NYC Midnight : Congratulations on winning Animadness 2006 and besting some very talented animators from around the world. Why did you enter Animadness?
Team Baggy Underpants : Ann-Marie saw something mentioned about the competition in one of her web newsletters. It sounded like an interesting idea, not too dissimilar from another film festival here in Australia called Tropfest which has a different signature item each year that needs to be included in entrant films. However, they allow a little more time for film production! It had been a little while since we’d made a short film, and we currently have a good team of people working with us on a long-term project. So, perhaps foolishly, Ann-Marie thought ‘why not?’ and committed everyone to it!
NYC Midnight : Tell us a little about your team, Baggy Underpants.
Team Baggy Underpants : Baggy Underpants is JC Reyes, Kelly Lynagh, Michael Vandenhoven, David Blumenstein, Marta Tesoro and Ann-Marie Denham. The name came about simply because we couldn’t think of anything better to call ourselves, which is quite sad really! We all work at BigKidz Entertainment, which is an animation company set up by JC, Kelly and Ann-Marie five years ago. Everyone is quite different from each other, but despite that we all seem to get along quite nicely!
JC does exceptionally well as an animator and designer, but blanks out when it comes to financials and gets cranky when he’s hungry. He also moonlights as a dance instructor when not at the studio, and has developed quite a following on the dance floor.
Kelly manages to do thirty things at once so fulfils the role of a production manager admirably when not animating or holding the company’s purse-strings. She advances ever closer to her blackbelt in Shotokan karate and is the tallest in the studio. She has mastered the art of ‘banana-mouth’…don’t ask!
Michael is terminally enthusiastic about animation, has a caffeine-addiction, and spends too much money on his car. He has endured the title of ‘office bitch’ for some years yet maintains his good humour in a boisterous, ear-splitting fashion. He is frequently told but never listens.
David has the most remarkable ability to burn during even the briefest foray into sunlight. His short film ‘Herman the Legal Labrador’ was an incredible feat considering he did it all himself, and almost entirely with his own money. He is a natural animator and we look forward to taking advantage of him wherever possible. His desktop picture of Claire Danes is a little bit worrisome, though.
Marta has a limitless capacity for junk food and sweets and surely marches towards bowel-cancer with reckless abandon. She has some truly alarming friends and some altogether frightening anecdotes. Her ability to exceed footage expectations puts most of us to shame, and is never shy of saying what she thinks. She has taken over the mantel of shortest in the studio from Ann-Marie.
Ann-Marie has a strong opinion on anything and everything, and is a spelling and punctuation nazi. She is a ridiculously slow animator and wonders how everyone else does it. Her day involves shouting at Michael at least once for being a tool. She swears too much.
NYC Midnight : Your winning film, "Box", was a bit on the dark side. Do you prefer telling darker stories or was this something that fell into place for this competition?
Team Baggy Underpants : Originally, JC had written a poem based on the themes provided to our team of ‘greed’, ‘a key’ and ‘a child’. During the brainstorming session, Ann-Marie put forth the idea that although the words of the poem are reasonably innocuous, if they were paired with visuals of a bratty and greedy child that steals from other children, it would give the poem a bit of a twist. Based on that, JC came up with the style that you see in the final film. We didn’t especially aim for something dark, although Dave suggested that perhaps we shouldn’t do something comedic because he thought that’s what a lot of other teams might go for.
NYC Midnight : Take us through "Box", from concept to completion.
Team Baggy Underpants : There was a lot of fluffing about in the early stages when it came to figuring out a story idea. Even beer and pizza didn’t seem to open the creative channels! As mentioned above, JC came up with the poem that Thomas Pullar very kindly narrated for us at very short notice. JC also tackled the artistic style of the film, along with the storyboard, which was then cut into an animatic along with Thomas’ narration by Michael using After Effects. Scenes were then divided amongst the team who managed to squash them into their day/evening/weekends whilst working full-time on the studio’s current production. Everything was animated in Flash and then imported into After Effects again for some final special effects work and compositing. Our composer for the project, David Jaedyn Conley from Mydnyte Productions (http://www.mydnyteproductions.com), was given the unenviable task of writing the score in a very short amount of time whilst he was juggling two other projects. He has been kind enough to write a bit about what processes he went through to complete the score as this is a completely foreign area for us:
When I started scoring this film I had a much different set of ideas than I did when I finished. Because of the quick turnaround and deadline I had kind of thought ahead of some sounds I thought may work, but when I got the film I was blown away by the artwork and animation. BigKidz are great at textures and atmosphere and after watching it for a while I decided instead to go for a more ethereal and atmospheric score. I turned into more of a "musically surrealist" direction and tried to potentiate the atmospheres and textures I was seeing on the screen- for example the waves during the pirate scene brought to mind the arpeggiated violin part, and when the main character changes to a more malevolent creature I played more on the misty, vaporous synth sounds. I think it's at that point the film really changes and the music moves from the more solid, heroic, structured sequences to a darker, more threatening undercurrent. When the main character's eyes change, that signaled to me some sort of corruption, and at that point I really wanted to focus on tension, malevolence, and the manipulation of stress to achieve atmosphere and potentiate the visuals. I wanted to move away from structured, traditional film music and utilize more ambient and slow moving musical language.
Everything was sandwiched together and exported out of After Effects as a Quicktime file which was then burned to DVD. Voila!
NYC Midnight : What hardware/software was used for the film?
Team Baggy Underpants : Pentium 4 PCs, Macromedia (now Adobe) Flash, SoundForge, Adobe After Effects, and a dodgy microphone we found at the bottom of a drawer. The music of this film was created using Logic Pro and the Reason software packages. Logic is an incredible program for recording but one of the more amazing features is the built in software-based synthesizers and samplers. Reason utilizes a similar technology of software-based synthesis and Logic includes a great feature called "Rewire" which allows me to "piggy-back" the two programs, essentially allowing them to merge and become one. Jaedyn uses an Apple dual processor G5 computer and also use various other outboard gear such as my irreplaceable Roland JV-90 keyboard/controller. Roland makes some of the best music gear in the world, and their synthesis is unbeatable.
Apple's Quicktime played an essential role in scoring this film. In that BigKidz are in Australia and Jaedyn is not currently based in the United States we had to send files back and forth through the internet. Logic Pro, being an Apple product, seamlessly integrates Quicktime video files and makes scoring and syncing the film easy as pie.
NYC Midnight : What did you learn from the experience of creating an animated film from scratch in just 3 weeks?
Team Baggy Underpants : That you can get a film done in a shorter time than you think, and that it’s perhaps not a good idea when you’ve got a big studio project going at the same time!
NYC Midnight : Did you get a chance to check out some of the other films in the
competition? If so, which ones did you enjoy?
Team Baggy Underpants : ‘Billy’s Battle’ had a great concept and ‘The Secret Lives of Pills’ was funny.
NYC Midnight : Do you have any ongoing or upcoming projects?
Team Baggy Underpants : Our current studio project is animation for a new 26-episode animated television series called ‘Dogstar’ which is being produced by Media World here in Australia. We enjoy working on something Australian that doesn’t involve kangaroos, cork hats and outrageously Strine accents. It’s due for release in 2007. Alas the series’ website is not operational at the time of writing this, but it will eventually be at www.dogstar.tv Here’s the synopsis according to Media World:
On the voyage from old Earth to New Earth, a freak accident causes the Dogstar, a giant space ark containing all the world’s dogs to become lost to mankind. On New Earth, the evil Bob Santino gleefully mass-produces robotic dogs for the canine-deprived populace. But the Clark kids, three members of your average twenty-six century family, miss their real dog Hobart and embark on a journey to find the Dogstar – with Bob in hot pursuit.
We produced a short-film called ‘Frankenchicken’ in 2004 as a pilot for a potential series. It has screened in thirty film festivals around the world, and we’re aiming to take it to market soon in the hopes that someone is looking for a series that doesn’t have a crime-fighting kid with superpowers as the main protagonist. Most people seem to like it, from small children through to adults. Hopefully this is not a death knell for the series as investors and broadcasters are flummoxed by anything that doesn’t have a glaringly obvious demographic. http://www.frankenchicken.com
‘Big Red Hat’ is an idea for a pre-schooler series that we have in the works. It also something that we’re aiming to take to market as pre-schooler series seem incredibly popular.
‘NEXT’ was a film that JC did in 2004 that was a comment on tolerance and acceptance of differences amongst people. It screened recently at the Zlin Film Festival in the Czech Republic and is also on Animation Magazine’s World Animation Celebration Online website at http://www.animationmagazine.net/wac/next.html
‘Small Ant Syndrome’ was a short film that Ann-Marie had originally intended as an entry into Tropfest when the signature item was ‘rock’. However, she never got it finished in time, probably due to the fact that each ant character had about 50 levels to it and made her computer prolapse with increasing frequency. It has proved surprisingly popular with festivals, especially children’s film festivals in America. It is also currently on the WAC-O website at http://www.animationmagazine.net/wac/small_ant_syndrome.html
David’s film ‘Herman the Legal Labrador’ should be looked at, not only because it was given the royal seal of assured quality by being rejected for funding by the Australian Film Corporation (as was Frankenchicken), but also because it’s very good! http://herman.nakedfella.com/index.shtml
Marta’s film ‘Top Shelf’ has been screened in various festivals and won the 2D Professional Award at the Redstick International Animation Festival 2005.
Kelly has a feature film idea called ‘Servants Three’ that Ann-Marie periodically nags her to develop.
Michael tries to forget the film he did at college, as most of us usually do, but it was better than his bosses’ college films! He denies it’s anywhere to be seen on the web. It was called ‘The Interrogator’.
NYC Midnight : What are your ultimate goals in the animation industry?
Team Baggy Underpants : To keep working and paying the bills! Animation seems to be such an erratic industry and we’ve all had to get second jobs at some point. I’d say we look forward to a time when we don’t work late nights or on weekends and public holidays, and we get a chance to make a series of our own that we can be proud of and not shrivel away from in sheer embarrassment – not that we’ve even done one of those yet!
NYC Midnight : Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers looking to break into animation?
Team Baggy Underpants : Regardless of what animation medium you’re working in, it is a HUGE advantage to have good draughtsmanship skills! This should be a lifetime habit that is done regularly, as in every week. Commit yourself to watching and studying animation from different countries and get along to animation festivals where you can. However, do expect to see some truly bizarre stuff that will leave you wondering just what the hell happened. Be prepared to take criticism of your work – this is an extremely difficult thing sometimes when you put in a lot of sweat and blood into your work. It can seem like the criticism is directed at you, when it’s really directed at your work. LEARN TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE!
It is certainly helpful to attend a course in animation, preferably something that is a minimum of a year but it’ll really depend on the course curriculum and how relevant the elements in it are. Accept the inevitability that you will need to work another job at some point in order to pay the bills and feed yourself when there is no animation work. Folio work is important if applying for a job. Please, no big muscly men posing with swords, or impossibly-leggy women draped over either cars or big muscly men posing with swords. Re-drawing existing characters is a no-no; much better that you try to develop your own characters. Life-drawing is compulsory! Not all the folio work needs to be finished or polished. Sometimes sketches and pencil animation is enough if it shows a solid understanding of the basics.
NYC Midnight : Will you be back to defend your title in Animadness 2007?
Team Baggy Underpants : Well, we’d certainly like the chance to have another go if you’ll have us!
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