HOW I SPENT MY WINTER VACATION...
by Jackson Publick, grade 4
• Doing artwork for the The Venture Bros. Season 2 DVD cover
• Producing extra stuff for the DVD
• Being sick twice
• A week in Los Angeles, staying at my friend's drafty house, touring The Cartoon Network's Burbank facilities and asking a million questions about HD production, fruitlessly meeting with Hollywood types ("yeah, I might have time to do something in about a year and a half..."), getting tipsy with Brendon Small, Emilie Autumn, Keith Crofford, Dana Snyder, Ben Edlund and Phil Rynda.
• Purchasing or acquiring and subsequently viewing DVDs of every episode of every TV show I've missed in the past two years that anyone I know has referred to as "the best show on television" (The Wire, Battlestar Gallactica, 24, Heroes) and learning some of them were referred to as such rightly, some not.
• Watching a ton of Discovery Channel, Science Channel and History Channel specials.
• Planning a trip to Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris and Rome that I never took.
• Planning a trip to Jamaica I never took.
• Visiting car dealerships and sitting in new vehicles I cannot afford.
• Reading a few books (The Boy Detective Fails was the only memorable one of the bunch)
• Planning a feature film I'll probably never write.
• "Dream casting" aforementioned feature film.
• Eating a lot.
• Tolerating my dog.
• Pulling a back muscle while digging my car out of snow three days after I should have dug it out of snow–thus heralding my undesired approach to middle age because: A. that happened, and B. I now own a shovel.
• Attending NY Comicon (see below)
• Attending Tim & Eric's live show (see below)
• Seeing Badly Drawn Boy at Webster Hall.
NEW YORK COMICON
New York Comicon was successful for us. Doc and I were happily joined by James Urbaniak, Mike Sinterniklaas and Steven Rattazzi for an unstructured panel discussion before an audience of some two or three hundred adoring fans. We proceeded to avoid questions about season three and stammer through discussions about recording sessions, the creative process, and silky body hair. Despite suffering the indignity of not having his own name tag on the table (he got Paul Pope's from the previous panel), Doc concocted a little video commercial for the DVD release, which we projected at the beginning of the presentation so we wouldn't all be stuck sitting there, mouths drooping open, mumbling "uh...so...are there any questions?" Rather, his fine efforts managed to belay that awkward moment for at least three minutes.
To further stall the inevitable, we officially announced what you all knew was true already: that Season 3 has been greenlit, we are currently trying to write it, and production will begin (in World Leaders Entertainment's new Chelsea headquarters, which promise to be comparatively plush) on April 9th. We also announced that Season 4 has technically been greenlit as well (the network basically committed to it, but we won't be treating seasons 3 & 4 as one big, 26 episode order because we just don't swing that way. Doc and I—to say nothing of the rest of the crew—will most likely need rest and replenishment after these next 13, given our style of hands-on micromanagement and limited wells of creativity). Hopefully that means there will be a much shorter break between the next two seasons than we've experienced in the past. Don't hold me to that, though.
The rest of my time at the convention was spent chatting up the delightful fans (thanks for another Kennedy-themed novelty gift, by the way...you know who you are), browsing (God of War II looks pretty fun), and hanging out with Zander and Shad from Big Time Attic.
The night after that, Tim & Eric were in town to perform their goofy live show at The Knitting Factory, which was the most tightly packed, humid little stew of human bodies and body odors I've ever witnessed and, from my limited view between columns and the heads of taller audience members, was pretty funny and strange. Chinese food with Tim and not Eric but Eric Fensler was a welcome respite.
AND SO, BACK TO WORK...
Doc and I are in training for the upcoming production marathon that will be Season 3 of The Venture Bros. Rising no later than 5:30am (EST), our regimen consists of various isometric exercises, wind sprints, calisthenics, and spirited games of steal-the-bacon followed by a "power shake" of Pixie Stix and coffee, for protein.
And we'll need that protein, because this initial writing phase is always difficult. The start of a new season is a parade of paralyzing possibilities—a tug of war between paradoxical, insecure thoughts of "how are we possibly going to come up with 13 new stories?" and "where am I going to put all these ideas?"—as hundreds of random thoughts, jokes, chunks of dialogue, half-baked plots and doodles fill up your notebook, post-its, stray pieces of printer paper and available napkins, then jockey for the pole position in your personal writing queue. You look them over. You look at some of last year's unused material. You turn them over in your head. You kind of wait anxiously for one of them to stand out from the rest, take off in your imagination and roll downhill collecting more details and colliding into other ideas to start formulating a genuine story with a theme and B plots and everything—because until then you're just a scatterbrained mess who both loves and loathes every idea that pours out of your head. And then the real work starts; hammering the ideas into a script, some of which, on closer examination, don't deserve to be one. Others are too fecund and beg to be turned into a 90 minute special to properly tell their stories, and thus much prioritization and amputation must occur to sqeeze them into the alotted 22+ minutes. This is the fun and the drag of it all. Oddly enough, Doc and I actually haven't had much contact in the past few weeks. We seem to prefer to write on our own and then convene when we've got something ready to turn in. A tender spirit of competition enters the picture. At this point, we're writing to amuse ourselves first and foremost, and to crack each other up secondly. You people, the audience, are a distant third. No offense.
So what's gonna happen this season? We couldn't tell you if we wanted to. I've definitely got a short list of characters we neglected last season who I'd like to hit harder this time around, as well as a list of characters I'm personally boycotting for at least the first part of the season. And then there are some new guys and gals we're hoping to breathe life into. Hopefully it'll be great. You should watch them when they come on TV.
We'll be starting some of our supervisors a few weeks early to get their teams in order and revise some of our main models (no major overhauls this time—just some tweaking, and creation of much-needed expression sheets for the storyboard artists to follow). I'm pleased to welcome comic book and animation luminary Stephen DeStefano back into the Venture fold. Stephen storyboarded some of our best and most memorable sequences in season one but, except for a couple of scenes in the finale episode, wasn't available to work on season 2. Now he's back, as our Storyboard Director and supervisor of the character/prop design department. Presently we're in the process of staffing the rest of the crew, trying to find the best of the available best of the New York animation "scene." And then there's that move to a new studio space I mentioned. We're all looking forward to the exodus from the cramped, poorly-ventilated 5th Avenue headquarters (with lovely views, I'll give it that) to the more spacious and raw facility in Chelsea, where I will have a bigger office and a bigger window, through which I'll see less scenery.
The bad news about production is you won't be seeing any new episodes until probably this time next year, since we won't start getting them back from Korea until around the first of the year or so. Such is the nature of traditional cel animation. We did experiment with concocting a super-hurry-up production schedule that would enable us to air the first four episodes of Season 3 in December, but that proved pointless because we would end up with a frustrating, Lost-like scenario wherein the season would be broken up by a three month hiatus, just when it was getting interesting (unlike Lost). Also, I've been informed that nobody really watches much TV in December and the ratings suck.
SPEAKING OF 2008
The fine people of Rizzoli have seen fit to produce a Venture Bros. Wall Calendar to commemorate that upcoming year. We've been working with them to find the best possible hi-res stills from the animation to illustrate it, and the graphic design of the thing will closely resemble the themes of the Season 2 DVD.
Venture Bros. background painter Liz Artinian is currently organizing Too Art for TV Too!, the second of what's fast becoming an annual art event here in the city; an exhibition showcasing the personal work of dozens of New York artists who work in the animation industry. Last year's opening was tremendously successful and well-attended, with people exhibiting everything from oil paintings to original comic book pages to toys and silkscreened posters—most of which was for sale. This year's promises to be even more diverse, with twice as many contributors. Amongst them are many a Venture Bros. alumnus, including yours truly, if I get off my ass and start my piece. More on that closer to the date of the opening.
Last year, I personally scored a supercool and massive pencil drawing of no fewer than 200 alien cat warriors being slaughtered in battle by two giant alien robots, which hangs above my bed as a testament to the OCD and chemical intake of the gifted Christy Caracas, who co-created a very bizarre pilot for [adultswim] called SuperJail, which should be airing in a couple of months. I think I did a voice or two for it. Well, I definitely did, but I won't know if they used my takes until I get to see the finished pilot at their wrap party tonight.
With no new Venture images to share because we're not in production yet, I leave you with some of the rejected rough designs for The Venture Bros. Season 2 DVD packaging, simply because they'll never see the light of day otherwise and I like them. Drawings by me, layout & design by Liz Artinian, Duke Aber and me respectively. (The image at the head of this entry is a rough of the approved image for the back cover of the DVD slipcase, by me and Duke Aber)
We Love You,
P.S. Saw two pretty great films this week. Zodiac and An Unreasonable Man. Highly recommend both, though the latter will be much harder to track down (it was only playing in one small theater in New York) but well worth the effort. Even if you're one of those people who's still sore at Nader for the 2000 election (don't bother--be sorer at Florida and the other 49% of voters)