In the time of coronavirus (COVID-19), many TV productions had to shut down, in some cases just in the tail-end of a season. While some had the luck of finishing just in time, shows like NBC’s The Blacklist were left holding the bag on how to finish remaining scenes.
Then someone brilliant came up with an idea to finish those scenes with animation to help complete the final episode of its seventh season. The result was sometimes mixed, but many critics and fans found it impressive.
The only risky aspect was transitioning roughly between live-action to animation. Arguably, that gave it a graphic novel feel at times, something perhaps best suited for The Blacklist from the get-go.
Who came up with the idea to use animation on The Blacklist?
Originally, the seventh season was going to be 22 episodes. Because of the pandemic, producers had to cut it to 19 episodes instead. Most of the cast thought the final episode would never be aired because of the situation until executive producer John Eisendrath had an epiphany.
It all came down to a comic book edition of The Blacklist that was published earlier in the series run. Eisendrath always thought his show had a bit of a graphic novel feel to it anyway in the foreboding, Noir-like settings.
And so it was that he decided to finish the final episode (The Kazanjian Brothers) using animation scattered throughout. The result took a lot of prepping and round-the-clock work, according to USA Today.
Eisendrath said about the show’s comic book feel: “Once we reminded ourselves of that, we (considered making) new comic-book stills to fill out the unfinished scenes. Then I thought, ‘Why don’t we just try to animate the whole thing'”?
The studio involved to make the animation magic happen
Eisendrath turned to an animation studio called Proof for their first high-profile TV job. Normally, they work in movies and in other brands of visual storytelling. What made the connection all the more interesting is the company’s CEO, (Ron Frankel), is Eisendrath’s brother-in-law.
Everyone involved in putting the animation together had to work tirelessly on a tight schedule to get the needed scenes completed. To prove the worth of video communication across the globe, the show managed to work with animators in two different countries. Editors for the show were scattered nationwide in their homes, making this a true digital/international effort.
Once done, the result was a mostly positive response from fans. As one Twitter viewer above said: “How genius & amazingly creative to finish unfinished scenes with #Blacklistanimation during this #coronavirus tough time!! Bravo #Blacklist production & kudos to you all”!!
Others were a little mixed about the quality of the animation looking more like a rough cut of a video game. Plus, the move from live-action to animation in some scenes seemed jarring to some.
Arguably, the animation allowed Liz to turn into a superhero
Many parts of this final episode were close to a superhero movie in its tone and shape. The big surprise, of course, was that Liz (Megan Boone) opened up her real self and decided to become almost like a superhero on her own terms.
Seeing her turn into an animated figure in the final scene of the episode made for a great payoff. One could almost argue it never would have worked as well in live-action based on the implications of Liz’s so-called transformation.
What this does is leave things open to doing similar episodes, if maybe entirely animation for Season 8. After all, the new TV season is still in doubt, despite some TV production going forward this summer.
Would fans accept all-animated episodes of The Blacklist next season to compensate? Turning into a graphic novel for TV might make it run longer than if sticking with live-action indefinitely. For the cast, they could stay home to do the voice work as they did for The Kazanjian Brothers.