Man…
Koala Man is an Australian suburban superhero along the lines of Batman, but much less rich and not as cool. He has come to a point in his life where he can’t put up with the local petty crime anymore so he’s taken it into his own hands to try and stop it. The character came from my brief phase of getting into superheroes for like a week. Usually, I’m not really a massive fan of them.
How was it working with such a big team at the ABC?
It was different! I usually animate all of my cartoons so it was strange seeing someone else draw in your style. But it’s great to share the load with that stuff.
And you also worked alongside Chris Taylor, who features in the pilot?
Chris Taylor was great, I’ve been a fan of The Chaser forever and I always liked him the best because he just seemed like such a normal, clean-cut guy and reminded me of Graham Chapman in Monty Python. I love the contrast with someone who you wouldn’t expect being in a comedy troupe like that. Wonderful to meet him and work with him!
How would you compare this to your other work?
It’s an attempt to combine everything into one world, so hopefully just an expansion of previous stuff.
Why do you think initiatives like Fresh Blood are so important?
ABC made the right move with Fresh Blood because there are a lot of talented people in Australia and some really weird stuff too that is dying for budgets to be fully realised. Aunty Donna’s 1999 was a good example of that.
What’s the plan for Koala Man from here?
We are in talks with an American company to make a Koala Man series over there. Still all Australian, but will have a proper budget for animation which is harder to achieve here in Australia. We’ll seeeeeeee!
Have you had much international interest since the Rick & Morty clip?
Yeah, a reasonable amount! It helped out a lot.
How was that experience for you?
It was a fantastic experience. I worked closely with Studio Yotta, an animation studio with a bunch of incredibly talented artists that I’m actually fans of! Also, Adult Swim has been a place I’ve wanted to do stuff for forever, so in all areas of the production, it was a dream come true.
What are else you working on?
Developing a potential Koala Man series, and developing a pilot with my friend and co-creator Zach Hadel/psychicpebbles for another network.
You can stream the Koala Man pilot via ABC iView and watch one of three shorts below.