UPDATE: 2 more items are added to the Q&A section, the result of a few readers’ additional query which I followed up with Sam.
Sorry for the delay, folks. Everyone at HQ graciously waited for me to post this one, since I’m such a kitty-freak. So without further ado, I present, the Kitteh Kitteh series, made by the stupendously awesome London-based Tokyoplastic. It’s an insight into what happens in a kitten’s headspace, during those innocent kitten-naps.
There are two in the series, ‘Catzilla‘ and ‘Tail Gunner’, and don’t miss a ‘quick’ video they did to pay tribute to Scatman John and to promote www.kittehkitteh.com. Also available on Vimeo, here.
Those of you who want more, and who are as curious as I was as to how did this delightful project come about, read my interview with Sam from Tokyoplastic, below.
1. How did you guys get the idea for Kitteh Kitteh? Tell us a bit on how the project started…including why you decided to shun the commercial world and hunker down to do this for six months.
We designed and modeled the Kitteh while we were doing the Little Fella a few years ago with a vague idea that we’d use it for some kind of micro series along with the Little Fella. Its so easy to start personal projects, its infinitely harder to finish them and sometimes I think the most terrifying thing about doing ones own work is being faced with a blank canvas; the potential and the freedom can be quite confounding. I think that by placing or by having constraints placed upon your work it forces you to be a lot more creative.
So the Kitteh just sat there along with all the other little projects that we’ve never finished, slowly gathering dust, while the quality of commercial scripts and the budgets to produce them gradually slumped to an all time low. We want to be involved in creative, exciting and challenging projects that fully exploit our talent as directors and enable us to grow (as I am sure all directors do) and given the absence of those we decided it was high time we went back to working on our own stuff.
We knew that we wanted to make entertaining shorts in which we could do a lot of the things we enjoy; character driven animations that combine the cute, grotesque, monstrous and maniacal, that make people laugh and would enable us to do a whole bunch of stuff we’ve never tried. We came up with a list of constraints: they had to be short (which costs less and you can do them quickly… allegedly), have only one character (so far) and they would all be film genre pastiches. Since then we’ve been turning down a lot of work, it feels like a big risk, but then at the same time I look forward to coming into the studio, I have a spring in my step and we’re having fun.
2. I noticed the Scatman tribute is not yet up on the Kitteh Kitteh site…was that a separate piece that was completed after the first 2 videos (Catzilla and Tail Gunner)?
The Scatman John tribute was a little additional thing that we did with the character; it doesn’t really fit in with the concept of the Mini Epic film pastiches which forms the basis of the Kitteh Kitteh series. It is relatively easy to produce something like that so it was released more as a promotional piece for the site and series.
3. How many people worked on this? can you give us a complete crew breakdown?
Since the project goes a long way back a lot of people have worked on it over the last few years. So here’s a brief and probably not exhaustive list:
Direction / sound – tokyoplastic
Kitty Design – Damian Johnson
Kitty Modeling – Matthias Bjurstrom
Rigging – Rodi Kaya
Fur Texture – James Kirkham
Animation – Ben Crowe, Anders Freij
Rendering / Comping – Antoine Perez, Andy Hague
4. What’s the production pipeline like?
Since only a few people work on this at a time its reasonably easy controlling whats going on. Its the kind of pipeline you wish you could employ in commercials. I do the storyboards and animatic, any additional modeling that is needed gets done, the render gets set up while the animation is being done and then everything is rendered and comped. Easy… give or take the months of late nights and screaming at computers.
5. What are some of the most unexpected technical/creative difficulties (if any) that you encountered during the process?
Because the kitty was modeled real scale, none of the particle / physics sims we used worked properly. However creatively it was all pretty straightforward once the original concept was nailed. The absolute joy of working on ones own projects.
6. What next in the Kitteh Kitteh series? When can we expect another film?
Ah… well… money permitting we would like to do another two this year… but they are quite expensive for us and take up a lot of time, always in fact more than we think. They are also going to be screened at a few quite major film festivals, as soon as the programs are announced we’ll post the information on the site, and we have to hold back on releasing the new ones till then.
7. What’s your view on the current commercial directing climate? I seem to pick up a general slump in the air. Do you see the light at the end of the tunnel coming soon?
In brief: I don’t know.
It would be too easy to have a big whinge about everything I personally perceive as being wrong with the commercial world and the frustrations that we have had to deal with while working within it. However I don’t honestly think there would be any point, everybody who works in the commercial world has the same gripes and I am fairly certain that those things aren’t going to change anytime soon; that is the industry we choose to work in. While undeniably there are still people out there making amazing stuff you say you have picked up a general negativity in the air and so have I (specifically toward creative work within the commercial industry) and I believe that this is all the more reason to pursue ones own work. I know this is easier said than done and I am hugely thankful that we are in the position to be able to do it. There is a massive amount of fantastic personal work being done out there and it is my hope that this will feed back into the commercial world. Ultimately we, like so many others, are devoted to making the best commercial work that we can; its great to do what one loves but getting paid for it too is just awesome.
P.S. Somebody is going to have to tell somebody else soon that if you want to have great creative then you’re going to have to pay good money for it too!
8. What was Picasso Pictures’ role in this?
Picasso Pictures provided the office space, machines and software and didn’t baulk at us taking time off commercial projects. Their support has been invaluable and is very much appreciated.
9. Finally a couple of cat-specific questions (me being a cat obsessive and all)—-The purring is extremely realistic…was that a real kitty’s purr? or was it a person mimicking the purrs? And is that a scottish fold breed kitten you’ve picked?
The purring is for real :)
And the kitty was loosely based upon a British Blue.
Thanks Sam, for taking the time to share this info with our readers! We wish you all the best, on behalf of everyone here at Motionographer, and will look forward to the next installments, when ever that may be!