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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
Glad to see the trailer finally released out in the wild – everyone gets to witness the wildness that we have been working on for season 5. Lots of surprises this season – new monsters, love triangles, hate / love themes, Christmas, and one of our biggest episodes ever.
Also one of the big secrets that you can finally see in the trailer – we did stop motion and puppet versions of Big Mouth!
Those were a lot of fun to collaborate on and build out. Will add some behind the scenes posts on those later.
Check out the trailer to see all the shenanigans we have been up to. Season 5 comes out on November 5!
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.
The wait is over (mostly) – It’s launching December 4!
Netflix finally announced it today, along with dropping the season 4 trailer. I watched the trailer again this morning and sometimes I forget how much crazy stuff we packed into one season.
The cast for s4 is just as crazy – Maria Bamford, Zach Galifianakis, Seth Rogen, Sterling K Brown, Lena Waithe, John Oliver, Paul Giamatti (FYI you will be surprised which character he is in the show), and a bunch of other people that they probably haven’t announced yet.
We started this season back in January 2019, so we are excited for everyone to get to see it. Check out the trailer below!
Google released their very first VR / 360° Google Doodle and it celebrates the work of the guy who pretty much invented special effects, Georges Méliès. There are all kinds of references to Méliès’ films and his techniques baked into the short – lots of stuff I totally forgot he invented.
For being VR this had a smart setup – building the stage out as a set that can shift and evolve so they didn’t have to move the camera around for new new locations (much like how Méliès made his films – based on theatrical stage tech at the time).
Great animation and design – lots of fun. These crappy screenshots don’t do it justice – just go watch it.
If you don’t have a VR / Google Cardboard, you can still check it out in plain old 2D too (with a mouse controlled camera)
Big Mouth is the amazing Netflix Original primetime animated series a bunch of us have been working on over at Titmouse for the last year or so and it’s finally launching / premiering / dropping September 29.
It’s created by the collective brains of Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett. The principal cast is just nuts – tons of incredible talent: Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Jenny Slate, Jessi Klein, Jason Mantzoukas, Richard Kind, Fred Armisen, Maya Rudolph and Jordan Peele (and the guest cast is just as nuts).
The show is about kids growing up, going through puberty and dealing with all the garbage that life throws at us as we try to get through it all. Even though this is a show about kids, it’s not for kids by any means (btw the trailer below is slightly NSFW) .
I will be posting more about the show as we get into it (and after it launches), but now that it’s finally about to be out in the wild, figured I’d throw it out there for anyone who’s been wondering what we have been working on at Titmouse. Enjoy!
Lots of animation is happening all over town in LA right now – largely due to Netflix and Amazon, but also now some significant / worthwhile work is happening at TBS.Clearly they are investing in animation trying to channel some of the momentum Futurama and American Dad brought to the network.TBS is launching four new, original animated shows – Final Space, Close Enough, Tarantula and The Cops.That is a big buy in for a cable network that has not traditionally specialized in animation.
Since these shows are on cable (vs broadcast tv), I’m hoping the execs can let ’em breathe a little, take some risks and try things out.All things considered, Final Space and Close Enough seem like fairly safe bets.I’ve seen a few great space show pitches over the years from really talented creators – it’s an area that still feels largely untapped (with the exception of Futurama). JG Quintel’s show is sort of a family comedy sitcom but grounded in a very JG sort of way.Both are approachable (despite being a little fringe / weird) and both make sense from a content buy standpoint for TBS.
The new Louis CK / Albert Brooks show The Cops is probably the most linear bet out of the group, but knowing Louis CK, it will push some boundaries.There is not a lot that Louis CK or Albert Brooks does that won’t be doused in social commentary and challenge some status quo nonsense.Sounds like a lot of Rick and Morty board guys are coming back to Starburns to work on this. It could definitely be a solid show based on the talent they’ve lined up, but we haven’t seen much from it yet.
Tarantula though – that’s the wild card.It is created by Carson Mell, who wrote for Silicon Valley, and also is the creator of some really weird / cool animated shorts.Looks like the series is based on his animated Tarantula shorts he made a few years ago. It’s about the adventures of a tattoo artist and the other inhabitants of a hotel in the desert.The clip they showed at SDCC is kinda far out for TBS (in a good way I hope).
In the clip (which is mostly animatic, but has some animation), these guys move around a giant magic mushroom and the psychoactive bits get into their bloodstream triggering a series of trips that seem more at home in a JJ Villard short than an 8pm Fox show.It’s ambitious and weird and I dig it.
Maybe this means TBS is trying to get into that primetime / Adult Swim hybrid-niche space.I hope so – there’s room in that area to make more great animation.
Who knows – it’s just a SDCC clip, but it looks like TBS is trying something different, and that’s a good thing.Even with Final Space and Close Enough, TBS is going after a more indie animation vibe, rather than chasing straight primetime sitcom (Seth / Groening style) animation.
TBS is obviously taking some risks here – on the actual content and making a big four series bet on animation trying to compete with Netflix / Fox / FX / etc.I hope all these shows do well – I like seeing networks trying new things (and I like seeing friends employed).It means more gigs and more (hopefully good) animation out in the wild.
Final Space is being made out at Shadowmachine, Close Enough at Cartoon Network Studios, The Cops at Starburns, and Tarantula over at Rough Draft.
I’ve included links below to the original pilot for Final Space, the SDCC Close Enough trailer, one of the Tarantula shorts (and the SDCC clip if you haven’t seen it).
What do you think about TBS buying all these shows? Think they have a chance?
Why is the Simpsons still being made? I think it’s a simple answer: After all these years, it still makes money, lots of money. The second question is maybe slightly more relevant: “Does Fox have a show to replace it yet when the Simpsons money dries up?” Continue reading “Why The Simpsons Keeps Going”