New Toon Is the Cat’s Meow!
TRainbow aims for CG purr-fection with its charming new animated series
here’s a new animated show debuting at MIPCOM this year that dogs may not be too happy about: Italian studio Rainbow ( Huntik, Winx Club, Regal Academy) is offering 44 Cats, a charming new 52 x 13 min. series that follows the adventures of a large group of felines who act like humans when they’re on their own. The title of the project is a nod to the popular tune “Quaranta-Quattro Gatti,” which won a children’s song contest in 1968, and has become a permanent fixture of Italian culture.
“This is a show that stands out because of the quality of its animation, the content and the positive messages it conveys to children everywhere,” says Rainbow’s SVP of licensing and acquisitions, Cristiana Buzzelli. “Audiences will be entertained as they watch a visually beautiful series, packed with great adventures, but which also promotes the values of diversity, acceptance, tolerance and [helping] those in need.”
Buzzelli hopes that by watching the positive actions of the show’s cat characters, kids at home will be encouraged to copy that behavior at home, at school and at play with their friends. “We believe that this is entertainment with a positive message,” she adds. “Kids will absorb the message and learn that it’s normal to be kind, share, help each other and work as a team, and to live in harmony despite their differences.”
The series’ animation is a joint venture between Rainbow’s studios in Loreto and Rome and Vancouver-based Bardel Entertainment.
Animation fans in search of something completely different and quite irreverent would be smart to check out the new series The Jellies!, which arrives on Adult Swim this month. The brainchild of popular rapper, record producer and music video director Tyler, the Creator ( né Tyler Gregory Okonma) and his frequent collaborator Lionel Boyce, the show follows the misadventures of a 16-yearold human boy named Cornell who is adopted by jellyfish parents. When Cornell sets out to find out the truth about his real parents, the series kicks into high gear.
Animated by the popular Brooklyn-based Augenblick Studios ( Superjail!, Ugly Americans), the show allows Tyler and Boyce to take their goofy and oddball characters to wild and surreal places that push the envelope. Tyler also provides several of the voices on The Jellies! and wrote the insanely catchy theme song. The voice cast also includes Boyce, Phil LaMarr, Blake Anderson, AJ Johnson and Kevin Michael Richardson
“We just said, let’s make a cartoon that really shows our humor,” says Tyler in a phone interview. “Let’s just make a show that we want to watch, and that’s exactly what we did. I love watching South Park, Family Guy, Recess, Hey Arnold!; I still watch all those shows to this day. My new favorite cartoon is Clarence, though. I love Clarence!” The Need for Black
Representation A Comic-Con panel devoted to Tyler and The Jellies! proved to be quite popular this past summer. When someone asked Tyler why the main character of his show was black, he offered a frank and passionate response that went viral. “How many f***** black characters are there on TV right now?” he asked. “Name clear idea of how everything looked. If you set a scene in a restaurant, you need to know what the place looks like and what every single person who is at the restaurant looks like. I also learned that one single detail can make a joke unfunny. But overall, it’s really cool to see the animatics and watch all the things you were writing come to life. I also think you can get away with a lot more in animation than in real life.”
All of the show’s animation is hand-drawn, using Wacom tablets and Flash, according to Augenblick. “We also use Photoshop, After Effects, and Premiere. We want the look of the show to The Jellies! begins its run on Adult Swim on October 22 at 12:15 a.m.
Behind the ivy-covered walls of a large contemporary building near West Hollywood, there’s a statue of Big Foot and one of the most edgy and prolific animation studios in town known as Titmouse.
The company named for a sweet little bird was once just all about making t-shirts until co-founders (and husband and wife) Chris and Shannon Prynoski realized they could make bank and have fun creating animation. Nearly two decades later, their business has grown to include offices in New York, Vancouver and Los Angeles. These days, more than 400 animators, compositors, storyboard artists, writers and editors work in-house for the studio.
credits are children’s shows such as Disney’s Goldie & Bear and Amazon’s Niko and the Sword of Light. The studio is also expanding into virtual reality projects that incorporate Google’s Tilt Brush audio reactive brushes.
“I think it was definitely word of mouth, because I started out doing a lot of stuff individually, and I worked with MTV doing more adult animation,” says Chris Prynoski. “From there you have a lot of stuff that shows a certain kind of animation so you tend to get more of that work.”
As the company grew and Prynoski started pitching more kids’ shows, that became a larger part of what Titmouse focused on. But they didn’t drop their signature approach even when moving away from adult animation for other projects.
“I think we have more of a house sensibility than a house style, based on the feedback we get on social media,” says Prynoski. “There’s a little something in our humor or the way we do things that’s different somehow.”
“When I was in high school, my best friend and I would shoot little movies and things. He decided he was going to NYU to go to film school and that made me think that the drawing I was doing and the movies I was making could be a job,” says Prynoski. “So, when I was a senior I started making little animated movies and I got into the School of Visual Arts in New York.” Beavis and Butt-Head Open Doors After Prynoski graduated in 1994, the industry was going through an adult animation boom, so he found work on projects such as Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, Freddy Got Fingered and Liquid Television. The time he spent with director Mike Judge while working on Beavis and Butt-Head gave him a glimpse into running animated productions and where he’d like to take his skills later. He says he discovered early on that it wasn’t his diploma from art school that would take him places. He would need to use his skills as an animator, producer and creator to build a career and a business.
As the business has grown, Prynoski and the management team have had to accept that they can’t always be the ones to directly work on each and every project. They’ve grown the company in a way that makes it possible to have skilled artists on each show.
“These guys are so key to the running of the studio and to me, they became indispensable,” says Prynoski. “With somebody like Antonio Canobbio (VP and creative director for Titmouse) and the rest of our officers, we have a group that can handle anything that comes our way, and we’re better with the input of all these artists.”
The studio continues to create shows that reflect its beginnings. Its work on Netflix’s new series Big Mouth— co-created by comedian/ actor Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg ( Family Guy) and writer/directors Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin ( Little Manhattan)— relies on a more simple style of animation.
“To make the sincere and serious moments feel genuine, we designed Big Mouth’s universe to feel real and relatable,” says Otto Tang, art director for Titmouse and the show. “The backgrounds are drawn with a bit more maturity and sophistication, compared to the exaggerated proportion of our character designs. This gives a lot more space for the writing to jump between absurd comedy and serious heartfelt subject matter. The art direction for this show isn’t something audiences will pay attention to. But it will be felt beneath, sort of like the bass line of a song.”
Goldberg has been thrilled with Titmouse’s work on the show. “Titmouse really has a way of doing things that supports artists exploring how they create a show,” says Goldberg. “You see how much they want to be just right for what you’re trying to do, so you always have a feeling that they’re giving everything.”
Prynoski sees the current adult animation boom as part of his Beavis and Butt-Head fans getting older but still having a taste for the renegade humor that made that show such a big part of pop culture in the 1990s. The audience may be aging, but their sensibilities still leave them craving similar shows. With more streaming services hungry for animated content these days, the demand for what Titmouse can bring to these projects has also multiplied.
“It’s a great time for animation and for us to be in the animation business because there’s definitely an audience for the kind of work we do,” says Prynoski. “It’s great to be part of making the shows we want to watch.” For more info about the studio, visit www.titmouse.net.