When faced with a bureaucratic group of timekeepers who are part church, part cop, and all out of known time, where do you even start to frame this as a frame for a TV show? For Disney + and Marvel Loki director Kate Herron, the answer was simple: back to iconic sci-fi hits, with a bit of a personal touch.
“I think when I introduced the studio I loved the idea of making the whole show this big love letter to science fictionHerron told io9 during a recent video call about his approach to getting the Time Variance Authority out of the comic book pages and into an achievable reality for Disney +. “I love sci-fi, and with the TVA, in particular, I have drawn in quite a few places …Metropolis, Blade runner, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy … SWest London has a lot of brutalist architecture, where I grew up. I was really intrigued to put this in the VAT, to represent these almost gods of the keepers of time, but to match that with Mad Men–this kind of midwest style, because they’re heroic, and I thought that was a really interesting mix for me.
But beyond cultural influences, Herron wanted to bring a human feeling to another crazy and esoteric atmosphere VAT has in Loki. And what could be more endearing about an extra-temporal faction that rules the sacred timeline with an iron fist? The fact that they are also for the most part just a bunch of pencil pusher. “[I wanted to] also bring the realities of my own experience by just working in an office and acting, ”Herron said. “I remember the technology – a computer I was working on was so old and they were like, ‘Well it’s not down so we’re do not go buy a new one! ‘ I thought it was very bureaucratic and I said to myself: “Well, VAT is outside of time and space, it is neither in the future nor in the past. Brazil kind of atmosphere. The 80s tech is a bit more clunky and needs updating, I think it was a lot of fun in that sense, just for the overall style of the place.
“Beyond that, I was working with my team to develop these ideas. I definitely took inspiration from the comics in terms of, like – they have these amazing images of desks going on and on, so we definitely built that into the design, ”Herron continued. “For me, something that was really important to make it feel like a real living space was … I love movies like Eternal sun and Scott pilgrim, which are very enhanced and fantastic which use a lot of practical sets. And I love to do long takes, so like we’ll see in the first episode, Loki and Mobius get out of the elevator and they walk down this really long hallway where they go in the first episode, and I thought [of] something me and my DP, fall [Durald, Loki’s Director of Photography, said], ‘Let’s just make this set practical’. And I think it really helped add to the reality! I would say a lot of our show is a heavy mix of practical and heightened visual effects, which I think gives TVA a level of reality, really.
Part of LokiThe first episode of which delves a little more into this increased side of the VAT are two brief retro animations, presented as Loki’s guide to what the Time Variance Authority does with its inmates. One is a simple video guide, the other is a bit more wacky, and an ongoing feature on the show: Miss Minutes, a cartoon anthropomorphic clock with a go-getter attitude and an Shanging out outside, brought to life by dubbing legend Tara Strong. For Herron, translating the idea of these animations for the show (and, in the case of Miss Minutes, bringing it to life beyond the 2D shot), required balancing these classic inspirations with the need for those moments to be ours. – and those of Loki–introduction to this strange new world.
“So basically when I had Michael [Waldron]’s script, which was there from the start, just Mr. jurassic park, that video from Miss Minutes and I was like: “Aw, that’s genius” because, you know, it’s funny and we’re learning about this world-building, but we’re laughing at the same time, ”Herron said of the animation. “So I thought it was a lot of fun and obviously it just kept evolving as we locked down our world building rules. I think for me it’s always been a really smart way to just – as we see VAT through Loki’s eyes – to be like, ‘OK, so where are we? What are the rules of this place? And it looks like he’s doing it. For me, that hand-drawn look was cool, because we don’t see a lot of animation like that anymore. There is also this style of public service announcement, because of all the eras that I draw from. Miss Minutes was inspired a little by Felix the Cat and cartoons of that time. Yeah, I think it was really fun doing that Roger rabbit kind of character in our series, so yes: Miss Minutes is a lot of fun!
Loki is now streaming on Disney +.