Carl Jones

Executive Producer of Black Dynamite

About Carl

You might not know Carl Jones by name, but you’ve definitely seen his work. The prolific artist and illustrator, 42, has enjoyed a successful career as a producer of The Boondocks, a co-creator of Freaknik the Musical, and as the Executive Producer of Black Dynamite, which just ended its two-season run on Cartoon Network with the television movie "The Wizard of Watts". Fusion caught up Jones to discuss influences on his work - everything from Richard Pryor to the 2009 anime film Redline - and the future of adult-focused animation.

“I’ve always wanted to create art that spoke to the human condition, that entertained people to make them laugh. It’s literally like giving the person medicine - it can be bitter, it can be sweet.”
“I’ve been drawing since I was five years old. When my dad came home from work, he would bring me a giant stack of paper - so I would try to impress him by drawing through the whole stack of paper. It became our thing.”

The 70s Aesthetic

“I was born in the 70s - most of what I identify as art and music was fashioned at an early age by my parents and siblings. I was listening to Marvin Gaye and watching Good Times, and all of the cultural icons of the era were an influence for me. There was a newfound sense of pride that blanketed the entire black community. Just that alone, the art, the comedy, the entertainment - I can’t help but be influenced by it because so many great things came out in that time. It’s all a part of what I digested. The '70s was almost like a renaissance coming off of civil rights, there was a new sense of pride in black identity. The stories in blaxploitation films weren’t initially exploitative - they were creating alpha males and alpha females like Shaft or Foxy Brown. These are heroes. It seems contradictory - but the pimps and hoes parts were just a back drop - there was so much more. The films of that era were moving in a very progressive direction. “

The Wiz

"In the spirit of blaxploitation I wanted to do a parody or spoof of American white "masterpieces". When I was a kid, I saw The Wiz before I saw The Wizard of Oz, I was moved by it because I had never seen anything like it. The Wizard of Oz is one of the best stories in American history, one of the best-told stories in American culture. I saw The Wiz at home first. There were two major home-based events: The Wiz and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” (My mom only got cable so we could watch Michael Jackson, and then we got rid of it.) Those two moments were major. Everyone in the family and close relatives all sat together watching The Wiz.

I took it as a personal challenge - is there a way to adapt that story to our world and make it relevant to the Black Dynamite universe?"

Michael Jackson as Scarecrow

"My favorite part of The Wiz is Michael Jackson’s performance as the Scarecrow. That was really powerful. At that time, Mike was at his peak - I just remember being such a huge fan...if that had been the whole movie, I’d have been happy. At the particular point in time, everyone was trying to be like Mike, wear Michael Jackson jackets, do something curly to your hair. (Laughs.) Even when I look back at it today, he was such a great performer - calling him a musician or an artist is an understatement. Every time he performed it was electrifying. The Wiz was amazing, but it was pretty PC. It was so watered down and censored. But our world isn’t like that - censorship is so weird to me. But it’s the world we live in. I don’t think there is anything the producers of The Wiz should have done differently. It worked for what it was. The way we view black content...people feel that the filmmakers/producers/writers have a strong obligation to represent the black audience well. I think we have to be able to embrace all of it. It’s different types of stories. The question I get all the time is “you have pimps and do you feel about that?” Sometimes we need Bill Cosbys...but we also need Chris Rocks, and we need the Wayans brothers and the Tyler Perrys. We need all of them. All of them are storytellers and we’re speaking to what is honest for them. I embrace all of it and hope ultimately we can have an appreciation for all of it."

Creating the "Wizard of Watts"

"When we came up with the idea to do the "Wizard of Watts" episode on Black Dynamite, it was two years ago. It was way before Ferguson or right now. People always ask if we are directly addressing what recently happened and what is being reported all over the news. We’re not addressing this specific incident - in my eyes, this has always been an epidemic in our communities. The story is not a police brutality story - it’s a story that deals with police brutality. It is the story of Black Dynamite and his friends who live in a world that is under siege, terrorizing the world of Oz-Watts. It’s very easy for the episode to be misconstrued - that we are using the opportunity to exploit recent tragedies for ratings. But this musical been in the works for years."

“I hope that adult animation continues to push boundaries. I hope to see some animated features where the stories don’t revolve around a bunch of animals. There is so much more room for adult stories to be told using this medium. It takes a while for the gatekeepers of Hollywood to come around. But if I’m not mistaken, Seth Rogen is doing an adult animated feature - hopefully if that does well, we will see more.”