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The secret files of the Ventureverse

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It's That Time Again...
HankCo
jacksonpublick
Bad news first: The release date for The Venture Bros. Season One DVD has been postponed. Not sure of the exact date yet, but it will be out around the time of the second season's premiere (but still before it), that they might better cross-promote one another. Apologies for the unintentional misinformation in previous journal entries, and to those who've expressed a real eagerness to get their hands on a copy.

Good news: In what I suppose is fast becoming an annual holiday tradition for us, we've once again teamed up with IGN/Filmforce and concocted another aural stocking stuffer for you all to enjoy (and cringe at when The Monarch hits--or doesn't hit--the high notes). Merry Christmas, everyone...

Production-wise, Doc and I are currently writing the season finale. Bafflingly enough, as soon as we finish it we have to write the season's second to last episode. We're all crazy behind schedule and stuff and everyone's working their asses off and freaking out about the potential subway strike, but we shall overcome...

Well, Adult Swim will be airing the Venture Bros. pilot this Christmas. Which is weird for me, since it's so old and the show has grown so much since then (both in season one, the proof of which you've already seen, and in the upcoming season). But it certainly has its charms--some interesting Flash trickery, especially with respect to camera moves and stuff (thanks mostly to the ingenuity of Mike Foran); some dynamic shots (courtesy of Bill Presing's storyboards); and a really sharp background style (a combination of Nash and Marina Dunnigan's fine efforts).

Since the pilot was produced in the fall of 2002 and originally aired in February of 2003, I hadn't even heard of Livejournal yet (if it even existed), so I've never done a production journal for it.

So here goes (skip ahead if you get bored...there are pretty pictures at the bottom):

The first draft of the pilot was written in spring 2000 in a four night spurt of creative energy. At the time I spent my days as a storyboard artist for Mo Willems's "Sheep in the Big City" at Curious Pictures. For about a month I had been meeting sporadically with some executives at Comedy Central to pitch an animated series based on a comic strip I did back in college ("Uncle Nature") with my friend Ralph Vincelli. I was also co-publishing the Monkeysuit anthologies with my friends and had been noodling around with The Venture Bros. as a potential comic book story for our next issue, having gathered notes and sketches for the characters for a couple of years running. 'Round about the time Comedy Central was getting ready to say "thanks but no thanks" to my pitch, I was realizing that my Venture Bros. notes were too extensive to fit in a short comic story--so I gathered them up one night, sat down on my bed, opened my laptop, and started typing some of the dialogue and scenarios into a screenwriting program. I had the first eight pages of the pilot script within a few hours, and went to bed happy. The next day was the last meeting with Comedy Central, which they ended by asking me if I had "anything else." I told them I did, that it was better than what I'd been pitching them all along, and that I needed the rest of the week to finish it. I was feeling pretty proud of myself and pretty good about my chances of getting Venture Bros. picked up, but the following Monday came, I handed them my script, and they politely turned it down.

Later that summer, The Tick got picked up as a live action television series, and I was off to the figurative Hollywood (actually Culver City and Venice Beach) to work on that. Through that I got an agent, and through the agent I got another bite at Venture Bros.--this time from an animation studio known for its claymation, who wanted to launch a CG division with an adult animated comedy--namely, The Venture Bros. Long story short, there were shakeups in the company that year, executives came and went--mostly the ones I was dealing with--the company decided a half hour weekly CG show would be prohibitively expensive, and Venture Bros. was homeless once again. Then The Tick got canceled, and after a prolonged and demeaning bout with unemployment, I was ready to move back to New York. But before I did, I decided to take out the old Venture Bros. script and give it another look, since it had been making the rounds as one of my writing samples and I hadn't bothered to give it another draft in over a year. Well, it needed some work. It was a little rough around the edges...and, well...after 9/11 the Arab joke definitely had to go. It also needed better packaging. So I spent my last month in L.A. rewriting the script and doing dozens of illustrations. Hundreds of dollars and many trips to Kinkos later (as well as many panicked midnight calls to Doc Hammer for Photoshop and printing advice) I had my pitch package ready. But who to send it to? I tried Comedy Central, in hopes that there wasn't much inter-office communication between their L.A. and N.Y. headquarters, or that personnel changes might bring executives into their fold who were more favorable to my little project, but no dice. They turned it down again. On the plus side, in preparing for my meeting with them I had contacted Jeff Nodelman, who started up Noodlesoup in New York with a bunch of my Monkeysuit friends, and had been assured that the show could be done attractively and on the cheap at their studio.

Then my friend Eli told me about Adult Swim. Apparently, Cartoon Network had started airing some pretty weird, grown up stuff late at night. Before hearing about this, I had never considered pitching Cartoon Network because I didn't want to tone The Venture Bros. down, but now...

I dug up an old phone number for Linda Simensky, who was then in development at CN. I asked her if I could send along my pitch, she said yes, and when I got back to New York I did just that. I also moved into a strange little workspace on the Lower East Side with the unlikely name of Astrobase--Go! Two weeks later Linda called me back and through the magic of lucky timing (they had already greenlit two of the three pilots they budgeted for that year and were searching for a third) and I suppose a convincing pitch package, the Venture Bros. pilot was a go.

Of course, there were months of contract negotiations and stuff like that. And their broadcast standards were a little more stringent in those pre-Family Guy days, so I got a list of minor changes I had to make. But we were greenlit with no development hassles and no major alterations to the script. We were to begin production in September...

...and then two weeks before we began work, Lazzo called. And scared the crap out of me. He wasn't sure if the show warranted a half hour time slot and had some issues with the second act of the script. Ultimately he was wrong about the former and absolutely right about the latter--I changed the script for the better (most of the ninja scenes were added at this point) and we were off and running.

One of the astounding things about the pilot was how many things went my way while we were producing it. Right out of the gate I got just about everything I wanted: Cartoon Network to let me produce it in New York (I had no interest in returning to L.A.), and at Noodlesoup, with my friends. I got James Urbaniak, who I had seen in a friend's performance art/comedy show years earlier and never forgotten. I got Patrick Warburton, who was born to play Brock even though I didn't know who he was when I made Brock up and, oddly enough, never connected with the chraracter the whole time we were filming The Tick. I got to fly my friend Eli in from California to do layout. And I got...J.G. Thirlwell.

Waaaaay back in 1998 or so, when I was still playing around with The Venture Bros. as a short comic book story, a friend of mine lent me his copy of Steroid Maximus's first album. The minute I heard it, it was like I was hearing the soundtrack to this comic story of mine, and indeed it was hearing that music that first conjured moving images of the characters in my head. I saw the whole title sequence play out. When it came time to find a composer for the pilot, I tracked J.G. down, and to my delight learned that he was not just the man behind Steroid Maximus, but behind Foetus as well. And better still, after a six year hiatus, he was just then releasing a brand new Steroid Maximus album which was even better than the first! He was too busy with a project at the time to do an original score for the pilot but was gracious enough to license us music from three of his albums, and in some cases prepare new edits and mixes of some of the songs. It really was an unbelievable moment of kismet for me, and the pilot sounded like no other cartoon in the world. You can imagine how happy I was to hear he was free to score season one from the ground up...and I continue to be so as he begins his work on season two.

The production was hard, but a ton of fun. I had never directed anything before, or had one of my own personal creations get animated. For years I'd watched so many scripts and storyboards of mine get destroyed as they passed through the grinding wheel of other productions that it was a thrill to get in there and finally have control over the way my ideas were presented. And I couldn't have asked for a more talented team of artists and animators to help me realize those ideas--many of them still work on the show now, two seasons later. They turned a VERY low budget pilot (and indeed, a lower budget series) into a tiny gem of style and substance.

Though Doc didn't work on the pilot initially, he was well apprised of its progress as we'd been sharing a studio for over a year by the time it was finished. His band was on tour most of the time we were in production but the minute he got back to New York he began doing the post-production for it. He not only crafted what I consider to be the best opening title sequence of any cartoon out there, but also edited the film and took on the monumental task of editing all of J.G.'s music to fit the picture. It was during this process we began the first of many casual, impromptu discussions that would create the material which would eventually fuel the engine of season one's episodes. And I will never forget the last few days of editing. Noodlesoup had already booked a club for our grand pilot premiere party so we had a hard deadline looming. I got a wicked stomach flu--the spraying hot liquid spastically out of every hole in your body kind of stomach flu--and drifted in and out of consciousness while Doc did his work those last two days. By the time of the party, I was all better but of course Doc had caught the flu from me, so, sadly, he couldn't attend. Which was the only bummer of an otherwise great night I'll probably never forget.

Seeing the pilot again (and we recently watched it for the first time in two years so we could do commentary for the DVD) is a lot like seeing an old girlfriend. You recognize every inch of her, you know at one point in time you were deeply involved with her, and yet you have no connection to her whatsoever, save for a tiny bit of inexplicable embarrassment in her presence, mixed with a tiny bit of pride because, hey--she's not half bad looking.

Content-wise, there are plenty of differences between it and the series, but, amazingly, a lot of stuff is the same. Though the background style is more painterly, the characters look and sound a little different and the boys are quite underdeveloped, the key elements are all there. Dr. Venture, Brock, the boys, The Monarch, Dr. Girlfriend--even White, Billy, Prof. Impossible and Doc's womb nightmares make appearances. Time, experience, personal growth and the unmistakable touch of Doc Hammer's collaborative input have changed the show immeasurably.

Before I go, as if you could possibly still be reading this at this point, as promised, here are some more sneak peeks at the increasingly colorful world of the Ventures...

The Venture living room...





...and Dr. Venture's laboratory...





We love you,
JP.

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Thanks! This is an awesome Christmahanukahwanza present! (Well, since the DVDs won't be out til goodness knows when... *grumble*)

I work at Tower Records and our computers say the DVD release date is like 2/28, but I don't know how accurate that is.

Awesome! New pictures, and new audio file, how could this day get any better?

I really enjoyed reading that -- thanks!

Amazing, Jackson. Can't wait.

Amazing, Jackson. Can't wait.

Version 2.0

So... In designing the Venture's home, are you really designing your dream pad? I mean, living in NYC and all, we're shoved into shoeboxes with only wistful fantasies of bedrooms and eat-in kitchens to keep us from freaking out and going postal on all the smug suburbanites... Okay, maybe that last bit's just me. But I can't help but think that, given the chance to create a fantasy world (such as the one found in, say, an animated series), one might indulge in a little wish fulfilment...

Regardless, it all looks fantastic, and I can't wait for season two.

(For what it's worth, you're sure as hell designing MY dream home...)

We love you too, darlings. It's stupid how excited I get thinking about new Venture Bros. episodes. :)

J.G. Thirwell is the entire reason I put so much effort into seeing the Venture Brothers when I don't usually bother with TV. For whatever reason, I'm happily geeked that you were so excited about him, too.

I really look forward to the new season.

Oh yay! I always wondered how Venture started,so thank you for sharing that info about the pilot! And yay for another Christmas song! You should totally make a little Christmas album, with each character singing different songs. Just an idea heh. Thanks for sharing more pics of the Venture home....I would totally love to see the boys room sometime, hinthint. :D

Thank you for all you do for us, we love you too! ^-^

Too bad on the postponment (that's a funny word) of the DVD. I was looking forward too it. As long as I get in before next Christmas, it's all fine.

I skipped past all that stuff in the middle, how terrible of me. But I love the graphics!

Now, it's off to bed for me! Have to get up bright and early to get my copy of Serenity.
Oh, Firefly, how I miss you. Worry not, Arrested Development will be joining you soon enough *grumbles*

That pilot episode blew my mind when I saw it on its original air date. This journal you set up is also a great insight for an aspiring writer (me). Keep up the good.

Thanks for doing another Christmas song. That is so much fun to listen to. And it's nice to hear Monarch, 21, and 24's voices again after so long! Makes the wait for new episodes easier.

Loved reading about the pilot and seeing more of those beautiful background pics. The new season is going to look so snazzy.

i highly like what you got going on here, bro bro.

That shot of the lab is fantastic, love the lighting and the reflections. Mad props to whoever's responsible for that, you can tell them I said so.

I also enjoyed reading about "the birth of the venture brothers," especially as someone who imagines the next 5-20 years of their life to follow a similar path. Can't wait for season 2!

I have told them you said so.

Thank you for all the great updates. Bummer on the DVD, but you can't rush greatness. I'm patient. I can wait.

And thank you for the suggestion on the Acme Novelty Library. I am loving it. Rocket Sam definately has the emotional robots you mentioned. I liked the story on the robot with boxing glove hands who wanted to pet birds. I can see where some views on H.E.L.P.eR. came from, with that sense of sweet but sad mix of emotion. And the whole design and layout of the book is awesome too, with the comic book ads (Make Mistakes - Get Children), page layout and even the world's smallest comic strip. I'm already ready to get more of his books. Thanks again.

Yes! I'm so glad you enjoyed the Acme stuff. I really think it's the best comic out there. And the boxing robot with the birds...yeah, that's Helper to a "t." That story always cracked me up...followed with a pained, sympathetic "awwww...."

Re: Chris Ware (Anonymous) Expand
That's actually a quite catchy tune, haha. Me I'll be just fine.

Oh sure Robot Chicken's DVD date gets unchanged while we have to wait for VB. Crimey. I've been waiting for this for quite some time, and I guess understand since it'll promoted quite heavily with the new episodes etc.

I liked the IGN holiday treat. It made me yearn for more episodes.

I had no idea you worked on "Sheep in the Big City". Did you get other offers to work on other shows before VB?




Not really. After The Tick animated series I had a much easier time finding storyboard work than writing, though I did a little bit of development writing for MTV and stuff on projects of theirs that ultimately didn't get off the ground. It's also easier, psychologically, to freelance as a storyboard artist. I can really only write when I'm super into a project and there just wasn't anything out there I was super into. Not that they would have hired me, but I wouldn't have even tried getting work on an existing show I really liked--like a Simpsons or South Park or something--since that would forever ruin the viewing experience for me. So I really didn't do much professional writing to speak of until The Tick came back as a live action show.

We love you more ;) he he ninjas... don't they just make all things better? I'm digging your new backgrounds, the color looks more vivid and the living room is very posh 70's :P

That's quite an impressive journey you've made to get where you are now. I can imagine the wheel of rejections you faced before finally getting picked up must have been the hardest hump to get over.

It sucks that the release date of next season is being pushed back again, but not unexpected when dealing with suits. I can't wait to hear your commentary... with your sense of humor, I'm sure it's going to be quite entertaining :P

You mentioned a screenwriting program that you used? Can you please give me the downlow on a good one to use?... I'm writing a Sci-Fi script myself, and I'm sure I could use a little help in the format dept. Also, can you give me any suggestions on how to go about presenting my ideas to a network? i.e. What should my portfolio include... how many episodes should I write in advance... some good links for info etc. If you're too busy, I understand.

Thanks for making your dream our reality :D Miles of Smiles!
Go Team Venture!
Jenna;)

Ninjas? I thought they just hung around airports and got sucked up into jet engines.

(Deleted comment)
So, was Doc "Doc" when you first started working with him, or was he still just "Eric" back then?

Two things:

1) Sorry to hear about the DVD getting pushed back, but as long as the end result is a quality product, then I don't mind waiting a little longer for it.

2) Wow, someone else has Enon's Believo!?

Yes! Believo it or not, I had no idea who they were when I bought it. I was just bored, had some extra cash on me, and really liked the title and cover art. It might be the one and only time I took a chance on a cd like that and it paid off. Turns out J.G. Thirlwell knows those guys, too.

(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
Great stuff! I, too, will be waiting with bated breath for the official DVD release... whenever it comes out.

I'm just getting caught up with the VB Christmas offerings. The latest one is really good. It's interesting to see (hear) the Monarch getting into a Christmas song, even when he's in the Big House. 21 and 24 are also in rare form. (I could so see myself being a Monarch henchman.)

Thanks for sharing the good will!

Season's Beatings to the Venture Clan

devilicia

2005-12-20 02:27 pm (UTC)


"I changed the script for the better (most of the ninja scenes were added at
this point) " Object Lesson? When in doubt, always add ninjas and mix
to a creamy consistency. YAY! for staying
on the East Coast. The underground secret laboratories are simply a better
class of nefarious around here (just ask Dr. Mitriosis here).

The ladies of La Gata Negra League of Masked Lady Wrestlers wish you and all
the evil geniuses behind the Venture Brothers a new year free of broken bones
and Canadian Back Breakers


As a gift, another story of science gone horribly wrong...again....


 


 



Re: Season's Beatings to the Venture Clan

(Anonymous)

2005-12-26 06:42 am (UTC)

Thanks for letting us know about the pilot. I was wondering what the hell I was watching. It was like Baby Venture Brothers. Strange, but cool.

Awesome. The Ventures have a reel-to-reel tape deck. As they should.

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