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Watch: Adult Swim SMALLS’ ‘High Moon Queen 03: Apology Tour’

An AWN exclusive - the third and final short of creators Violaine ‘Vee’ Briat and Samantha Gray’s ‘High Moon Queen’ trilogy finds their rather quirky and outlandish titular character in need of an apology tour to win back the hearts and money of the people of Manssin City after an innocent gets killed.

In an AWN exclusive, the folks at Adult Swim SMALLS have shared the third animated short in Violaine “Vee” Briat and Samantha Gray’s High Moon Queen trilogy, Apology Tour.

Launched in 2018, Adult Swim SMALLS is a development program aimed at discovering new talent by working with up-and-coming animators to unveil their new digital shorts on Adult Swim’s YouTube channel. A new short will roll out each Friday throughout 2024.

In Briat and Gray’s new short, which they wrote, directed and produced, High Moon Queen technically killed an innocent and must go on an apology tour to win back the hearts and money of the people of Manssin City.

Enjoy High Moon Queen 03: Apology Tour:

In High Moon Queen 01: Date Night, High Moon Queen and Cougara must fight the baddies in the city of Manssin in order for High Moon Queen to make it to her date with the love of her life.

And, in High Moon Queen 02: C-E-Whoa, High Moon Queen rushes to help Cougara clean up an emergency oil spill so she can get back to her date.

Head over to the Adult Swim SMALLS YouTube channel Fridays to catch the new releases and catch up on past SMALLS.

Briat, a director/writer/animation storyboard artist, works in animation by day and on their personal serialized webcomic at night, running on pixelated dreams and caffeine at 128 BPM. Find on Instagram:

Gray, a director/storyboard artist, is a content creator, spiritual seeker, and animation professional based in Southern California. She enjoys long walks on the beach, as long as she doesn't have to be at the beach. Find on Instagram:

The pair shared their thoughts on the series in a short interview with AWN.

Where did the idea come from?

Working in animation where we work so many long hours, it’s hard to find that balance between work and play. It’s that “I studied the blade” meme ha, ha. So, you end up favoring your career over your social life and then you end up with stunted people skills. So, we tried to cartoonify this into a nonexistent romantic life for our main character.

The limited animation captures some great signature poses and action highlights. What inspired the animation design and style?

For the animation and design overall, we wanted something to look cute, sexy and to be budget friendly. Animation-wise, we looked at a lot of limited animation on YouTube for reference, and of course, anime. We love to see a cute drawing or strong action pose held longer on screen rather than too much animation.

As far as design, we wanted to be closer to a Superjail! Than a typical primetime sitcom. We also wanted something sexier invoking 80’s nostalgia, and to use that to play with the expectations of how we expect a character like that to behave.

How “final” are your storyboards – how much do you riff in your final animation from what you’ve already boarded? Do you create an animatic first?

We tried to stay on model in storyboards, because we wanted to make sure that our foundation was strong, especially layouts. All of our key poses were set in boards to make it easier for our animators, but appreciatively, our animators had so much fun adding extra flair, life and pulling from their own different inspirations to their shots.

We did create animatics for two reasons: keep things in time (we didn’t wanna break past the 3 minutes so as to not overwork ourselves and the crew) and have the shots set to final timing before handing off to the animators. It’s also a great tool for our execs to give input and for us to lock as early as possible.

Main production tools?

For storyboards, thankfully we were able to use the industry standard, Storyboard Pro, but oooh boy, when it came to animation, we had to use multiple. When you hire freelance animators, you can’t expect them to all buy the same program, they have to use what they have. The three programs they used were Adobe Animate, Toon Boom Harmony, and TV Paint.

In the end we had two people doing compositing, using both Adobe and CAPCUT (shout out to free software ha, ha). All background painting was done in Clip Studio Paint. It’s an amazingly versatile software that comes in at $50… A STEAL!!!

And lastly for production, we did use Google Sheets. Absolute lifesaver to keep track of who’s animating what, when and how much. And finally, Discord, that’s how we kept in contact with everyone!

You both wear many hats on these shorts – which part of the production do you each like the most, and which would you be happy to let someone else handle?

Vee: I think I speak for the both of us when I say writing is so much fun. We both come from boards, and boards are SO MUCH WORK!!!!! So even if we had to rework episodes a lot (our episode springboards from our original Adult Swim pitch are NOTHING like the final episodes) cut lines etc; it’s probably the most fun you can have.

Speaking for myself, I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to boards. I’d love to let someone else handle it, but I would definitely want to note it up and keep a tight ship there. Things can pile up fast and become very costly if the boards are too loose or have unnecessary actions. Economy there is key. As far as background paint, I’m glad to let anybody take over ha, ha. It’s a lot of fun and I got to catch up on so many podcasts doing it, but it’s time consuming. Character designs I’m happy to hand over as well.

Sam: Agree with Vee. Writing was definitely one of the highlights. We spent so much time making each other laugh coming up with silly ideas, and if it made us laugh hard, I knew we had something worth keeping. It was also really fun to problem solve in a way we weren’t used to, because writing problems are so different from visual problems that we are used to solving in our day to day. It was also just nice to be able to write down our own ideas and see them come to life, when as a full-time board artist, you are usually interpreting and plussing up someone else’s vision. I honestly enjoyed most of the jobs we did, it’s always nice being able to hold multiple hats, but this was also my full-time job when we made it. If this got picked up with more shorts or a series, I would have to condense the 10 hats into maybe… three hats.

Are more shorts planned? Are you looking to migrate this to a full series?

We only had a deal for 3 episodes, and we took something like 6 months to complete them. So, if we were to get a pickup, unfortunately everyone would have to wait at least another 6 months ha, ha. We’d love to make this a full series (Hey, call us!!!!), we have so many dumb ideas about what kind of horrible men and women Astrea would be sent to kill and so many ways she can helplessly fail at finding love (or sex). In making these shorts, we’ve already come up with ideas to bring back the characters we introduced as possible recurring characters so those would all be exciting to explore.  We also have this really insane romantic interest, Feet Guy, that we bring up in Episode 1. We really fell in love with that guy, and we hope to bring him back. 

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.