Stripped from Life

Animation Magazine - - Tv -

CChris Savino’s real-life ex­pe­ri­ences and his love of comic-strip es­thet­ics in­fuse Nick­elodeon’s new com­edy se­ries By Tom McLean.

hris Savino grew up in a fam­ily of 10 chil­dren, so he knows at least a lit­tle bit about how to rally large groups and avoid mass chaos — skills he em­ploys to good ef­fect as as the cre­ator and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of The Loud House, an an­i­mated fam­ily com­edy se­ries pre­mier­ing May 2 on Nick­elodeon.

“The rule on the show is this: You make the step in process be­hind you bet­ter, and the process ahead of you eas­ier,” says Savino, a 25-year an­i­ma­tion veteran.

That means peo­ple at each step of pro­duc­tion try to leave the show bet­ter than they found it — from sto­ry­board artists build­ing on the script to an­i­ma­tors build­ing on the boards, to the sound and mu­sic build­ing on the an­i­ma­tion.

“I don’t have direc­tors, per se, and I don’t re­ally have su­per­vi­sors, per se,” says Savino, who started out get­ting a job as a teenager on Ren & Stimpy at Spumco by fax­ing draw­ings to John Kric­falusi. Since then, his cred­its have ranged from Hey, Arnold! and Duck­man to Johnny Test and Kick But­towski: Sub­ur­ban Dare­devil, and now to his first cre­ator credit on The Loud House, a se­ries about a boy named Lin­coln Loud who lives in a fam­ily with 10 sib­lings — all girls. “So I kind of over­see the whole show. I di­rect the whole show. It’s just one uni­fied vi­sion for the show, I sup­pose.” Grow­ing Pains That vi­sion came about in a sort of side­ways man­ner, says Savino, who first pitched The Loud House as a se­ries about rab­bits in­stead of peo­ple — mostly be­cause stan­dards and prac­tices is typ­i­cally stricter with hu­man char­ac­ters.

“I thought it’d be funny to have an 11-year-old rab­bit with 25 sis­ters who are all the same age be­cause they’re all from the same lit­ter,” says Savino. But when Nick devel­op­ment exec Jenna Boyd pulled him aside and sug­gested mak­ing the char­ac­ters hu­man, it changed ev­ery­thing for Savino.

“We brought the num­ber of sis­ters down from 25 to 10 to seem plau­si­ble and that’s when I started con­nect­ing it to my child­hood and my ex­pe­ri­ences grow­ing up in a fam­ily with 10 kids — five sis­ters and four broth­ers,” he says. “It brought a re­lata­bil­ity and a re­al­ness and a gen­uine­ness to it that I don’t think I would have in­jected into the slap­sticky kind of funny an­i­mal ver­sion of it.”

Sud­denly, Lin­coln’s sis­ters’ names all matched Savino’s sis­ters’ names; Lin­coln was named for the street Savino grew up on and his ad­dress — Franklin Street — comes from the name of Savino’s ele­men­tary school.

“Th­ese were lit­tle things that I felt were touches of my re­al­ity that make it feel a lit­tle more au­then­tic,” he says. “It’s not au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal in any real sense, but the experience kind of is. Whereas Lin­coln, he jumps into the fray and has a plan of ac­tion, I was the kid that kind of pulled my­self out of the fray and went off into my own lit­tle space and drew.”

The look of the show came from Savino’s pre­an­i­ma­tion am­bi­tions to be a comic-strip artist.

“In my 25 years of work­ing in an­i­ma­tion, I’ve al- ways had this nag­ging feel­ing at the back of my head that I’ve turned my back on my love of comic strips,” he says. “Not that I stopped read­ing them, but the de­sire to pur­sue sell­ing one ... In essence, The Loud House is kind of a love let­ter to comic strips.”

Har­mony Con­ver­gence While hav­ing 11-plus char­ac­ters in each episode made a real hand-drawn an­i­mated look im­pos­si­ble, it did point the pro­duc­tion to­ward Har­mony as the main tool. The tech­ni­cal lim­i­ta­tions and the comic­strip es­thetic also led to style de­ci­sions like keep­ing the cam­era at a con­stant level so an­i­ma­tors could con­cen­trate on an­i­mat­ing in­stead of tweak­ing mod­els to match a par­tic­u­lar an­gle, he says.

“It’s be­come kind of a mantra on the show: The cam­era is not funny; the char­ac­ters are funny. Leave the cam­era be, and it’ll be OK,” says Savino.

The comic-strip in­spi­ra­tion also led to a lim­ited color pal­ette that matches that used in print­ing Sun­day comics pages, and to scan­ning in old newsprint to add as a tex­ture to back­grounds — a process that re­vealed sur­pris­ing strengths.

“We yel­lowed the pa­per to make it seem like a re­ally old comic, but that yel­low­ing warmed up the scenes and kind of tied all the col­ors to­gether in a way that I didn’t ex­pect,” Savino says. “As soon as you tie them all to­gether with the same tex­ture un­der­neath, they all look like they go to­gether.”

Which is a great way to de­scribe not just Loud House, but fam­i­lies in gen­eral. [

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