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From: jondr@sco.COM (Desi The Three-Armed Wonder Comic) Date: 7 May 92 22:32:15 GMT Newsgroups: alt.tv.ren-n-stimpy Subject: Interview with Chris Savino (layout artist) Hello netters! Here's the interview I did with Chris Savino, ex-layout artist for Spumco. To fully appreciate it, you should send $3 to X MAGAZINE, PO BOX 1077, ROYAL OAK, MI 48068-1077 and ask for the latest issue, with the BIG Ren & Stimpy feature. (it's kind of like a shareware interview, where you register if you like it.) Anyway, you'll get pictures! More interviews! More pictures! Spine-tingling toast! Can you AFFORD to miss this? I think not. So get going. --------------------------------------- Chris Savino, SPUMCO Layout Guy - Interviewed by Jon Drukman for X MAGAZINE issue 10. Conducted 8 Feb 92, 4pm at the Pontiac Grill, Santa Cruz, CA. Chocolate malteds and fries are consumed; words about Ren And Stimpy, the demented cartoon duo, are exchanged. X: OK, first off, Jeff the Editor Guy wants to know - in the episode where Stimpy mails the letter, why does he look out at the audience with stamps all over his tongue? C: Most people try to see if there's an inside joke in a cartoon. The way John works is he doesn't care if Stimpy's wearing something red in one scene and blue in another. That's the way cartoons are supposed to be: they're supposed to be cartoons, not a reflection of the real world. The fact that he's got stamps on his tongue - he just did it sloppily. He just licked the envelope and got stamps on his tongue. There's nothing really behind it. I don't know where he got four stamps from, but it's just the way Stimpy operates. Anything he does is gonna end up wrong. It's just his personality I guess; there's no hidden meaning. X: All my friends that watch it have things like that that are bugging them. For me, it's the croc-o-stimpy mating call. C: The ``happy happy, joy joy''? X: Yeah. Where did the frigging bus come from all of a sudden? C: I guess that was the gag. It's kind of like fishes going upstream to spawn. They're hopping on a bus and going to... Inspiration Point, I dunno. John's humor is basically anything that people have to ask questions about, like ``why?'' If it's questionable, then it's funny to him. It's not straight out humor, you have to think about it, and that's the way he works. He was trained by a lot of very funny people - Bob Clampett. He wants to go back to that, to the era when cartoons were funny and you had to really think about what the humor meant. If you watch a lot of Warner Bros cartoons, they were during the war, so a lot of their connotations were about war, such as, is this trip really necessary? They told people not to take up a lot of gasoline because they needed it for the planes and tanks overseas. So he wants to get back to those days. I think that's what he's doing. He's really coming along at bringing back that style. If you watch Saturday morning cartoons, it [ Ren and Stimpy ] is just a step above everyting else. It's a step above a lot of things you see in the theatre. X: So how do you fit into the picture... when John comes in with a gag, is it already written, do you get any say in it? C: John is really picky about who writes for him. He's got, I'd say, about 4 writers who are also artists, at the studio. They collaborate, they go out to dinner, throw ideas around and put it together. Basically, it's his humor. He'll change it the way he wants it, and if there's something funny, he'll make it funnier. He always goes a step above everybody, that's the way he works. Where I come along is a little bit later down the road. After storyboard, it goes to layout, and that's where I come along, doing paste-ups and putting up layout. Everybody in the studio wants to write, they're always giving him gags and he gives his usual sarcastic look like ``get the hell out of my office.'' Everybody wants to write like him, and basically be like him really - he's just so talented in every way. I think most of the stories are his humor... some of the guys, if you look at the credits, are their own but of course he embellishes on them, in his own way. X: So even if John's name isn't on a show, it's got his input. C: Definitely, definitely his input. He's always trying to make it better, he's trying always to push it farther. That's why a lot of the cartoons are coming out later than they should have been. He just took back everything that the artists have done and said, ``I want to do it this way, it's even more funny if we try it this way.'' It didn't matter about the budget, it didn't matter about the deadline. As long as it was as funny as he wanted it and he made the audience laugh, then that's the way it's gonna be. He doesn't care about money, he doesn't care about the Nickelodeon people, he just wants it the way he wants it. Although he does kinda have to go on their guidelines or they're going to kick him out. X: Which neatly brings us to censorship - he tries a lot of things that are extreme and I've noticed that the Magic Nose Goblins scene gets faded pretty quickly these days. C: It was a longer segment, the table was a little longer, it was a great painting by Bob Camp - he spent a few days on it, everybody loved it. They wouldn't let us use the word ``booger'' -- ``magic nose goblin'' is still funny... X: I think it's even funnier. Booger is such a common word, but magic nose goblin? That's great! C: If the audience that's watching Ren And Stimpy now is really into it and thinks it's hilarious -- if they could see the storyboards before they were edited by Nickelodeon, it would be a riot. Some of the gags are borderline bad taste, which is great... but they want it to be a ``family show.'' John wants it to be more of an adult show, that's the way he works. X: I think the adult crowd is winning out. C: After the first year, they see how big the Ren And Stimpy show is, they're going to give him a little more leeway. So this year, you're going to see a lot more sick, more sick dialogue. Like we'll probably be able to use ``booger.'' On The Simpsons, they swear, and The Simpsons are pretty big so they allow them to swear. John might get a lot more sick this year, and possibly next year, depending on how long the cartoon works. They'll get sicker as the years go by. X: You might suffer the opposite reaction - when shows start out they don't pay any attention to them, and later on when it's a hit, all the attention is focused on it, and they start looking more carefully at it and saying, ``well, wait a minute...'' C: True, but the industry knows how John works. He had a big controversy with the Mighty Mouse series, a big cocaine controversy at one point... X: Was that really what sunk it? C: I personally think what ended it is the fact that John left Ralph Bakshi's studio. He [Bakshi] had some really good people working there, but they just couldn't handle the kind of work that John did. They tried to copy it, and some of the artists did a really good job of copying it, but it didn't have John's touch. You can always tell a cartoon that has John's touch to it. It just went downhill from there. I think that Ralph saw that Mighty Mouse was big and he wanted to take it all for himself and not give anybody else the credit, when it was the other way around - it was John that made Mighty Mouse big... I guess there was some sort of scuffle between them, and he was let go. So that's what ended Mighty Mouse. But John's in charge now, he can basically get anything he wants, so if he says ``that's the way it is'' then that's the way it is, there's no other way around it. No one to take it away from him, but I think that the more leeway he gets on a cartoon, the funnier it's gonna be, and I don't think anyone will look at it twice. I think people want ``funnier,'' because they can see what Ren And Stimpy are capable of, and they want more. X: Why ``Spumco''? What does the name mean? C: That is a good question. I think everybody wants to know! They just made it up. At one point it stood for something, let me think about that... [long pause] I can only think of what the ``U'' stood for and that was ``undermining.'' It was, ``Superior Productions Undermining the Minds of...'' something. I don't know, I can find out. They just made that up afterwards. John just thought ``SPUMCO''... there you go. X: They tried to rationalize it in retrospect. C: Yeah, if you notice on Nurse Stimpy, it was directed by Raymond Spum. X: Is that an alias? C: That's an alias. When John doesn't like a cartoon, he puts that name on it... when he really doesn't like a cartoon. X: Why didn't he like it? C: He was pretty upset with it, there could've been a lot better gags in it that he wanted. It could've been a lot sicker. X: It did have that really disgusting art style. C: When his nose is flaking off? X: Ugh! How is that stuff done? What makes that so different? C: What he does, is when he goes to a still, instead of using cel, he'll just make a painting of it. He uses that a lot, that was used a lot by Bob Clampett. It's a really neat style, it gives it that 50's look. For the nose flaking off, that was just done with a camera effect. He does that to give it more detail. You can't get a lot of detail just tracing it on cels and painting it from the back. He thinks it gives it that certain look to a cartoon... But getting back to Raymond Spum, he just devotes that name because ``spum'' is the stem of ``spumco'' and people think that there's a guy named Raymond Spum out there who invented Spumco and John is just working for him. X: I just thought it was an alias. C: It is. It's a very good alias. I wondered who he was when I was there, like ``who the hell is Raymond Spum''? But you won't see that name very often. Not when he gets to do the things he wants to do. X: I assume he could just rewrite someone's story anyway? C: True. X: Has he put anyone's nose out of joint by being such a perfectionist? C: Oh yeah! He busts everybody's balls every day. You'll think you've got something great on your hands, you'll turn it in to him, and he'll come back in with a drawing that he traced over it that is ten times better and you're like, ``why didn't I think of that?'' And you just feel about this big... [ Waiter dude arrives with our fries. Munching commences in earnest. We start talking about sound effects and I suddenly remember to switch the tape recorder back on. Fortunately, I don't miss anything. ] X: ...farting sound effects. C: An example is Toast Man... Powdered Toast Man, as he's taking off, another example is the leg shot of the father in The Boy Who Cried Rat, threw in a sound there, and people who are really avid Ren and Stimpy Fans will listen - one of the ``goodbye''s when he gives Stimpy a bag of Gritty Kitty kitty litter, you hear the zipper go down, two plops, and then the scratching. Best sound effect - you wouldn't have thought about it otherwise, but Mr Horse makes that sound with the kitty litter. X: Yes, Mr Horse! There's another thing - with his catchphrase, ``No sir, I didn't like it!'' Does that mean anything? C: That's going to be about his only line, in every cartoon. X: A running gag... C: There were two Mr Horse cartoons that were cut, that were written and storyboarded, but Nickelodeon decided not to use because one was about the war in the Middle East, and the other was... Christ, I don't know. There were a couple, but they were cut, so they were just put away. So that's basically his only line, ``No sir, I didn't like it." In Fire Dogs, when he's asked about his fall, ``No sir, I didn't like it.'' That's John's voice - that's John's straight voice. Ren is John's voice sped up. X: Was it intentionally meant to sound like Peter Lorre? C: Definitely Peter Lorre. Then again, an influence from old Bob cartoons, Bob Clampett cartoons - the Peter Lorre character that they always used. I guess it's a mix of John, his personality, with a Peter Lorre voice. Ren is John, basically. The screaming - John's like that all the time. When he acts out one of his stories, it's that, it's Ren. Any character, it'll be like Ren. A lot of his personality goes into that character. X: Have you met Billy West or does he just go into the studio? C: Nope, Billy West works out of New York, and I do believe they get his voice sent here. X: That's pretty amazing. C: If you notice, Billy West does an imitation of Larry Fine from the Three Stooges. X: That's what I thought. C: He's one of only three people in the United States that does that voice. That's what he's doing. X: He's great, I grew up with him. He was on a morning radio show in Boston doing the funny voices. I couldn't believe it when I saw his name on this cartoon. C: Yeah, they've got some pretty big people working for them. You wouldn't think that a fledgling studio like that would get the great things, but John has such a big name... People want to work with him because they associate him with ``adverse cartoons'' -- things that are out of the ordinary, and a lot of people want to be associated with that. I did! Definitely. X: You come in, 9 in the morning, to your office... C: Ten thirty in the morning! X: OK, 10:30... give me a day in the life of a Spumco Layout Artist. C: A day in the life... let's see, come in in the morning, we sit down at our chair for a moment, ask them if they want to go next door to the Astro Burger, go next door, get some breakfast, spend a half hour there, come back, shoot the breeze with anybody who had just come in late, that would be around 11... look at the day's drawings that we did the day before, throw out the bad ones. At lunchtime, spend an hour and a half lunch at Astro Burger, come back, that'd be around 2:30, shoot the shit with everybody else... draw a little... about a half hour til my fingers cramp up, then maybe read the LA Weekly, comes in every wednesday, make fun of David Konigsberg... X: Who is? C: He's the... uh, what the hell was he? He came in every day and just bothered us I guess. He was the scene planner! Basically, tied it up and went home, there wasn't a whole lot of drawing going on, just a lot of goofing around. It was a fun studio to work at... People were always just goofing around it's surprising that there was as much work done as there was. X: No 15 hour days? C: Yeah. Week before deadline, there were those days, but up until that point it was just fun. That's the way you'd picture it... drawing dirty pictures of Ren and Stimpy screwing each other, and passing them around the studio. Drawing pictures of fellow artists, doing cruel things to Ren and Stimpy, you know, that type of stuff. I guess that was basically most of the drawing that happened! But then again, all that goofing around, that's where a lot of people got their ideas from. X: But isn't stuff basically set by the time it comes in to you? C: Actually, once in the layout, a lot of ideas come flying in at us and we have to go back and redo them. X: Really, they'll come running in and say, ``suddenly we need...''? C: They won't be coming running in, you'll come in in the morning and it'll be on your desk: ``change this by so and so time.'' And then you work a 15 hour day. The layout artist... there's a character layout, who draws the characters. The backgrounds are so basic, that we draw the backgrounds which are then sent to the background artist who will paint them. Basically, character layout for a scene would be - if Ren was gonna slap Stimpy, layout would be him rearing his hand back, drawing number two would be him making connection with his face, drawing number three would be the hand going past the face, and if it was going to be a cycle, we would just reuse those drawings and go back and forth, back and forth. So that would be pretty much a layout, which is kind of like a blueprint for the animator. And it has to be very very concise, what we want, because they are being sent overseas, and they don't speak our language, they don't know. What they see is what they do, so we gotta show them everything we want. X: Have there been any amusing mistakes because of that? C: One that I think is hilarious is on Stimpy's Breakfast Tip when the outline of his eyes appears and he's just got two Charcoal BLOCKS in his face! That's a mistake. The very first Ren and Stimpy, where Ren's eyelids are black, that's a painting mistake, because they thought that his eyelids were black and not just his irises. They wanted to know. John's like, ``of course they're supposed to be black, what do you want?'' So they painted it black. And everytime he blinks, they go black. There are probably a lot, but it's a matter of cutting, cutting it out and fixing something else in there, or doing retakes. There are a lot of retakes, which is very costly, so we gotta get it right the first time. X: So do you do a lot of penciling then? C: There's a rough sketch, and there's a cleanup. I did a lot of cleanup when I first started and then moved into layout, but by that time they were finished. The artists there work very rough, and you have to work very close with them when you're cleaning them up, to get what they want because one line wrong, it can ruin the whole composition of the drawing, so you really have to know what the artist wants. And what John wants too, of course, it's always what John wants. X: But it comes from the top - John tells the artists, they tell you... C: Exactly, it all gets handed down, and it loses something along the way, but, depending on how strong the drawing is, you can keep that basic structure that you want and make it a really good drawing. For being such a simple set of characters, they're the most difficult characters I've ever had to draw. They have so many rules about them, that if one of the rules is broken, the character is not the character any more... it's someone else's character. X: It's amazing, you can just stick them in any situation. C: Exactly. That's why John came up with them. He originally wanted to sell them to Nickelodeon, as a show. Actually, not Nickelodeon, to other studios... They didn't like the idea of just a cat and dog, so he hid them amongst a different cartoon - they were background characters for a cartoon. It was like a spoof on the Little Rascals. When Nickelodeon got wind of what he was doing they took a look at it and they were like, ``well, what about those two characters there?'' Which is exactly what he wanted. X: It's always the way - you can't go to a studio and say ``I want to do X.'' You have to say, ``I've got X, Y and Z... but I like X the best, what do you think?'' C: Exactly, and he got exactly what he wanted. He sold them Ren and Stimpy, he didn't sell them the whole cartoon, he didn't want that, he just wanted Ren and Stimpy. X: Are there any particular drawings that you did that you just loved, or freaked out at having to do, or anything like that...? C: Drawings that were the best... all the drawings were great, it's just amazing how good the artists there are... well, not just good - they were great. It kind of made it difficult working there, but that's a different story... Every drawing is just so perfect, each one could be a piece of art. Whereas in animation some of the inbetweens can be crappy, every layout drawing was a piece of art and you could frame it and put it on your wall. I couldn't narrow it down to just one. X: I liked the huge brain creatures in ``Marooned'' a lot. C: I've never seen that one. I've actually only seen a few of the cartoons - I don't have cable! But people tell me that they're great, I wish I could see them... X: You don't get the tapes at the studio? C: By the time we were done, by the time the layout artists were all done, they only had the first three cartoons finished that we saw. So I really haven't seen them. I think another great scene is when Ren is being chewed up by Stimpy in The Boy Who Cried Rat, he has to eat him and swallow him. That's the best; that was done by Mike Fontanelli... he worked on it forever. He got it back at least five times and the end product was just perfect. X: The shots with the gold tooth and wooden tooth, was that done with the still technique you mentioned earlier? C: That was just all different layers of overlays and underlays, put together in the scene and then moved back and forth to look like it was chewing teeth. But Mike did a really good job on the teeth - the wooden tooth, and the golden tooth and a rotted tooth. Things you wouldn't expect to see are always there. X: I tell my friends ``I'm going to be talking to the Ren and Stimpy people - what do want to ask them?'' and the first question is usually just WHY!?!?!? C: I think the biggest answer would be BECAUSE. Just straightfoward with a capital B. The quality of cartoons nowadays pretty much sucks, and John's trying to bring a lot of studios, who you can tell are following him, following his style, and it's being followed pretty largely now. He's wants to bring everybody out of that slump. He wants to prove that if you have a budget, you can still make a really good limited cartoon. And he's proving that ten times over already. I think Ren and Stimpy personally would work as a theatrical short before a movie; then he could get as gross as he wanted. X: The first one was in one of the Animation Tournees. My friend saw it, but it's the only one I've never seen - I think they only ran it once. C: They ran it but they cut it up alot. They didn't show him licking out of the crap filled toilet. X: That's what he's doing! I thought he was throwing up into it... C: In the theatre, it's got very vibrant color, the TV doesn't do it justice. He says, ``I must wash myself'' so he runs to the toilet and is lapping out of the bowl. X: That's really disgusting! C: They also cut the part where he's kissing Stimpy in his sleep... He's dreaming... who knows what, but he's kissing him with these big lips. But they cut that too. I guess it showed a sign of homosexuality. But, you know how the censors are. Oh, and when the dog catcher says, ``see if I care'' it was too feminine for them to show, so that gives you an idea. If you've seen the tournee, if you've seen that cut, and you've seen the one from TV, it gives you an idea of what the censors don't want to see. X: Funny, because sometimes it seems like the show will just stop. C: It's a cut, something that was cut later. The only reason you get to see some of the really good cuts on Sunday morning is because Nickelodeon just got it the day before and didn't have time to cut it. You see it the following week or two weeks later, you're going to see some cuts in it. Like, for example, the boogers... [corrects himself] nose goblins -- it was a very long table and it did pan all the way across the table and you could see some of the hairs in the boogers and stuff. I think Nickelodeon is starting to get some of the humor. They laughed at it, you know they've got to laugh at it, but they've also got to think of the people who are watching. Eventually, they're going to leave everything in, because if John gets an idea cut that they think is gross, he's going to think of something even more gross just because he thought of a different idea and cut out the one they wanted, they'll accept whatever he gives them. So he gives them an even grosser idea than before and he's happy. He's got a way around everything to get across what he wants. X: So how did you get into the layout biz? C: I've always wanted to be in animation, I followed John for the past few years - I saw him with Mighty Mouse. I've seen a couple of other things he's done - he's done the beginning to a movie called Troop Beverly Hills, with Shelley Long. He directed the very beginning, it's animated. I saw it, I didn't know that he did it, but I thought it was the greatest beginning for a movie... and I found out later that he did do it, which got me even more interested in him. I happened to read somewhere that he was working on a pilot for the Ren and Stimpy Show, and I was really excited about it. In fall of 90, I decided to write a really -- I guess you'd call it ``butt-kissing'' -- letter, but it wasn't really, it was all the truth. Everything I wrote to him was the god-honest truth, and I sent him drawings of a story idea that I had... He called me back and said ``I want to see some more of your sketches, just throw them in an envelope and send them out to me.'' He didn't want anything finished, he wanted to see how I worked rough. Apparently he liked what I was doing, he gave me a call, offered me a job and said I could come out any time I wanted, so 30 days later I was out here working for him. It's great experience... I hadn't gone to school yet. I think that working is the best education you can get, and that's what I've been trying to do. I worked also for a company called Cool World, which is Ralph Bakshi's. Cool Productions... I kinda got fired, but that's a Ralph Bakshi story; you gotta know Ralph Bakshi to understand. That movie should be out late summer, if anybody's interested... X: I've only heard about it. C: It's got a pretty steamy cartoon sex scene, so I guess that's a really good reason to see it. But, I've got leads into Warner Bros and Hanna-Barbera now. I'm moving on, moving into myself. I've always wanted to do things on my own, just like John. He's always wanted to do it himself, not have anyone tell him what to do. A friend of mine, Carlo Silvio, started Hamburger Productions, an independent film and animation company. Right now I'm working on a cartoon for a film that he's making. He wanted to go back to the 30's style of going over to a theatre and seeing a cartoon before a movie, and that's moving along pretty well. X: It's surprising that the short cartoon before a movie idea hasn't been very popular lately. C: I'm very surprised. Just as John proved, you can reel out a pretty decent cartoon for a really small amount of money, and no one's following that suit. I want to follow that suit, I've always wanted to do theatrical cartoons, because that's where we got Warner Bros and MGM and all the cartoons that are so great that everybody still watches. And John's even trying to do that, he wants to do theatrical cartoons as well. But so far I'd say that Spumco's the only experience I've had, and it has to be by far the best. All the artists there are so great, and you can learn a lot from them, just by watching the way they handle things. I came out here thinking I knew a lot about animation, but after the first week working with them, I realized I knew nothing, and I think I learned at least 1000% more with the months that I worked there, than I'd ever learned in my life. The competition there is really high, since every artist there is the top cartoonist in the field, I think, they tend to want to keep to themselves and be better than the other person. Which makes the cartoon better, but it was really difficult for me to learn in a sense because they were always so closed in about why they drew a certain way or what they were doing but I still learned a lot just by watching over people's shoulders and I'm sure I bugged a few of them to death, but I think it paid off for myself. I want to follow suit John's style, the limited cartoon that's really wild and has that 50's flair to it and I'm surprised no one's followed suit on that... it's a really great idea, but if you see another cartoon out there with that style then everybody's going to associate it with John's cartoon. I hope that he does well with the cartoon, even though I'm not working with him now. I still keep in touch to find out what's going on, because it's about the only cartoon out there worth watching. I'm definitely looking for other studios to pick up on the trend of things. The old trend was crap, the new trend is funny. X: So you're not working at Spumco any more? C: After we finished layout, we all got laid off. So I pursued other avenues. Of course, they don't do animation there, and animation is what I want to do, so I wanted to find a studio that was doing animation, which was Cool Productions, unfortunately. I did some inbetweening and a little bit of assistant work, but... X: Are there any big American animation studios? C: Disney, and Cool and I don't know if I'd call that big yet. X: Is Cool going to shut down after Cool World is done? C: He's doing it for Paramount and they're seeing it as The Summer Blockbuster which is surprising, but... X: Well, not with Beauty And The Beast doing so well now... C: Cool Productions is half animated, half live action, it's kind of got that Roger Rabbit flair to it. But more serious. He [Bakshi] also has a reputation, and you can see that this movie has his influence in it. I'd give it a chance, at least go see it. But there are really no other animation studios around that actually do complete, in-house animation. Most of it is being sent overseas. X: Economics. C: Yeah, pretty much cheaper, but nothing can beat the American quality, and also having it in studio gives the director a chance to make sure the animation is going exactly the way he wants it. A lot of the shots in Ren and Stimpy could've been much better. Timing was always wrong... X: Must be frustrating. C: For him I bet it is. When I saw first saw some of the animation drawings that came back, I was shocked at the way they were doing it and I didn't give the show a chance because of its animation. If we would've just filmed the layouts it would've been ten times better than what I had just seen. But it turned out OK. He complained a bit to the studio and the networks and got what he wanted, and they're coming along. He's got a studio in Canada called Carbunkle that's run by Bob Jacques, who is just the most incredible animator I've seen. They do the best animation on the Ren and Stimpy show. Hopefully this year they're going to get enough money to send all of their cartoons to Carbunkle. Instead of overseas, if they go to Canada, because John and Bob have worked together before, they know what they want, and the Ren and Stimpy show will probably look ten times better than what we've already seen. And that's what everybody wants to see... is something even better. X: It's a little bit jerky now. C: Definitely jerky. X: I think the Simpsons is beginning to look better now as well... more shadows, smoother motion. C: They are, they're looking better, but their earlier designs were much cooler. X: The stories were better. C: Now they have to have a moral at the end of each story. X: Sometimes they twist the knife a little, but definitely not as much as they used to. [ I tell him about the Road Runner homage at the beginning of last week's episode (Homer Alone) which he missed ] C: Rumor has it that a studio is being paid to do a type of rip off of Ren and Stimpy. What I've heard is that it consists of four cats, and it's going to be the same 50's style, the same type of humor. It's worth a shot, if you get another cartoon out there that's like it, but I don't think that anybody's going to surpass what John's doing because he's already ahead of everybody. X: If nothing else it will inspire more people to get cartoons on the air, it's been so criminally neglected... C: Oh definitely, like He-Man you always have to have a moral at the end. Like GI Joe. Nobody got killed. X: Not to mention the animation sucks. C: Goes without saying... any other cartoon, the animation sucks. Warner Bros -- they're putting out some pretty good stuff. Steven Spielberg is behind a lot of their things. So they're doing some really quality things, but then again, they've got the cash to do it. X: But they only put out a 7 minute short every 3 years. C: Exactly - Box Office Bunny was the latest. It was great. The style was a little bit different, but then again it's the 90's, you can't always work in the past. They're doing some pretty good stuff, but they have the money for it. John doesn't have the money, and he's still putting out great stuff. Which should be a key to anybody in the business to follow; you can have a little bit of money and you can do a great cartoon. The writers out there are great. People have to realize that a writer has to be an artist in the animation field, and a writer can't just be a writer, or you're going to have a bad cartoon. Writers that just write for writing's sake don't write visually, they write verbally, which makes the cartoons have too much dialogue and not a lot of action and what makes a good cartoon is a lot of action, a lot of sight gags. You don't want to hear some stupid character telling a joke to you, you want to see what he's doing. Just like the Road Runner cartoons - no words at all, and they're hilarious. X: Of course, it's very good when you don't have money to make a visually incredible ten minute short to throw in some witty dialogue... I think The Simpsons has it - the characters are really fleshed out and the scripts are good, along with some occasionally great animation. Not as much, obviously they know their limits. C: Exactly. Well, once you get a good personality for a character, you know exactly the things they have to say to make their personality come out and then again that's a visual thing. Their personality comes out with their visual effects, or whatever they do. And once you get them nailed down visually, you can have their verbal humor come out. They can say whatever they want and if they do it in their certain Stimpy way or their Ren way then it will be funny. X: Case in point, the first toon shown on MTV was Stimpy's Big Day, where he doesn't even talk for the first five minutes. I was thinking, what would a new viewer be thinking here? This guy is just sitting watching TV, but already through his look... C: Exactly. Sitting there, doing the things he does, bouncing around and getting all geeked out over this TV show. The very first cartoon, Stimpy only has two lines, but he establishes himself so great throughout the beginning of the cartoon that it shocks you that he actually can talk. He looks like a cat that's not supposed to talk. But the fact that he does talk, whatever he says it's funny, because he can act it out so great. That's what John's going for with all his characters. You've got Mr Horse who's always got that suave look on his face, like ``I know what's going on, I can handle it'' but his only line is ``No sir, I didn't like it.'' But he's funny, every time you see him, he's funny. Ren Hoek has a really uptight and short tempered flair about him, when he acts it out it's great, but what he says when he acts it out makes it even better. When he screams, the positions he takes up are all visual, and that's something a writer cannot see. An artist can see it, he can draw the picture and then write what they want him to do and that's the way it works at Spumco because the artists are the writers and that's what makes a really good cartoon. John said it best when he said that if you can read a comic book and laugh, you can take a cartoon that's got a little bit of movement and laugh even harder. A comic book can get comedy across with one drawing. If you've got a couple, work with them and make the visual laugh. X: I like it when the art is snappy and the lines are classic. You don't have to be as classic in animation because you can convey stuff visually. C: That's exactly what they're doing. Warner Bros is kinda following suit in some of their visual antics with the Tiny Toons. Tiny Toons used to be really dialogue heavy and then the writers saw what was going on with Spumco, because the animation field is really close-knit and if you work with somebody at one studio, you're bound to work with them somewhere else and everybody knows each other. So when they saw Ren and Stimpy, they were like ``oh wow, let's try this'' so they got their writers to do it this way and there is a lot more visual goings on. So there is a proof of influence in Spumco, the R&S show right there. It's such a big studio and they're taking suit from such a small studio, such as Spumco, so that there is influence and you know that a lot of things are going to start changing... hopefully. [ The talk switches to music ] C: The Muddy Mudskipper song, that was written by John. I don't know if the cartoon has even come out yet, but the ``Happy Happy Joy Joy'' song from Stimpy's Invention. That's coming out soon, it might even be on tomorrow... That was rewritten and rewritten and replayed and rewritten and they finally got it right, it's a really great song, it's hilarious. Fits the situation. The music was written by one of the artists at the studio, Chris Reccardi, he's got his own band. Everybody there sort of groups together to make the whole cartoon. A lot of the voices are done by the artists - the pillow (``he's talking to pillows, kids'') that's Vincent Waller. Everybody there has a chance to do a voice. It's not a big studio, it's a small studio thing where everybody's close knit - it's a lot of fun. X: You didn't get to do a voice did you? C: No, I don't really have a cartoony voice - everybody else kinda has a certain voice about them... I wish I could've. X: The show has totally ruined the Nutcracker Suite for me - I went to see a production of it this season and during the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies, all I could think of was a big yak crawling out of a drain and shaving himself. C: I think the yak is hilarious. That was designed by Jim Smith who is just the ultimate cartoon character designer, he's just incredible. Yak shaving is another example of ``why!?'' You wouldn't think of ``yak shaving day.'' And putting cole slaw in your dad's boots! You've either gotta be drunk or John to write those kinds of things. X: Do drugs figure prominently in the creative process? C: He's just generally twisted. He's very clean. He's into going to tanning salons, into exercising, into riding his bike, and he just learned how to drive, so he's there, he's a guy in the world, so... and the flair about him is that when you're around him, you don't have to be on drugs either to be funny. Because his personality automatically makes everybody around him funny. It's just great to be around him and the people that work there, he picked a really great bunch. They're people you want to meet. If there's ever a live interview, you'll understand. They're just wild, and they're also very serious about what they do. Bob Camp is just crazy when he gets together with everybody. He's someone you want to talk to because he's so visual, he uses his hands and his whole body when he's talking to you. You gotta turn your head to follow him whenever he's talking. He's just a person that's a live version of a cartoon. If you took him and made him a cartoon character, that's what you want a cartoon character to be, is Bob Camp. ----------------------------------------- Well, there it is. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed conducting it. Remember to send all your money to X Magazine so they can continue to be the coolest magazine in the world and continue to send me to interview really cool people like Chris. Thank you and good night. -- Jon Drukman (finely honed machine) uunet!sco!jondr jondr@sco.com ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- A fresh and violent happiness and hugeness for your nerve system.

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