What’s Even Better Than a Dick Figures Episode? A Dick Figures Movie!
DS: Your show is a shining example of the new breed of animated webisodes that take great advantage of viral social media communication. How much has audience commentary and the “vibe” from social media played a part in the show’s development?
ES: We definitely pay a lot of attention to that. We read the comments, go through all the pages and interact on Twitter. We look at fan art that’s posted on Tumblr and deviantART and try to pay attention to how they’re feeling and what they enjoy most about the show. We definitely take that into consideration when we’re writing episodes. A lot of the ideas and characters come out of whatever is on our minds at the time, but the things the audience loves the most, we want to use to fill in as much as we can. It’s like a tip of the hat on our part to the fans that enjoy the heck out of the show.
ZK: It depends. Whenever we’re coming up with ideas for the show, it always just starts as Ed and I coming up with the simplest, funniest idea possible. For the pilot, I was thinking, “What if one character just spoke in Auto-Tune?” And Ed was like, “What if he swallowed a bee and it made him speak this way?” I’m like, “Okay let’s see what kind of fun we can have with that!” You could definitely see us exploring that in the first season. What should they do? What if he wants to go into outer space, or do time travel and see dinosaurs? We just had really simple concepts that we used for plots and then tried to make funny and keep to a 2 ½ minute time span. The charm for the show really is the simplicity of it.
DS: Are there any comedic duos or buddy-buddy films you look to for inspiration?
ES: I think we look to each other mostly. We definitely love all kinds of comedy. We’re around so many funny, unique individuals all the time we certainly draw inspiration from a lot of them for the characters in the show. Red and Blue are very much Ed and I in the way they speak, in their mannerisms. The other characters in the show come from comedy that we’ve been exposed to and the many influences in our lives. One of the things that make Dick Figures unique is that they have a very different blend of humor. It just feels like two friends, bantering back and forth because that’s how Ed and I make fun of each other. A lot of the humor stems from us.
DS: It’s the essence of buddy-buddy humor. I have a friend from college and the two of us, in a text message or email, will say things to each other that are so horrible, so vicious, without the slightest concern for propriety. Anybody accidentally privy to our vitriol would be terribly offended and seriously insulted. I’ve got many years on you, so I can attest to the fact that it only gets better as you get older and more crotchety. It only gets funnier.
ES: I can’t wait
DS: Tell me about the Kickstarter campaign and the feature film. I understand it started as a 30-minute special but expanded based on the success of the campaign.
ES: We saw a lot of comments popping up all the time saying either this should be a TV show or it should be a movie. Zack and I have never really leaned towards TV. We’ve always loved feature film. We both thought to ourselves we should make a movie. Kickstarter had begun to take off. Double Fine raised a whopping three or four million dollars, so we were very inspired that a tiny little indie studio could really pull off something huge like that. The reason for a half hour special was after running the numbers at Six Point, trying figure out how big a project we could do, we came up with half an hour. But after the Kickstarter campaign closed, we had so much support and so much enthusiasm from the fans, it seemed a shame to ramp up the production and then only do a half hour show. So we decided to do the whole thing. Through Mondo Media, which has about a million and a half subscribers, we have a big bullhorn to tell our fans what we’re working on.
ZK: So for the 5th episode of Season Four, we released The First Day of Cool, which is about how Red and Blue meet and first becomes friends. We didn’t tell any of our fans about it, but at the very end of the episode, it announced you’d just watched the first five minutes of Dick Figures: The Movie and it pushed everybody over to Kickstarter. For the next five episodes, we continued adding stuff about the movie, throwing up pictures of the progress, doing “making ofs”, really starting to build fan awareness of the movie.
ES: After the Kickstarter campaign finished and we had time to catch our breath, we realized we’d raised more than we’d hoped and after reorganizing the budget, we figured we could totally do a feature. We’ve been cranking away ever since.
DS: Tell me about the dynamic and the challenges taking a production based on little comedic shorts and expanding that into a feature film? You can’t just stitch together a bunch of shorts here. This is a very different animal.
ZK: As I mentioned, all the episodes are very short and based on one specific idea. We’re lucky in that the show has always been about Red and Blue’s friendship and how it was only natural to make a movie about their friendship and how it changes. Not just how they became friends, but how that friendship evolves. We knew that was going to be the emotional core of the story. We put that into place and then built from there. We wanted to go on this grand adventure around the world, building action, adventure and comedic pieces while at the same giving our characters and ideas more time to breathe.
We’ve been doing Dick Figures for two and half years now. Ed and I have written a bunch of feature scripts. That’s what we were trained in at USC. We’ve always been itching to do a feature. We have a bunch of animated film ideas that have been sitting around waiting for us and Dick Figures just happened to be the first. It was pretty easy to write. The characters come from who we are and what make us laugh. We made fun of each other for a couple weeks, wrote it back and forth.
DS: Has the feature been more enjoyable than the episodic work?
ES: There are definitely pros and cons. For the shorts, things are fast and stupid and mostly inconsequential. We can kill the characters at the end. It doesn’t matter. We can do whatever we want. But at the same time, with the movie, we gave things more time to breath and actually have a nice conclusion, writing larger arcs for our characters to explore their world, really figuring out what makes these two tick. That has been very satisfying, to finally sink our teeth into something deeper.
ZK: It’s going to be interesting. We have been setting up this world for several years and in the movie, we bring most of the characters back. We’re able to pay off a lot of stuff we’ve been setting up in the show. In a few episodes where we just mentioned minor things, those end of becoming big parts of the movie. We get to see characters change.