Read part 2 here.
Was writing on storyboards a big challenge? For years, throughout the '70s and '80s, cartoons were being written on scripts.
Personally I think a challenge is writing a cartoon with words. Great cartoons are visual, all their entertainment value is visual. The drawings are funny, the animation...the dialogues and things like that are never supposed to be primary. If you look at your favorite Warner Bros. cartoons, or if you're a Disney person you look at the old Disney shorts, it's all about visual storytelling and visual humor.
When I get a script, especially for a short cartoon, it's very frustrating to me. You have to develop the materials and the jokes and everything, visually. The challenge was that they haven't really done a storyboard-driven show for a while, so it seemed kinda new to the people at the studio, but that's how we made our films at school. Craig, and Genndy and Rob, had all just come right out of school, and...that's how we all did, so we kind of knew how to do it.
About a year ago I talked to Eddie Fitzgerald and he said that one of the frustrating things about scripts is that they're always too long, and whenever they trim it down they always took the funny part out.
[laugh] Yeah, and Eddie knows them. You know, it's really weird. For some reason, if you're going to make an 11-minute cartoon often people would script them at twelve, thirteen, maybe fifteen pages even, and it's like "Whoa whoa wait a minute. You've got a paragraph here that takes up three-four-five lines of script page but this is a huge piece of business. It can be a huge slapstick thing that I can develop for twenty-three seconds almost. You can take a great cartoonist and tell them to write with words and they're going to find themselves relying on words to tell the story rather than visuals, so when you've done that and you need to trim, you don't want to cut the dialogue, you want things that don't look like they're part of the storytelling. So yeah, he's right. The first things they cut are the comedy, but you know. It's all different ways. There have been people making great cartoons that are from, you know, scripts, but for me it's not the way I love to make it, and it's not the way my favorite cartoons are done.
Did you develop the art style in 2 Stupid Dogs, or did Craig McCracken?
Craig and Mike Moon were largely responsible for what the show looked like. When I pitched the show it had been with designs that were mainly done by Chris Ure, with a little bit of work by Barry Johnson as well, both were also in our class at CalArts. But when Craig came in I was really big fan of films and how they function, and we knew that on television...it's not like Hanna-Barbera was going to rain money on us to make this crazy little cartoon show so we didn't exactly have alot of money for the animation, so I knew that anything we could do to make it easier to draw and look good when it wasn't moving was going to be a smart move. So we were talking about that and Craig said "You know, do you mind if I took the shot at the character designs, and I can simplify them." My mantra was "simplification, simplification, simplification," so I though they were very simple, and they were, but I said "Absolutely. Take a whack at it," so he redesigned as they are and as everybody knows them. I knew Mike from school, but it was Craig's suggestion that I take in Mike to basically create and do all of the environmental stuff. So it was Craig and Mike who created the looks of the show.
We were really big fans of Ed Benedict at the time, who was an amazing designer.
What was the first episode of 2 Stupid Dogs that was in production after it got picked up?
The first that that I think we put into production was the Drive-In one, because when I was pitching the show I didn't have a full continuity storyboard but I had a storyboard that Chris Ure and I had done, that was like what I call sequence board, that basically had all the story, all the gags, just not fully fleshed out but I used that to pitch the show, and so that was the first one that was partially ready to go so I gave that pitch board to Conrad Vernon.
They never really came in and stayed on staff, but Conrad Vernon and Mike Mitchell were really influential on the first season of Stupid Dogs in terms of storyboarding. So Conrad did the drive-in storyboard. Conrad invented the whole, I don't know if you remember in the show, but the little dog does the little celebration dances, and Conrad invented that in the first Drive-In storyboard. And Mike Mitchell did it again, his first board was the one called "Door Jam," where they're trying to get through the electronic door at K-Mart, or whatever we called it. This, to me, is a great thing about storyboard-driven show where a crew pitches a storyboard to the crew. Everybody laughed so hard when Conrad pitched that celebration dance that Mike then wrote one for his cartoon, when they got through the door. That wasn't the thing that we sought around and said "We need to have this thing the little dog does where he does a little dance and sings a song. It just happened organically because it was funny to us and we kept doing it. That's the really organic way to develop characters and character personality trait.
I think Genndy's first one was called "Where's the Bone?" where the little dog thinks he lost his bone but it's sitting on his head, and they travel around the world looking for it, and big dog sees the bone on his head but doesn't know that's the one he's looking for.
I can't remember what Rob's first board was.
That might of been, yeah. That might've been. I think Tony Craig's first board was the one where the big dog gets his head stuck in the fence. It's funny, those early boards have some really fun moments and really rough moments, because we were all young and made our fair share of mistakes along the way.
The great thing about this summer is that the show's running on both Boomerang and on Cartoon Network so I hope they still stand up. It's great when people find me and they're fans of the show when they were kids. I love that people can still see 'em, and hopefully they still hold up, even the ones we made our mistakes on.
Continue to Part 4.