Cartoon Network director of development Tramm Wigzell on Ben 10's latest transformation.


Cartoon Network

The challenge To age a 10-year-old cartoon superhero by five years
As we drew to the close of series four of Ben 10 in 2006, we wondered where our action hero would go next. He'd already done everything from time travel to finding the creator of his Omnitrix watch, the device that enables him to turn into spectacular aliens.

Sam Register, then head of development, and I came up with the idea of reinventing Ben Tennyson as a 15-year-old who dons the Omnitrix again to protect the Earth from a new alien threat.

Making him five years older allowed us to add the emotional complexities of teenage love and new responsibilities, but keep the core wish fulfilment: that with a piece of technology a kid can be all sorts of fantastical things.

We recruited supervising producer Glen Murakami and story editor Dwayne McDuffie, who brought the series to life. They spent months rethinking how Ben would look at 15 - older but retaining the essence of the character that kids know and love. They looked at everything in minute detail, including his facial features, his hairstyle, his posture, physique and the clothes he wears.

We also had to create 10 new aliens - one of the tougher parts of the whole creative process - with each alien requiring several superpowers. Swampfire, for example, is a giant walking plant that shoots fire and can regenerate and control plant life.

Visually it was important that every alien had an immediately recognisable silhouette. We also wanted to create a greater sense of mystery in this series, which is why a lot of Ben 10: Alien Force takes place at night.

All backgrounds and models of characters and props were drawn on computers by a team of about 30 designers, led by Glen. There was also writing, storyboarding and colouring, all of which took place at Cartoon Network Studios in Burbank, California.

The project was then shipped to two animation studios in Korea for the actual animation. Each frame was still hand-drawn using pen on paper, with computer technology used to expedite the process when creating colour palettes and design templates - ensuring, for example, that Ben's mouth is always drawn the right size for his face.

Once the animation was back with us the voice recording took place and we had a cast of actors who did a brilliant job bringing the characters to life. A stand-out moment for me is the first line of dialogue Ben utters when he morphs into an alien having not used the Omnitrix for five years: “I'd forgotten how much fun this is!” he says.
Ben 10: Alien Force transmits daily at 5pm on Cartoon Network