Superheroes, the supernatural, and the ever-looming threat of apocalypse—Marvel’s latest title, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, has all the company’s staples. But unlike the offerings of the MCU, this one’s an animated children’s show.
Moon Girl, also known as Lunella Lafayette, is a teenager who lives on the Lower East Side fighting evil forces alongside a T. rex. And as a Black hero, her presence reverberates beyond the screen. Recent studies have found that less than 6 percent of characters in kids’ film and TV are Black, and an even smaller number of those are major heroes—a statistic the creators of Moon Girl hope to change.
Among those creators is Raphael Saadiq, the R&B polymath who has released beloved solo albums, written music for Oscar contenders, and even found the time to produce for Beyoncé. In building out the world of Moon Girl, he drew inspiration from the real New York, which is—like many a Marvel property—very important to the show’s story. (It even references the closing of a beloved knish spot.) Prior to the show’s February 10 premiere on the Disney Channel, WIRED spoke to Saadiq about Sesame Street inspiration, being name-checked by the Wu-Tang Clan, and taking on a very different kind of musical project.
WIRED: Moon Girl feels like it’s trying to capture a spectrum of the sounds of New York City.
Raphael Saadiq: Definitely. There’s a lot of hip-hop, jazz, some funk. There’s some R&B, there’s a lot of salsa. There’s a lot of flavors in it. There’s songs, then there’s the score, and then there’s 30-second bumpers. It gives me a lot of chances to do surprising things.
What were the specific influences you were drawing on?
There’s little joints that are reflective of Wu-Tang Clan, which I’m a huge fan of. I selected some of my New York underground stuff that people don’t know that I do. I got a chance to play like I’m from New York. I remember riding in a car with [Tribe Called Quest MC] Q-Tip in New York, in his Jeep, and we would be blasting “My Life in the Sunshine” by Roy Ayers and we’d drive past people and I could see people dancing! That’s what I love about New York. This has been great [opportunity] to play a lot of parts of New York.
What were your goals for this?
I think the challenge for me was to inject some music to kids that they’re probably not getting every day on TikTok. They can take this to TikTok.
Did the process of working on Moon Girl get you reminiscing about your early exposure to music through children’s television?
When I was a kid watching cartoons, there were orchestras and so much good music. I was able to take that music with me as I got older. I wanted to do the same thing for kids. Maybe it’s their first time hearing music like this. They can take it and do something with it.