Friday, March 16, 2012

BOW TIE: Yah! Yah! Yah!

I am so late to the party.

As an adolescent I drew hundreds of short comic books with original characters and stories, sharing them with a close circle of friends. Handing my comic to a friend was my release date. It was me and my audience with nothing in between.

So when YouTube launched in 2005, did I snap up the new opportunity to make and distribute my own short cartoons a-la the comic books of my youth?


It took me until 2012.

But, better late than never.

The catalyst to create and share my own cartoons was my recent pitch trip to L.A. where I once again experienced the deflating feeling of sitting through the average network pitch where execs poke, prod, and judge your creation. Sometimes they liked it, sometimes they didn't. And, no matter how professional and pleasant the meetings go, the results are nearly always the same: no dice.

But instead of hitting the hotel bar, I used my evenings to record new cartoon soundtracks into my iPhone. When I got home I was ready to try out some new ideas and experiment with a blend of characters, stories, and comedy. A month later I had 4 minutes of original cartoons. And, to further connect it to my childhood comic books, I used a character that dates back to when I was 13 years old: BOW TIE.
This has been an opportunity to explore odd little moments of everyday life by turning autobiographical events into fodder for short (and hopefully funny) cartoons. Ordinary life can be a wonderful source of inspiration. Emily Hubley has based several films on entries in her personal journals, such as her memorable film "One Self: Fish/Girl." Don Hertzfeldt packs a lot of autobiographical material into his groundbreaking trilogy of films. Yuri Norstein included a recurring fight with his mother in law over an umbrella in the lovely "The Heron and the Crane." Signe Baumane mined some private material in her brilliant and funny Teat Beat of Sex series.

When you start with something personal you might be surprised what bubbles up...

Sometimes the result is bittersweet.

Sometimes mundane.

Sometimes plain odd.

Sometimes weird.

Sometimes painful.

But most often with an "I- know-that-feeling" quality.

So far the most popular cartoon of the bunch has even been passed around as a "birthday greeting."

Best of all, since these are stories from life, it's impossible to run out of material.

BOW TIE episodes start as a list of anecdotes that I use as talking points to create a spontaneous script. I do all the voices myself (another new experience for me!), recording in story order from beginning to end. Most sound effects are verbal too, and occasionally supplemented by foley pulled in my apartment.

Next I lock the audio in After Effects, making a radio play of sorts. When it feels right I start animation. After a couple of hours I'm finished and importing the layers into AE for testing.

A critical next step is showing the test to my wife, Debbie, who has a great eye and sense of humor. Often she'll have a key note or set of suggestions that always improve upon the original.

Then (in no time flat) it's uploaded to the Aphids J. Kaboodle channel on YouTube. Every Wednesday morning I release a new cartoon by posting it on Facebook. And enthusiastic feedback has poured in from friends and industry folks alike, I even set up a Zazzle store with t-shirts featuring BOW TIE and friends.

Development execs and networks like to define and lock down creations. That BOW TIE drives a car in one episode and is driven around by his friend's mom in another, acts like a kid in one and has a job in the next wouldn't make sense to them. But it makes perfect sense to me. Most importantly, it's the perfect outlet for almost instant self-expression in animation.

I can't tell you how gratifying it has been to see friends and colleagues spreading the word by sharing the cartoon links through Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail. BOW TIE was even part of the shorts screening at the on-going comedy film festival The Iron Mule at the TriBeCa 92nd Street Y, where Aphids won the audience award!

So who is Aphids J. Kaboodle? You might be sick of David B. Levy and David B. Levy might be sick of you, but Aphids is brand new and can't wait to start alienating people!

I hope you take a minute or two to visit the Aphids J. Kaboodle Channel on YouTube, and maybe subscribe. And, if you're moved to share a cartoon or two with your friends, Mr. Kaboodle is in your debt...

Have fun! And, remember that it's okay to be late to the party, so long as you eventually arrive and bring a six pack of cider.


Dagan! said...

"No, NO, I already said no, why didn't you understand what no meant?... Whaaat?"

-hahaa :)

Fun stuff, Dave!

Mike Rauch said...

Great to see you trying this out, Dave. Your work usually has a lot of sincerity about it. Having these Bow Tie shorts originate from your personal experiences may help build these on a certain kind of sincerity, but the odd characters and non sequitur humor adds something new that's interesting. It'll be cool to see where this experiment leads you. I hope you'll report back about what you learn along the way.

Joel said...

"Why did you do that, we have games."


David B. Levy said...

Thanks all! Fun to hear those quotes you like!
It's really been a joy to script from real life.

David B. Levy said...

Mike, I'm sure I'll report back on further developments soon. Thanks for the encouragement!

Charles Kenny said...

I'm not gonna lie, Dave. I went to bed with that pseudo theme tune stuck in my head.

The shorts are really funny too. I was giggling away as I watched them all :)

David B. Levy said...

Thanks Charles! I had forgotten to write about the theme music. That came about in a spontaneous way too (as it sounds). Just chanting with a maraca.

Jefferson said...

I just watched all of them and it's so awesome! I love the little.. 'whaaat?' that Bowtie says.