Allen Gregory: Jonah Hill's Love Child
“One of his ad-libbed lines is in my episode: Allen discovers Julie [his adopted sister] in his bedroom. She startles him and he says ‘oh my God, Julie, I thought you were a rat.’ A lot of that kind of stuff, which is cool.”
AG is animated by Bento Box, a hot young outfit based in California’s real Toontown, Burbank. The studio’s responsible for Fox’s other non-Simpsons, non-McFarlane Sunday night show Bob’s Burgers (currently in production for a second season), Entourage’s imaginary cartoon series Johnny’s Bananas and TBS’s Neighbors from Hell.
As Derriman, an Aussie expatriate and veteran of Disney’s now-shuttered Australia studio, recalls, “I was working for Bento Box from Sydney, boarding Neighbors from Hell and Bob’s Burgers via Email. I’m friendly with Joel [Kuwahara, one of Bento’s founders] and one day he said ‘if you ever want to get over here, there’s an office waiting for you.’ It was just a throwaway at the end of an e-mail, but I thought maybe I should do it, give it a go for a little while.”
Derriman lauds Bento Box as “a great little shop. It’s not a huge place – all the writers, directors, storyboard artists are under the same roof. It’s small enough for us to take part in the table reads.”
Allen Gregory is created in Burbank via Toon Boom software and physically animated by Korea’s Yeson studio. “I think we’re the first 100% digital production,” says Derriman. “The timing, the exits, all that information is digital within the storyboard files we send over, and Yeson animates off those same files. It’s a bit of a trailblazing effort.”
While Fox’s late greenlight for AG might’ve been a challenge for Goodman, it was business as usual for Derriman. “That probably affected the development guys and the writers more. We come on late in the piece, after the scripts are written and the casting is complete.” It’s no bed of roses directing prime time animation however; Derriman slips in a bit of Aussie slang when he observes that as directors, “We’re always under the pump.”
One of the most visually intriguing elements of Allen Gregory is James McDermott’s character design. McDermott, who also worked on King of the Hill and The Goode Family took Hill’s advice to make the characters (and Allen’s penthouse home) “like a page out of The New Yorker.” Indeed, the show’s characters look like they could comfortably inhabit one of the upscale magazine’s single panel cartoon gags. For the most part their compact facial features occupy the lower half of faces featuring oversized foreheads.
When asked if it was hard to make those tiny mouths and eyes expressive, Derriman says it really wasn’t a problem. “Actually, it was far more difficult on Bob’s Burgers, which had a very limited style as far as creating expressions. That show treated its characters like Muppets.