Mike Martinez’s Alaska Nanooks’ Intro of 07-08 was a truly over-the-top pastiche of lo-fi animation with hockey, explosions, a huge Polar Bear and 80s music. Consequently it was a huge viral success – featured on G4′s Attack Of The Show and countless blogs. This year’s Intro finds Jon Dorfman and Szymon Weglarski of HiFi3D lending their talents to up the production values and animation of the bear while adding even more explosions.
We had a chance to discuss the new project with both Jon Dorfman and Mike Martinez.
The previous UAF Nanook Hockey Open was so over the top and was so virally successful, was it a challenge to come up with a sequel to it? You certainly matched the tone of the first, while giving it a real make-over in terms of its production value and animation.
JD: Szymon and I were huge fans of the original and we certainly felt its shadow looming over us. We were worried that we might lose some of
the charm of the original by upgrading the visuals, but we tried to make the gags even more absurd to compensate. We re-watched the
original piece several times during production to make sure the tone was consistent. There was a moment near the end of production when Szymon and I realized that our installment didn’t go far enough, and at that point we came up with the volcano-nuking, earth-exploding bit.
MM: Actually the popular bear open was from two years ago (2007-2008). I moved away from Fairbanks in the summer of 2008, which left UAF with local animators to come up with the new one for that year. I unfortunately haven’t had the opportunity to see it yet, but it ended up being so unpopular that UAF offered me an increased budget to create the one for this year (2009-2010). Due to time constraints/other commitments I had to subcontract the animation. This ended up being a lot better as Jon and Szymon were professional CG artists while I’m more of a jack-of-all-trades.
Mike Martinez (who was responsible for the original) is now listed as the producer and one of the writers. How did the collaboration between you work?
JD: Mike sent us a treatment which was hilarious, along with a lot of really great bits of reference. Szymon and I brainstormed a bunch of scenarios and sight gags (like the Voltron-esque hockey stick creation) that we thought would fit well in Mike’s framework. We then created an animatic showing him how we thought it would work. Once Mike had approved our animatic, it was just a matter of refining the timing and visuals.
MM: I originally put an ad up on Craigslist to find help. Jon and Szymon’s work was far and away better than any of the other submissions. We exchanged all elements and cuts over email and via FTP since I’m based on the west coast and they’re in NYC.
What was the timeline like on this project?
MM: Unfortunately it was very tight because I wasn’t quite sure I’d be able to even do it until a month out. At that point I submitted my treatment to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and they loved it. That left me in the position of having to deliver on my promises, and
thankfully I was able to find Szymon and Jon to work under those conditions, thus sparing me any more hair-loss.
JD: We started the animatic on Oct 9th, 2009, with final frames due Oct 30th. 21 days to churn out 3 minutes of CG under any circumstances
would be extremely tight. Szymon and I are also freelance 3d artists, and we were both booked solid for that month. So we only had a few
random nights here and there, three very intense weekends, and two painful all-nighters that brought us back to our college days. We definitely had to make a few concessions to get it out on schedule, but it was a labor of love and we definitely had no regrets when it wrapped.
Jon and Szymon: Your individual reels are filled with great work from other studios like Psyop, Brand New School, Framestore and others. What made you decide to join forces as a directorial team?
JD: Szymon and I have been collaborating on various projects since we met while studying computer graphics at Pratt Institute. We’ve been co-directing a low-budget feature film, Gingerbreed, and we recently launched our own commercial CG studio, HiFi 3D. We had our eyes peeled for a small spec project to test our pipeline and render farm, and we came across this project by chance. Despite the fact that the budget and time line for the project seemed near-ludicrous, we couldn’t help ourselves – it simply looked like way too much fun to pass up. When we started discussing it with some of our fellow CG artists, people started volunteering their spare time to help out, which made it seem a little bit more plausible.
Is the Polar Bear angry over global warming, is that why he decides to destroy the entire Earth?
MM: His entire motivation is to go out and destroy things. Isn’t that what most hockey fans want to see? Technically he’s the “Nanook” and if you go to the games you’ll see that the mascot UAF Nanook “Ted E. Bear” is out there doing a hell of a job, but the main visual influence was the giant inflatable mockup setup by the UAF BoosterClub. The animated nanook just had to match his attitude and aide in the intimidation of the other team.
JD: I wouldn’t want to anger the mighty Nanook by speaking for Him.