Fanboy and Chum Chum: Breaking the TV CG Mold
ER: It actually took a little while. It took about a year. There were so many shorts in the making — 39 all together. That's a lot to digest as far as the network to look at and see if they really want to do this and if they do it which of all these are they going to do. So I'm sure it took them quite a while to take them into consideration.
One of the many things that I was really proud of was it was the first time I considered doing something on my own in CG. I had worked and developed CG prior to that for about five years, but that was with different companies like Disney and Mike Young Prods. I had done a lot of CG work. In the process of learning the techniques of CG animation, I learned a lot of the pros and the cons. I just cataloged a lot of the things I really liked and felt that really worked. So when it came time to do these shorts, I originally was going to do Fanboy and Chum Chum as a 2D cartoon because that's what I started with, all I knew was 2D. I was kind of learning CG and it's kind of interesting and I kind of like that, but I didn't think that CG was up to par yet to do squash and stretch and my goal was to do squash and stretch animation. But then I got together with the right guys and they said, "We can do squash and stretch animation in CG. If we rig these things right we can actually make these things happen."
The last thing I had seen come out of Nickelodeon was Jimmy Neutron, but it didn't have squash and stretch elements that I wanted for this kind of show. But I said, "I'm going to give it a try." I said, "If I want it to stand out from the 38 other cartoons that were being made here at Frederator then I had to try something different. Try to pioneer something." It was a very tough choice and I'm sure it still is, because a lot of people are use to seeing CG for features but they're not comfortable with TV yet. And that's what I want to do, I want to break that mold with this series and say, "We can do squash and stretch and have fun with these kinds of characters in CG as well." And that's something I definitely think we've accomplished with the show.
RD: Who is doing the CG? Is it done at Nickelodeon? Is it being prepped here and then sent overseas?
ER: Yeah, it's actually an amazing process we have here at Nickelodeon. I'm really proud of the work that is being done here. What Mark Taylor has done over here is set up a pre-production studio here in-house in Burbank. What we're doing is all the pre-production here in-house and everything that is being done in 2D. We basically have two floors that are committed to doing the Fanboy work. We have one floor that does all the 2D work and the second floor does all the CG work. And the amazing thing about that is that I literally go from one of my character designers who does work in 2D and then it goes down to one of the modelers and I can oversee everything throughout the entire process of it all. Once it's done here, the animation itself is sent overseas. Now we do have a few key animators that are here in-house, as well, to set up a few of the scenes, we do some of the layout here, and we actually do walk cycles and some of the pre-animation so the people overseas know exactly how these characters are supposed to act and react to things.
RD: What part of the series are you focusing on? Are you boarding episodes? Are you doing scripts? Are you directing?
ER: In the past 15 years of animation, I've covered all my bases. I basically touched every part of this production. From boarding to directing to design. I mean I have my key guys who are handling the brunt of the work, but I definitely get my fingers in all of it.
RD: What would you say are some of your influences for this show?