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Interview: Megan Nicole Dong Talks CENTAURWORLD!

The series premieres tomorrow, May 30th, on Netflix.

Interview: Megan Nicole Dong Talks CENTAURWORLD!

The new animated musical series Centaurworld drops tomorrow on Netflix.

Ahead of the premiere, BroadwayWorld connected with series creator Megan Nicole Dong via email to find out how the show came to be!

Centaurworld follows a war horse who is transported from her embattled world to a strange land inhabited by silly, singing centaurs of all species, shapes, and sizes. Desperate to return home, she befriends a group of these magical creatures and embarks on a journey that will test her more than any battle she's ever faced before.

The Broadway star-studded cast includes Jessie Mueller, Kimiko Glenn (Horse), Megan Hilty (Wammawink), Parvesh Cheena (Zulius), Josh Radnor (Durpleton), series creator Megan Nicole Dong (Glendale), and Chris Diamantopoulos (Ched).

Read the full interview below!

Tell me about Centaurworld! Where did this idea come from?

Centaurworld is an action-adventure, character-driven comedy that tells the story of a horse that gets separated from her rider and is taken to a new world of singing and dancing and colorful creatures. It is also a magic-filled road trip musical, with elements of sci-fi, horror and fantasy. There are a lot of things going on in our show, but at its heart is the story of one character trying to find another, and finding a new family on the way.

As fantastical and strange as this concept is, the idea was inspired by real life. I always loved visual arts and music, but I was an introverted kid who grew up in a community that really valued academic performance. When I got to high school, a chance scheduling conflict led me to being placed in a show choir class, which was WAY out of my comfort zone. Initially, I panicked at the thought of having to sing and dance in front of others, but over the course of that year, I came to love it all. The experience actually changed the trajectory of my life--I became obsessed with theater, but more importantly, I gained confidence in my creativity, and decided to pursue a career in the arts. Had I not wound up in that show choir my freshman year of high school, I probably would not have ended up in animation at all. And so, I wanted to tell the story of a duty-bound character dead-set on one way of living who winds up in an over-the-top, whimsical, musical setting that completely changes her.

Why Centaurs as main characters?

I know that the centaurs of mythology are traditionally part-horse, but I wanted to create a world of hybrid creatures that could be part-anything. Not only do we have centaurs of every species of animal--the trees, leaves, and even mountains can be centaurs. I wanted Centaurworld to look visually interesting and feel naturally inclusive, and with this wide spectrum of creatures of all shapes, size and color, I hope that comes across. Also, I just love drawing animals, I love puppets, and I love broad, expressive, silly cartooning, so the look of these centaurs came naturally to me.

Were you always interested in animation? Where did that take root for you?

I like to think that watching (and rewatching) The Little Mermaid over and over again at a young age did something to my brain. For years I wanted to be a marine biologist, and then I developed an interest in cartooning and music as I got older. I feel lucky to be able to combine a bit of all of those interests in Centaurworld!

Were you involved in casting? Tell me what you were looking for and tell me how the cast measures up!

Yes, I was involved and listened to many auditions. It was incredibly tough to pick from SO many talented individuals (this literally kept me up at night!). We knew from the get-go that we wanted everyone to do their own singing. Our cast also needed to have great comedic sensibilities and a lot of emotional range (as our show can shift very quickly from super silly to heartfelt and dramatic). I think the one quality I really sought out was sincerity. These characters are so absurd and over the top, but they all have interesting (and sad!) backstories, and I wanted them to all feel real. Our cast brought so much warmth and relatability to these characters--and they did so much amazing singing. We were so lucky to have incredible actors/musicians like Kimiko Glenn, Megan Hilty, Jessie Mueller, Chris Diamantopoulos, Josh Radnor, Parvesh Cheena, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Lea Salonga and Brian Stokes Mitchell, many of whom came to us with previous experience in animation, and some of them were doing this for the first time. Our story editor Meghan McCarthy described our voice recording sessions as these exquisite "Tiny Desk concerts," and it was true. Each session we recorded with the cast was always an incredible (and often emotional) experience for us, and our crew of artists were always so excited and inspired to create the visuals for our cast's performances.

What are you most excited for audiences to experience in Centaurworld?

I hope that audiences find the show surprising! We really tried to make something interesting, ambitious and unique, and I really hope that families can really enjoy and discuss the show together. We didn't shy away from heavier themes (like trauma and vulnerability) and we also packed the show with as much humor and music as possible, and I'd like to think the themes from the show will resonate with a lot of different people. Our crew had so much fun making this show, and poured so much love into it, and I sincerely hope that joy translates to the viewing experience.

Watch the trailer for Centaurworld here:


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