Interview: Steve Blum, Part II

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Interview by Nic Gerbode | contributor
Transcribed by Marlan Moore | staff editor

Welcome to Part II of our interview with Steve Blum! You can find Part I of the interview here, where we talked about his voice acting inspirations, the vulgarity of Bulletstorm, and more.

Today, we feature the tail-end of our interview, where Blum gives an in-depth look at the return of Toonami after the success of its temporary April Fool’s Day return and his thoughts on the anime industry in the States.

IAX: What were your thoughts when Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim gave you the call about the [Toonami] April Fool’s joke? Did you have any predictions about what would happen afterward?

SB: I think I leaked a few bodily fluids initially in glee. I was really, really happy about that. I had been in touch with the fans who had created the fan sites, things like Toonami Aftermath and NeoToonami and had been pumping them to keep the Toonami buzz alive for the four years we were off the air. So I was kind of personally invested in that anyway, and when I got that call I just couldn’t believe they were able to make it happen. Jason DeMarco and Gill Austin over at Adult Swim gave me the call and asked if I’d be interested in it. I don’t know how loud I screamed “yes,” but they’re probably still suffering from ear-damage from that.

So I jumped on board immediately. We did that show and I think that initially was with the intention of bringing back Toonami in some form. At that time, they weren’t sure how they were going to pull it off and there was no budget for it at all. And then fortunately, the guys at Cartoon Network who work in Adult Swim gave them a little bone and just enough budget to kinda do a guerilla version of Toonami. And they asked if I’d be willing to do it for a little bit lower fee, and so I cut my rate down and then I decided I was really gonna help push this sucker and get it back on the air. I think they said we went from 200,000 people for a normal viewership on a Saturday night for Adult Swim to 1.4 million that night. 

And that inspired me just to get online and get on Twitter and just see what the fans were thinking about it. And it blew up. So I started tweeting, the fans started tweeting, and it turned into this Twitter-storm that we continued doing every Saturday night  until Toonami finally did come back. We were trending number one, number two, number three, almost every week, and in some cases, worldwide. And so that kind of proved to the network, I think, that the fanbase is still there.

So I feel like I’m part of the production team. I’m just a voice monkey. I actually record all the spots in my home booth, usually late at night, and it is still kinda guerilla warfare out there to get this thing going and to get some legs under it. But once we do, and hopefully we’ll get some funding, we can really bring it back to what it was before. But the fans seem like they’re all on board and I hope that everyone tunes in.

IAX: Fantastic. I didn’t know what to think when I first saw it. My friend Taylor and I, we were both watching it. He invited me over and he somehow knew it was going to happen. He called it. “I bet you anything Adult Swim is going to bring back Toonami for a night.” And I’ll be damned, he was right. Now, he said “This had to have so many viewers they’re going to have to bring it back. ” We’ll see…and lo and behold.

SB: But you never know, you know. Kudos to Adult Swim for really being an active participant in this. Adult Swim actually encouraged the fans with a hashtag to bring back Toonami on Twitter, and they listened. They were very interactive. And I don’t know if that happens that often, you know, in the process of bringing a show back on the air. I mean, it has happened to some shows of course, for some of the big shows - Futurama and things like that – but for something like this that has a very select viewership, it was really an amazing thing. For me, I felt I was in a little piece of history, just hanging out with the fans and bringing that sucker back.

IAX: I bet there were a lot of hoops to jump through, but Cartoon Network doing this was really, really cool.

SB: Yeah, they’re really cool. And they’re still jumping through hoops. I mean, God bless these guys. They must be going crazy trying to make new animation with no money. It’s gotta be a very difficult thing to do.

And it is a network, so you know, they have to follow protocol and if I can help them in any way I will.

IAX: Okay, last question – what are your thoughts on the anime industry in the U.S., and how some companies, such as Bandai, have been going under in recent years?

SB: It breaks my heart. A lot of my dear, dear friends were at Bandai and lost their jobs and gone to other things, so I’m sure they’ll be fine, but it breaks my heart that the anime industry in the United States has been so decimated. That’s one of the other reasons that I’m so invested in Toonami. Because I feel like if we can get that back up on the air, and encourage people to go out there and buy their anime legally, we might be able to  bring it back and breathe a little life back into it.

Also, I’d just like to encourage everybody to stop pirating please. That would help.

IAX: I remember Toonami being my gateway into getting into anime and everything. Just coming home from school and turning on Dragon Ball Z or something like that and just really getting into it. And then discovering Adult Swim just got me more into it.

SB: Well, it did it. It mainstreamed it for the United States.

IAX: That’s what’s necessary to get people into it.

SB: It is.

IAX: Well, Steve Blum, thank you very much for giving me the chance to talk to you in person.

SB: Thank you.

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