No Boundaries: An Interview With Eric Radomski
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Ralph Bakshi’s Spicy City. © 1997 Home Box Office.

AA: HBO seems to be the ideal outlet for adult animation, and you had two pretty successful shows in Spawn and Spicy, so why is it that HBO Animation didn't survive?

ER: We hit a huge bump in the road when Catherine and I made a request to have a story editor come in on Spawn because no one was too happy with the scripts that were coming out, and what we inherited was some executive producer that came in from live-action, speaking back to our earlier conversation, and just proceeded to really dismantle everything we had built. And unfortunately, he had one HBO executive believe that he had a better way of doing things even though the show was already successful. Slowly things started to decline internally at HBO for our little unit, and by the end of it, I took my name off of the third season of six episodes because I refused to be associated with them and what was going on.

AA: What do you think of your time at HBO?

ER: I was absolutely under the impression that HBO Animation had arrived, and this was the place to be. We had even gotten to the point of development, and we had probably eight or ten titles that we had optioned from various sources -- underground comics, independent creators, etc. and there was a nice mix of material that we were going for which was very much adult. It took me a long time to get over that because I was so absolutely excited to be working in R-rated mode and being trusted to do things the way that I wanted to do them.

I'm speaking to you from Film Roman, but if I had an opportunity to work on another HBO show, I'd do it in a minute. I think they're a fantastic group to work with. Not only do they allow and trust you to do what you do, but they're really smart. They know good entertainment and it's so refreshing because a large part of the industry simply doesn't. That's why we have so much crap on television. You'd sit in a notes meeting with them, and actually come away with useful ideas. Typically you're looking at notes and going, "What the hell are they talking about?" It was a great experience, and inspiring if nothing else, because now I continue to work towards getting back to producing at the level that I had at HBO.

AA: You had a unique situation at HBO because you're working with Todd McFarlane, a creator inexperienced with animation, and Ralph Bakshi who probably knows too much about animation. As a producer, who did you find easier to work with?

ER: I would probably lean on the Todd side because it's a strong idea and he was absolutely supportive of pushing the envelope. He bought the art direction, he bought the drama. He had a commitment to making something that was different. He didn't want to do a typical show in any form. Out of lack of a better term, because of his ignorance, he was open to the process and able to allow us to produce something special.

Spawn battles the forces of evil on Earth -- and in himself. © 1996 Home Box Office.

Now conversely, with Ralph, he had absolute respect and trust for the talent involved. He basically handed it over and said, "This is your project, I'll tell you what I want, you guys go do it." That was great, but on the downside, HBO was very demanding about the content so scripts that came in early on from Ralph, not known for being a great storyteller, needed changes. And Ralph is not a guy that likes to compromise. If this is the way it's written, and you point out that it's not working, hope you get him on a good day because if you don't, you're going to hear about it. I think that's to be admired that the guy has survived in the industry for so long and done his films his way. But it's less likely that you're going to be allowed to make decisions the way you need to because it's somebody who's been through it and has a specific way of thinking about how animation should be produced.

AA: And what would be the downside to working with Todd?

ER: The fact that Todd didn't understand animation, had no experience with it, was a lot of work on my part as a producer to help him understand how things are produced and how to trust without seeing, because basically he wouldn't know anything until he saw it come back on film. He would have to trust me that the pause and slow moment there and the shot in black with just a little bit of light was going to speak volumes.


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