Monday, April 7, 2008
Make Mine Assy McGee
Assy McGee, a show that I’ve been directing for the last year, premiered on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim on Sunday 12:30 AM, on Sunday April 6. It was my first foray into directing for an “adult” audience, after a career mostly spent in children’s/preschool projects. It was a welcome change and the more cinematic attributes of older programming have already begun to influence my sensibility on a new independent children’s film I’m working on (more on that in a subsequent post.)
TV animation gets a bum rap from just about everybody. It is usually measured against what was lost, while I would argue it should instead receive credit for what it preserved. It kept industry alive, allowing decades worth of animation artists to earn a living in their occupation of choice. Yes, TV animation is a different model than what came before. There’s a greater reliance on scripts and soundtracks over the demands of animation, which by sheer cost, is always kept at a minimum. Still, who among us would deny the importance of script (or story) and soundtrack in any successful animation made in the last 75 years? To criticize TV animation for its dependence on strong scripts and soundtracks is akin to criticizing trees for having leaves.
It’s hard for me to think of Assy McGee without comparing it to MTV’s Friday (which, was a short lived 8 episode animated series produced in NY in 2006-2007). Here’s how MTV got it wrong with Friday and Adult Swim got it right with Assy McGee. Note: I don’t doubt MTV’s ability to find success anew in animation, and I certainly hope they do.
Green light a show based on (semi-popular) series of movies. This will automatically give the show urban edge and recogniziblity in the marketplace. Right?
Ensure failure by making the show a soulless creator-less venture, a product of committee.
Hire an amazing crew of artists and production personale.
Second-guess every stage of production. Re-write episodes. Re-record actors. Make committee changes that weaken the product with every passing minute.
The amazing crew of artists and production staff work tirelessly to salvage the show.
The network cancels the show after airing only a small handful of episodes. Project over. Pretend the whole thing never happened in the first place.
Start with a quirky creator-driven show co-created by Carl W. Adams and H. Jon Benjamin, and a head writer/executive producer Matt Harrigan.
Write scripts that actually start out funny. Make changes that make it even funnier. Repeat during the whole production process.
Record excellent actors that take said script and plus it ten-fold by improvising new material and embellishing the rest.
Hire a crew of amazing artists and production personale. Working as the NY crew, we had animators: Justin Simonich, Dagan Moriarty, Danielle Keenan, Adam Rosette, Meredith Gran, and Mira Scharf. Background design by Adrian Urquidez and Bob Levy (my dad! See BG image above). Character design by Jason McDonald. Add to this group incredibly talented artists and production staff in Watertown, MA, including; creative director Andre Lyman, business manager Carrie Snyder, producer Julia King, Bob Keough (storyboards/animatics), Matt Durso and Cara FitzGibbon (storyboards & animation revision), Adam Swanson (additional props/character/bg design), audio editor Abe Stein, and editor and visual effects Vanessa Pyne.
Encourage creative contributions from every member of the crew.
Air the show to a major advertising campaign, including official sponsorship by Toyota’s Scion. Toy line on its way. There’s going to be an Assy McGee bank. Guess where the coin goes?
Is Assy McGee a perfect show that will please everyone? Nope. And, nor is it trying to be. Creatively, Assy McGee teeters the balance between coherence and utter incomprehensibility. That’s a pretty powerful mojo to power any work of art or piece of commerce. I would argue that unlike a product made by committee, Assy McGee has something that is rarely associated with TV product: spontaneity.
Missed the premiere? Watch the episode now at: http://www.adultswim.com/video/index.html