Warehouse 13 writers reveal the genesis of 2D web short adventure

Contributed by
Dec 17, 2012

This is an advertorial for a series of Warehouse 13 webisodes sponsored by the Toyota Prius c.

If you're not getting enough Warehouse 13 via season four currently airing on Syfy, you're in luck—the network and the Toyota Prius c have teamed up to bring us the recent "Grand Designs" web shorts, showing off an online-exclusive adventure with Artie and the gang. Want to know how the writers behind the small screen show brought it to the even-smaller screen?

Writing for the web is obviously a little different than writing for television, but veteran Warehouse 13 writers Ben Raab and Deric Hughes—who are currently working on the back half of season four—know there are a few things that never change. The biggest? Whatever the medium, you still have to make it good.

To ensure "Grand Designs" was interesting, the team opted to focus on arguably the show's most interesting character this time around: the warehouse itself.

"We wanted to tell a story about the warehouse, a story that kind of gave the audience who has been watching since season one a glimpse into the history of the warehouse," Raab said. "As we do with the webisodes, it's part live-action and part animation, so Pete accidentally triggers an artifact that causes them to be transformed into a sort of animated characters, a diorama, created be the architects of the warehouse ... The gang not only has to save themselves, but save the warehouse, as well."

Though the minis total just a few minutes each, Raab said it was still important to make sure every character had a purpose for being there, and that the webisodes maintained the same "voice" as the regular series.

"You have to figure out the overall story, then figure out how to break it up into chapters, so it makes sense. The challenge is, what is the big story and what are the mini-arcs, and how do we service all the characters involved, and give them enough time and care so no one is an unused component in the series," he said. "We have a great staff of writers we were able to involve, and some of the younger writers on our show, so you have the DNA and voices already here, so it feels like an actual episode of Warehouse 13. It comes from the inside, instead of the outside."

In the four years the hit series has been on the air, Raab said it's almost become like a surrogate family for the disparate characters involved, and they wanted to make sure that heart was also a part of "Grand Designs."

"Even the warehouse dog has a crucial role in the story. Leena was in this year, and this year we finally had Myka in the story, and Pete, Claudia and Artie—everyone who was present at the warehouse at the time is represented," he said. "They're all working together as a team, and as a family, and that's really what the show is all about."

Of course, one of the key components to make the webisodes possible is a co-sponsor, and that role went to the Toyota Prius c this year. Raab said it's always a challenge to find a way to organically fit in a product placement, but in the case of the Toyota Prius this year, he believes it actually helped drive (Get it?) the story forward.

"This is the second season we've worked with them and the Toyota Prius c has been great, and really supportive of the kinds of stories we want to tell, and having their product in it in a way that's not obtrusive to the story, but in a way that enhances it," he said. "Claudia's Prius c is how they navigate the labyrinth of the warehouse floor, and it plays a part in them being able to save themselves and the warehouse. It's always a challenge to find a way to have the sponsor presented in the story in away that makes sense to the story. It worked out great, and it was fun to have a car we could actually do stunts with when it's animated, because you can go a little further and stretch the boundaries."

Hughes said the mix of "steampunky, 2D-metallic" animated style also helped with the shooting schedule, since they weren't scrambling as much to get all the actors together while they're shooting the show itself. But, regardless, it can still be a crunch with production underway.

"With the time constraints you have, putting it all in while we're shooting the show, you have a limited amount of time to work with the actors, and you have to schedule an entire half-day to come in and do the voiceover work," he said. "Then, to mix in with the live action, you have to use second unit and find a time when the actors are available. It's kind of tricky, especially right in the middle of production, trying to get all that while not disrupting things as much as possible."

Check out all the "Grand Designs" shorts below and let us know what you think about the story:

Make Your Inbox Important

Get our newsletter and you’ll be delivered the most interesting stories, videos and interviews weekly.

Sign-up breaker
Sign out: