Cartoon Hangover introduced Bee and PuppyCat with a two-part animated short in 2013 to tremendous fan response and rave reviews. With a built-in cult following from the initial two shorts, Frederator went on to launch a Kickstarter campaign that became the fourth-largest film and video funded project ever for the crowdsourcing site.
Here’s where you can find Natasha and Fred at NYCC:
Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 3-3:45 PM (room 1A10)
Bee & PuppyCat – An Inside Look at Creating an Animation Hit
Allegri and Seibert will offer a sneak peek at the first season of Bee and PuppyCat and will talk about the appeal of the cartoon, which is housed on YouTube – not a TV channel.
Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 5-5:45 PM (We Love Fine booth #1836)
Our friends at We Love Fine will host Natasha Allegri for an autograph session
Sunday, October 12, 2014 at 1-1:45 PM (room 1A21)
New Japanese Animation Talent – Kakehashi Project – The Bridge for Tomorrow*, a panel presented by The Japan Foundation.
Moderated by Justin Leach, producer of Kick-Heart, and including special guest Natasha Allegri, the panel will feature five up and coming talented Japanese animators and their work: Saki Muramoto (It’s time for supper); Ryo Okawara (A Wind Egg); Saori Shiroki (Woman Who Stole Fingers); Aya Suzuki (The Dreaming Machine, The Illusionist, Wolf Children, and The Wind Rises); Yuzuru Tachikawa (Death Billiards, Kill La Kill, Sword Art Online, Attack on Titan, and Terror in Resonance).
*The Kakehashi Project – The Bridge for Tomorrow is part of The Japan Foundation’s reciprocal Youth Exchange Program with North America, which aims to raise awareness about the various aspects of Japan and to attract visitors. Under this program Natasha Allegri will also visit Japan.
If you can’t make it to NYCC 2014, check out more Bee and PuppyCat at NYCC information and opportunities here . While you are at it … sign up for the Bee and PuppyCat newsletter for ongoing updates on the series.
Natasha Allegri is available to press outlets for interviews. If you want to set an interview up please email Nate Olson at Nate@Frederator.com
Masterclass: The Ten YouTube Commandments will take place at SMWLA HQ - Masterclass Room @ The Broad Stage 1310 11th St. Santa Monica, 1-2pm PT.
SMWLA is week of events (e.g. panels, presentations, demos, workshops, masterclasses etc) designed to help individuals and organizations to connect, share and collaborate on emerging social and mobile media trends and creativity.
For more on Matt and his thoughts on programming, YouTube success and his book - take a read of our other Frederator Times interviews with him here, here and here.
Eric Homan, Vice President, Development at Frederator, joined up with Seibert in 1998 and has worked on more than half of the shorts. Homan spoke with Frederator Times about why animated shorts are important and work for Frederator, identifying new creators, and giving them freedom to create, as well as about developing and producing these short independent films.
Frederator Times: What makes short-form animated content work so well for Frederator?
Eric Homan: There a few reasons. One is that Frederator’s always been much more focused on finding hitmakers rather than hits, and that’s the way we go about it; that is to give filmmakers as much creative freedom as possible. The longer the film—and the more expensive it is—the more the folks who finance our shorts shows want to add critical voices to the mix. Another is, creatively, we look for star characters above all else. The shorter format forces filmmakers to concentrate less on story and more on character.
Are the Too Cool! Cartoon shorts developed as pilots for longer series?
Yes and no. We try not to use the word ‘pilots’ as most, more traditionally-developed pilots are saddled with extra, non-essential baggage that gets in the way. That said, we’d love for every short we produce to cross over into series territory. We just don’t want these stand-alone shorts to act as set-ups for those series. Our feeling is if there’s a character with whom an audience falls in love, the series can be figured out later.
What kind of ‘non-essential baggage’ are you talking about?
Anything with the purpose of answering executives’ questions rather than having an audience fall in love with a character. Traditional pilots seem to be designed more to present what a series would be. That’s not our goal; if the audience falls in love with a character, we feel there’s a series to be made. (Pen Ward’s first “Adventure Time” short was about only a boy and his dog rescuing a princess. All the business about Ooo didn’t come till well after that short.)
A lot of companies give lip service to creator driven content - but then micromanage the process with lots of notes and changes. What is Frederator’s take on creator-driven?
If we were in the business of telling creators how to make their films, why would we need them? Of course, I’d like to think with our experience we can add something to the mix as well as troubleshoot, er, troubles, but we’ve succeeded as producers by supporting creators in what they want, not what we want.
How do you identify the creators that you want to work with? Do you seek out a creator whose work you like and hope they have some great characters - or do they all find Cartoon Hangover?
We look for creators, and they look for us. For instance, of the eleven shorts greenlit for Too Cool! Cartoons so far, four creators sought us. With the rest we either had existing relationships or we reached out to them.
What are some of the specific ways/places you have found creators?
Film festivals, recommendations, students’ work, unsolicited emails, indie comics, and, of course, the Internet.
When creators pitch a short concept to you - what do you focus on most?
Character, character, and character. Of course we want terrific stories and lots of comedy, but if there isn’t there a character with whom we want to spend time, what’s the point?
What is the pitch process like? Do you look at storyboards, scripts, comics, sketches on napkins?
To get the greenlight we need to see a beatboard — not a detailed storyboard, but rather maybe a third of the drawings. Those drawings can be very rough. Most, if not all, of the dialog should be there. A thumbnail pitch, really. That’s all we need. Pitch bibles aren’t necessary, nor are future episode ideas. (ed. note: above - see a portion of Mel Roach's pitchboard for Rocket Dog)
Are the Cartoon Hangover Too Cool! Shorts all storyboard driven?
Well, we take pitches in board form, so from our perspective, they have been. However, maybe the creators wrote scripts before thumbing out their ideas.
What’s the difference between storyboard driven and script driven?
Script-driven shows, including The Fairly OddParents* and most primetime animated shows you see, are written first, with that resultant script (or, often, the cast recording) going to the board artists. On the other hand, with board-driven cartoons, the boarders will work from short outlines generated by a writer or writing staff. These boarders are effectively writers, as well.
Most often the creators are the board artists. In other cases, since we require thumbnail pitches —complete with dialog—for the greenlight, it’s usually that pitch—and a couple of conversations—which goes to the board artist.
*Editor’s note: The original Fairly OddParents shorts were actually storyboarded first. As the series went into production, creator Butch Hartman felt the series would be best served writing teleplays that were then storyboarded.
Is there a hybrid of those two styles?
Maybe, but I can’t think of any examples (though boarders on storyboard-driven shows will often get chunks of dialog from the writers).
How do you go about matching up a specific creator who - might not be an animator - with the right team to create their short?
It’s rare that a creator will animate his or her film (“Rocket Dog’s” Mel Roach did). In most other cases, Frederator has a production team in place to oversee budgets and schedules.
It’s less common when a creator hasn’t got a good idea of whom he or she wants to bring on board (for instance, Natasha Allegri and Jesse and Justin Moynihan have pretty much brought on board all the artists on their projects). In other cases, you try and get a good feel of what the creator’s looking for (“I love the backgrounds on Flapjack”), find out who fits and who likes the project and is available. Maybe I’ve missed my true calling as a shadchan.
How long does it take to make a short like the ones debuting this year?
It varies. We’ve been producing shorts for Cartoon Hangover on a model that’s closer to the more traditional TV production model: a few months for pre-production; a few months for production; a month for post-production. Roughly seven months.
Why do you think that creators like working with Frederator?
Creative freedom, gaining experience via our production team, tremendous support for them and their work beyond the production of their cartoons, being part of a decades-long legacy of talent, and free pretzels in the breakroom (though that last one may be more of one of my likes).
"Imagine an old couple with tea stained teeth sitting by a fireplace, having tea with crackers," that’s how Jiwook Kim, creator of Blackford Manor, describes how she and her husband look when they sit and noodle on ideas together.
Blackford Manor, the newest Too Cool! Cartoons short, debuted Thursday, August 28, 2014, on Cartoon Hangover. The story follows Josette, a young maid with an active imagination who has come to work at the mysterious Blackford Manor … where danger lurks behind every door … or does it?
Kim co-wrote the animated short with her husband Patrick McHale (he has served as creative director, writer and storyboard artist on Adventure Time, and also worked on The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack and the upcoming Over The Garden Wall).
Born and raised in South Korea, she first came to the United States to attend CalArts.
Kim has had a relationship with Frederator since 2004, when one of her student films was featured in the inaugural The Nicktoons Film Festival, which was created and produced by Fred Seibert, Eric Homan and Frederator. Kim had her animated student films featured in each of the first four years of the program. Her film St Laleeloo won the festival’s Producers’ Choice Award in 2007.
She began her post school career as character layout artist on The Simpsons Movie. Kim has also worked as an artist on animated projects including Adventure Time, Futurama and Bob’s Burgers, among others.
I was excited to grab some time with Jiwook Kim to talk about Blackford Manor and her life.
Frederator Times: Is drawing and/or animation what you always wanted to do?
Jiwook Kim: I probably liked to draw a little more than average kids, but I neverthought of becoming an artist.
For some reason, all the artists I learned about when I was a little kid seemed terribly poor, socially ruined or depressed. Teachers didn’t teach about Andy Warhol to little kids. As a kid I didn’t know that animations were made by people.
What is the most exciting or interesting part of the animation process for you?
It depends. When I used to work by myself in school, probably editing was the most fun part. That’s when I put all the pieces together, added timing, jokes, sound effects, music — saving the whole thing.
But in the studio system, there are a lot of talented people who take care of editing and sound. I just get to sit with them and talk.
So in this case, the most exciting part is thewriting. That’s when I can sit by myself and do whatever I want.
What do you like to draw when it isn’t for work?
I have to confess, I really don’t enjoy drawing when it’s not for work.
Blackford Manor is sort of a mix of old gothic country house whodunits and Charles Addams’ work. Were you influenced by either?
The first one probably, because I had to research who Charles Addams was. (His artwork is great by the way.)
Where did you get the idea for the story and style of Blackford Manor?
I have very limited tastes. Dark mind in medieval times, mysterious people in an old mansion, and pretty girls. So I just put those ideas together. And I must have been inspired by a lot of black and white movies and mystery books. One of my favorite movies is The Old Dark House.
Where do you see the story and characters going if Blackford Manor were to go to series?
Blackford Manor is a huge mansion with a long history back to medieval times.
Josette will explore this empty (or not) place, room by room, revealing dark mysteries.
When you are developing a project, what usually comes first: the characters or the storyline?
It depends. When I make a short film, it’s easy to start with the storyline, especially the ending first. Because I don’t want to make the ending feel like I was cleaning up someone’s mess - the audience will feel my pain too.
But if I’m trying to make a series, it’s better to start with the characters. I try to think of a character who can be entertaining in a lot of different situations.
You and your husband, Patrick McHale, co-wrote the story for Blackford Manor. Have you ever worked together on an animated (or other) project before?
No. We sometimes talk about ideas though. Imagine an old couple with tea stained teeth sitting by a fireplace, having tea with crackers, talking about silly story ideas, giggling like old witches.
Was Blackford Manor your first time directing? What was that like?
I guess so, this is the first film I’ve worked on one of my films with other people.
I am extremely shy, and never liked to show my stuff to anyone. I remember when I had to sit with many other people and watch an unfinished animatic for the first time, it felt like doing an ice-bucket challenge. Then i got used to it more and more. The film feels less like mine, now i just wonder who made this strange little film.
What other animated projects or shows are you working on now?
Oh, I’m looking for a job now. Any job openings? I can use Photoshop, just little bit.
If you weren’t working in animation what do you think that you would be doing?
I wanted to become an architect when I was young. I like their desks.
What was the most surprising thing or things you remember about coming to the United States?
It probably is different in different areas in this country. I came to California first, and people are so friendly and smile all the time, and talk so much! I couldn’t understand why the lady in a grocery store was so interested in how I was doing that day, giving me such a nice smile, when I just wanted to buy a bottle of juice.
“SpaceBear is a barbarian with a whole lot of technology,” according to creator Andy Helms.
SpaceBear premiered on Cartoon Hangover on Thursday, August 14, 2014. In addition to creating and co-producing SpaceBear, Helms also wrote the story, did the storyboards and character designs. Dave Ferguson directed SpaceBear, and animated the short, as well as serving as prop/EFX designer, background designer, background painter and color stylist.
Born and raised in Michigan, Helms has been drawing all his life. He went on to study at the University of Michigan – School of Art & Design, and says that he his work is largely influenced by 1980s pop culture. Along the way he had a winning entry in a TokyoPop comics contest. Helms has also worked on his own webcomics, including Alarming Predicament, which is a parody of survival horror games.
Find out more about Andy and SpaceBear in our interview below.
FT: What kinds of things did you draw as a kid?
Andy Helms: In elementary school I remember drawing these scenes on notebook paper that were like a “good guy” based on one side and the “bad guy” on the other - with ships flying around blowing each other up. Probably a lot of GI Joe influence. The first comic I remember creating was in 4th grade and it was basically just a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles parody with salamanders. High school was all about this notebook paper space opera comic that is like 500 pages and terrible and painful anime fanart.
How did you learn to draw?
My Mom and sister are both very talented and I think it was probably just exposure to them - drawing was just a thing you did, not something you “can or cannot” do. But I really latched onto it and decided that is what I wanted to go to school for, etc. But I think friends on the internet posting art, and (when we had loads of free time) just making comics back and forth is what really made me get really into it.
How did you find your particular style?
Ha, I don’t think I have found a style. It used to really frustrate me that I don’t have a “go to” whenever I start drawing something, but I also like having options. The style for SpaceBear didn’t change too much throughout the process since I knew I wanted to go with minimal cartoon outlines with contrast-y color flats. But the characters designs changed a lot. I pulled out the original pitch files when I was thinking about this question and whoa, I have no idea what I was thinking.
Is this your first animated project?
It is! I used to make claymations on a VHS-C camcorder that could do 4 frames / sec in the 90’s but I don’t think that counts.
Where did the idea for the SpaceBear short come from?
Um, a it was kind of a wandering path. I’d been messing with an idea of this half-man-half-bear in space for a bit that was built on this joke about how “his only weaknesses are women and honey.” He eventually became a bear in a spacesuit and just started building a little world around him. My wife suggested that he was in community college, and from there it developed that he’s left his home, and the way of the bear planet, behind and has to pay his own way. If he ran out of cash he’d have to return to his people.
I wanted to have this kind of conflict of science and magic stuff, so that’s where the Astro-Magi came in, who are kind of these galactic jerks. That was inspired a lot by reading a bunch of Conan books, where the wizards and always huge turds and menace everyone. So, in a lot of ways SpaceBear is a barbarian with a whole lot of technology. He’s left his homeland in search of treasure and glory and a BFA.
Has the character of SpaceBear been kicking around in your head for a long time?
I think parts of him were in very different iterations. I usually have a few ideas for things filed away and try to combine them at times, while whatever I’m really interested in at the time also mingles with those ideas.
What was it like doing the casting for SpaceBear?
What a neat and difficult thing to do. I have never gotten to give a character of mine a voice before, let alone a whole cast. I think there was something like 300 auditions to go though, and I was so thrilled to get the chance to choose them. It was something to see a bunch of voice actors I knew of and really respected reading such goofy dialogue. Really cool.
Did you know how you wanted SpaceBear to sound?
He was the hardest to cast, probably because I had some kind of idea of his voice in my head. He’s a really small dude outside of his Xyber-Suit so I wanted him to have a deep, rumbling kind of voice to contrast that, as well as having a kind of Texas swagger to play up his “bounty hunter” type of work.
You have a very experienced and talented voice cast - was that at all intimidating?
No, it was a relief. They are the professionals, so they are going to do what they do without interference from me. You hear it in your head a certain way for so long when it lives on paper, and I think the worst thing I could do would be to ask an actor with that much experience to say it how I hear it. It was amazing to hear what they did. I could not have been happier with it.
So, Why do you think that certain animals, including bears, have always made such interesting protagonists in cartoons?
It feels like you have a lot of dials to turn with an animal character that are not there with humans - hard to describe. They seem like they are easy to empathize with since the viewer gets to form their own option about them. Like, is SpaceBear a handsome bear? Who knows. If he was in a Hollywood movie as a human, he’d be some hunky dude probably, and people are kind of expected to react a certain way to that. If that makes sense.
How did you get involved with Frederator’s Cartoon Hangover? Did they find you or did you find and pitch them?
I got an email from someone at Frederator suggesting I send in a pitch. So I spent way, way too long on my idea and sent it in only to find out that person no longer worker at Frederator, but Eric (ed. note: Frederator’s Eric Homan) took pity on me and read it anyway. I was already a fan before that, but had just never really thought about trying, so I’m glad I got that nudge.
What was it like for you working with Frederator?
It was not what I had expected, all in all really good ways. I got to be involved in every step of making the cartoon and really felt like Frederator cared about what my vision and opinion was. Surreal, in a way.
What are some of your favorite cartoons, action movies and video games?
Oh man. Well, I still really love the cartoons I grew up with, like GI Joe, Transformers and He-Man because I think the marketing around them is really fascinating. I was really into anime when that was a “new thing” in my hometown in the late 90’s, and Cowboy Bebop is still a favorite.
Action-y movies I can shortlist into Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars (A New Hope in particular) and Commando for the pure 80’s bravado of it. Tron is also way up there because I dig the design and tone of it.
Video games… My favorite more recent title has been the Mass Effect trilogy, and I still play them quite a bit. A Link to the Past has been one of my favorites for a long time. Super Mario Bros. 2 and 3 have a special place in my heart, too. Mario Bros. 2 particularly for the design. I have a bunch of the older games on a 3DS.
Are you in to role-playing games? If yes - which and what do you like about the genre?
Yeah… I like the idea of getting to “own” your character in a game. Like Mass Effect for instance, where you import your Shepard-person through three titles. Skyrim and Fallout 3 type games where your behavior matters and how you build your dude matters and you spend a long time with these guys doing adventure-y things.
How have any of the above influenced your work? Specifically SpaceBear.
I’d say Mass Effect if any of them - the world building is done in ways that I thought were really effective, but mostly that it is space-with-space-magic kind of stuff.
I was reading that you like the “less is more philosophy” - what does that mean to you in terms of your work?
Probably in reference to drawing. I like the idea of using really efficient lines and putting detail only where it absolutely needs to be. I mess around with pixel art sometimes for the same reason… how many blocks of color does it take to make something iconic recognizable. Similar thing with movie posters, where you have to condense all the emotion and style of a movie into a single image.
Do you have an ideal ‘ride’? What was your version of the X-90 Rudeness?
Haha. I’ve never had a ride that luscious. My gut feeling is that my Rudeness would be a DeLorean, though.
What is an “Odormancy” (is that the right spelling?) What was the inspiration for the Odormancy?
Odormancy is stinky, smell-powered magic. Perplexulo’s particular beard gives him the power to wield it. His favorite is dog-related smells. The “mancy” in SpaceBear’s world is generally a pretty specific skill set that is often used to harass others. At first he just use the dog-smells to stink up the teen’s car, but then it turned into what he was wanted for, and how he trapped SpaceBear in a memory. It grew into wanting to give the wizards a specific skill set - it had a Saturday-morning cartoon feeling to me - the wizard-of-the-week who has some ridiculous power.
What other projects are you working on right now?
I’m working on this drawing-a-day thing for a year that is about strange holidays - every day of the year has one. I’m also working on a ridiculous post-apocalyptic comic at the moment that is probably just for myself and the people I force to read it.
What is the best piece of advice that anyone (teacher or someone in the business) has given you about illustration, design and/or animation?
My Mom told me once to never stop drawing or let it stop being an interest - basically just don’t put it aside for forget how important it is to you. I think about that quite a bit, especially when it is frustrating and nothing seems “ old enough” and it’s hard to work up the motivation. It seems like as you get older and busier that it is an easy thing to just give up with a thousand different excuses.
Oh, and a nod to one of my design professors in college who saw a few of us drawing comics and told us to “grow up.” What a dingus.
What happens when two wildly creative brothers get together to create an animated project of their own? In the case of Jesseand Justin Moynihan, you get Manly, Cartoon Hangover’s newest Too Cool! Cartoons’ independent short, that’s what! Just two and a half years apart (Jesse’s older), Jesse and Justin were brought up outside of Philadelphia and have pretty much lived together most of their lives, and worked together on everything from various music-related endeavors to performance events to Manly.
Jesse has primarily focused on animation and illustration, including working as a storyboard artist on Adventure Time, for which he received a Primetime Emmy nomination for the episode Too Young (Season 3, Episode 5), and where he also writes some of the premises. Jesse is also well-known for his graphic novels, including the mystical sci-fi title Forming. He is also a musician. Justin is an avid outdoors man and musician; he has composed several songs for Adventure Time. Justin has also developed a range of physical outdoor programs, worked as a guide and has taught wilderness medicine courses. Together the guys have been in multiple bands. For Manly - the brothers co-composed the music, with Justin penning Nimbus’ song.
I think you’ll find this interview with Justin and Jesse almost as fascinating as Manly.
Frederator Times: How did you come up with the idea for Manly?
Jesse:I can’t remember! We were emailing and talking in video chats for a year - brainstorming ideas. This one just emerged out of nowhere, it seems like. Small pieces that just started to fit together. I think the concept started really broadly about general philosophical ideas about Death and the Universe. Then characters emerged out of that. Then we decided we had to really pull the characters into the foreground.
Justin: We played with a bunch of ideas. I think Jesse originally came up with the idea of a hermaphrodite who killed Gods for her Dad to escape the collapse of the universe. We both came up with the idea of a best friend like character. We were thinking of creating a show that delves into the deep thinking of Star Trek TNG, with the violence of Fist of the North Star, with the tenderness of the Little Prince. Jesse drew a bunch of pictures while I came up with the idea of a bunch of Gods. We swapped and I wrote character descriptions of the images he gave me and he started to vamp on the ideas I gave him.
FT: In developing Manly - did you also create a back-story for her planet?
Jesse: Yeah we have some back-story about Manly, but I think that stuff still needs to remain a mystery for now. I will say that Manly is the only daughter of Ahriman, and he’s had countless (thousands of) male offspring. Why is she the only daughter? That’s something we’ll explore if we get a chance to do more episodes. If not, then I guess you’ll never find out!
FT: What kind of being is Nimbus?
Jesse: I don’t think we can answer that just yet. Nimbus is a little bit of a mystery.
Justin: The mystery of Nimbus might be a big part of the show if we are granted a season. From what you see in the short, he is a balance, or an outside perspective in the violent world that Manly lives in. What can I give away without spoiling or locking myself in?… He is a cloud climber.
FT: Is it harder to create a character or storyline?
Jesse: It’s harder to create a character. Storylines are transient. Characters have to last and evolve over many many storylines. They need the spark of life and relatability to hold the audience captive. Stories are easier. Building a good character is a little more mysterious.
FT: Is there a specific reason that many of your characters in Manly (and other projects) have points or curves on their heads (hats - helmets)?
Jesse: It’s really just a design sensibility. Although some designs relate to sacred geometry.
FT: Have you ever seen Harry Nilsson’s animated movie The Point!? It reminded me of some of your designs. Did the movie influence on you and your work?
Jesse:I loved The Point! as a kid. I’m sure it’s at least had some general influence on the way I see myself in the world. You know, like not fitting in anywhere.
FT: How do you decide on a color scheme for your projects, specifically Manly and Forming. Yellows and pinks/reds play a big role in them - why?
Jesse: I go for the most saturated and lurid end of the color spectrum. I want to convey a heightened expression of our life force through color. That’s the idea anyway. Blood, guts and energy!
FT: What are the best and hardest parts of collaborating on a project (on any project, not just on one with your brother)?
Jesse:Collaboration means giving up a part of your ego to a greater goal. You have to be humble and assertive at the same time. It’s a balancing act of knowing when to listen, and when to make a decision. The best part is when an layer of complexity emerges from the merging of multiple brains. You can’t accomplish that with one brain.
FT: What’s it like working with your brother? (ed. note: in the photo above, that’s Justin on the left and Jesse on the right, looking a little like Nimbus - don’t you think?)
Justin: We’ve been working together on projects for maybe 22 years? Seriously. But we still get into it too much (fight). We are getting better, but somehow we still hurt each others feelings some… I think. Or at least I frustrate him/vice versa.
Jesse: We’ve almost always lived together, except for a few years where I was living here in LA by myself, and the year he lived in Japan. Justin is my main collaborator in life. Even if we’re doing different things, there is a general understanding that both of our lives are dedicated to creative expression. Obviously brothers fight sometimes. So we can get into it from time to time like those brothers from Oasis, except I think we’re cooler than the dudes from Oasis.
Justin is more of a dreamer, and I’m more pragmatic when it comes to visualizing projects. It’s a good mix, but sometimes yeah there’s some friction.
FT: What other projects have you and your brother done together?
Jesse: Justin and I have been in bands together since middle school. We’ve always collaborated on music and theatrical presentations for our bands. We used to organize art/performance events at our old warehouse in Philadelphia, as well as writing clubs, and spiritual dream journey clubs. We used to make zines together too.
FT: How did you get into animation? Do you doodle?
Jesse: I was making comics/graphic novels and Pen Ward discovered me. Then I moved to Los Angeles and started being able to afford a dentist. (ed. note: see one of Jesse’s doodles above)
FT: Do you draw too Justin?
Justin: I do. But I work with pencil and crayons (an effort to learn colors), and I used to do a lot of wood burning. I’ve moved most of my artistic attention to writing and composing though.
FT: How did scoring Manly work?
Justin: We gave Alex Tyson the episode to play with and do what he was inspired to do. Then we incorporated it into what Jesse and I composed together. Scoring was actually really fun. One the better collaborative moments by Jesse and me.
FT: What is more fun composing on your own or collaborating with someone?
Justin: The product I make collaborating with Jesse is always better, he pushes me in ways I don’t push myself. But we fight a bit in the process. Like I said earlier, I think we are getting better and not fighting. And I am getting better at composing on my own.
FT: What was the first instrument you learned to play? What others do you play?
Justin: Piano was the first, and still the main. I dabble with a bunch of novelty instruments, including some devoted periods to the accordion, the uke and 5 hour energy bottles.
FT: What is your favorite instrument to play? Did you take lessons or are you self-taught?
Justin:The piano still wins. A mix of both. I started with lessons, spent almost a year almost alone playing for 4-6 hours a day, then took lessons again, this time for ballet accompaniment, then self-teaching again.
FT: Jesse, what instruments do you play?
Jesse: I mostly play the violin and guitar. I also play bass, and mess round with synthesizers. I’ve been slowly teaching myself the cello too.
FT: Did you two play music together growing up? Do you have a band now?
Justin: We still compose and record for our music project (once band) Make a Rising. We are releasing a full length album in chunks called Wounded Fealers right now. Jesse is going to the East Coast in August to mix some songs we’ve been chipping away at.
We started playing music together in 1991 in a punk/funk/ska band. We had a progressive pop band after that. And then Make a Rising, which is more ambitious.
FT: Justin, what other projects are you working on - or have you worked on recently?
Justin: I composed an hour long modern dance piece that was performed at the Annenberg in Philadelphia this past February. That felt like a pretty big deal to me. The dancer/choreographer who commissioned me (Gabrielle Revlock) makes some pretty wild and awesome stuff, so it was a real honor to be trusted with a huge piece like this. The piece was entitled Confetti. I adapted some of the music for a smaller piece she performed called Lobster Slice as well.
I also finished a novella last year entitled I’m Fine. Really rough drafts are on my website in sections; the current final draft is also on the site. I am currently working on another novella and a short play.
FT: As creators what is like working with Frederator?
Jesse: The only thing they were strict about was the running time being under 5.5 minutes long. I think we went a few seconds over. Besides that, it’s been a very trusting experience. We got one note about emphasizing the relationship between Manly and Nimbus. That was a good note.
I wanted to work with Frederator because I knew they wouldn’t interfere with our ideas. They totally allowed us to pursue a direct vision, and didn’t hang us up with months/years of development notes.
Justin: They are pretty easy to work with, though I have nothing to compare them to. It feels like a reasonable balance between chillin and get ‘er done.
FT: If Frederator’s Cartoon Hangover hadn’t given the go ahead on Manly … did you have another idea to pitch? Can you say what the idea was?
Justin: I always got projects in mind… Not sure if I should say, might want to pitch them one day. One involved two brothers looking for their parents in their dreams. It would have been a vehicle for tripped out imagery, introspection, and practical skills for lucid dreaming.
FT: Jesse, you have said that Manly is, “about Spirit triumphing over flesh.” What does that mean to you - and are you a spiritual person?
Jesse: Yeah, I am a spiritual person. I think if you consider yourself an artist, you should consider yourself a spiritual person. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but for me it’s vitally important. When you are reaching for ideas, where are you reaching to? And what is the limit of your reach? Sometimes you need to go beyond the limits of your physical identity and give into higher forces of creativity. How you want to define that is up to you. But in the realms of creativity, the laws of the material world can break down.
We’re planning on exploring these ideas in Manly. Manly has violence and crudeness but there is an underlying philosophical exploration happening. Hopefully that comes through. All of our greatest mythological heroes have triumphed over their flesh in some way. I think that’s our greatest goal as humans!
FT: How about you Justin - are you spiritual? How does that play into the work you do?
Justin:I think I was having an existential crisis for about 15 years. From 17 to 32. I definitely leaned out supernatural and non-ordinary realities to keep me from despair, but I could not understand how we (all) could be one yet feel divided as souls (and objects). This questioning led me to a lot of thinking around non-duality. I think just the meditation and intention around that thought process, coupled with efforts to expand my perspective and recognize the artifacts that influence my cultural bias, along with a willing (and purposeful) engagement with extremely painful physical and emotional ordeal - this head first interaction with the things that scare me - had led me to a place where the conflict has really dissolved.
Sometimes I worry that that will make my art less exciting, or less relatable. I mean people really love conflict and drama! And it certainly can still exist with my perspective, but it is something different. Well, yeah, to answer your question, these inquiries into universe and self definitely come up in the work. And the archetypes and rituals used to interact and describe these quandaries appear as well. I’m big on writers like Daumal and Hesse who incorporated these journeys of the soul into their stories; and in tv and movies: twin peaks, true detective, Jodorowsky, Boorman…
FT: Were you brought up in an artistic and spiritual family?
Justin: Our Mom is a writer and plays the flute. Our Dad writes too, but differently, and he likes singing Elvis karaoke. They are also both super spiritual and really out there. They have an artistic openness. But I wouldn’t say they are aesthetes.
Jesse: Our mom can paint, but she never really does it. I think she’s very insecure about her painting abilities. I don’t know why! We were raised in a very spiritual environment that was Christian early on and then sort of evolved into a personal interaction with subtle forces around and inside us. I don’t operate in the same way as our parents, but I can’t deny that I come from that, and that I have a great appreciation for it.
While you are putting the final touches on your schedule for San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), you’d be all kinds of crazy to miss the Cartoon Hangover:Bee and PuppyCat and Friends panel slated for Thursday, July 24, 5:30-6:30p! The panel will feature Natasha Allegri, creator ofCartoon Hangover's Bee and PuppyCat, which is the most successful crowdfunded animated series ever, as well as the cast and crew, including Ally Rachel (voice of Bee), Kent Osborne (voice of Deckard), Efrain Farias (art director), Becky Dreistadt (character designer), Frank Gibson (writer & voice of Wallace), Madeleine Flores (writer), Hans Tseng (designer), and moderated by Frederator VP/Development, Eric Homan.
The voice of Bravest Warriors’ Catbug, Sam Lavagnino, will be signing autographs Friday, July 25 at 10a and again at 1p at Viz Media’s Booth (#2813 on the main show floor).
An episode of Cartoon Hangover’s Bravest Warriors, directed by Breehn Burns, creator of Dr. Tran and director of Bravest Warriors, will be one of 35 films screened as part of the Sick & Twisted Gauntlet of Animationlive voting festival on Friday, July 25 at 9:30p (room 6BCF).
Breehn Burns will also sign autographs at the Spike and Mike booth (#1536) on Saturday, July 26, 2-3:30p.
Check the SDCC schedule for updated information, including signings for Natasha Allegri.
Have fun everyone - and do’t forget to tell us what/who you saw and what you got!
Who doesn’t like a burly man with a chainsaw!?! Well, Ramses and his spirit pal, Tiny Ghost, the stars of Cartoon Hangover’s new Too Cool! Cartoons short “Chainsaw Richard,” sure do. Created/written by Christopher Reineman, Chainsaw Richard debuted on Thursday, July 17, 2014 and follows young Ramses and Tiny Ghost on their adventure to sneak into the premiere of a super scary movie. “Chainsaw Richard” was directed/storyboard by Tom King, and features the voices of Tyler Merna (Ramses), Ashly Burch (Tiny Ghost and Female Voice), Eric Bauza (Chainsaw Richard, Theater Guy and Officer), and River Jordan (EMT). Check out the full list of the talented cast/crew. Born in Key West, Florida and currently living near Stockholm, Sweden, Reineman is a self-taught artist who has been interested in animation “for as long as I can remember.” As a kid, Reineman says he spent lots of time writing down his own ideas for episodes of his favorite cartoons. Reineman is also known for his popular webcomic Feel Afraid. Fans can find his other comics, illustrations, and sketches at his Tumblr or and follow him on Twitter. Is Tiny Ghost a boy or a girl? What would the title of the show be if it went to series? For answers to those burning questions and more … read this fab interview with Christopher Reineman right here (and see a sketch of him just below too).
Did you draw a lot growing up?
Sort of, when I was in elementary school. I remember I used to draw these little comics for the girl I sat next to in science class, probably trying to win her over. Other than that I would just draw little animals or fish until my interest in drawing sort of petered out at some point. I didn’t really start drawing until I was 18.
What was your favorite doodle to draw?
I liked drawing stick figures with facial expressions, I thought it was great you could make yourself laugh with just how an expression looks.
How did you learn to draw? Did you go to art school?
Nope, all self-taught. I took an art class in high school at some point, but everything I’ve learned art-related has been from sleepless nights reading tutorials on the internet and experimenting with Photoshop.
When did you create your popular web comic, Feel Afraid? How did Feel Afraid inform Chainsaw Richard?
I started making Feel Afraid probably in late 2009, I was probably around 18. That comic has a lot to do with Chainsaw Richard, but also doesn’t. Tiny Ghost is a character from it, which I basically transplanted, though I’ve changed their personality a bit to better play off Ramses’ character. I guess you could say the horror elements and “oh no it got even worse” humor are signature for Feel Afraid, but really they’re just what make sense to me.
How did you and Chainsaw Richard make your way to Frederator’s Cartoon Hangover?
We got found! I got a really out of the blue e-mail from Frederator’s Eric Homan asking if I’d like to pitch an idea for a cartoon, apparently he’d read some of my comics. I’m actually pretty sure he found my stuff when Natasha Allegri reblogged a comic of mine on Tumblr.
Was Chainsaw Richard initially a comic before being pitched as an animated short - where did the idea come from?
Chainsaw Richard wasn’t, but the characters for Ramses and Tiny Ghost were in some comics. They basically started out as this sort of thing I would daydream about. I had just moved to a new city to start university, and the few friends I had there were either sort of jerks or just distant, so I was pretty lonely. To keep myself occupied, I got involved in the local punk house show scene. A lot of the people there were sort of unfriendly too, and that’s when I started just getting this idea of how much more tolerable it would be if my little ghost character just showed up and was really independent and cool and always wanted to do fun stuff. So I made a few comics based on that, just us doing stuff, like making Tiny Ghost buy me beer down at the gas station or digging for food in a dumpster, just this sort of fictional, really rough and gross street life with only my little ghost bud by my side. Ramses basically took the place of myself, the rest stayed the same.
So, is Ramses really you overall?
The looks are a bit shaped after a little kid version of me. I’m definitely a way calmer person than Ramses though.
The title of your short is Chainsaw Richard, which is the title of the movie that Ramses and Tiny Ghost sneak into. If the short went to series, what do you think you’d title the series?
I’ve thought of a lot of different names, but “Ghost Town” is the only one that ever sticks. I think I’d call it that if I didn’t come up with anything better.
Chainsaw Richard, Feel Afraid and some of your other work is dark in nature - what is it about scary stories or dark content that is so intriguing to you?
I always loved those Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books and horror shows on tv. I wouldn’t say I’m a huge horror genre fan or anything like that, I think I mostly just love the amount of emotion that comes with horror, and the amount of back story you can fit into it. When you see markings on the walls in Chainsaw Richard, it seems really forbidding, but it also adds a sort of implied history. You can put so much story into why someone is evil or a house is haunted.
What sorts of things scare you?
Not a lot of traditional stuff scares me, mostly just things like if a character is deranged. Like, the strange neighbor is leading you to the basement to show you something, and the moment you notice they’ve put a fishing line across the steps halfway. That stuff is truly scary to me.
Is Tiny Ghost based on other ghost characters in comics or animation? In which of your projects did Tiny Ghost first appear?
Tiny Ghost is kind of a response to ghost characters, if anything. I just sort of wanted to make this overly cute little ghost who was really nervous about haunting, and obviously would rather not have to haunt things at all. Tiny Ghost first appeared in Feel Afraid as a ghost making its first haunting. That comic’s probably my most popular one actually.
Does Tiny Ghost have a gender?
To me, Tiny Ghost is naturally genderless. I thought when I was pitching the cartoon that I’d have to decide on one, but then again I didn’t see why I had to if I’m not comfortable with it. Maybe “ghost” can be a gender?
Ramses reminds me of Scott Pilgrim - are you a Scott Pilgrim fan?
I’ve never read those comics actually, though I mean to. Is it the eyes? It’s the eyes, isn’t it. I just wanted Ramses to have this permanently really intense look on his face and I needed those big ol’ eyes.
What has been your favorite part of bringing Chainsaw Richard to animated life?
Probably trying to find places to build atmosphere and add to the world it takes place in. Also I’d say working with a lot of really nice and talented people.
Prior to Chainsaw Richard had you ever worked with anyone on the production team — like director Tom King? How did you meet?
I had not, this was a lot of firsts for me. Tom King was introduced to me as a potential storyboard artist and director, and after seeing his history in animation I was glad to have him on-board the project.
What were your favorite comics and cartoons growing up? What are your favorites now?
As far as comics, I was really only into the funny ones, or comedy books that had lots of little illustrations in them. For cartoons, I remember I really liked the Rugrats and Hey Arnold, and also really into SpongeBob. I have so many favorites right now though, I really believe we’re currently living in a golden age for animation. So many people are bringing a lot of passion into the animation scene, and I’m glad I get to be a part of it in some way.
If you like this, take a look at the other recent Too Cool! Cartoon Dead End and read the Frederator Times interview with Dead End Creator Hamish Steele.
By now you have watched Dead End, Cartoon Hangover’s newest Too Cool! Cartoons, at least 10 times. If not — what’s taking you so long? Created by animator Hamish Steele, Dead End premiered on Cartoon Hangover on Thursday, June 26, 2014, and features the voices of Zack Pearlman (Barney), Cameron Goodman (Norma), Stefan Marks (Pugsley and God of the Internet), and Maria Bamford (Pauline). Hamish lives in London and graduated from Kingston University in 2013. He has worked on projects for the BBC, Frederator Studios, BOOM! Studios, Random House, and Nickelodeon, as well as his own projects. Luckily for us the “God of the Internet” was on our side when Hamish took some time to answer some of our questions.
How did you connect with Frederator Studios for your new animated short Dead End for Cartoon Hangover?
I first became aware of Cartoon Hangover through a call for submissions that was going around Tumblr. I was still at university and I only answered the call as an exercise for myself to try and come up with a cartoon idea. I never thought my short would be chosen because I thought Cartoon Hangover wouldn’t be interested in people with no previous experience in the industry or even people who weren’t from the US. But they were incredibly welcoming and patient and seemed to love my stuff.
Where did the idea for Dead End come from?
I originally didn’t pitch Dead End, instead I showed them a few pages from a comic I was working on at the time called Killing Time. It starred Barney and Norma but was about a time-traveling fighting tournament. Cartoon Hangover said they loved the characters but that the story wouldn’t work, so I put them into a new setting, along with a dog character I’d been drawing called Pugsley and it just ended up being ghost related. Classic horror cinema is something I love. The feel of the short is inspired by a 70s Japanese horror movie called Hausu and there are a few tiny references to it in the short.
In addition to creating Dead End, what other roles did you perform on the short?
I seemed to do a bit of everything. I helped direct the voice actors, I storyboarded the short, I designed stuff and ended up animating a lot of it. I was a jack of all trades. But the animation work from director/layout artist, Mel Roach, animators Leanne Lee and Dale Anderson, and background painter Andrew Onorato was incredible. My job while animating was mostly to color in and polish off their amazing work.
How did you meet Mel Roach?
I didn’t physically meet Mel until after production as I live in London, UK and she lives in Melbourne, Australia. But, Mel’s Rocket Dog was my favorite Cartoon Hangover short and part of the reason I pitched Dead End to them, so it was a dream come true having her work on the short!
So, you didn’t know Mel Roach before? How did you get put together for Dead End?
I think possibly because I had no experience, Cartoon Hangover wanted to put me with someone who’d been through what I had been through and asked if I’d like to work with Mel.
Where was Dead End animated and produced?
It was so interesting - I was working it from London, it was being animated mostly in Melbourne and then it was being produced by Frederator’s Cartoon Hangover in the US.
Is it hard/weird working on a show with you in London, Mel in Australia, and Frederator’s Cartoon Hangover in the US?
Strangely it seemed to work fine and since then I’ve done animation productions solely based in the UK and I’ve not noticed a significant difference. We all shared a Dropbox and were emailing each other every day so it just felt like normal to me! It was sometimes hard not having face to face contact with the animators but we were still in constant communication.
Do you have a favorite moment of Dead End that just worked out even better than you could have imagined?
I have a lot of favorite moments in the short, but, my favorite moment of working on it was getting the first bits of animation back from the guys in Australia. There was Norma! Talking, moving! This character who had been in my head for years was suddenly alive and I got a bit more emotional than I expected! The scene that was animated was the bit when Norma is lying on the ground, sulking about not having any internet. So that moment always makes me happy.
How did you decide which characters would be American voices and which would be British?
I’d always imagined them all as American. Surprisingly, it was the producers at Cartoon Hangover who wanted to make Pugsley British. I think the Cartoon Hangover team had found my initial delivery of the lines when reading through the storyboard funny. “It might explain the wallpaper” they just thought sounded funniest in a British accent (I’ve never really understood why!). But in the end in it gives Pugsley a unique charm - dogs don’t speak so it’s no stranger that he speaks with a British accent then if he didn’t.
I’ve said this a lot to the team but Barney’s voice is so spot on it almost weirds me out. The entire cast are amazing but Zack Pearlman as Barney sounds exactly like the voice in my head when I was doing that initial comic.
Are any of the characters based on you or people you know?
There’s a little bit of me in all the main characters. Norma’s a bit addicted to her blog, Barney’s a bit self-conscious of his rear end and feels the need to prove his masculinity all the time and Pugsley backwards rolls out of windows when he’s scared - just like me!
If viewers pay close attention they will see some interesting things in the backgrounds — like swords, skulls, axes, spears, and a heart in a jar, to mention a few. There are also the social media comments fly by too. Were those all your ideas?
Most of the in jokes and background references were background painter Andrew Onorato’s doing. He was in charge of the backgrounds but luckily we have a similar sense of humor and a few shared interests so there are references to some of our favorite comedy shows such as Tim & Eric and Look Around You. However, I wrote out all the tweets and YouTube comments you see flying past the camera in those scenes. They’re all unique so be sure to pause the short and go through them all. I thought it’d be fun to make a few little in-jokes about Cartoon Hangover - I was delighted that they got what I was doing and didn’t think I was making fun of them.
Those are some of the more obvious ones - are there other hidden things that fans should look out for - or maybe some private jokes you can share?
There are a couple of references to Mel’s Rocket Dog in the short (neither of which she actually requested!) There’s also a passing reference to a certain Bravest Warriors character.Perhaps the most obscure reference is for a cult BBC mockumentary from the 90s called Ghostwatch. Ghostwatch is probably my favorite horror film/TV show of all time and I reference it in my stuff all the time but nobody ever seems to notice because there are only a handful of people who know what it is - and my reference is so “blink and you’ll miss it” that even people who have seen it might not catch it. Maybe in the future I’ll do a comprehensive list of all the references in Dead End!
What are some of your favorite cartoons?
There are so many… Ren and Stimpy was a big influence on me growing up - I don’t think any show has made me laugh as much as some episodes of that. I also adored The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack - I love cartoons which feel textured and grimy. Aardman’s Rex the Runt is probably my favorite British cartoon and Dead End’s sort of deadpan sense of humor is definitely inspired by that show (three people who have seen the short have asked me if I’m a fan of Rex!)
I’m obviously a big fan of Adventure Time. I’m also really enjoying Steven Universe and Clarence. Clarence especially appeals to me because of its almost realistic and downbeat tone. Even though Dead End is full of ghosts and magic, I always like to capture that realistic edge.
What else are you or have you recently been working on?
Well, Leanne, Dale and Andrew worked with me again on an upcoming short for Nickelodeon called Badly Drawn Animals. It’s set in a zoo that’s facing a mutiny. After that, I have my first graphic novel coming out - Pantheon! It’s a humorous take on the Egyptian myths but its still completely faithful. I’m hoping that leads to me doing a lot more comics in the future. I’d love to do a Dead End comic, taking a sort of Tales from the Crypt / Goosebumps formula.