Say what you will, but it seems Dreamworks has started its own little tradition. Whenever they release the DVD of one of their animated features, an additional disk is also released. The double-disk set comes with its share of games, trailers and the usual extra content, but it also has an extended short based on the characters from the main movie.
In the past, the feature “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” included “The Penguins of Madagascar;” “Kung Fu Panda” had “Secrets of the Furious Five.” Now “Monsters v. Aliens” just hit the shelves, and the extra features those a side story of the monsters Doctor Cockroach, the Missing Link and, most importantly, B.O.B.
You remember B.O.B. He was the mutated tomato that realized brains weren’t the most important part of his body. Heck, the giant pile of blue gelatinous goo gets around quite nicely without a lot of other organs either. While he seems romantically fixated on a bowl of green Jello with pineapple bits, he’s otherwise the most stable (at least mentally) of General W.R. Monger’s collection of Universal rejects.
Entitled “B.O.B.’s Big Break,” the short was directed by veteran Dreamworks storyman, Rob Porter, who had been working on “MvA” since its inception.
“I was the story artist. I worked on the sequences,” says Porter. “I’m not an animator. I’m just completely amazed at what they do. I don’t even know how B.O.B. was rigged. Basically, what I did was come up with the story then I started writing it. From there, I helped flesh it out into story boards.
“Dreamworks asked a bunch of us if we wanted to work on a short. If you noticed, the monsters don’t really have any powers or abilities. I remembered an old gag that I wanted to use but didn’t go anywhere, that B.O.B. could read minds. So I re-purposed the idea into a short.”
Still, just give the big ball of blue goo the ability to read minds wasn’t enough. So Porter added another twist. For starters, he set his short in the 60’s, where there would be no Susan or, for that matter, Insectosaurus.
“The idea was to keep the story simple and not put too many characters,” Porter explained. “We thought it might be fun to do something about what it was like before she and Insectosaurus arrived. Let’s stick with the three characters that always were the most fun. It would also see Monger with sideburns. We didn’t do any doors with love beads on them or go all Greg Brady, but we did have B.O.B meet up with a lava lamp.
“What we came up with is Dr. Cockroach has been trying for years and years to escape. So, among all his attempts at escaping, this was one of them. From there, we decided we had to do motivations for the other characters. One idea was there was kind of a rift between Doc and Link.
“From there, we developed a concept we called ‘the Cause.’ Doc came up with it. As far as he was concerned you were either for the Monster’s Cause or you weren’t. By this time, Link had pretty much given up on it. His attitude was he couldn’t break out, so he had given up. His attitude was if Doc was so smart, why couldn’t he escape?
“B.O.B. is kind of a happy-go-lucky guy. He kind of goes with the wind. The real big picture of the short is B.O.B. just always wants to be with the fellas. In fact, if there was a big, wide hole in the wall, but the other guys couldn’t leave, then B.O.B. wouldn’t go. They are his family.”
That didn’t mean there isn’t Link isn’t ready to jump when the opportunity arises. There’s one great sequence where Doc and Link grab hands full of B.O.B. and start hurling it at Monger, ending up in one of the freakiest variations of dodgeball ever committed to film.
“I would say the end results are amazing,” says Porter. “I was also super-lucky to have the same crew on the short. I mean they made the dodge ball sequence kicked butt. They have abilities that I’m just completely in the dark about. Those guys took anything I made look stronger.”
Now the kicker is “B.O.B.’s Big Break” is airing on Nickelodeon, which pleases Porter to no end.
“I’m stoked!” Porter exclaims. “I was at Nickelodeon for almost eight years before I came to Dreamworks. I was a storyboard artist on ‘Hey! Arnold,’ ‘CatDog’ and ‘Rocko’s Modern Life.’ It was a blast. I worked with many of the guys who worked on SpongeBob, but when they were recruiting for that I was too busy working on ‘CatDog.’”
Not that the short will please everybody. Porter found that out the hard way when he presented the final cut to his family.
“I watched it with my wife and daughter,” Porter recalls. “I asked my daughter if she liked the short. She just looked at me and said, ‘I don’t like it short. I liked it long.’ You never know.”
In the meantime, informed sources at Dreamworks stated that “B.O.B.,” like the Penguins and “Kung Fu Panda” are being converted into a Nickelodeon TV series. Who says good things can’t happen in threes, too?
As for Porter, he’s keeping himself busy.
“I’ve been bouncing around,” he admits “We’re doing a Shrek Halloween short, and I’m working on that. I’ve been doing some work on ‘Puss’n Boots.’ I was the head of story on ‘Dragon,’ but it wasn’t a good fit so I kind of asked that I be removed. I wasn’t helping the movie at all. I have to admit though I’ve seen some of the footage and it looks awesome.”
In the meantime, Porter still feels pretty proud of what he did with ‘B.O.B’ no matter what his daughter thought of it.
“It was a really fun experience and I learned a lot,” he concluded.