I Love Dust Creative Director, Ingi Erlingsson and Art Director/Director, Ewen Stenhouse share their thoughts on Cartoon Network’s 20th Birthday Music Video, how they gave familiar characters a new polish, and fess up to being self-proclaimed “cartoon nerds.”
Interview by Brandon Lori
Can you explain how the project initially begin?
Ingi: The Cartoon Network guys got in touch and asked if we’d be interested in working on a music video for their 20th anniversary. Obviously, we said yes. It sounded like a dream job to us as. We’re all huge cartoon nerds.
Did Cartoon Network come to you with a clear idea of what they were looking for?
Ingi: Yeah they had a pretty decent vision of it already hashed out. They came to us with a pretty awesome storyboard and treatment, which we then tore up and redid. We kept a lot of their idea though, both out of respect for their work and also because they were great ideas.
As the project took shape, what were the projects most significant challenges?
Ingi: For me, it was figuring out how everything was going to get done in time. It was a pretty time consuming way of working and our team seemed to grow by the day.
Ewen: I think the hardest task was trimming the script to fit 2 minutes. The first draft animatic cut out many initial ideas but still came in at about 2 and a half to 3 minutes long due to the sheer number of character interactions and gags. So we had to be pretty brutal with which scenes to lose whilst still keeping an even spread of different characters throughout the piece.
Who determined the cast of characters that were included in the finished piece?
Ingi: The guys at Cartoon Network had a list of “must-have” characters, which we tried our hardest to incorporate. The trouble with their legacy of shows is that there are hundreds of characters and we only had so long to make it. So, we picked our favourites too and came to a compromise about who was to be included in thee end.
In our discussion earlier, you mentioned a scene that was cut for being deemed “too risqué.” Can you elaborate?
Ingi: There was a scene that we based on a particular scene from Regular Show featuring a character called Coffee. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll know the one I mean. We did a spin on this that also featured Cow from Cow and Chicken, for obvious reasons. Again, I’m sure you can put 2 and 2 together if you know the scene, but alas, it wasn’t deemed “safe enough” for the video and was ultimately replaced.
Ewen: So we gutted it and it didn’t make the cut, but it’s amazing. It might have prompted an awkward conversation or two between kids watching the video with their parents.
Was any agency involvement in the production of the piece?
Ingi: No we worked directly with the guys in the Cartoon Network creative group.
Was it a challenge to marry all of the disparate styles together and create something visually cohesive?
Ingi: This was our first challenge, actually. Initially, we considered keeping all the characters true to their original style, which meant a broad range of outline thicknesses and shading methods. However, the styles are so diverse that they don’t necessarily all play together very nice. So, with Cartoon Network’s request to unify everything, we opted for one consistent line thickness for all characters throughout. Creating characters like Dexter with a thin outline and Samurai Jack with an outline that was previously non-existent is no easy task but definitely helps tie them all together.
Which character was the most challenging to animate?
Ewen: Daffy, as the opener for the video for sure. Collectively, we’re all so familiar with characters like Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny that we can easily pick up on any imperfections in either the way the characters act or move, so it really has to be perfect. This may be stating the obvious and goes for any animated character, but given that it was our first time animating him there’s an incredible legacy to live up to there.
What tools did you use to bring the characters to life; hand-drawn or digital animation?
Ingi: The entire process was digital.
Ewen: Yeah, all roughed out in Flash and then cleaned up with the Pencil tool.
We noticed that there are a series of bumpers created in the same style as the anniversary video. Did your team work on these, as well?
Ingi: No, these were actually created ahead of us working on this video. We would have loved to have worked on them though; they’re great!
Who created the music in the piece?
Ingi: Kevin Seaton from Heavy Duty Music/Mad Decent—easily our favourite record label—created the soundtrack. Also, just to get our inner geek out, Jeremy Shada (Finn) and John DiMaggio (Jake) from Adventure Time were recorded especially for their part in the video.
And finally, this interview wouldn’t be complete without me asking: what’s your favorite cartoon of all time?
Ingi: Probably Futurama or anything Seth McFarlane related, as obvious as that must be.
Ewen: Hard to pick one in particular but if you put a gun to my head and made me choose (please don’t) I’d probably say Samurai Jack or Ren and Stimpy. Both awesome.
Directed by: ilovedust
Creative Director: Ingi Erlingsson
Art Director / Design lead: Ewen Stenhouse
Producer: Ant Baena
Design: Ewen Stenhouse, Sofie Hallor, Shan Jiang
Animators: Ewen Stenhouse, Tim Whiting, Carlos de Faria, Jonathan Harris, Joe Sparrow, Blanca Martinez de Rituerto, Sean Weston, Tom Bunker
Compositing: Stefano Octavio, Ewen Stenhouse
SVP, The Creative Group – Michael Ouweleen
VP Design, The Creative Group – Jacob Escobedo
Creative Director, The Creative Group – Craig “Sven” Gordon
Director of Broadcast Production, The Creative Group – Heather Reilly
Music & sound design by Kevin Seaton at Heavy Duty Music
Additional SFX provided by: Jeremy Shada, John DiMaggio
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