ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.04 - JULY 2000

A Rumpus On The Net
(continued from page 1)

Gus & Harry's Comedy Clubis a real hoot! © Rumpus.com.
Larry's Labis one of the many shows at Rumpus that make learning exciting. © Rumpus.com.

Turning Up The Noise
The vigorous growth of rumpus.com continued throughout the Fall with the addition of two more animation series based on other hugely popular characters from the toy line: The Gus and Harry Comedy Club,the first ever animated stand-up comedy show where kids can e-mail in jokes for the characters to perform; and Sally Satchel Sing-A-Long,a karaoke club for kids where they can pick a song to sing along with the animated Sally, and send in e-mail requests for future songs to be produced. On the live-action side, The Rumpus Road Rocketseries went on air last November, utilizing streaming video to let kids follow the live Rumpus Rocketeers accompanied by a costumed Monster in My Closet as they travel across the country on a psychedelic polka-dotted 'rocket' (whose sleek exterior covers a reborn 1985 Chevy school bus). Each episode includes a map to show kids where the Rocketeers are and a 'fun fact' surrounding the cities they explore. The latest in live-action offerings was the launch this February of Larry's Lab,the first Net program where kids can learn how to make their own toys from a real expert: Larry Schwarz, himself. Shot on a blue screen at Rumpus' Manhattan headquarters -- with three episodes currently on-line and new segments airing bi-monthly -- Larry's Labblends animation and live-action to help kids explore their own creativity while having a great time with objects found lying around the house. Overall, Schwarz encourages some type of interactivity in all Rumpus Web series, saying, "Our programming is very proactive, giving kids the opportunity to be participants rather than observers." He feels programming for the Internet should be approached very differently from traditionally passive television shows, but notes that from the kids' point-of-view, "They just want to have fun with it, whether interactively or simply being entertained by the story." He believes Rumpus succeeds in giving the audience a blend of both entertainment styles while echoing their goal "to make things that are compelling but also taking advantage of the format."

Herschel Hopper became the hare apparent in his movie debut, Herschel Hopper, New York Rabbit.© Rumpus.com.

Reel Time Racket
A major milestone on the Internet stage was marked this Easter Sunday 2000 when Rumpus premiered the animated Herschel Hopper, New York Rabbit!The 38-minute Flash animated movie -- the first Web original movie for kids -- stars a varied cast of voices including Jason Priestley, Brendan Sexton III, former NY Mayor Ed Koch and famed columnist Liz Smith. Based on characters and story by Schwarz, this property was also the first of its kind for Rumpus in that the development of the movie and Herschel's plush toy went hand-in-hand from the starting line. The audience response has been so positive that the studio is charging forward with two other movies and has plans for longer-format character specials (such as a 10-minute Halloween story featuring Monster In My Closet). The Day I Saved America, Rumpus' next full-length movie, is slated for a September 9th premiere and will star the voice talent of Amanda Bynes (from Nickelodeon's comedy The Amanda Show)as a little girl who saves America before George Washington is inaugurated. Schwarz, dedicated to getting this right for his audience, says, "It takes place in colonial times so we're going on location to Williamsburg to get the animators to do some drawings. That'll be fun." Also on the drawing boards is their third feature entitled The Red Bison,a 40-minute adventure tale scheduled for a Christmas time release.

By supplying her voice, Amanda Bynes of Nickelodeon's comedy The Amanda Showshould bring kids in droves to watch The Day I Saved America. © Rumpus.com.

FUNdation Rules
Underscoring their overall commitment to children and the ideas behind what entertainment can bring to their worlds, Schwarz organized the Rumpus Kids FUNdation, a charitable foundation dedicated to providing children and young adults with both human and financial support. By donating toys to various children's organizations and sending the Road Rocket troupe to dozens of hospitals, schools and charitable events, the company considers it not only an obligation but also a privilege to support and assist the children of their community. Building on FUNdation's belief in the importance of personal involvement, Rumpus has also adopted a formal in-house policy in which all Rumpus employees are required to take three FUNdays per year where they volunteer at a charity of their choice.

Professional Playmates
To shape this all-encompassing virtual world of programming, gaming and on-line shopping, Schwarz has gathered together a decidedly young-at-heart band of designers, writers, producers, directors and animators -- all thrilled to be part of a brave new medium. Beginning with only a handful of crew versed in entertainment production, the Rumpus gang has grown swiftly to a staff of around 38 -- with that number expected to double within the next month.

Vice president of entertainment Jeff Roda came to Rumpus after producing and developing independent films, as well as agenting at The Writers and Artists Agency in New York. Joining Schwarz in January of 1999, Roda says, "I thought it was really a great place to build a studio -- a real entertainment entity -- from a completely different angle than where I was before." Instead of targeting traditional broadcast programming based on their toys, he cites: "We really decided that the Internet was the way we wanted to go because it gave us the platform to do our own stuff in-house... create a network where we were totally self-sufficient and 100% in control of our character and creative properties." Roda is terrifically proud of Rumpus' Davey & Goliath progress in an Internet field now populated by mega-corporations pouring millions of dollars into their sites. Judging from the feedback they receive, he feels they've succeeded in solidifying valuable Web territory by "building, in a short period of time, a reputation of quality and consistency" surrounding their brand.

© Rumpus.com.

Sean Lahey, one of the earliest Rumpus pioneers and now its creative director, has been with Schwarz since the spring of 1998. After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design with a Bachelors in Film and Animation, Lahey was an assistant to film director Gus Van Sant, and worked film production in Boston before moving to New York to illustrate book covers and logo imprints for publishing giant Simon & Schuster. His first jobs with Rumpus included early box designs (which have been lauded for being as playable as other people's toys), ad layout, branding design and character development. Lahey has been ignited by Schwarz' creative drive, saying, "Larry is unbelievable how much he can come in with. The simplest idea can have a huge back story before it's even a sketch... it's really easy for us to go tap into what he's done and make something really cool out of it." In the process now of completing a style guide to help plunge all new recruits into the broad-stroked, thick black line of Rumpus' retro-hip '50s technique, Lahey feels, "The biggest challenge for me has been the company's growth." He's confident about their upcoming slate, though, saying, "We have a very quick learning curve here at Rumpus." His eagerness in leading the swelling artistic crew is palpable. He believes, "It's going to become a really neat, well-oiled children's on-line machine."

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