Interviews: Larry DiTillio (9/97)
1. Please tell us a little about your background.
Not much to tell. I have been a professional scriptwriter, TV and film, since 1973. Born New York City. Went to both NYU(undergrad) and UCLA(Grad) film schools. Began my career with a movie assignment for a rather shady outfit called Bryanston Pictures. That got me in the Writer's Guild. Long dry period after that, until I finally got a break in animation. Got lots of animation work before finally cracking the live action tv area. Now do both.
2. What got you interested in writing?
Writers, I suppose. I was an avid reader, but I was also an avid moviegoer, so together those interests led me to scriptwriting. In my youth I was torn between being a tag team wrestler and a roller derby skater. I probably should have gone with one of those, but heck, writing's been good to me..
3. What other credits do you have besides Beast Wars?
Yikes. Okay here we go: ANIMATION: He Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra Princess of Power, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Centurions, Bionic 6, Galaxy High School, Hulk Hogan's Rock n' Wrestling, The Real Ghostbusters, The California Raisins Show, Conan the Adventurer and Beast Wars. Also co-credited with Bob Forward on "The Secret of the Sword" the he Man She-Ra film which was culled from a tv five-parter. LIVE ACTION: Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, The Hitchhiker, Murder She Wrote, Swamp Thing, They Came from Outer Space, Babylon 5, Hypernauts, The Hidden Room.
Also did three episodes of "Against the Odds", a biography show for kids. I did Napoleon and Hitler, Jomo Kenyatta and Pancho Villa, and Paul Robeson and Charles Lindbergh (each show had two thumbnail biographies)... There's more, but that's enough for now.
4. What personal interests/hobbies do you have?
I am an avid boardgamer and cardgamer and roleplay gamer. Current boardgame passions: Age of Renaissance, Serenissima, Settlers of Catan. Card games - Magic the Gathering, Legend of the Five Rings, Jyhad (aka Vampire), Shadowfist and others. Haven't roleplayed in a few years but just won the Origins award for my Call of Cthulhu scenario "The Masks of Nylarthotep"...
I also love the Dodgers and SUMO!!!
5. Is there any show/cartoon currently on television that you would love to write for?
XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.
6. What suggestions do you have for anyone wanting to break into the field of writing?
Sit down and let the feeling pass. This is a tough, tough racket and only the strong survive it. If that doesn't dissuade you then it's simple - you need talent, persistence and luck. Write, submit your writing, write some more. Get an agent, this is essential in film and tv and somewhat in prose as well. If you want it bad enough you can get it... But you'll have to suffer a lot of rejection and realize that it isn't personal.
7. Did you have any prior experience with Transformers before working on Beast Wars?
Well I thought I didn't until I looked at my massive comic collection and realized I have all the issues of the Marvel Transformers series.
8. The first season of Beast Wars made many references to the original Transformers show. What influenced your decision to make Beast Wars Transformers part of the original Transformers story?
The story was there, it would have been kind of stupid to ignore it. In a sense I treat Transformers like the King Arthur tales. It's one vast canon, with a lot of variations...
9. What reference materials have you used when writing in references to the "original" Transformers?
Comics, the Marvel Universe books and of course various ATT sources.
10. What influenced your decision to become a part of the Transformers "on line" community be maintaining contact with fans via e-mail and even posting on the Transformers newsgroup?
I used to speak with fans on the Internet when I was story-editing Babylon 5. It is a good way for writers to keep in touch with what the audience likes and dislikes. More and more writers are doing this as they discover the newsgroups for various shows.
11. Up until about two years ago, Transformers was a floundering line. Now it is a huge success, how do you feel about being a part of that comeback?
Terrific. It's a lot better than falling flat on your kisser.
12. Did Hasbro have any objections to your using references to the original Transformers series? Or did they encourage it?
No and No.
13. What is the process between conceiving the idea for a story and turning it into an animated show? How long does this process usually take?
If it takes more than a month you are in BIG TROUBLE... TV is a fast-paced game, you can't take lots and lots of time. Outside of time, the process is always pretty much the same - START WITH CHARACTERS, then build the world around them and their goals and needs. Not only must you create characters but you must also pay close attention to how they are connected to each other, their relationships. This is what makes any show work and all to often this is neglected and suddenly you have to start hunting for stories. In the case of Beast Wars it took about two weeks to put it together.
14. And finally, tastes great or less filling?
TASTES GREAT.... Always. Life IS trouble, only death is not. To live is to undo your belt and look for trouble (Nicholas Kazantakis "Zorba the Greek").