Archer: Danger Island: How That Epic Dogfight Came Together (EXCLUSIVE)

Archer: Danger Island producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis walk us through the plane battle in Archer Season 9 Episode 4

Archer: Danger Island is currently one of the most appealing “reboots” that the series has ever done. The radical reimagining of the show’s premise and characters is far from running out of steam. The program is no stranger to serialization, but Danger Island leans especially hard into thrilling cliffhangers and the classical serials that it draws inspiration from. “A Warrior in Costume” ups the stakes in a number of ways as it brings an infamous rival from “Archer’s” past back into the picture, while it also sheds some light on his pre-Danger Island days.

The episode keeps many balls in the air at once as every character gets into a deeper mess, but the real highlight of this installment is the stunning dogfights that take place between “Archer” and his rival, Ziegler. Not only has the series never looked better, but this hectic air battle forces “Archer” to confront his weaknesses in an ambitious way. Plus, there’s some unexpected boning and betrayal thrown in for good measure, too! 

“A Warrior in Costume” makes for a great halfway point for the season and we got the opportunity to chat with the series’ executive and co-executive producers, Matt Thompson and Casey Willis, to really break it all down and explore the episode’s secrets. Plus, as a bonus, art director Chad Hurd has included some exclusive production art to show how the look of this season comes together!


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Archer Season 9 Episode 4 – “A Warrior in Costume”

“Archer keeps an eye out for a past nemesis”

Written by Adam Reed

DEN OF GEEK: “Archer” really goes through an emotional crisis when “Pam” changes the Loose Goose. You mentioned the significance of “Archer’s” relationship with his plane before, but why is it so important to him?

ARCHER: Archer has always had a strong connection to his vehicles. We remember back to season three and the episode “Drift Problem” when Archer got his new spy car and how lovingly he talked to it. In episode two of Danger Island, Archer has several conversations with the Loose Goose so we can feel how special she is to him. One reason Archer gets so upset with Pam is because she did it on her own without consulting him first. They are partners after all. Truth be told, Archer probably wouldn’t have done much better than Pam did fixing the plane, but he wasn’t involved.  So, in Archer’s mind, Pam is wrong and ruined the Loose Goose. He’s not a nice person.

That final dogfight sequence is so gorgeous. The water looks especially great. Talk a little on figuring out that set piece and if you considered any other conclusions to this feud.

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Our animators and compositors worked incredibly hard in conjunction with our art directors to make all the dogfight scenes look beautiful. The goal was for the final dogfight between Archer and Ziegler to echo the first dogfight in opening act of the show. We hoped to create some visual parallels to add to the sense that this is an ongoing feud. Ziegler’s demise was scripted, but the script was admittedly vague:

“Ziegler banks/rolls away. which (somehow, dear storyboarders) puts the underside of his plane right in Pam’s sights, just perfectly, and it just hangs there like a big, ripe fruit.”

We researched various aerial combat maneuvers and settled on Ziegler using our homemade variation of a maneuver called Pugachev’s Cobra to get behind Archer and take him down. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t count on Archer bringing Pam along as a tail gunner, sealing his fate. Realistically, the Stuka aircraft they were flying may not have been able to do that maneuver, but we took a little creative license for action’s sake. And also, because Ziegler was an expert flyer. And also still, because it’s a cartoon.

“Cheryl” betrays “Malory” and their dynamic flips here. Why did it seem like a good idea to split them up, and will “Malory” finally find herself in a subservient role for once?

This is the Danger Island version of, “You’re not my supervisor!” It’s always fun to see Malory on her back heel, but don’t worry, she’s never there for long. Malory and Cheryl/Charlotte are such a great combination because they are polar opposites.

Archer Production Art

Archer art director Chad Hurd has provided us with exclusive production art revealing how the show created this hectic animated dog fight. Here are the raw drawings, 3D rendering and final products for two important shots within the scene.

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“This sequence of pictures shows how much work our background painters and comp team do to make Archer such a beautiful show.”

Gunner Pam

“These pictures show Pam’s tail gunner seat. With Pam being so huge this season, we had to cheat the size of her seat a bit.”

Our walkthrough of Archer: Danger Island’s ninth season will conclude in a few weeks with its eighth and final episode.