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As Seen At SDCC 2018 – Niko and the Sword of Light: From Sketch to Screen

The SDCC 2018 Panel for Niko and the Sword of Light!
(Unless otherwise stated, all photos were taken and edited by KristaG at SDCC2018)

I originally came across the show Niko and the Sword of Light more or less on accident while it was first airing on Amazon.com, and I will admit, I was originally a bit skeptical when I read the show description:

“A plague of shadows has swept across the land, turning innocent creatures into terrible monsters. One champion remains to battle the darkness and return the world to the light: Niko. Armed with his magic sword and guided by a determined Princess, young Niko journeys to the Curse-ed Volcano to face the evil sorcerer Nar Est and free his people from their magic prison.”

However, I was immediately hooked after watching the first episode and have since introduced numerous people to Niko and his friends! Fast forward to this past weekend at San Diego Comic-Con 2018, and low and behold there was actually a panel for the show being held on Thursday! The panel, which was made up of Kei Acedera, Bobby Chiu, Adam Jeffcoat, Jim Bryson, Sung Jin Ahn, Steven Blum, and Rob Hoegee, gave a brief history of the show, the motion comic that preceded it, and hints as to what is to come.

Niko Early Sketches

Some of the early sketches for Niko!
(Click to enlarge)

While discussing the history of the project, I was delightfully surprised to discover that Niko and the Sword of Light had originated as a “fully animated comic book” or “motion comic.” The project, which made its debut on Kickstarter in 2013, is a collaborative creation of Kei Acedera and Bobby Chiu as well as Adam Jeffcoat and Jim Bryson (their friends from Studio NX). Though they originally wanted the comic app to be a choose-your-own-adventure-style motion comic, the project changed and was trimmed down to a 30-minute animation. One of the biggest changes for me to see as a viewer in the panel audience was the differences in the art as it evolved from the early sketches to the art used for the comic to that of the show. While all of it is similar, Niko and his friends have certainly undergone some evolutions. As stated by one of the panelists, “the app launched, fell flat, [but] several weeks later it skyrocketed.” Today, the comic app is still only available for the iPad but is purchasable thanks to the creators and the 814 Kickstarter backers.

Princess Lyra

Princess Lyra was introduced to the series after the pilot episode was created as a way to target female viewers. It worked!
(image from Kari Wahlgren’s twitter)

After the campaign ended, the designers chose Amazon to pitch to when it came to making a show out of the motion comic. Fortunately for them, the comic could easily be used to set up the pilot episode as the key design and characters were already done. However, just because these elements were finished, it did not mean that the team would necessarily be able to tell their story to everyone else. Unfortunately, Amazon passed on the project three different times – even after it won the Daytime Emmy Award in 2016 for Outstanding Children’s Animated Program! Part of the reason for that, though, was because Amazon wanted to find a way to get girls to get behind the show too. In time, the creators introduced Princess Lyra (voiced by Kari Wahlgren) and the show evolved into being more about her than just about Niko and his adventures. When asked why they kept trying to get it picked up after so much rejection, the panel answered that they were just four people in the beginning and had considered quitting, but they “wanted to keep moving forward — as with Niko, [they] had to rise to the occasion to get things accomplished.” Obviously, Amazon eventually picked it up and the first season was released in its entirety on July 20th, 2017.

Niko Logo

Niko and the Sword of Light

The Amulet of Power Chapter 2 will be coming to Amazon in the Fall of 2018, and with it will be the return of several of my favorite characters as well as the introduction of new ones! Though I can’t say much on the preview episode we watched without giving away too many spoilers, I can say that I am extremely excited for the upcoming new season with its character development, story-line challenges, and building upon the light and dark dynamic. The developers admit that they “self-moderate” in order to keep things kid-friendly, but they do discuss ideas before trying to push limits. As stated by Rob Hoegee, “It’s okay to be a little scary. It’s okay to get dark.” Based on what I have seen, I can attest that Season 2 of Niko and the Sword of Light will indeed have it’s darker moments, but will also be filled with the silly, light-hearted ones that fans will recognize from earlier on in the show. As another treat for fans, there will be lots of tie-ins from the first season in addition to the continuation of the story.

Considering I waited in a fairly decent sized line to get into this panel, I am thrilled that I got to make it inside so I could attend it! I think one of my favorite parts, other than the episode drop, was when the audience got to watch how things actually transition from sketch to screen with the aid of Steve Blum’s voice acting for Nar Est and Rasper. First, he read a scene from an episode in Season 1 just from the script. Then we got to see the animation as storyboard sketches, rough animations, and eventually as the final product. I was gladdened to learn that Blum thinks “it’s fun to do these two characters” as they are quite possibly two of my favorites unless you count Flicker. As a fan of the show, its animation style, and now the motion comic that I have since purchased, I highly recommend it for kids and adults alike and am hyped about the upcoming season. There is still plenty of time to get caught up on Season 1 on Amazon before the show airs in the fall!

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2 Comments

  1. I love the story of Niko and the Sword of Light. Looking forward to watch more episodes. All the success to the creators and Jim Bryson.

    • KristaG

      I, too, love the story! I have been dying for a Season 2 and can hardly wait for this Fall! We have been constantly checking for news and had found nothing for months, so I was shocked to find a panel about it while I was at SDCC. Thanks for reading!

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