Sunday, December 28, 2008

Inspector McCloud Part 2: Travel & Research




To kick off the Inspector McCloud Gig, I arranged a trip to the city where it all takes place: Laredo Texas.

Research is a major part of project development, and most of the time you can get away with what Google has to offer… but Laredo is practically a main character in this story, and I knew I wasn’t going to get the same results from a series of crappy photos of the main tourist attractions.

I love travel, I just hate the traveling part. But seeing other parts of the country (and world) is awesome, even when it’s for business.

I really don’t care about driving a sweet car. This is not a lie. I like comfort, pep, and a sweet CD player if I can get them, but I’m just happy if it doesn’t break down between the airport and the first taco stand I see. Sexy body design means nothing. Cars should not be chick magnets.

That said, check out the sweet car they rented to me when I was in Laredo!

It’s some kind of mustang, I believe.

I don’t know what mistake led to this free upgrade from a Ford Fiesta, but I was apparently the first customer to drive it, and didn’t have to pay for it (unless you count the bruises I got on my knees every time I got out of the cramped cockpit).

Coming to Laredo was a fun and educational experience, and not even remotely a waste of time. I derive much of my story inspiration from locations for some reason, so it helps to have been there and know the zone I’m writing about, whether on not I am representing it successfully.

My client, John, was kind enough to take time off to show me around town, to all of the battle fronts where the Stormwater war is being waged. He also gave me a pretty thick history lesson on Laredo. I don’t want to get too deep into Laredo trivia – there’s too much history and info to do it any justice. Suffice to say that Laredo and Nuevo Laredo are international sister cities, and it’s hard to spend time in Laredo without being tempted across that border to see how the wild half lives.

One of my goals for this trip was to get a couple of voice references for Inspector McCloud. Because I wanted to nail the border-town Mexican accent, I had planned to get the appropriate people to speak to my camera somehow… but I am unfortunately shy about asking strangers for such performances.

In my last few hours however, I walked into a local history museum and found that he curator had exactly the voice I imagined for Inspector McCloud. I managed to coax him into giving me the rundown on some key local historical figures (a couple of the Zapata boys among them) while I videotaped him. Under the pretext of consuming a history lesson, I got the voice reference I was looking for.

Another goal was to snap tons of photos. I knew that our story would evolve, and I wanted to make sure I was covering every angle. Here are some images that help contribute to our look and our story:

When you’re afflicted with whatever condition causes me to be a scatterbrain, you have to come to terms with the fact that, no matter how many checklists you make, you will forget something important. When the time came to depict the Environmental Services Department building, the HQ of Inspector McCloud, I realized I had not taken a single photo of the place, despite having been there 3 times. Not really a serious problem as long as you don’t plan on using establishing shots. Which would be stupid.

Thank God for Google Street view, and the army of camera-laden vehicles they must have been sending out over the last year. This is one of the photos I was able to download from Google Maps:

And here’s the rough BG rough that came from it.

Now it's on to production! Next time around, I’ll talk a little bit about the writing & Voice recording process.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Spongebob Channel


It's official: Nickelodeon has become the Spongebob channel. Have you seen the lineup? It's the Spongebob Christmas special followed by 2 Spongebobs, followed by a Spongebob Marathon.

And rightfully so, I suppose. Has there been a kids TV show more A-A-A-A-Awesome in the last 10 years than Spongebob?

You can argue otherwise, I won’t engage you sir, but it’s no wonder Spongebob is now to Nickelodeon what Homer Simpson has been to Fox for 18 years and counting: the flagship show. Upon the realization, I was inspired to create this abomination:

Still, it’s a little unnerving. What's really sick is that I'm almost always tempted to watch it. Damn little sponge is just so much fun to watch, and it's not like my kid would ever steer me away to something more... substantial. Thank god for the wife.

You may remember this particular by-product of my obsession.

The question is this: how many more episodes of Spongebob will need to be produced before Nick can realistically fill their programming schedule with nonstop Spongebob? And would we need to give Sandy her own spin-off to help fill the slate? And would that show any good?

You don't have to think about it if you don't want to. I will be focusing on it intently enough for us all.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Surfy's Law

So there are probably many, many people who have not seen this. It's Surfy's Law, created and produced by Flinch & Banga UE. I would like you to see it. I would like the whole world to see it... but first, I would like you to see it. Then go tell the world about it.

Ahhh, just enjoy it.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Where's Bugs Bunny?

Question: is there some kind of Looney Tunes conspiracy going on? Why can't I find Bugs Bunny on TV anymore?

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to see Tom & Jerry getting their exposure on CN, and Tex Avery is still getting the occasional bump.... but where the hell is Bugs and the rest of the legitimate Looney Tunes gang???

I don't mean the airbrushed, Phone-Service-hawking, Space Jamming, Sunglass-wearing, Back in Action celebrity spokesman hipster Bugs, or the eyelash-endowed, watered-down 1970s Chuck Jones Bugs (no disprespect Chuck, you created many respectable cartoons before going into loop mode), or the warmed-over Christmas Special Bugs...

Looney Tunes - Bugs Bunny
Surfing... really??? Bugs if he lived in Whoville

I am talking about the aimless 1940s & 50s wascal with nothing to his name but a well-hidden carrot and the indomitable will to weed out and humiliate a-holes (and the occasional misguided dog) with painful, mind-boggling Testicular Brooklyn Magic.

I have a son who is at a very tender and impressionable age, and he's not getting enough Bugs Bunny in his viewing diet. I believe in educational TV, but you have to round it out with a few hammers to the head... and the 3 Stooges just doesn't deliver on the waterfall of animated Pain Stars. Storyboard-driven animation needs to make up at least 30% of your cartoon diet.

Is WB trying to drive up DVD sales or something? I mean, do what you gotta do to stay in business, but give us our Bugs Bunny man. It saddens me to know that an entire generation's only memory of Bugs Bunny is the rabbit who used to sell sneakers with that basketball player guy. Few characters have ever been so cheaply exploited... although I do recall standing in the middle of Rite Aid when Phantom Menace came out and being incapable of finding a single stoner-friendly product without Jar Jar on it. But I digress.

Give us back our Looney Tunes, WB. And don't try to pass that Roadrunner loop off on me (one really amazing cartoon that was remade verbatim 150 times), or any of that Teleplay-format 70s Daffy & Speedy garbage either (sorry Friz, I don't blame you - RIP brother).

Crank up the projector and lets see some of the classics. I need to watch some fat opera singer have alum poured down his throat and turn blood red.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Inspector McCloud Part 1: A sweet gig?




In the summer of 2007, I was contacted by a fellow who worked for the City of Laredo, Texas. Besides lending its name to both a sad country song and a sporty Jeep model, Laredo is a Border Town with the honor of being the largest inland port into the mainland US.

The Laredo man, whom I will call John, had scored a modest grant to produce a short video that would teach kids about Stormwater runoff and how it affects their main source of water, the Rio Grande. The story was to be named after its hero, Inspector McCloud.

This being a government project, it would be under-funded, paperwork laden, and slow to develop (it would take a full year to get through the review, application & approval process – I kid you not), but I managed to get them to agree to 2 very important conditions: 1. A very flexible delivery schedule and 2. Creative control. Not only would this give me the ability to earn income on other projects and carefully manage costs, it would allow me to make the cartoon I wanted to make and try something brand new with story and character development (which I will get into in a later post).

By the time we got the green light on the project, the economy was well into its death spiral, and the phone had, for the most part, stopped ringing. I sort of saw this coming, and planned Inspector McCloud as something I could work on by myself if I had to, keeping costs low and extending the life support of the company (cue the stubborn heartbeat).

Folks, this job turned out to be a blessing.

Some while back, the City of Laredo had commissioned some music and a comic book featuring these characters, and had fully expected that we would use the designs as they were. These are the designs he was talking about.

My first act was to create some new designs. It was a tough sell, but not that tough (I will elaborate on this as well in a later blog). Problem is, I'm not really a great character designer. I struggled with the task for a while, but finally gave birth to this:

There are a lot of influences from various sources, including Jay Ward, Time Squad and Clone High… but ultimately, this style has become a natural (slightly cleaner) extension of my own sloppy, improvised drawing style. Here are the villains:

Once I figured out this style, I found myself really looking forward to the process. Despite the minuscule budget, this has turned out to be a really cool project with a lot of facets to it, including travel (which I will cover in the next posting).

Stay tooned for that!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Rock Humor

Rock N Roll!

Q: How many Lead guitarists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Just one... all the rest just watch and say "Phh. I can do that."

Q: What do you call a musician without a girlfriend?

A: Homeless

Now it's off to practice!


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Stickman Spots


Flinch recently completed a series of spots for Sukle Advertising and entitled Never Miss a Message. A lot of Firsts on this one, including lowest pay for an animated spot (probably).

Here’s a peek:

Another first: this was our maiden voyage with the new Wacom Cintiq (stay tooned for a review of the Cintiq in an upcoming post). Working from the lead of the client and their capable Creative Director, we used a stickman style for this one. It was a perfect match for the Cintiq, and the timing was perfect too. We had just gotten our hands on the Cintiq for an upcoming gig (you didn’t think this one paid for it do did you?), and were eager to give it a test run.

Most of the design work was actually done by Willie on another Cintiq, but having this one made our work consistent… so it still counts!The Cintiq definitely has its issues (I will address these at the appropriate time), but this was a really fun way to work!

And it came out pretty well, I think. Could have been better with more time, more money, a script, etc. You know the drill.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Otto is back

Hey, Autofanz! It's another spot featuring Otto the Otter, Irvine Auto Center's car-crazy mascot who enjoys tearing up the roads of Southern California in his anonymously branded sporty convertible.

This time, he's tailgating at an undefined stadium, rooting for a generic team. In the world of TV spots, we're often instructed not do do anything that would ruffle even a few feathers, and that means being vague - even with colors.

It also means inventing products (like the case of Codfish Cola in the trunk).

Is there some symbolism to his closing the trunk on said product? Hmmm... well, you tell me - do you really think we get paid for symbolism? Jeez.

Thumbs by Willie

Fun spots, we love these guys and we love doing these commercials... but their budgets keep shrinking and shrinking. I fear the next time around, we'll be paying them! It's would almost be worth it.



Wednesday, December 3, 2008

War Mart Contest Winner




On a side note: We do have a winner in the War Mart logo parody contest!

Sarah Booth of New York City (the one in New York state) correctly guessed it... cue scary music:

Sarah happens to be a very good friend of mine from way back in High School on Long Island. Hey, I never said friends and Family couldn’t enter… and besides, all you non-friends-and-family readers (all 2 of you) had plenty of time to nail it.

Jeez, how hard was that anyway?

Stay T’d

Monday, December 1, 2008

Matt Danner returns to the Adult Demographic

So that's where Matt Danner's been hiding!

Back in the early days of the 20th century, before Flash was recognized as yet another way to drive down costs on kids TV animation (...before we could even convince a single studio to invest in a Flash TV production), there was promise in the air that Flash would drive the popularity of grown-up animated internet content to the point where anyone could have their own show on the web, and actually eek a living out of it... maybe even see it developed into a real TV show!

Damn having a realistic business model, this was the future of entertainment!

One of our favorite pieces, and the seeming proof that we were well on our way to seeing that dream come true, was PussyCow, directed by Matt Danner (a former Spumco guy, and it shows). For almost a year, we kept hitting the site where the PussyCow SWF was posted, just to get a taste of the subversive, oddly transgenderal, nun-bashing short.

Then one day, it vanished. It was nowhere to be found on the web. Gone. We had hoped that this was a good sign, that Danner had struck a deal with some well-paid TV exec with a vision for a future similar to what we had wet-dreamt of, and the stupid money to back it up. Maybe this was all part of the content moratorium that would precede its grand release.

Alas, this does not appear to be the case. It simply disappeared.

Well, God Bless YouTube!

After seeing Matt listed as Director of a new Drinky Crow episode I was forced to make that fateful search again... this time with positive results! Again I will say it, and let all you copyright obsessed Viacom & Fox lawyers hear me say it loud & clear: God Bless YouTube!

Drinky does not seem to be Matt's cup of milk. He did a capable job, he's a pro storyteller and you can see that... but it just doesn't stand up to the likes of PussyCow, or even some o fthe kid's contant that Matt's been producing (like Coconut Fred or Foster's Home). You can view a typical Drinky show (not a Danner episode) by clicking on the highly marketable toy image below.

Not a terrible piece of entertainment. I never read the Maakies Comic that the show is based on, but I would venture to guess that it was probably not captured aptly on TV... and while the translation to 3D looks intriguing, Drinky Crow was clearly meant to shine in 2D. I can only guess they did it for budgetary & scheduling reasons, as 3D animation tools feature asset management that ever more and more superior to Flash.

Damn Macromedia. They're shooting themselves in the foot by resting on their web laurels. We've been waiting to see shows like PussyCow become a reality (and wishing for all of those other Flash shows with their teeny tiny budgets to yield higher profits for us blue collar studio yokels thanks to more controlled asset management costs), and instead 3D keeps getting cutsies to the front of the line while we stand out in the rain waiting to get a peek at the pretty girls inside. I have half a mind to go learn how to use one of the 50 or so versions of Toon Boom and drop Flash altogether.

I'll say it again so all of the software developers at Adobe can hear me loud and clear: Damn Macromedia!

Stay Tooned