Rochester's Animatus Studio has completed work on its latest short, SU AND MO: LOST IN ANIMATION, a Flash animated, SOUTH PARK-style story that parodies the festival circuit. The short tells the story of Su and Mo, the world's only lap-dancing wrestler/animators. Dancing at ClubHippendale's has finally provided the boys enough money to fund their independent film. After a turbulent production period, they journey to their native Japan for a premiere screening at the Tokyo Jokio film festival.
"Several things went wrong on [a film festival trip. We had trouble at customs. One of our animators had a film in the festival -- his picture in the program was printed upside down. We were subjected to an actual autopsy film at one of the screenings," relates Fred Armstrong, co-director of LOST IN ANIMATION and owner of Animatus Studio. "It wasn't a bad festival experience, but the mishaps were odd enough to inspire Fred and the other creators, Dave Puls and Bob Lyons. On the journey home, they conjured up a pair of sumo wrestlers who stumble through production on an animated film and have unusual problems at a festival screening."
"We weren't out to make fun of the Japanese -- If anything, we're an equal opportunity offender," says Mike Boas, animator and co-director. "I look at it like the classic Pepé Le Pew cartoons. They're funny not because they mock the French, but because they use clichés and the faux-French language in such an obvious way. We wanted to try for that tone, especially when the boys go to the Tokio Jokio film festival."
SU AND MO was initially going to be cut-out animation, shot on film. At the time of its inception, the artists at Animatus were learning Macromedia Flash. Two prequel Webisodes -- A NIGHT AT CLUB HIPPENDALE'S and O BROTHER, WHERE FART THOU? --set up the characters as popular exotic dancers, earning tip money to fund their films.
"Our initial understanding of Flash suggested that we should construct characters in like paper dolls. So our character design mimics cut-out paper: seams between joints were clearly visible, etc. We used replacement heads, hands and other body parts rather than doing traditional sequential drawings," Boas explains.
By the time the studio was ready to proceed with LOST IN ANIMATION, Armstrong had decided to do the piece digitally: "We had a great response to the first two episodes, and we had a staff that was familiar with Flash and After Effects. It made sense to keep the look consistent and utilize specific talents of our animators."
Boas add, "We knew this would be going to video and entry into festivals. Some of our artists were proficient in Flash, some in After Effects, so we combined forces to create something new. The final piece has camera moves, transitions and raster images that wouldn't be possible to include in a standard Flash cartoon."
Animatus is actively seeking distribution for its library of cartoons. With SU AND MO and other shorts, Animatus has more than 85 minutes worth of material, plus extras. An "Animatus Studio Collection" DVD release is expected in the next year.
Animatus Studio has been operating in Rochester, New York since 1989. The studio specializes in traditional animation for film and video, but also handles Web animation, 3D and 2D graphics, and video editing. For more information or to view a trailer of SU AND MO, visit www.AnimatusStudio.com.