Monday, December 30, 2013

Comedy Bang! Bang! -- Zach Galifianakis has a run-in with Grumplegus the elf

I don't watch much TV, but one of my favorite current TV shows is Scott Aukerman's Comedy Bang! Bang! I originally got addicted to reruns of the show on Netflix, but new episodes air on IFC. It's based on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast, which in turn is based on the live show Comedy Deathray. (On a coincidental side note, I actually saw Zach Galifianakis perform an unannounced set at a UCB Comedy Deathray show a few years ago!)

The show on IFC pokes fun at the talk show format and takes advantage of the incredible talents of Scott's co-host, Reggie Watts. If you haven't seen Reggie Watts, go look him up on YouTube right now. He's amazing.

Each episode features different guests, some real and some fictional. For the Christmas episode on December 20th, Zach Galifianakis (on his second visit to the show) plays Santa Claus.

Santa tells Scott about his Christmastime procedures and life back at the North Pole and then flashes back (in animation) to tell the tale of Grumplegus the Elf.

The good people at Comedy Bang! Bang! went to Stoopid Buddy Stoodios to produce the animation and they brought me on as director and animator for the segment. It was a lot of fun and I'm proud to be a part of this show!

Click hear to see where you can watch the episode "Zach Galifianakis Wears a Santa Suit" and all the rest.

Credits (for the Grumplegus segment only)
Animation Produced by: Stoopid Buddy Stoodios
Director: Pete Levin
Co-Producer: Ethan Marak
Supervising Producer: Janet Dimon
Animator: Pete Levin
Puppet Fabricator: Sarah Brown
Set Builder: Roy T. Wood
Character/Set Designer: John Sumner
Storyboards: Alex Zobolotsky
Visual Effects Artists: Kaitlyn Yang & Carlo Vega
Editor, Music, Sound FX, Additional Voices: Hank Friedmann
Track Reader: Jeremy Fisher
Production Accountant: Shalonda Ware
Featuring the voices of Scott Aukerman and Zach Galifianakis

Monday, December 16, 2013

Baltimore Orioles Scoreboard Animation 2013 - New and Improved!

Stop motion and the Baltimore Orioles: Two of my favorite things in the world. Since the last time I'd created any new animated rally sequences for the JumboTron, the Orioles had come back and broken a 14-year streak of losing seasons and made it to the postseason. The new, invigorated team needed some new, invigorated animated clips and I was thrilled to lend a hand.

Finally, for the 2013 animation, I was able to use the cardboard set that was never used for the animation back in 2010. Sharp-eyed viewers will notice some little Baltimore shout-outs: a "Why Not?" sign, a small billboard for "Floyd Rayford: Attorney at Law", and other little fun details. John Sumner lead the way in building the cardboard stadium set (Oriole Park at Cardboard Yards?) and I added some little touches to it like the turf made out of dishtowels and the sequins used for stadium lights.

As much as I loved my original Bird puppet from 2010, we decided the Bird needed a makeover, too. Sumner created a new Bird, this time with shoes, a stronger armature, and a set of replacement beaks and eyelids to convey a wider range of emotions.

One of my favorite things about this new series of animated segments was getting a chance to do some prop-building. In the one, I made The Bird's jetpack from a dollar store toy truck, a couple of kazoos, and some miniature golf clubs. I went for the vintage 1980's elastic-belted uniform look:

I had fun making the Camden Yards-style brick Noise-O-Meter for this one. Check out those 1989-era birds on top!

A big thanks to all the guys at Orioles Productions for giving me the chance to put my fingerprint on a small piece of the Baltimore Orioles experience!

Looks like the fans dug the spots, too! Amazing!!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Spy vs. Spy on Mad - Season 4

Just recently wrapping up on Cartoon Network, was season 4 of Mad. I was happy to get a chance to return to the world of Spy vs. Spy again and bring to life these iconic little sociopaths!

The buddies over at Stoopid Buddy Stoodios put it best on their website: "What began as a humor magazine founded in 1952 has transformed into one of the most widely influential and imitated pieces of satirical media in the history of magazine entertainment. Since its rise to popularity, MAD has successfully grown with the times as they have branched off into the realm television, all while maintaining the original sensibilities and spirit of the print magazine – which is a tremendous feat! ...we’re so humbly proud of being part of MAD’s deep history and tremendous imprint on our culture."

This year, I split up the animating duties over 25 episodes with the very talented animators Alex Kamer and Brad Schaffer. Ethan Marak produced, John Sumner and Emily Franz were responsible for the sets and props, Tennesee Reid Norton oversaw puppet fabrication, and Helder Sun was director of photography. (Sorry if I forgot to mention anyone.)

Here are the four episodes that I directed this season:

And just for the completists, here's all of season four in one massive, violent compilation:

Thanks to whoever compiled and uploaded this crazy thing!

Previous entries about the spies can be found here, here, and here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

"Just Shut Up!" A Saturday Morning Fun-Time Romp!

Before becoming an animator, I was trained in live action. It's always nice whenever I get a chance to go back to that world and play in it a little. This summer, just such an opportunity presented itself with Just Shut Up!, a web series produced by the guys behind Smosh. (For those who don't know, as of January 2013, Smosh had become the most subscribed-to channel in YouTube history!)

The concept for the show is simple; Andy runs a local Saturday morning kids show in the vein of Bozo the Clown or Captain Kangaroo (or my childhood favorite, Captain Chesapeake). With him are his co-hosts, Miss Wendy and Mr. Squirrel. Poor judgement and not-so-kid-friendly hijinks ensue.
Photos courtesy of Dan Levy

The dry wit of head writers Steve Murphy and Peter Meadows along with the natural reactions from the "kiddos" made for a really fun show. The show also features clips of cartoons from Smosh's successful Shut Up! Cartoons lineup.
Three-camera studio shoots present challenges that are very different from those in single-camera shoots and it was a great opportunity to explore this way of putting a show together. I feel lucky to have gotten a chance to work with a cast and crew who had such a strong enthusiasm to work together and commitment to get these made. Did I mention we shot all 20 episodes over the course of 3 days?
Here are two of my favorites Episodes, Death and Religion:

John Williams (animation) at the Hollywood Bowl

Back in 2010, I helped produce a short Lego animation for Jon & Al Kaplan.

Fast forward to 2013. John Williams actually sees the animation, digs it, and decides he'd like to incorporate it into this year's concert performance at the legendary Hollywood Bowl.

I edited together several different videos I found on YouTube along with some footage from some friends who attended the show. Hopefully these views from different seats around the Bowl can help illustrate a little of what it felt like that night.

With John Williams's first mention of the animation and then as it appeared onscreen in front of a sold-out crowd of 17,000 people, I can't describe the excitement welling up in me. It was a pretty amazing experience seeing so many people react to something I had a part in creating.

Here's the original short we made:

Saturday, August 17, 2013

In which I make an appearance on Das Process (the podcast)

I got a chance to have a really fun conversation today with Mackenzie Astin on the Das Process podcast. They talk to artists, filmmakers, and creative types of all sorts. This one ties in with trying to promote our Kickstarter for I'm Scared, based on the incredible artwork of Greg "Craola" Simkins. (We also talk quite a bit about baseball and the Orioles animation I've been doing.)

For more information about Greg, you can take a listen to his Das Process episode. (Recorded well before we started scheming about I'm Scared.)

Here's a picture of Dan Levy (producer of I'm Scared), Greg, and Mack:

Monday, August 5, 2013

"I'm Scared" -- a short stop-motion film based on the artwork of Greg Simkins

A lot of projects going on, some projects I haven't written about yet, some of projects I can't write about yet. But, here's a project where I need to write about it in a timely fashion!

It's (hopefully) going to be a short stop motion animated film. And if it happens, it'll be based on the artwork of Mr. Greg "Craola" Simkins. Greg Simkins, for those who don't know him is a painter, an illustrator, a designer, and a strong presence in the contemporary/pop surrealist/new brow art movement. He's also a super nice guy and can hopefully soon add "stop motion animation producer" to his long list of accomplishments.

Here's what I'm talking about:

Produced by Dan Levy, Greg Simkins, and myself
Based on a poem, drawings, and concept by Greg Simkins
Directed by me!
Art director would be Robyn Yannoukos
Sculptor would be Lesley Padien