Animated Shorts: Going Inside Adult Swim's Superjail

The advanced reviews are starting to come in. Superjail, which makes its official debut this Sunday on Adult Swim, is causing a riot of critical controversy not seen since they took TV rights away at Attica Federal Penitentiary. One critic even went so far as to call the new animated series “the most incoherent, violent and irredeemable thing I have ever seen.”

“It makes me psyched,” says series co-creator and executive producer Christy Karakas.

“Is that a compliment? I can't tell,” adds Stephen Warbrick who you might call Karakas’ partner-in-crime…particularly the crime part.

Superjail is one of the new programs Adult Swim asked fans if they would want to see last May, 2007; along with Fat Guy On the Internet, Tony Millionaire’s Drinky Crow Show and That Crooked ‘Sip. As it turns out, the fans demanded all of them. We already interviewed Millionaire about his show coming this November. Now it’s Karakas and Warbrick’s turn. As it stands, Karakas and Warbrick used the ensuing 1 ½ years to do a lot of work on their show.

“I would say that the series is way more detailed than the pilot,” says Warbrick. “The series is also done in crispy HD..which was a lot more work. Also there are more character moments throughout the series.”

“I guess it just keeps looking better and the jokes/animation getting pushed further with every episode we make,” adds Karakas. “I love the pilot but some of the new ones make it seem simpler/cruder.”

In fact, one could say the level of detail drawn into Superjail is the kind of thing that would drive the normal person blind.

“I think my animation/drawing style has always been really busy,” says Karakas. “I love to fill every spot with crazy detail, but also the Superjail team we assembled at Augenblick Studios are such an amazing group of artists. It’s crazy. I’m blown away every day when I see what used to be a crazy scribble has been turned into an amazing drawing or animation by them.”

As for getting it done, the more sardonic Warbrick has a simple answer.

“That's a secret,” he said, “but I'll give you a hint. Long days and no social life.”

It pays off, too. Superjail is the tale of the Warden, a man with one particularly singular obsession: to house the most dangerous scum of the earth and subject them to his will. The only problem is his will changes more often than politicians change campaign pledges.

“He really is a loose cannon. His mood swings are ridiculous,” says Warbrick.

This Willy Wonka of wicked whims will dress half his inmates in bunny suits and the other half in wolves costumes, then gleefully admire the gore and chaos he inspires. Eleven minutes includes a kajillion faces being ripped off, severed limbs turned into baseball bats, vivisection at its more gory and the Twins.

“The Twins,” says Warbrick. “They remain the most mysterious throughout season one. If we get another season, I imagine we are gonna have to explain them a bit. Maybe.”

“Richard Mather (who voices the Twins--ED) is an all around great guy,” says Karakas. “He’s an awesome animator and super funny. It’s funny cause he does these cartoony high pitched voices but in real life he’s actually this six foot plus crazy biker dude”

Then there’s Alice, who appears to be the head prison guard.

“It looks like she has a wiener,” says Warbrick, “but I'm not sure.”

“[The only thing Adult Swim asked to be toned down was] Pretty much just Alice’s bulge,” says Karakas. “They’ve been great and actually encouraged the craziness of the show.”

The only other remaining key character is Jared.

“Teddy Cohn (the voice of Jared-ED) is on Steve’s basketball team,” says Karakas. “I think he does copyright/art director stuff by day-cartoon voices and other mischief by night.”

“He seems like the most sane character,” adds Warbrick, “but if you look at the different levels of his character, he's pretty much the most troubled.”

Yet when you really get down to it, this series is really no more violent than your classic Looney Tunes adventure.

“Of course!,” says Karakas “All the Looney Toons stuff--Bob Clampett and Tex Avery probably the most for me--Fleischer Bros., John K. Comics are also a big influence on the look and feel of Superjail. Stuff like Mad Magazine, R. Crumb, underground fun stuff with fun drawings. Also Dr.Seuss. Actually two of our character layout artists aren’t animators by trade but they are actually amazing comic artists; Neil Schwab (Mr. Wiggles) and Hal Lee.”

As for the long, long wait between the airing of the pilot and the debut date?

“It's pretty wild. It still seems like it won't happen,” says Warbrick. “But it's a relief that we we're able to get it done on time and keep the quality consistent throughout. I hope people like it.”

Let’s say you better. If not, then you deserve to be in Superjail, not watch it.

ASIFA HOSTING STUDENT FILM FEST

The International Animated Film Society (ASIFA) Hollywoods' Animator Educator's Forum is hosting its first Student Animation Film Festival.

Students enrolled in professional academic programs throughout the United States have submitted short animations. The winners are to be announced at the festival in the following categories: Best Visual Storytelling, Best Character, Best Technical Achievement, Judges' Choice and The Emile Cohl Award for the Best Animated Short.

In addition to the competition portion of the event, a free demo reel and portfolio review will be offered to the public. Students and artists alike are encouraged to bring demo reels in DVD format and/or an organized collection of flat artwork to be critiqued by some of the competition judges and other industry professionals.

Judges for the competition include Jorge R. Gutierrez, Creator and Executive Producer of El Tigre; Robin Brigstocke, Director and Storyboard Supervisor at King of the Hill; Floyd Norman, Disney Legend and master storyman at Pixar, Disney, etc.; Tim Johnson, Director of DreamWorks's Over the Hedge; Aki Umemoto, Pioneer of CGI Commercials and Creative Director at Mattel for 25 years. The awards show and screening of winners will be held at 6 PM in the Fletcher Jones Foundation Auditorium.

Sponsors include DigiCel FlipBook, Creative Talent Network, VISUCATE (Autodesk Authorized Education Value Added Reseller) and Woodbury University. Prizes include generous software packages such as FlipBook, Maya, 3D Studio Max, Motion Builder, and Combustion Educational software in addition to prize money based on the category won.

The event will be held at Woodbury University located on 7500 Glenoaks Blvd. in Burbank, CA 91510 on October 18, 2008 from 10 AM to 7:30 PM. For more information about the event visit http://asifa-hollywood.org/

VIZ SHOWS AVAILABLE THROUGH JOOST

VIZ Media that Joost, the world's first broadcast-quality internet television service, will carry the original Uncut (Japanese version/English subtitled) episodes of the hit animated series Naruto, Death Note and Bleach in the United States. Episodes will be made available for free at www.joost.com with new installments being added regularly.

With Joost, fans will be able to watch these shows in their web browser while interacting with others in the Joost community. Whether they join or form fan groups around their favorite characters, or add their own comments to their favorite shows, Joost’s unique social features help a larger audience find and discover these hit shows.

“Joost recognizes a truly diverse community for content and has developed an interactive vehicle that will help build an even larger audience for Naruto, Bleach and Death Note,” Ken Sasaki, Sr. Vice President of Strategy & Business Development, VIZ Media. “VIZ Media shares a vision to use the latest web technologies to make compelling animated content easily accessible in a legal, secure and high-quality format. We look forward to fans sharing their favorite episodes on Joost and taking advantage of its social features to discuss and trade commentary individual episodes and expand the global momentum behind these properties.”

NEXT COLUMN: The secret will be out on Friday October 3, and Secret Saturdays creator Jay Stephens will give us the advanced scoop.

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