Gen Zed (partially found unreleased pilot of animated series; 2015)
Gen Zed is an unreleased comedy animated series created by Hayden Black that featured transgender actress Julie Rei Goldstein portraying the main character. A 2-minute promo was released on YouTube on June 6th, 2015, without an official release date. After 5 years of the promo's release, no confirmed update on the show's progress has been announced. In spite of this, an official Twitter, Facebook, and website have continued to remain active until they were all deleted sometime by 2019. Months following the promo, the show's official YouTube Channel released a Doritos advertisement that recycled animation from the previous promo.
The show has been the subject of controversy for its poor presentation in the promo and branding itself as "the first animated comedy to feature a transgender actress in a lead role". The latest known footage of an episode was featured at the Long Beach Comic Expo, which presented "The Cake is a Lie" with incomplete animation, labeled as episode 00. As of January 2016, Gen Zed announced that production for the show was handed to studio BIG Little Fix to speed up production and discard all 2D footage into CGI, which leaves the fate of the original pilot unknown.
- Shona Sommers (Julie Rei Goldstein)
- Cameron Atwood (Kevyn Richmond)
- Huey Ware (John M. Keating)
- Betsy Chan (Emily C. Chang)
- Taylor Adams (Jane Wiedlin)
- Miguel Jiminez (Marcelo Tubert)
- Kevin (Hal Sparks)
- Father O'Brien (Richard Schiff)
- Natalie (Trace Lysette)
- Nikki (Casey Mongillo)
- Shona's Mother (Stephanie Bentley)
- Jeremy (Matthew Del Negro)
- Cameron's Mother (Lidia Porto)
- Quillam (Hayden Black)
The now-defunct Gen Zed official website gives a premise to the series:
Hey! Welcome to Gen Zed – an edgy animated comedy about a young Trans woman who wants to be a stand up comic and her online friends who move in together. Its Friends meets Modern Family – with a huge dollop of The Young Ones. The show’s pilot will be released in 2016.
Production of Gen Zed can be found as early as January 2015, when a blog titled Making of Gen Zed posted sketches of the current cast in their prototype designs. The sketches show the cast in a significantly different art style as seen in the promo, with brushed-in coloring and a more unison anatomy. The post already describes the group as roommates to an upcoming LGBT-themed comedy and does not feature Quillam's avatar. This could be an indication that in early production, that the plot did not center around media and gaming until later on.
After the release of the official promo, Gen Zed has struggled to release the pilot or any completed footage, constantly pushing deadlines as a result. This is primarily due to production's understaffed animation crew, that does not work on the project full-time. It has not been decided whether Gen Zed will be released as a television or online series. Plans for the pilot to be released on the web were scheduled before the end of 2015, and for the series to air on television with a negotiating network have not been met. One deadline for the pilot's release was scheduled for November 2015, then December, and at the latest somewhere around 2016.
One of the latest updates on the show's progress was posted on the now-defunct official Tumblr of Gen Zed in January 2016. It appears that the producers have decided to deal a partnership with BIG little Fix, a team of graphic designers to transition the animation style from 2D to a 2.5D (3D animation made to look like 2D). On October 5th, 2016, Gen Zed's official Twitter announced that a 3D model of the main character, Shona Sommers was completed; however, this model has yet to be publicly released. On the now-defunct Twitter account Shona Sommers (@Gen_Zed) the description states that the show is now set to be released in 2020. However, this new release date has not been updated on their now-defunct official website.
For a short time during the release of the promo, Gen Zed received major backlash for its poor animation quality, political pandering, flat characters, and its claims as the first series to feature a transgender actress. In defense of the show's claims as the first to feature a transgender character in a lead role, Gen Zed's now-defunct official Tumblr has stated that Shona will assume the role of the protagonist. All videos on the official YouTube channel have disabled the like/dislike feature.
Though this has not been confirmed, it's widely believed that the promo's overwhelmingly negative reception killed off any chance for the Gen Zed animated series to take off, as the pilot episode it was made to promote was never officially released. With almost all of the show's official social media accounts and website later going offline by 2019 (except for the show's official YouTube channel, though it hasn't uploaded any new videos since 2015), it's safe to assume the series may have been quietly cancelled.
- Shona Sommer's birth name is Alan.
- Shona has not received transitional surgery.
- There are a few characters that are not present in the trailer but are featured on the now-defunct official website. These include Natalie, Nikki, and Miguel Jiminez.
- In the prototype design of the cast, various elements were translated or discarded in the final production of the promo.
- In her sketch work, Shona is already implied to be trans, and retains most of her original design, with the exception of her attire. At the end of the promo, she can be seen wearing a pink unicorn costume, which is based on the unicorn onesie that was given to her by Betsy.
- Betsy's prototype featured her with longer hair and a dragonfly tattoo on her back.
- Cameron had longer hair and wore a baseball cap in his original design. His sketch work indicates some relationship with video games. This is shown in the promo when Cameron is seen holding a video game controller, and working at a game shop with Taylor.
- Huey's body is not as prominent in tattoos as his final design.
- The prototype sketches features a character named Jeremy, with short red hair similar to Shona's. He does not appear in the promo but is listed as a character to appear in the series. He does not have any official artwork released on the site like other characters who did not appear in the promo.
- Based on the description of the original blog post, it could be inferred that Jeremy could have originally meant to be Shona before her transition.
- Although one could argue otherwise since in the trailer Shona was referred to Alan by Father O'Brien.
- So far the most recent footage of the pilot, was an incomplete preview of "The Cake is a Lie" that was exclusive to the Long Beach Comic Expo.
- While featuring unfurnished animation, it is unknown why the video was not uploaded to the official YouTube channel to promote the show's success.
- The preview features the main cast's parents (if the man Huey interacts with is assumed to be his father), while Betsy is absent overall.
- The title of the episode "The Cake is a Lie" is a reference to a catchphrase from the puzzle game Portal.
- The only known video that uploaded footage of the episode was titled "IMG Meowth 8", which is a reference to the anime Pokémon character Meowth's English voice actress, Maddie Blaustein, who is also known to be transgender.
- Archived copy of Gen Zed's now-defunct official website. Retrieved 03 Nov '20
- Archived copy of Gen Zed's now-defunct Twitter account. Retrieved 03 Nov' 20