Matt Braly’s dream of becoming a professional artist began in high school when Pixar animator Bobby Podesta spoke to him during Career Day. Now 30, Braly is the creator and executive producer of Disney Channel’s original animation series, “Amphibia,” which debuts on June 17.
Previously a storyboard artist and director for Disney Channel’s “Gravity Falls,” Braly wanted the next long-term project he worked on to be a show that made him feel as passionate and dedicated to his craft as “Gravity Falls” did.
“I didn’t even know that creating a show was something I could consider until Alex Hirsch [series creator of ‘Gravity Falls’] visited me while I was working one night and told me to pitch a story,” stated Braly. “So I worked on a couple other shows for Disney while I did development [for ‘Amphibia’] and finally got it running after two years.”
“Amphibia” stars former Disney Channel sensation Brenda Song as Anne Boonchuy, a self-absorbed Thai-American teenager who accidentally finds herself stuck in a world of amphibians. Anne quickly bonds with an adventurous and curious young frog named Sprig Plantar (Justin Felbinger) and together they discover the true meaning of friendship.
The show is based in Burbank and is co-produced by three studios overseas — Rough Draft Korea, SMIP, and Saerom Animation. The team spends four months on pre-production before sending their work overseas, and it can take up to a year to finish each episode.
As the showrunner, Braly has the final say in all aspects of “Amphibia” and must review every part of the series with his crew of 40 artists, writers, directors, and producers in preparation for the air dates.
“It’s one of the busiest jobs on earth in the sense that I spend my whole day in back-to-back meetings. Every moment I’m either overseeing character designs, looking at backgrounds, reviewing storyboards, or reading future scripts and giving feedback,” explained Braly. “A lot more communication and delegation is involved compared to the development stage where I was almost always working alone, and there’s a lot of sensory overload.”
Although the job is laborious, Braly also describes it as a dream come true and would not trade it for anything. In fact, he often takes every step he can to grow the community.
Last month, Braly and his team partnered with the Latino Film Institute Youth Cinema Project (LFIYCP) to have fifth and sixth grade students tour the production offices, screen an episode of “Amphibia,” and meet a few members of the production crew.
“It’s such an amazing opportunity to interact with this group because they’re all very young and at the beginning of their creative journey. For big movies, people don’t realize that the scripts went through ‘x’ amount of iterations and that there was an incredibly talented team that brought the characters to life,” said Braly. “The industry needs more voices and I wanted to show [these students] that a career in animation is possible.”
“Amphibia’s” predicted success has caused Disney to greenlight the show for a second season before the series even premieres. Braly’s team is set to begin production of season two this summer.