So, 2019 eh? I figured I should write something to wrap up stuff I haven’t covered for the second half of last year. I did a mid-year wrap up post.
Pretty strange lo-fi year. A lot of good stuff. But also a lot of weird stuff. I dunno. Just a kind of odd year, man.
So, I did a Sonic the Hedgehog Remix Music Video for my YouTube channel. I’ve been doing a lot of writing for animation; a comprehensive first season outline for an animated Goldfish show broken down into individual episode beats. I got Nas Hoosen in to help me with that which was great, then he got busy with other stuff and I carried on with writing the first episode and Sheldon Bengtson offered to help me with that, which was great help too.
Been doing a lot of script-writing for Twende, the show about a chilled out pangolin that we pitched at Annecy in 2019 and for which we’ve put together a 50-page show deck. It’s been cool to upskill my writing stats. We now have 3 finished scripts that a lot of us from the Twende team worked on, and I’m really proud of them – both the crew and the scripts. The stories speak to the hearts of the characters and integrate our East African world really well – team member and friend Kwame Nyong’o from Kenya helped us keep it authentic. There are jokes aplenty that simultaneously helps the characters tell us who they are and demonstrate their unique outlooks on life. It took us many tries before scripts started to ‘click’.
I made an animated pixel music video for a cool German band called Session Victim right at the end of the year, sneaked it in at the finish line. Very cool band duo Matthias and Hauke, and a cool label Night Time Stories.
Session Victim – Made Me Fly
For the music video for the first track off Session Victim’s new EP ‘Needledrop’, band members Hauke and Matthias wanted to create a romantic story in the vein of an imaginary computer game that looked endemic to the Amiga Commodore 64 from the ‘80s, as though it might have actually been a game that existed for the system at the time.
The look, feel and many locations reference the classic 1988 Lucasfilm adventure game ‘Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders’, along with its limited colour palette and double-width pixels. As is usual for point-and-click adventure games, the player selects a verb with which to interact with various objects and characters on-screen and can collect, combine and use items with the world around them to progress through the game’s areas and story.
The video starts off with an Amiga 500 kickstarter and a Night Time Stories ’Warez’ trainer screen warning the user to not profit off warezed records. The protagonist (who is described as ‘Girl who makes beats in her bedroom’) stands in her small one-room apartment in a city. She looks like she might be a vinyl-head, much like band members Matthias and Hauke. She takes the bus to the record store ‘Vinyl Dreams’ which is a real record store in San Francisco Matthias and Hauke frequent. Inside, Hauke and Matthias hang around listening to music and browsing. The nameless woman buys a couple records to sample, glancing an ‘Air – Moon Safari’ album which is a nod to Beth Hirsch; the vocalist on the track who lent her voice to 2 of Air’s infamous tracks. We aren’t yet sure of the protagonist’s motives, though a kinaesthetic moment between her and the store clerk suggests there may be more than just a fiduciary exchange.
Back in her bedroom studio, our hero samples beautiful strings from the ‘weird German record’ with her LP player and Akai MPC, loops a funky drum part and adds in her own baseline and melody using her synth, all mixed together with a Moog Mintaur. As she works, night falls. She bounces the song to tape and hopes that ‘he’ will like it too. She draws a heart on the tape and walks through the quiet streets to a closed door where she drops the tape through the door’s mailbox. She leaves before whoever’s behind the door has time to discover who his secret admirer is – lo and behold it’s the boy from the record store. Who knows how many times she’s secretly delivered tapes to him?
Hauke and Matthias wrote the story, and I produced and animated it using a combination of Toon Boom Storyboard Pro to create and time the animatic, Photoshop and Pixaki to generate the video’s assets, Toon Boom Harmony to add movement and Premiere Pro to comp it together.
Personally, I feel like I’ve failed quite a bit this last year. Well, that’s not entirely true; I’ve managed to get a couple Bru & Boegie shorts out which has been great, and been on some overseas adventures, but I just got the feeling of things slowing down (even though there were many all-nighters of work). I think it was partly a conscious decision to do less traveling here there and everywhere; too much travel can mess me up. I had loads of lines in the water this last year with spec work project submissions and ‘calls for entries’, and far fewer bites than usual. It started to feel a bit like ‘Animation Tinder’, and I don’t like Tinder. However, the quiet times have nudged me to take the opportunity to invest more in myself and my YouTube channel which has been a blessing with its sometimes surprisingly great passive ad revenue. After the mad rush of the past few years including kicking off Moosebox, then Triggerfish Disney Story Lab, and then a Moosebox first season of 20 shorts, I tested the brakes a bit, flew under the radar more and brought things back into alignment, took things at a more manageable speed. So, even though 2019 has sometimes felt like a prolonged failure, it’s been a relief. If the last few years have been a big inhale, this has been a satisfyingly long exhale. Family has their health, and that’s really all that matters.
Bru & Boegie
In Bru & Boegie news, two directors of Bojack Horseman (Alex Salyer and Aaron Long, both whose work I dig a lot) really dug my Bru & Boegie short ‘Freelance Mountain‘, which is cool. Apparently it got around with the Bojack crew and they all loved it. There are loads of little pockets of Bru & Boegie appreciation around the world but I still haven’t managed to find a suitable way to produce the shorts faster. I mean, I can keep doing them solo but they take me ages to get through. I have a bunch of finished scripts ready, some of them from other writers, and an ever-growing document of new episode ideas. I also know nobody owes me anything to get Bru & Boegie working. Bru & Boegie is like a 100-year old chestnut that I’m trying to crack because I’m certain there are celestial diamonds inside. I feel like I’m joining an ever-growing pool of people who, instead of going the debatably safer route of putting together a more obviously commercial project or a reboot of an old IP and following the current trend of saying their show is ‘like x plus y’ to make it easier for an exec to digest, are rather trying somehow against all odds to find a way to get their passion project to work commercially in order to avoid the soul-destroying process of working on something you don’t absolutely love with all your heart. If that’s you – I feel ya. With Bru & Boegie more so than any other project, I need to make it on my own terms. With other projects I’m usually fundamentally obliging. Bru & Boegie and I have a long history, and I’m aware that’s what might make it difficult to find a partner for the project unless they absolutely love it too. It also doesn’t seem like there’s a ‘medium way’ to get these made, it’s either making a short on my own terms and with zero budget, or giving up all the rights and any say, and allowing studio/exec 1,2 and 3 to take everything unique about the project and replace it with whatever’s most acceptable to the lowest common denominator – and as someone else is quoted as saying – selling out isn’t easy either! You need to be really good to sell out. I keep looking for a ‘better way’, and know many others in my position are trying to do the same.
I did a couple of lo-fi self-soothing animations which are below:
Moosebox! We finished making the series a couple years ago but unfortunately the English versions still haven’t been released. I used to get pretty frustrated at the lack of communication from Nickelodeon regarding Moosebox, trying to get replies can be difficult; we’re so far away in the world and communicate is by email. I think our new contacts are slammed with so much work too. I sometimes would draw a custom cartoon to inline into the email to try and endear myself to Moosebox’s new gatekeepers to encourage a reply, and would spend time sugarcoating the wording to make questions seem like soft marshmallows, but I’ve taken Disney’s advice and ‘let it go’, letting Moosebox float through the breeze like a silk scarf in a hurricane. The process of working with a big network from so far away has been a bit like giving birth to a child, sending her away with foster parents and not hearing anything from her until you read about her in the paper. I just gotta hope for the best and trust Nickelodeon value the IP as much as those of us that worked on it do.
I’m really out of the loop with everything that it’s a fun surprise when I use Google or YouTube search to find new episodes of Moosebox on YouTube that have been dubbed by Nickelodeon into different languages on Nick channels I didn’t know existed. This morning I found a YouTube channel called ‘Moosebox‘ that uploads really low resolution and badly cropped Portuguese dubs of the episodes – great! There are also cellphone recordings of people filming Moosebox on TV – also great! I’m pleased it’s getting out there, and far prefer action to no movement at all.
I read a meme that said a) it’s not a good idea to discuss your bux or b) let others know your next moves, so I guess I’ll stick to that this year. Thanks memes, for solid life advice, always.
This ol’ Pac-Man video just keeps klapping kiff. It’s almost at 20 million views. Madness. Big up for low-hanging fruit.
Happy 2020 and let’s hope we all have a great year! I’m still most active on my Instagram, so please find me there if you wish: http://www.instagram.com/mikdog. Also, if you’d like to join the ‘Animation South Africa – Social Group‘ on Facebook, please do! Living in a small town, it’s sometimes the only tenuous connection I feel I have to the local industry.