Greg Autore and the Toy Design of Jewel Riders – Part Five

Greg Autore, Toy Designer

Greg Autore, Toy Designer

Hey Jewel Fans! We’re back again with another very special Christmas gift: another round of Q&A with with Greg Autore, the Toy Designer of Jewel Riders. Can you believe we let this tradition slide for four years? You can read parts one, two, three and four to catch up. No, seriously, read them and enjoy all the great information and memories that Greg has shared. We’ll wait.

All caught up? Good. Now on with the show!

For this round, we have several fan questions that we’ve collated, and that Greg has graciously answered.

Questions about people who worked on the show:

JRA: What is the relation between Henry and Robert Mandell?

GA: I do not know who Henry Mandell is (note from JRA: Henry Mandell is the voice of Shadowsong and Twig)

JRA: And what was the creative role of those credited as producers (executive and otherwise, I’m not sure which is more relevant)?

GA: It depends on the person named. Some were named as more honorary and did nothing.

JRA: Any idea about who the mysterious Robin Young was, who wrote or co-wrote half of the show?

GA: I did not meet Robin Young, I only met with the editor for the show stories who is named in the credits. Sylvia? (JRA Note: Story Editor was Shelly Shapiro) Most of my interaction with her was when she, Robert and I would talk through new storylines and how to use them for episodes. But I was able to meet her face to face once during that time at a San Diego Comic Con.

Questions about design and art:

JRA: Who did these amazing Style Guide drawings (that I guess we’re for the animators to use)?

GA: Those were done by the animators that Robert Mandell hired. I do not remember their names but they should be in the credits.

European Toy Packaging

European Toy Packaging

JRA: Did you draw the European toy package illustrations? (The fan who asked this question noted that the illustration bear resemblance to Greg’s art.)

GA: I did very little drawing but art directed the look mostly using two different designers. The original test models for Enchanted Camelot and many prototype models were made directly by me.

JRA: Did the Taiwanese artists have any part in the design, or did they just animate the storyboards?

GA: They only animated the storyboards. Ironically, the same company also animated Sabrina the Teen Witch computer animation for the Kenner commercials.

JRA: Do you know anything about the board / video game copyright patent they had issued?

GA: Most likely that is a design patent and not a utility/mechanical patent. If you go to the US patent site, you can look it up by number and get the details.

JRA: Are you interested in Arthurian legends? How much did you know about them at the time, did he read about them as research and what if he did?

GA: I always loved the Arthurian legends although I do not know all the detailed variations and historical progress of that storyline.

JRA: Did anything in particular inspire your visual designs or writings?

GA: I used as many medieval visual references that I could get my hands on. Especially any on armor.

JRA: Did you have any hand in making/changing character biographies or personalities?

GA: I had quite a lot on influence on the characters as I was often inserting plot lines. The Zebracorn and Tamara’s Beast-ish boyfriend were my ideas. There were probably more, but those I remember. The whole mermaid direction was from my pushing also.
There were other plotlines that were supposed to happen but I don’t believe they ever made it to the screen. Fallon was supposed to be able to turn invisible with her stone and occasional super speed. Tamara would have a shield appear from her hearthstone. Gwen was to be able to use her sunstone a bit like Wonder woman’s golden lasso.

JRA: Any other earliest character names? What’s with the “Rangers” name he mentioned for the Pack?

GA: That was a plan Robert had that fell to the side as they did not get much screen time.

Questions regarding Lady Kale and Morgana:

JRA: Was a proto-Kale there from the beginning too?

GA: Lady Kale was part of the show from the time it transformed from Dragon Riders into Enchanted Camelot.

JRA: Who redesigned Kale as older, taller and otherwise different from his original and why? Was she supposed to be actually younger at first?

GA: Those were mostly because the marketing team did not want different sized figures and Kale would have been at least a head taller. She was also not very girl-friendly so she was watered down. In hindsight – she was watered down too much.

JRA: A fan noticed old drawings and the toy alike tend to have Kale’s boots knee-high, and when she powers up they are thigh high?

GA: That was part of the differences we created for the toy as opposed to the screen character. The above question answers that better.

JRA: What material is Kale’s powered-down bodysuit made from? Did you design it?

GA: I designed the original look. It would have been leather if it was in real life. Later we pushed it two different directions – cuter more girl friendly and older more feme fetal for screen. The asymmetric look was part of the original plan to make her look a bit off without fully understanding why. This gave you subconscious mistrust of the character.

JRA: Kale’s supposed chainmail looks solid, so she has to be wearing something beneath too?

GA: Chainmail would always be worn with something underneath. In this case I assumed a heavy silk.

JRA: What’s Kale’s color coding? Is she supposed to be in part pink too, or was it more as just shades of red?

GA: Reds, blacks and touches of purple to look more evil.

JRA: Speaking of which, how do you feel about the change of hair color from purple to black?

GA: It made more sense on screen to go bold in black.

JRA: Kale’s cape for the toy is a gossamer fabric, was it like that for the show originally too?

GA: The flimsy fabric pieces were part of the original look that the consumer testing reacted well with. We made Kale look too close to the rest of the girls.

JRA: Kale (and Anya’s) earrings also changed, and a fan noticed it’s a “crystal drop” style that was apparently popular at the time. The toys didn’t have any earrings, were they meant to be there?

GA: I don’t recall dealing with her ears at all. I was more focused on the dragon helmet to come alive with a dragon rearing up.

JRA: Was her apparently actual whip in a storyboard just an artist misunderstanding if something like “whipping out power”, or was it more to it?

GA: It was part of the plan early on but I can’t remember if it came from me, Robert or a writer. It does sound like something I would have added hoping to give the toy a whip later.

JRA: Were you inspired by the Evil Queen and/or the Queen of the Crown (from Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, Robert Mandell’s previous show) or is it all just coincidential?

GA: Coincidental as far as I know since I don’t know those references.

JRA: What inspired you for Kale and also Morgana?

GA: They were both versions of the Morgan La Fey character from the Arthurian legends. Since Kale was mostly defeated in season one, we gave the girls a more bad-ass villain to fight.

JRA: Speaking of whom, was Morgana supposed to be fairylike (more the ‘real’ fairies, not the pixies from the show’s Fairyland), or like a modern fantasy dark elf?

GA: There was no specific reference I used for her inspiration. You hit the high points I was aiming at – elfin, icy white to seam cold, darker skin tone to pop the white hair and clothing. More alluring like Morgan La Fey using some of her magic to keep her young and beautiful. I loved the film Excalibur as a good Arthurian legend source. Even if the armor was 500 years ahead of its time.

Morgana Concept Board

Morgana Concept Board

JRA: A fan asked “Her eyes look super slanted in his picture, possibly to look less human, but Kale’s are kinda too, so I wonder about that in both cases, so maybe it’s just an ‘evil look’?”

GA: Both to look more evil and more elfin

JRA: Why do Kale and Gwen have darker skin, considering Anya is rather fair?

GA: Gwen was active and spending her time outdoors instead of being castle bound – I also made her skin tone more tan as if the sunstone power was radiating from her.

JRA: Morgana’s color apparently was yellow too at first, what happened to that?

GA: Morgana was always to be icey white/blue/lavender. The yellow tests were just tests. It is possible someone wanted her yellow and I fought it.

JRA: So the jewel armor in general is “physical manifestation of power”, but for all practical purposes, is it like metal or is it like something else?

GA: That was an actual a detail I added to the show. Armor did not exist in the original look. I envisioned it more as diamonds which are harder than metal.

JRA: Greg, did you design Grimm? Or the dweasels?

GA: Those were designed by Robert’s designers

JRA: Were the dweasels and dragon wagon ever considered for toys?

GA: Villains typically do not sell well. If the show lasted longer and had a larger following, we could have done more. With Girls, they avoid buying villains even more. Keep in mind that in boys toys, the ratio of villains to heroes is about 8 to one for sales. This works for every villain – except Darth Vader.

JRA: What happened to Morgana’s crown?

GA: I designed that but that animation was happening so fast at the end that I did not see all the changes.

JRA: Can you speak a little more to Morgana’s clothing design?

GA: I remember her gown was mostly a bustier with a dress and separate sleeves like long gloves. I don’t remember designing her footwear since it did not show. I would have put her in some type of high heeled sandals with laces that twined way up the leg – probably to mid thigh.

JRA: Considering your love of mermaids, did you have anything to do with the Mermaid Morgana?

GA: Mermaids are definitely a love of mine. I don’t think we did a Morgana Mermaid. We had not even sculpted the figure yet so none of her next features were planned. But if there was a way for me to make her a mermaid or have jewel power fairy wings sprout from her back, I would have.

Questions about other characters and final thoughts:

JRA: The script for “Prince of the Forest” references Ian as being designed after the popular 90s actor Fabio, any truth to this?

GA: I will admit there was a bit of influence on that. He was also very much the Beast from the idea of the original fairytale.

JRA: Anything about Ian’s original bear beast form? He’s so in the script… And I just recalled how HE is called “Ranger” there!

GA: We needed him to be a beast but could not get too close the Disney one. Honestly, I can’t remember the final look of his beast form – which probably means that I did not design that part.

JRA: So what are the Pack and Ian wearing? Is Ian’s human clothing technically also his jewel armor?

GA: Robert’s crew designed those. I was told to back off on designing every costume and focus on the girls since they were key to Kenner and my time was limited.

JRA: Fans have noticed many Disney art inspirations (some in earlier versions, some in the final version, from Simba-Spike to Merlin-Merlin to Chernobog-Guardian, to yes again Queen-Kale), was he a part of it there too?

GA: Some kids grew up with heroes of baseball players or astronauts. My heroes were Walt Disney, Jim Henson, and Dr. Suess. You can see those influences in all my work.

JRA: How would you redesign the characters if you did it today?

GA: I really like the artwork now shown on the Jewel Riders Archive. That is how I hoped the animation would look but seldom came close. Would I make things different? Yes, I would have put in more detailing to create more character breaks between girls. My original plan was for the child to ultimately assemble a full set of jewel armor on one figure based on buying the different variations.

JRA: Do you think it would have been turned into a boys show more like He-Man if they changed few things, but retained the female protagonists?  If yes, how so?

GA: I would have created the boys as more leathered with capes and bits of armor. More like amped up versions of Robin Hood’s band. It would also have given them differences in costume per character but with a unifying cape and some other element. Protagonists – I could keep designing those until they pulled my pencil off the paper. There is so much more I would have done with villains and storylines. I also would have kept amping up the power of the jewels into more and stronger manifestations so they were always learning. If anyone can find the money and buy the rights away from Bohbot, I am game for a redesign without losing the original feel!

We want to thank Greg for continuing this holiday tradition, and answering fans’ questions!

Happy Holidays, Jewel Fans! Wishing you all a warm and lovely holiday season, and bright new year. See you in 2023. 🙂


Chris & Ronnie

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