Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween from Creature Comforts!

Here's Abe's dog, Julius, dressed as a fire hydrant.

He gets a little excited when he's in the office so he ended up wagging his shiny silver hat off. But Julius don't need no shiny hats to be adorable.

Check out more dogs in costume here.

Monday, October 30, 2006

My Interviews

Even though there are Creature Comforts interviewers throughout the country who are doing a great job and are constantly sending us minidiscs, I have gone out and done a few on my own. Even though it's generally more productive to interview people that you don't know, I have interviewed a friend of the family and my young cousin. I also did an interview at the San Diego Zoo a few months ago where I approached people at random and asked if they would be willing to be interviewed for an animated TV series. One woman who I met was a supervisor in the sanitation department and had a lot of great zoo stories to share. You can look for her as a meerkat in our "Zoo" episode. Since my first zoo trip was productive, I decided to take my cousin Maya to the LA Zoo a couple weeks ago which was lots of fun. She's a real animal lover so she had a lot of opinions on all of the animals there. My first attempt wasn't very successful:

But after that, I found a more responsive subject:

The interview process for the show is really challenging since the material that we're looking for is very specific. But it's very exciting to see something start out as an audio snippet from a documentary interview and make it all the way to the stage of being animated. I haven't done nearly as many interviews as our story editors have and I think you definitely get better with practice. But as in all documentaries, ultimately, the final piece is only as good as your characters.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Fun with Extra Footage

Because we have a bazillion hours of interview material, we've decided to play around with some of our favorite moments that aren't likely to be aired. For example, here's a little myspace page for two of our characters, the very musical Horse and Mule. Click on the link and be their friend!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Our First Episode

Yesterday we all gathered around to watch an assembly of an entire episode for the first time. It was exhilarating and enjoyable (we're two-thirds animated, I'd estimate!), but it also raised some questions.

For those who know the British series via BBC America, you might not have realized that it was originally aired as 8 minute segments. As such, the issue of packaging the show as a standard 22 minute American sitcom is a new challenge. There are no act breaks in Creature Comforts. No "gasp! They put a pacemaker in Sawyer that's going to make his heart explode!" moments that make you want to rush back to the TV after the commercials. Also, with each theme segment running around 8-10 minutes, we have shorter bits to round out the show. So the question is...how do you structure the darned thing? Theme 1, Themelet, Theme 2? Theme 1, Theme 2, Themelet? How do we let you know we're going to commercial? How do we let you know we're back?

Being something entirely different than anything in the primetime landscape is a tremendous advantage, in a way. But it also means putting a square peg in a round hole. In the end, the concept has to stand on its own. Regardless, you want to make everything as polished as possible. As we're nearing the end of production, this is probably the biggest (and neatest) obstacle we're presented with.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Flushed Away...to Hollywood

As Megan just mentioned, Nick Park and Peter Lord visited our office yesterday (which was amazing) and lucky for me they had two extra tickets to the crew screening of "Flushed Away" at Grauman's Chinese Theater. Even though I've been living in Hollywood for a year now I haven't been to that landmark yet and it lived up to expectations. I had mixed feelings about the movie going in because of the fact that it is the first major production from Aardman done with CGI. One of the things I've always loved about Aardman productions is the handmade feel of their visuals. After seeing the "Creature Comforts" animators at work on real sets in Bristol I was even more impressed with the love and care that goes into each frame of animation that they create. So even though I'm a bit biased against the sterile nature of computer animation, I still enjoyed "Flushed Away". The visuals of the sewers beneath London are really impressive and detailed. I also got to go to the party afterwards which was really nice and included a lovely toilet setup for pictures like this one of yours truly:

Thursday, October 19, 2006

An OMG Moment For the Nerds

...myself included.

Nick Park and Peter Lord. In our offices. Moments ago. Very cool.

Wallace, unfortunately, could not make it. Prior engagement or something.

Mouthing Off

One of my many unique duties on "Creature Comforts" involves drawing mouths onto animatic stills. Each character on the show has an accompanying drawing (created by one of the character designers) that will stand in for the visual of their shot until the animated shot is completed. While I consider myself to be a creative person, visual arts have never been my strongsuit (as my elementary school art teacher would eagerly tell you). So initially I was wary of altering the character designers' drawings in any way, but for our first animatic deliveries to CBS mouths had to be added so that the viewer could tell which character was speaking. This only applied to cases where there was more than one character who appeared in the shot, for instance the three alligators. In addition to making an open mouth for one character, I had to close the open mouth in the original drawing. Hooray for Photoshop!



Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Wayback Machine: Bristol Trip

A little over a month ago, the Los Angeles crew flew to the U.K. for Aardman's 30th Anniversary Party. In between wowing the Brits with our karaoke skills, marvelling at the weakness of the dollar and figuring out how to get free drinks, we managed to tour the show's production facilities and take in the complete awesomeness of the animation process. Don't take our word for it, as these photos, we hear, are worth exponentially more.

Tired Americans

Off the red-eye, adjusting to an 8 hour time difference.


Bristol!

We're all moving there.


Model Making

Getting started with visual aids.


Coming together.


Different mouth shapes.


On standby, wrapped so they don't dry out.


Sets

Painting hydrangeas.


Finished New York set.


Party

In the U.K., "fancy dress" means costumes.


Really amazing, elaborate costumes


Debating and/or regretting the famous vodka luge


Be sure to stay tuned for more Aardman tour pictures from the Eyeballs and Fishlips crew in the future!

Monday, October 16, 2006

How We Do

Hello all, I'm Megan. I'm the assistant to the executive producer and line producer of our fine show. Mainly, that means answering phones and ducking hot cups of coffee being hurled in my direction (hence the defensive under-desk stance seen below).

Ha! That's just a stereotype. It's not really like that at all(call the police), honestly (help me!). My main responsibility here has been recruiting, corresponding with and paying our team of 40 or so field interviewers. For those not familiar with the show, the best way I can explain it is as an animated docu-comedy. We take audio recordings of real people from all across America, assign them adorable clay animal alteregos, and finally put the clips into a logical and humorous order, based on topic. To gather all the audio necessary (and then some) we hired freelance interviewers from 26 states. Each interviewer selected 5 subjects (either an individual, a pair, or even trio in some cases) for a 30-minute "tryout" session. From those original tryouts, we selected a smaller number of people for them to go back to for 2 hour interviews. This is how, as Abe told you, we ended up with over 500 hours of audio from the American public. Listen below for an example:

Sample Audio from an Interview

Hopefully, as this blog develops, we can introduce you to some more of our interviewers' work, for us and in their regular lives. For now, just for kicks, any thoughts on what animal this fellow should be?

All About Me

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Abe Forman-Greenwald and I am the assistant editor on Creature Comforts. This has been my favorite job ever because the material we work with here is so much fun. I am responsible for digitizing audio from our field interviewers, making audio selects with the story editors and many other odds and ends that come up throughout each day. Most of the audio that we receive is on MiniDisc, not videotape, so we almost never get to see what the interviewees actually look like. I have been working in the documentary field for the last 6 years and in each project I work on I feel like I get to know and love the characters. Creature Comforts is a special case because the audio is all from documentary interviews with people all over the country but the visuals are animated animals. So that special combination of documentary audio and claymation animals is hard to beat and makes me love the characters even more. I've been a fan of Aardman Animations since I first saw Wallace & Gromit in high school. To work on an Aardman project has been a dream come true and I can't wait for the rest of America to see the show.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Live, From Culver City

Welcome to Eyeballs and Fishlips, the first and only marginally secret unofficial blog about an animated television production imported from Bristol, England. Here we will reminisce about the ups and downs of production, with audio visual aids when appropriate. Like, right now!

Pictured above are your fearless editors, Megan and Abe. Abe and Megan, should you see fit, though the pictures would make less sense. Tune in shortly for proper introductions and explanations for their existence. Until then...ummm...this is where it would really help to have a parting catchphrase. Now we understand how Katie Couric feels.