Hi Devin--how exactly did you get an animated series on Comedy Central??
Oh, man! The dicks I had to suck! Thousands! Really, it was no short road. A couple years ago Comedy Central was looking for web content for their on-line portal, Motherload. I had previously done some network animation and branding work for Comedy Central. So, they were already familiar with my work. Plus, getting a meeting for a web show is far easier then a TV series. You don't need the backing and support of a entire production company or the allure of big name actors. For someone starting out in the TV business it ended up being the perfect way of making a connection with the network.
Where did the concept for Ugly Americans come from? Was this something that's been running around your head for years?
Living in New York for the last 10 years, I've gotten into the habit of drawing while waiting for the subway. A couple years ago I was taking these big sheets of paper, splitting them into 8 panels, and drawing 8 of the same type of creature all talking about a single topic. For instance I had things like 8 demons talking about religion, 8 zombies on sex, and 8 robots on money. It was all weird creatures making little comments on these esoteric topics. I've always liked the humor that can be derived from taking something horrific or absurd and normalizing it. It is most likely the product of watching so much British humor as a child. Those 8 panel comics became a key element in pitching a web show 5-On to Comedy Central. 5-On was the seed that, with help of our showrunner and Executive Producer David Stern, grew into the world of Ugly Americans.
Animation seems really hard. How did you get started? And where did you learn how to do this stuff?
I've always been drawn to the moving image, especially animation. When I was 10 or 11 I took my dad's old super-8 camera and started making my own stop motion films with paper, clay, toys, and what ever I had lying around. I've been experimenting, playing with, and working in time based media ever since, be it film, video, animation, or live action.
What's been the most surprising or challenging thing you've encountered about the production process on Ugly Americans?
I think the biggest challenge was keeping a fresh perspective on things. Sometimes, a scene feels right just because you've gotten used to seeing it that way for so long. It's crucial to step back and make sure everything is actually working. It can be very difficult to do that in the midst of the chaos of production.
How long does it take to create one episode? Are you able to write in current jokes the way South Park does?
South Park has a unique production process that allows them to turn around an episode very quickly. In order to maintain the visual style and level of animation we wanted in our show, we had to take a more traditional approach to our work flow. Scripts to voice records, radio play to storyboards, layout to animation, and finally sound design and scoring takes about 5 months per episode, and that doesn't even include the writing period. However, we are able to work on multiple episodes at a time. At some points in the production we are working on all the episodes at once.
What are some other animated series or shows that you watch, enjoy, or recommend?
It may sound lame but honestly, ever since I started making TV, I haven't had any time to watch TV. However, right before I was sucked into the melee of animation production, I was keeping up with Venture Brothers, Metalocalypse, Superjail, and Futurama.
Do you see yourself as the series' lead character, Mark Lilly - the voice of reason in a crazy world? That's what he is, right?
Not at all. I'm more of the evil, bloated, demon-mother birthing an army of bizarre creatures for Mark to deal with. "Here is a man-sized bunny with a horn growing out of his head! What do you think of that, Mark?!"
|Ugly Americans||Weds 10:30pm / 9:30c|
|Preview - Fun Bags|
Ugly Americans premieres on Comedy Central Wednesday, March 17th at 10:30 after South Park.