Before “The Head,” “Celebrity Deathmatch” or “Glenn Martin, DDS” I had no idea I would grow up to become a working animator. But I knew animation was something I had to try. Growing up, I was a latch key kid, often coming home to an empty house after school. My babysitters’ names were Popeye, Tom, Jerry, Bugs and Daffy. I was literally raised on those old school cartoons with their over the top slapstick violence and impeccable timing. They would leave an indelible mark on me.
Flash forward to 1987. I was a freshman at NYU Film School. I didn’t know much about the process of making an animated film, other than it took a long time and a lot of drawings. But I knew I was in the right place and I was excited to learn. I started thinking about the type of animated film I wanted to make. Many of my fellow students were experimenting with animation, creating beautiful and abstract works of art. I wanted to do more. I wanted to tell a complete story with my first film. Introduce and explore a compelling character in a world seldom seen -- ambitious stuff for a novice. What about tone? Those cartoons from my childhood were funny but my sensibilities were pushing me to a darker place. It should be violent, like those old Warner Bros. cartoons, but more grown up. Would that work in an animated film?
Confused, I went out with my college roommates to a midnight screening of an awful film called “Street Trash.” Before the feature there was an animated short called “Lupo The Butcher,” by Danny Antonucci. It was a sick, demented film about a butcher who accidentally cut off his fingers one by one before literally falling to pieces. There was blood, lots of it, and it was funny too, with Lupo running in and out of frame yelling in his bad Italian accent “I’m gonna dieeeeee!” I had never seen an animated film like this before.
I went into my stash of hand drawn comic books and pulled out something I had been recently working on – A post-apocalyptic action/adventure featuring an anti-hero named “Mutilator.”
The 4’x6’ comic was drawn on a notepad, all in pencil with a rough, uncompromised style. The drawings were crude as hell but they had an energy that I thought would translate well to animation. I presented the book to my professor and explained that I wanted “Mutilator” to become my first animated film. She looked it over and decided that the excessively violent tone of the book was “inappropriate.” That’s when I knew I was on to something.
I started animating, using the comic book as my storyboard and literally turning each panel into a layout for the dozens of scenes required. I spent the next two years drawing hundreds of frames, bringing the characters of my post-apocalyptic wasteland to life. I hand painted each and every cell. I completed the film, which screened at the NYU film festival in 1990 and received an award of excellence in animation. Not long after that, I sold the film to Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival. I received a check in the mail representing the licensing fee for “Mutilator.” For the first time someone was walling to actually pay me to do what I loved. I knew I wanted to pursue a career as an animator. I quickly got to work on my next animated film…”Mutilator II.”