Castlevania has captivated its audience with its incredible animation and approach towards darker, adult animation. With Season 4 now available on Netflix, we had the special opportunity to speak with Samuel and Adam Deats, the director, and associate directors for Castlevania.
Since you both are very familiar with Castlevania, how do you maintain the balance between the creative process and keep elements related to Castlevania present?
Adam: I feel like the shell of the games are there in some capacity, and I think that’s what Sam and the crew managed to do. On his end, it’s making sure that the character designs feel like they’re integrated into the Castlevania world along with the backgrounds. Most people, when they think of Castlevania, they think about Ayami Kojima’s work because it’s just incredible. It’s the most easily recognizable, and, I think on my end, I was really excited to make sure that every room, if I could manage, felt like there was just a hint of Castlevania.
It also wasn’t just me, the background artist. [Sam and his team] would talk to me about ideas all the time, like, “What if we put this item on the shelf?” or “What if this crest was sitting on the floor?” and so on. I think doing this makes [Castlevania] feel integrated into the video game world.
Samuel (Sam): We occasionally jump in and try to make suggestions about including things. Season 3 included the Legion. Having all these demons from Hell come out of the portal that Trevor and Sypha are dealing with was something that we brought to the table. [It] just felt right for what was going on in the story, and visually bringing it to life in something that feels like [what] you would expect [in] Castlevania.
I heard a lot of work that went in from Legion with Season 3 with the bodies. What was your favorite element that you wanted to incorporate in Season 4 or was the most challenging sequence you had to work this season?
Adam: There’s been so many, but this season was the most complex season we’ve ever worked on. It has a lot of different actions all crammed into one season and many of them, scale-wise, are huge.
I’m not gonna spoil anything, but guys — every time you watch a crowd-based sequence, it is the worst nightmare of our lives. They’re so hard to work on. Just having to animate individual characters like that at a large scale is pretty tough.
I’d also say that we have some very big and interesting villains. One of them was very, very hard to animate and took a lot of time to get right.
Sam: Episode 9 of Season 4 is the hardest episode we’ve ever worked on by a lot.
Adam: Extremely difficult!
Sam: We’re trying to land not only on a ton of action animation, really difficult set pieces, and a lot of 3D backgrounds that are moving around, but we also have some really important and dramatic beats that just had to be nailed. The animation had to be the best that we could do. It took a ton of animators and a ton of time to really nail all those really difficult moments in that particular episode.
The action sequences are the most difficult sequences but what were your favorite sequences overall to work with? Action scenes or emotional scenes?
Adam: For me, I like both in different ways. I’m an effects supervisor on top of being an assistant director so I love special effects and working in a space where I’m able to do dense compositing work on action scenes. But my favorite sequences as a whole are the more emotional [ones] present in Episode 6 and 10 of Season 4.
One of my favorite sequences of Season 4 was in Episode 6 where Isaac at last confronts Hector and moves past his revenge, and we see the callback to Isaac’s previous encounter with the Captain in Season 3 with the placement of the limes in both scenes.
Adam: It was wonderful, yeah. I love that sequence a whole lot, and I think that Isaac ended up being one of our favorite characters because of the way his arc went.
Sam: I love how Episode 6 came out in particular. It’s one of my favorite things that we’ve made.
I wanted to ask about another part from Episode 6. It was… haunting for me because I was not expecting just the explosion animation during Carmilla’s… grand exit (laughs). How many iterations did it take to get to that final shot?
Sam: That last chunk of shots of Carmella’s acting I thought were so important that I ended up doing layouts in some key animation myself to make sure that they were just nailed.
I remember having time to hit all of those things, and I really leaned on the animation team to help cover a lot of the motion and stuff. But I really wanted to make sure that that moment stood out, and she had her big moment at the end. There wasn’t a lot of iteration, per se.
Adam: Because the board seemed to cover most of it as they were.
Sam: Right. Amanda Sitareh [an animator] did a really amazing job at the storyboards for that sequence, and I just tried my best to make sure that they were given justice (laughs).
Did you feel the original season for Castlevania was a big risk or had any kind of lessons you learned for adult animation moving forward?
Sam: I think that everyone kind of went into the first season being like “I don’t know” because video game adaptations have never really been successful. We were crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. I guess in the back of our heads we were always kind of hoping because we felt good about what we’re doing. We just didn’t know how fans would react, but it just struck a chord with a lot of folks — not just the video game fans, but also people who like dark fantasy or horror, cool action, anime, and so on.
Last question. Were there any ideas or settings that you would want to try to work? For instance, a dream setting or role that you want to try in the future?
Adam: I don’t know. I mean, Sam and I have talked about a lot of different scenarios for the Symphony of the Night fans. We like Rondo of Blood as well. We do like Hector, Alucard, and we like a lot so, you know, that would be fun.
I think that the Morris family has always been an interesting part of the Belmont universe. They’ve been kind of cast aside, in a sense, and they can’t use the vampire killers’ full power. So, they feel sort of downtrodden about that. I think there’s stuff that is interesting there.
It would even be interesting to just take one of the Belmonts with not much story and just do something totally new.
Sam: Like Soma Cruz.
Adam: Of course. The reality is that there are a lot of different interesting paths to go and all of it sounds good, so who knows?
Thank you again to Sam and Adam Deats and Netflix for the opportunity. Castlevania Season 4 is now streaming on Netflix.