First things first- I’m
not a native English speaker, I suck hard at grammar and some
additional things and -you know.. I’m a bit shaky articulating myself - read with this warning in mind and have fun!
Some time ago I happened
to catch an episode of Flapjack on TV. Each time I see it I get more
impressed by this show– each time it seems wilder and more vibrant
than the last time – just the finest breed of unpredictable. And
maaaan I love the location of this show. This filthy, moldy,
contagious harbor, isolated in the eye of the dead sea but containing
so much bursting life in its small belly. God I love the
possibilities of this place – its so fun how it expands and shrinks
according to the story, almost as if its it own independent
character, it’s silent but it moves and talks and reacts and
breathes. This makes it feel so much bigger and exiting – I could
gawk at this gorgeous art design forever, and I probably will, but I
got caught of guard and distracted by the the end credits for a
Well this explains a lot!
For the ones that might
not know him, Alex Kirwan is a artist doodling his path trough the
last 2/3 or so decades of commercial cartooning. His involvement in
animation isn’t limited to just one title but is pretty much
scattered around various fields of production, as far as I’m aware of
he’s done character design, story-boarding, layouts.. but what I
really wanna get at is his career as an art designer, because I think
he displays a kind of quality that hasn’t been done this well by
Although I’m writing this with the purpose to
praise Alex, I’m not entirely sure if I’m getting my information
from the right sources, I’m not even sure how much involvement he had
in Flapjack but he’s listed as an co art director (with the
wonderful Paula Spence driving it til the end of the series) for the
first few episodes soooooo I’m gonna milk it for the sake of
explaining my point of view. And of course remember that he is not
doing his job all alone and there are many many artist responsible for
the creation and quality of these, artist I highly recommend
looking into as well.
As far as we’re concerned
here is what’s Alex been art directing-
My Life as a Teenage Robot
Misadventures of Flapjack
Wander Over Yonder
You can see how varied the
styles are and which influences they descent from – he tackles some
of the most sophisticated and difficult graphic styles possible and
skillfully converts them into children animation. There is a lot of
sweaty work here, but also so much to give.
This is honestly the thing
I am most impressed by – the lightness and playfulness he can pull
out of these otherwise very intense and/or serious art-forms. The
worlds he draws seem so effortless and blissfully unaware of all the
difficult construction that is holding them together, making them
ready to fully embrace the cartoony world they’re set in. It is
interesting how he uses the most unnatural elements to make a world
seem more natural.
Another thing I’m deeply
fascinated with is his fearless use of color - this at a time where
BGs were drawn traditionally and wrong decisions couldn’t afford a do
over. Too much work.
Just look at it
He sense of colors is
something completely different than what we’re used to. Not only does
he extract a bold contrast between the characters and BGs he also
doesn’t shy away from using less pleasurable shades. With that I mean
that he fully embraces ‘uglier’’ tones- grays, browns, this weird
dirty yellow- and manages to combine them into appealing groups using
their disadvantage to either highlight some action or to convey a
Here we get introduced to
the most important value of his – designing BGs like writing a
We now saw that he uses
good effort and skill to create environments that feel enriching to
the plot and characters and uses every means he can to explore the
world he opened.
What makes him stand out
is his commitment to storytelling
Similar to my earlier
description where Flapjacks home was silently talking to us, so do
every of his other shows. The environments are responsive of the
actions taking place in front of them, completely aware of their
weird strange surroundings – this however, gives the viewer the
impression that what we see in the background is not just a picture
serving as a display of some location for the characters to stand on, but
that it’s a little part of a much bigger world the
characters are residing in. It gives the viewer a itch for more.
This doesn’t depend only
on the art, but it can grab our interest from a different angle.
His strong sense of
graphic simplicity and stylisation allows
to grow a good deal of characterization that is unique to its
situation, on the other site, the flat environments does not allow much
movement trough space. You can do a highly dynamic, detailed tracing
shot over mountains in Adventure time for instance, where the style
is much more grounded in mass, you can not do that in WOY.
Backgrounds of course are
just a layer of skin, a piece of multiple symbiosis’ of a much bigger
organism that is animation. The shows that are being mentioned here
are respectfully different, and the art adapts to their differences
while simultaneously being its own being with its own language.
Anyway, I wanted to do
this analysis to direct some attention to a artist that I think is
truly remarkable and was able to distribute a great experience trough
a medium that is difficult to handle- and I hope you’ve got some
happiness from it, I did.
Developing Dominator. Season 2 of Wander over Yonder ends tonight and I’m all nostalgic digging through my first assignment which was to help develop a “Greater Hater”. How about this for a job…Craig McCracken and Alex Kirwan sit you down and say we want you to come up with the “Michael Bay” version of Hater. Hater only way cooler and more extreme! GOOD GOD! What a way to kick off a job! Enjoy the Finale everyone!
Back at the end of Wander Season 1 and just as we were starting Season 2 we got word that the heads of XD were going to be meeting with Disney Consumer Products to talk to them about the possibility merchandising some of the XD shows.
Wanting to convince consumer products that there was a lot of potential in making stuff for Wander our Art Director, Alex Kirwan did these sketches as a visual aid to spark the conversation. Unfortunately nothing ever really happened in regards to Disney getting behind a Wander merchandise plan so these drawings are all we have to show what could have been.
Tonight’s episode of Wander Over Yonder features the first two cartoons I wrote for the season, “The Fremergency Fronfract” and “The Boy Wander”!
“Fremergency Fronfract” started from the place of “What if Hater got drunk and didn’t realize he was hanging out with Wander?” Of course, this being a kids show, we changed it to “What if Hater was still loopy from the dentist and Wander had to get him home?” The cartoon features one of my favorite musical moments of season 2, homages to two films I love dearly, and a very special cameo: immediately after I wrote this script, my daughter was born. As a surprise, Craig changed the name of the little girl in this ep to Olive in honor of her.
Back before boarding began, we had the distinct honor of having owner-of-wendys, Eddie Trigueros, Alex Kirwan, and a bunch of artists in the Writers’ Room with us to help break story. This always resulted in great visual story beats and some fantastic gags, including the above karaoke sketch which, sadly, did not make it into the episode, by indomitable Fremergency director/board artist Eddie Trigueros.
As for Boy Wander, we spent a full day and a half trying desperately to figure out a fish-out-of-water noir story where Wander was on a planet where he didn’t speak the language and was being chased by competing spies when he accidentally stole some microfilm. It was way too complicated and we were getting absolutely nowhere when Dave said “Why don’t you just do that stupid goofball villain thing you guys keep talking about?”
We figured out that entire story in an hour. When something works, it works.
The cartoon includes references to two of the best television shows in history, one of which will be very familiar to fans of crackmccraigen .
About half-way into writing the episode, I found out that we had secured Weird Al Yankovic for the role of Dr. Screwball Jones, and suddenly the writing became twice as hard. Weird Al has been one of my all-time heroes, so this had to be perfect. I wrote the lyrics to the tune of Al’s polka cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and, as he always does, noveltymusicservices completely overhauled the melody and made it one of my all time favorite villain songs. I mean, how could Wander face off against Weird Al and NOT have an epic banjo/accordion showdown? Also, any time a character sings exactly what’s happening (“Accordion!” “Banjo retort!” “String Break!”), you can thank the lyrical genius of Andy Bean.
On a side note, here’s the vocal direction we gave to Jack on playing Boy Wander: “You’re Wander as Christian Bale playing Adam West.”
To this day, I’m confident he has no idea what that means.
Developing Dominator’s Lava Bot Army. As Dominator was supposed to be the “Greater version of Hater” so her army was supposed to be the “Greater version of the Watchdogs”. Alex Kirwan came up with the idea for the “techno-lava” and had done a bunch initial ideas that I took and riffed on to come up with my first attempts on top. (I was always a little sad that they didn’t get to wear the bowler hats.)
In the SaveWOY flash drive I will be adding a small section about merchandise. I want to let Disney know if there is any interest in these products. If we are successful with #SaveWOY then you never know, more merch might be around the corner. Especially since they recently released WOY T-shirts on their personalisation shop. If people are willing to buy merch then Disney can possibly make money and we know they’ll listen when there is money involved.
Yes, you guessed it. It’s another survey but this time it’s just a small one. Let’s see how many people would like these products! It’ll only take a minute or less to fill out!
I love this cartoon so much, it proves time travel will not occur in my lifetime - because if it did, I would have gone back in time and high fived 14 year old me.
This is the cartoon I’ve been wanting to make since I was 14! You could say I’ve been collecting reference for 30 years.
Is that an SDF Macross helmet? Yes it is!
Does it fit? Hell yeah it fits!
This cartoon has comedy, action, giant robots! All my favorite things! Oh, and Dominator too!
Combine that with Sam Regals great script, @benbalistreri ‘s awesome designs, Janice Kubo’s amazing colors, @noveltymusicservices killer score Boulder Media’s PHENOMENAL animation and the image at the very top by Alex Kirwan, and I was in heaven.
I hope you enjoy watching it half as much as we enjoyed making it!
Artists: Adam Ansell, Alex Kirwan, Alyson Iwamoto, Amos,Angela Bennett, Asher McEvoy, Betso, Bill McEvoy, Billy Kheel, Billy Valdes, Blinky, Bob Motown, Brent Nolasco, Brian Ill, Bride One of Bride Campaign, Carol Powell, Cheri Ong, ChrisRWK, Cooper Kelly, Cori Keller, Daisuke Okamoto, Delphia, Donna Letterese, Douglas Alvarez, Downtimer, Elsy Mendez, Eric Brightwell, Frank Furlong, Frank Peak, Glenda Rolle, GMONIK, Gotham, Heatherlynn26, i4got, Iwarsumi Origami, Isabella McGrath, Jane Gotts, Jason Leung, Jeff Kelly, Jennifer Korsen, Jennifer Lewis, Jennifer Phiffer, Jesse Cordoza, Jessica Miranda, Joe Mackay, John Michael Gill, Jonathan Bueno, Jonathan Keiser, Jorge Ruano, Jose Lopes, Josh Taylor, Kayte Arnett, Kelly Thompson, Kim Bagwill, Kit Cameo, Leticia Lacey, Linda Tieu, Lisa Palmer, Lucy Kasofsky, Lou Pimentel, Marcos Yanagita, Mary Hoffman, Matt Adrian, Michael Reyes, Michael Thackson, Mildred, Misha, Modern Day Monster, Nancy Schier, Nataka Moya Moya, Natasha Kline, Nerd, Nick the Ring, Noel Ill, Norman Gray, Oscar Rosales, Pizzaface, Pork, Rosie One, Ryan Hungerford, Scom, Selina Phanara, Shawn Whisenant, Shellie Kvilvang, Silas McEvoy, Sissy, Slobl2b, Snow Mack, Soty Mae, Sprouts, Stephanie Unson, Steve Guerra, SuperSmashMax, Susanne Lewis, Terri Berman, Thom Glick, Tic-Money, Tom Oliver, Tony Federico, Vashte Johnson, Vera Paras, Weirdy, Yuki Miyazaki, and more.
Ran accross this on Alex Kirwan’s blog. His job was “creating character designs and special posing for Nickelodeon’s "The Mighty B!”“. I don’t know exactly why that show didn’t last very long, but of all the Nick shows I thought it was one of the best looking and funny ones. There were a lot of "Ren & Stimpy” qualities to the show which I loved. I guess the only thing I didn’t care for was the grating over-the-topness of Bessy’s voice. I don’t like any show when the acting revolves around hollering. But, on the whole I liked it a lot. Alex looks like the master of abstract action poses. I was pretty blown away by some of the crazy stuff on his blog; all that overlapping double, tripple…exposed action works quite well as you can see in this little clip. Check out his stuff here: http://alexkirwan.tumblr.com/
Even when I have to design a location that I’ve done a hundred times before (like a shopping mall, ugh!), the style of the show challenges me to find an interesting take on it from a design standpoint. That’s one of the great things about this gig!
These backgrounds are of the fortress planet Flendar. The Flendarians are rodent-like aliens who are very protective of their planet. Not sure why, but I think we discussed that they might be miners of a planet with some precious resource. Anyway, they are armed and dug in for the long haul. For the design of the fortress, I looked at a lot of Moebius stuff for inspiration. Originally, the Flendarians were dressed in top hats, but after I did the Moebius inspired design, Alex Kirwan and I decided that the signature Major Grubert pith helmet would more fit in with their character.