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There Are No Secrets

He will steal all your secrets…

Just so you know, there are no secrets.

Sometimes people think there is some sort of secret schedule, technology, pipeline, budget – whatever specific target you want to imagine is the root cause why a show works.  

“If I could just get my hands on that budget…”  Well, if you did, you would probably find a few items that were a small surprise, but it will just be a normal budget.  No secrets – it’s not unlocking the mystery of production.

It’s the equivalent to saying, “If I just had Tiger Woods’ clubs, I would be much better at golf.” That’s an obviously ridiculous statement.

People visiting the studio love taking pictures of our schedule on the show, finding out how many crew we have, or writing down how many weeks we spend doing something – as if having that equation would be the secret.  It’s not a secret.  It’s just a solution to a problem.

Each production has problems – to critically evaluate each project and apply the correct amount of time and resources and pair the plan with the right talent, that yields the CHANCE to make something great.

Being skilled at analyzing and predicting allows you to be able to make these models tighter and more accurate.  It also helps if you have put in some mileage so you have the needed references.

Applying the wrong model to a project aimlessly because it was proven to have worked somewhere else will typically yield poor results.  If you happen to see this slowly becoming apparent mid production, it might be time for a pivot (if anyone will listen).

Get input from the right people when building out new projects, but don’t worry about the ‘secrets.’  If anything, it might lead you into a false sense of security.

Animation News Weekly Wrap 7/31

Hi animation friends – trying a new thing this week where I collect some animation news stories from around the trades over the last week and plug it into this easy to quickie read format. Enjoy!

For the Rick and Morty fans – Adult Swim announced the premiere date for Season 6 (I’ll save you the click – it’s September 4)

GDT’s stop motion Pinnochio is looking magical – if you haven’t seen the trailer yet (it’s also below here and it looks incredible)

Good review on Deadline for DC League of Super Pets

And some early weekend BO results for DC League of Super Pets that look positive

And the power of the Minions keep going … Minions Rise of the Gru is the first animated film to pass the $300M mark during the Covid era

South Park is celebrating and doing a 25th anniversary pop up shop + experience that is touring the world! Hollywood date for the experience is set for August 20 (likely in that weird empty lot at Hollywood and Vine they use for pop ups / Halloween mazes)

Sad news – Paul Coker, Rankin/Bass Production Designer and MAD Magazine illustrator has passed away at 93. (Here’s a bonus link to a pinterest board of Coker illustrations)

I’m slightly biased and excited about this news for my friends – Brutus Pink (creators of Big Mouth and Human Resources) have renewed their deal with Netflix through 2026

That’s it for now. Have a great week everyone.

Move Slow and Follow Rules

I tried to think of what would be the opposite of ‘Move fast and break things’.  Zuckerberg’s often quoted ideal is interpreted (or misinterpreted) a thousand different ways.  I like the simplest interpretation – challenge things, try a lot of stuff and fail fast (so you get to the ‘right’ solution faster).

Seems like a sign that you would see hung up by a public pool

“Move Slow and Follow Rules” probably isn’t a good thing to automatically put in play – seems like almost a default setting we often see on most productions.  

Move slow and you get less done.  Sure there are times you need to move slow. You need to probably move slow if you are learning.  You might also need to move slow(er) if accuracy or quality is not at spec.  If neither of those are at play, you should consider moving faster (generally speaking, people could embrace a little more urgency on most shows).

Carefully follow your established rules and you will likely get the same results.  Sometimes, you want the exact same results (assuming things are going well and high quality), but most times we want better results and linked improvement.  You get that from small iterations, adaptations to the rules.  You want exponential results?  You better be ok with breaking some things.

‘Move slow and follow the rules’ is a good thing to tell the novice, someone inexperienced, or someone struggling with quality.  Otherwise, I’m always going to recommend we take a good look at things, move faster and adapt.

Big Mouth 7 and Human Resources 2

It’s hard to believe we are already making Big Mouth season 7 – it was not that long ago we were sitting in an office talking about the rules of how the Hormone Monster (he wasn’t called Maury yet) appears into scenes, who can see him, does he have super powers?

Well we figured all that out along with lots of other questions and slowly a big world started to evolve, which is even bigger now with the world of Human Resources. Here we are years later, now starting to work on Big Mouth season 7 and Human Resources season 2 – we are excited for the fans to see what we have been cooking up!

Lots of new characters, new nonsense, and new adventures (that we can’t talk about yet) coming for our favorite friends and monsters in the Big Mouth universe.

Thrilled to be doing many more episodes with such a fantastic crew. Here’s to Big Mouth 7 and HR s2!

Human Resources Season 1 Launch

The wait is finally over – Human Resources season 1, the show we have been working on, produced entirely during the pandemic (remotely), launches today! It’s all about the monsters – we get to see more about their lives, their jobs (and clients), and all their coworkers (and the associated work drama of course).

It’s probably our best looking season yet, and the one we are most proud of. We loved making this series and hope everyone who watches, enjoys it as well.

It is a very tough thing to make a new series, so I want to show some love for everyone who made this show come to life…

Big shout outs and thank you to the Human Resources crew – phenomenal writers and script team, killer dialog editors, the powerful director crew, an amazing storyboard team, the ninja animatics editors, our fleet of expert timers, beastly design teams, our talented comp department, an absolutely badass production team, our eagle eye checkers, the unstoppable accounting crew, and our last line of defense – the incredible post editorial commando group. I could not imagine a better team I would want to have made this series with. You guys made this all happen!

Muchas gracias to all our teams at Margarita Mix making this show sound the best, to our relentless recording engineers, the fantastic crew at Light Iron, and of course our hard working overseas animation crews at Yeson and Yearim making some outstanding animation.

Appreciation to Kevin and his team at Chromosphere for designing / building a stunning main title sequence.

Thank you thank thank you to our incredible partners and execs at Netflix getting us what we need, all the brass at Titmouse who clear the way for us every week of production.

And a big big BIG thank you to the Executive Producers / creators of this show – Mark, Jen, Andrew, Nick and Kelly – they are the best EPs in the biz! Lastly, thanks to Anthony Lioi – the magic man, and the guy who makes all this animation sparkle and come together. I would have thrown in the towel years ago without that guy.

I could keep going – it would be an endless sea of thank you’s. So many people worked to make this show come together. Without rambling on – thank you to each and every one of you guys – big love, appreciation and gratitude that you were there with us on the journey make this amazing series.

Human Resources Season 1 came out today! Watch it on Netflix! Enjoy!

Human Resources Series Trailer

Last week Netflix released the full trailer for our new Big Mouth spinoff series – Human Resources! It’s hard to believe the series is almost here – we are a little under two weeks away from the premiere.

New humans, new monsters and we finally get to see what life is like for a hormone monster (and all the other monsters) working at the office. And yes, the hormone monsters can be gross to work with in an office environment.

The cast this season is amazing – we were very lucky to get to work with such incredible talent (you will see a slice of some of them in the trailer).

Shout out to our crew who absolutely killed it and worked together to make an unbelievable series we are all very proud of. Enjoy the trailer!

How Are We Doing With Remote Training

Training in the covid / remote era is going to take longer and cost more – finding efficiencies and planning is essential

Often we talk about burnout and efficiency during the remote work / Covid era, but something we don’t talk about much is the significant increase in training time. It is a hidden cost that should not be ignored as the effects can greatly reduce the effectiveness of our crews.

Put simply – Working remotely increases communication time and transferring information is generally inefficient. Training, is at its core dependent on communication. If we do the napkin math here, it shows that training is going to see slowdown in most instances.

On our shows and what we are seeing around the industry, it can take upwards of 50% more time to get employees in training to competency. In addition to the learning time for the trainee, the people teaching the employees are having to dedicate more time to the effort, tying up team members and managers who could be addressing other issues. The cost here to the production is significant, particularly on new productions where there is large scale onboarding.

Here’s a sample of things we are missing: We do not have the ‘osmosis’ of employees being in the same location, nor are they seeing the cadence and quality of work of their peers in real time. They can’t lean over their neighbor’s desk or drop by a director’s office. No one can lean over their shoulder to explain a shot or a technical element. Strangely enough the ‘water cooler’ moments would also create lots of talk that ultimately solves issues. These all streamline training and reduce the friction that we typically see today.

We have not yet discovered any large scale solutions to apply here – instead we have to target new methods of training and create opportunities to replicate some of the circumstances we had in studio when we were all in one location. Creating online ‘water cooler’ areas where employees can gather, dedicated and more frequent small scale / digestible training sessions, and more tailored training programs can help alleviate some of the issues outlined above, but it’s never going to be as easy as in person training.

What we cannot do is expect training to work at the same speed and effectiveness as we had before we started this remote era. This is something that leaders have to push up the ladder so we get the appropriate support in place. We must evaluate and assign the correct time and resources and not create unrealistic expectations (which creates additional unnecessary stress) with the goal of supporting our teams to do the best work possible.

Resume Tip #1 – Keep It Simple

Write less than you think you should

One of the best things you can do for your resume / CV is to keep it simple – write concisely, write less.

Too often we see resumes with 3 or 4 pages, explanations of every responsibility they have ever had, whatever other nonsense they can cram in paired with little to no experience. Candidates write like this in an attempt to look impressive BUT any decent hiring manager will see through all that. This is a lot of filler and usually makes the potential employee appear desperate, so don’t do it!

Secondly, a big, chunky resume is difficult for the reviewer / hiring manager to read. I am more apt to pass over a 3 pager, loaded with all the toppings than a cleanly written one page CV. You want your resume to be easily readable and more importantly, scannable. Very few people are doing a deep dive on your resume – instead you want it to read fast and catch their eye.

Here is your goal – keep the resume to ONE page. Unless you’ve been in the business 20 years, you can fit it on a single page. All that semi relevant small stuff doesn’t NEED to be included – have a good reason to include what you do and tailor your resume to the job you are going for.

Also think about this – someone reviewing 50 resumes at a time may not actually look at your 2nd page. You only are guaranteed a glance at one page. Make it a good one.

Whenever I rework my resume, I always ask myself, ‘What can I remove?’ This is a great question to ask every time you sit down to retool the resume.

Your past employment should be 90% of your resume. Where did you work, what job did you do, and for how long. The rest you can go over in the interview. Scrape it down and make it simple!

Human Resources Series Teaser

The new Big Mouth spinoff series

Finally, we can talk about this…Here is a look at our new show we have been working on for almost two years – the Big Mouth spinoff, Human Resources! This teaser does a good job explaining a little bit of the nonsense that is the Human Resources series.

If you ever watched Big Mouth wishing you got to see more of the monsters, then this will be right up your alley.

The cast on this show is unbelievable! Randall Park is Pete the Logic Rock (the Easter Island looking guy) and one of my favorite new characters.

Check out the trailer – this has been a labor of love for all of us – entirely produced remotely (from our collective homes) during the pandemic.

Human Resources season 1 – Coming to a Netflix near you March 18!

BTW – Stay Out of the Way

Advice to Managers – Stop monkeying with the machine

Here’s what I tell most new managers – let’s call it proactive guidance.

If a crew is running well and morale is good, then stay out of their way.

If you want to do something (if you feel like you aren’t contributing enough), then figure out how to make your crew’s life easier. Start by listening and watching.

Get them better tools / resources OR clear roadblocks for them. Often young leaders think they always need to be involved – they tend to micromanage to either assert their position or to feel useful. This is a mistake.

Sometimes crews might actually need training, but more often it is just a nudge that’s needed. Unless the wheels are falling off the cart, training may not be the move. Just keep them pointed in the right direction.

The skipper lets the crew do their job and stays out of their way so they can do it well. She watches the crew to see where they need help and continues scan the horizon making sure they are headed the right way.

Big Mouth Puppets Behind The Scenes

Part of Big Mouth season 5 was creating a live action puppets version of our characters – it was a lot of fun (and stress) to produce during Covid, but totally worth it!  Here’s a few behind the scenes stories / trivia about how we produced the puppet sequence from “A Very Big Mouth Christmas” episode.

99% of the planning was done remotely over zoom, without seeing anything in person, which was crazy!  We didn’t know how anything would come together until we were physically at the shooting location.

Checking puppets before a shot

The Director of the shoot, Tanner, was pushing us to use a snow machine early in our planning.  I’m glad we went with his idea because seeing the snow falling outside of each shot with the window looked amazing!  It really adds depth and immersion to the shots.

When you watch the very beginning of the episode, Maury was never supposed to drop the tree beads strand at the beginning (that was an accident), but it was the best take and there was something kind of funny about him dropping the beads so we kept it in.  It was tough to get the puppeteers to have Maury hang those beads on the tree – did a few takes of that to try and get it right.

Another take that was difficult for the puppets was Connie throwing her glass.  We did that take A LOT.  It’s not easy to have puppets physically throw items, so we really had to work at it.  The poor props department had to get glasses ready with her “drink” in it (which was little shreds of red mylar) and the puppet would throw it and they’d have to get the next prop out. There was red mylar shreds all over the ground below the puppeteers from pouring the “drink” out over and over.

If you look closely, you’ll see there are all kinds of penis and vagina themed cookies and ornaments.  Props department had a field day there.

Most people watching probably won’t notice, but if you look for it, you will see these puppets blink!  Ok here’s the secret – it’s not actually part of the puppet rig.  We did all that in post.  The compositors did a lot of beautiful work on these sequences. It really brings life to those characters and it’s super subtle (that was one of Anthony Lioi’s many ideas on the puppets sequence).

Puppet Wrangler (Rachel) getting Rick covered with ‘soot’ and ready for the shot

Some other stuff the compositors did:  adding smoke fx to Rick coming out of the fireplace, putting the reflection on the penis sword, removing the puppeteer rod from the penis sword (so it looks like Maury is actually holding it), and removing all the wires / rigs from when the Shame Wizard flies away offscreen.

The Vader Johan was actually a big laser cutout piece just strapped to a baker’s rack so we could roll him past the window.  The art department came up with the idea to light up his eye at the shoot, so they modded him and put an LED behind some red plastic.  It looked great!

The DP (Yuki) checking the lighting on the stand in puppet

It was a great shoot and wild to do early in the pandemic.  Hopefully we get to do some more Big Mouth puppets in the future too.