I’ve always been a fan of live-action adventure shows for kids – especially when they involve robots, high-tech gadgets, comedy, and karate! Disney Channel’s latest serialized adventure, MECH-X4 serves up a delicious blend of everything I desire and grew to enjoy as a childhood fan of Japanese TV. Created by executive producer Steve Marmel (“Sonny with a Chance”), MECH-X4 explores the outrageously funny and suspenseful adventures of Bay City High freshman, Ryan Walker (Nathaniel James Potvin, Lifetime’s “A Twist of Faith”), who learns that he’s a technopath. He’s a what? Ryan has the ability to communicate with technological devices – from computers to smart phones, to giant robots! One day, while mysteriously intercepting nearby cell phones, computers, and even signal lights, Ryan unknowingly awakens, MECH-X4, a 150-foot robot! I’m an instant fan of this narrative and enjoy its nostalgic salute to my fave childhood series Ultraman (see the “mini-feature” below). My 9 year-old and I recently had an opportunity to meet the cast and creators of Disney’s MECH-X4, while attending an advance screening.
Hands-down, MECH-X4 provides a voice for millennial high schoolers. Offering sci-fi adventure with hilarious Goonies-type situational comedy, this series is loaded with fresh, suspenseful storytelling and real-life high school drama. Once again, Disney has concocted a brilliant cast. Ryan struggles as the kid brother living under the shadow of his über popular older brother, Mark Walker (Raymond Cham, “Teen Beach Movie 2”). Mark is Bay City High’s handsome, stellar athlete and local “whiz mechanic.” He’d be perfect if he wasn’t occasionally conceited. Thankfully, Ryan receives sage advice to nurture his new abilities and combat countless freshman dilemmas from his long-time buddies. Harris (Kamran Lucas, “Girl Meets World”) is the resident science gadget genius and “voice of reason,” while Spyder (Pearce Joza, “How to Beat a Bully”) is an avid gamer who prefers to hangout than do homework.
MECH-X4 comes from an honest place: exploring themes such as sibling rivalry, friendship, technology, social media, and the environment. Creator and executive producer Steve Marmel believes you’ll find several important ideas within this show. “We really want to do a show that’s about characters. It’s like these four kids: these brothers and the friends that have to work together to beat the monsters that are coming after Bay City,” Steve explains. “It’s really about friendship and family, and how friendship and family can save the world!” A comic book aficionado, Steve enjoys current and past comics with character-driven storytelling. “My jam is that serialized storytelling that exists in comic books. Like every page tells a story – every last panel on a page leads to the next page. And every last page of the comic book makes you go, “I need that next comic book!” Admittedly a DC Justice League fan, Steve enjoyed the narrative writing style of Grant Morrison during the 90’s. “When he first came, he did the “big seven,” and it was like big heroes with bigger ideas. His writing is amazing,” says Steve. The TV creator’s love of comics remains steadfast. Although a big fan of the new Nova books written by Vincent Moore and Sam Alexander, Steve is currently hooked on the Marvel comic, Squirrel Girl, which follows a human mutate heroine and member of the Great Lakes Avengers with superhuman agility, retractable knuckle spikes, razor-sharp claws, and a prehensile tail.
Steve executive produces MECH-X4 along with Anupam Nigam (“Defiance”), Brian Hamilton (“Robson Arms”) and Zach Lipovsky (“Dead Rising: Watchtower”), who also directs the episodes. Anupam draws much of his inspiration from reading comics like Marvel’s “The Amazing Spider-Man”. The avid reader remains a fan. “Right now it’s Miles Morales’ [writing of] (The Ultimate Spider-Man and Miss Marvel),” says Anupam. “I can relate to her as the superhero with special powers and then contend with kid issues and kid problems and things like that.” Both Steve and Anupam are loyal fans of comic book writer/artist, who’s known for building the Ultimate Marvel Universe (launching Ultimate Spider-Man in 2000 and relaunching the Avengers franchise in 2004 with New Avengers.
Speaking of superpowers, I asked the MECH-X4 cast about the superhuman abilities they desired. Nathaniel James Potvin (Ryan) says he’d love to have telekinetic powers. “I can get into people’s heads. So, if he’s a shape-shifter, I can then use him at my will. Nathaniel’s fave superhero is Spider-Man. Of course, Nathaniel is anticipating the new Spider-Man movie. “Tom Holland as the new Spider-Man looks incredible! The busy star also enjoys playing guitar, singing, skateboarding and rock climbing. I chatted with Raymond Cham (Mark) and Nathaniel simultaneously. Both are Los Angeles natives, professional dancers, and share a distinct brotherly bond off-screen – probably due to their love of dance. Raymond has recently toured with Disney Channel superstar, Selena Gomez, and has been featured on numerous specials including ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” and the film, “Step Up: All In.”
I’m one of those who considers dancing a superpower! However, Raymond says he’d like have shape-shifting abilities. “Shape-shifting is the best power! Mystique is pretty sick when she does it,” Raymond chimes. “But, I think it’s one of the coolest powers because you can just be in any setting, and be OK. You can adapt to anything.” A Marvel fan, Raymond’s fave superhero is Black Panther. In his role as Mark, Bay City High’s athletic star, Raymond is forced to humble himself, learning to value family and friendship in order to operate as the “whiz mechanic” who keeps MECH-X4 operational.
As the conscience of the group, Kamran Lucas (Harris) offers wisdom in the midst of teen angst. Kamran says this role flows off-screen, where he still works to keep his buddies out of trouble. The apparent brains behind the MECH-X4 gadgets, Harris reads something of a witty, young Sherlock Holmes. Having the ability to control and turn back time would be an amazing superpower! “Time is such a relative thing and so to be able to manipulate it would be interesting,” Karmran explains. The talented character actor holds a Junior Black Belt in Martial Arts and has appeared in several hit series, including Disney Channel’s “Girl Meets World,” “Bella & the Bulldogs,” and “Sam & Cat.”
As the creator of the show, Steve Marmel, says he endeavored to create a Goonies-type sensibility within the characters, a goal the executive producer successfully achieves with this dynamic cast. Rounding out this talented cast is Pearce Joza (Spyder), the avid gamer in charge of “weapons and high-tech gadgetry.” He’s your typical, laid-back high school student – only concerned with girls and games – in that order. However, you can count on Spyder when the going gets tough. The free-spirited Pearce is a Colorado native accustomed to lush greenery and climbing trees. “When I look out my back door, I have half-million acres of natural parks. So, I’d go and play in the woods. A “log” would be a submarine for me,” Pearce explains. The Captain America fan says he’d love to have telekinetic powers with the ability to control anything and everything with your mind. “So you can make yourself fly or make yourself super strong. That would be cool,” says Pearce. He’s appeared on Disney XD’s “Lab Rats” and “Angie Tribeca.”
Expect 16 explosive episodes during Season 1 of “MECH-X4”! There’s a chock-full of family-fun in every suspenseful adventure, following four friends attempting to battle alien monsters, save the world, and make it to class without being tardy. I highly-recommend this show for ages 5 and older.