IFC’s hit comedy series, Portlandia, has returned with the beloved Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein as their anthropomorphic rat personas. Bent Image Lab  and Director Rob Shaw resurrect Fred, Carrie and John Rat for season three of the series, whilst introducing us to a few new animated faces dotting the Portlandia landscape.
When audiences first met the rodents in Portlandia’s season two, the mischievous threesome tried to break into a non-packaging grocery store. This season the Portlandia creative team dreamed up an expanded storyline that includes multiple segments in two new episodes.
“This year we have a stand alone skit in one episode and three little skits in another episode,” says Shaw. “Those segments will be spaced throughout the episode so they have a real presence all the way through, which is really exciting!”
The new stories include a skit in which rat libel turns the rodents into revenge seeking DIY publishers and in another three part story arc where Carrie and Fred Rat search for a less gentrified hood to call home while anxiety stricken John interviews new roommates. The skits include a whole host of new creatures for the rats to interact with including stoner ants, a hipster owl and a scruffy old Warf rat.
“The ants are college stoners so we tried to use the stoner aesthetic,” says Shaw. “But I think the Warf Rat is going to be people’s favorite character because he’s so weird and funny and dirty. Fred did this British accent and this insane character comes out of it! It’s one of my favorite parts of the show.”
Another new character this season is the hipster owl. Sculpted out of foam, feathers and wire the owl also employs a cool fashion sense with red glasses, bow tie and a hipster hair cut. Splashes of red were blended throughout his feathers in order to give him more “pop” against the backdrop of the dark attic set. “I think the owl is one of our best puppets,” says Art Director Greg Arden. “He’s another character in Portlandia that’s a slave to fashion, with the wackiest hairdo and big glasses.”
A few Portlandia characters were added to the roommate candidates’ list including “Spyke Rat,” a nod to Armisen’s bike messenger character in the series, and “Lance Rat,” Brownstein’s greasy boyfriend in the show.
“I like the fact that the show takes all these little things that actually exist in Portland and dramatizes them,” says Bent Executive Director Ray Di Carlo. “But they all come from a kernel of an existing trait of the city, so it’s interesting to see.”
In addition to the rat segments Bent also produced another Portlandia stop motion segment called “Dolphin” in which Portland’s underwater inhabitants learn that plastic bags have been banned from the city. Also directed by Shaw, the sea creature puppets were created with a plush aesthetic as a nod to animated 80’s shows like Fraggle Rock. “I love having the Portlandia style dialogue with characters that are weird and cartoony looking and then having this human voice come out of them,” says Shaw.
“We get to do a lot of cool things on Portlandia,” says Di Carlo. “We produce the rat segments and pretty much all the animated segments that happen on the show, like creating talking tattoos and shattering Carrie as if she were a fallen iPhone.”
Though Bent produces various animated storylines and visual effects for Portlandia, their coup d’état are the adventures of Fred, Carrie and John Rat. Bent Producer Nate Baston worked closely with the Portlandia crew to meet their expectations of the rats “The confidence the Portlandia crew has given us has really helped us push through,” says Baston. “The producers and everyone there have been really great.”
“We love the rats and I couldn’t be happier with how these skits turned out,” says Shaw. “I think its better then last year, I think its funnier, the animation is better, the puppets got beefed up. Everything about it this season has really stepped up.”
The “Dolphin” segment aired in the January 25th episode of Portlandia; the rat’s DIY publishing segment aired on February 1st; and the rat’s search for a new home segments aired February 22nd on IFC.
Watch a behind-the-scenes video on the making of "Dolphin," below:
Source: Bent Image Lab