Campbell MacKinlay, part 2

We’re back with the second half of the Cold, Hard Flash interview with Campbell MacKinlay, the Director/Writer of ‘Doodlez,’ the short-form series currently airing on TeleTOON in Canada and Nicktoons in the States. Let’s see what Campbell has to say about alternatives to Flash, his work with Harry Knowles and which artists make him want to start doodling.

AARON: Beyond Flash, what other software does your team use to create ‘Doodlez’?
We compile our shows in Final Cut Pro, and run the final product through After Effects where we add a very slight blur in order to take a little bit of the digital edge off of everything. We try to do anything we can in order to avoid the dreaded “Flashy-ness.”

But truly, the entire production would grind to a halt were it not for one piece of software: Tetris.

AARON: Do you and your team use Flash to create the ‘Doodlez’ animatics?
CAMPBELL: Yes. Our pipeline runs almost exclusively through Flash. We have created interconnected template files for storyboards, animatics and layouts, so that each can be automatically populated by copy-pasting common symbols (and accepting the replacement) from the previous step.

As one might imagine, timing is a really important issue for the show, and it is one that is revisited throughout the process. As we timed out the animatics, we would often add antics and settles, by squashing and stretching the storyboard poses, which would result in a further defined blueprint to follow.

Also on the issue of timing, during the first season we found that the animators had a tendency to overrun the 2-minute episode limit, so that we had to create a final step in which we would need to cut the show to time.

As a result, in the second season, I would time the shorts out to 1 minute 45 seconds, leaving the animators a bank of 10 seconds to withdraw from as they needed, and myself 5 seconds more to fill out the show when it was complete. Adding time is a pleasure, while cutting is a nightmare, especially when the pacing of the show has such a tendency to add congestion.

AARON: Have you considered using any other vector-based software to animate ‘Doodlez?’
CAMPBELL: I think that any animation studio that hopes to survive needs to constantly keep their eyes and ears open. At Trapeze, we try to consider every viable option for getting our work onscreen. We don’t want to be left behind the curve, because of an allegiance to specific software, if something else appears that is superior to it. To this end, we’ve had a few conversations with Toon Boom at various stages about what their software can accomplish.

Until recently, Toon Boom’s product has not been compelling enough for us to consider making the change from Flash. However, we’ve recently had a demonstration of the capabilities of its newest iteration, Harmony, and were VERY impressed. Some of the features of this software quite simply blew us away.

But currently, its cost per seat is absurdly prohibitive, so it seems that we’ll have to be pinning all our hopes on the long-anticipated release of 8-ball for the time being. Hopefully, Flash has been paying attention to what its competitors and other vector-based programs such as Moho and Expression3 have been doing, and do their best to integrate similar features into this new release. Flash artists have waited a long time for an upgrade that focuses on our needs, so I certainly hope it’s worth it.

AARON: What’s the story behind those animated GIFs you did for Ain’t It Cool News?
CAMPBELL: The story is that I liked the site, and thought I saw an opportunity to contribute something. So I cooked up a quick animation of Harry with the little secondary Alien mouth (from Alien) popping out of his mouth and snapping.

He dug it, so I kept doing them and he kept posting them. When I stopped doing them I had completed 182 of them, a bunch of random illustrations, bumpers for the aintitcooltv pilot, and two animated shorts that opened the Butt-Numb-A-Thon 2 and 3 film festivals. Since I stopped, he’s just been cycling through the existing ones (though 3 or 4 were submitted by other guys).

AARON: What animators and artists do you draw inspiration from?
CAMPBELL: Most closely connected to inspiring ‘Doodlez’ are the folks behind the ‘Looney Tunes,’ (especially Clampett and Avery) and the DePatie-Freleng ‘Pink Panther,’ Antonio Prohias for ‘Spy Vs. Spy,’ and ‘La Linea,’ aka the line-guy featured on ‘The Great Space Coaster’ which was created by Osvaldo Cavandoli.

AARON: What animated programs are on your watch list?
CAMPBELL: ‘PEEP and the Big Wide World!’ Man, that’s a good show. My one year-old daughter hipped me to this show, but don’t discount it based on its preschool credentials. It’s sweet and simple, but very funny, with characters that are super-appealing and somehow manage to seem immediately familiar without ripping off anybody. Also, unless I am VERY mistaken, it’s Flash. (Editor: It is.)

AARON: Do you follow any Flash-animated web-series?
CAMPBELL: Sadly, I don’t. But around the time Icebox went down, I became too busy to keep track of much and tuned out. But, as I am not above this sort of thing, I will take this as an opportunity to plug the webisodes at jinglebelle.com and the corner animation I did for aintitcoolnews.com both of which were created exclusively in Flash, and mostly before I had the even the most remote idea of how to use the thing.

AARON: What animated DVDs are you currently playing?
CAMPBELL: Tom & Jerry, Ren & Stimpy, Samurai Jack, and Porco Rosso.

Beyond DVD, I recently traded for a 16th generation-VHS-copy of the John K. run on Mighty Mouse, which I am digging in a big, bad way.

AARON: Thanks, Campbell. I really appreciate your thoughtful answers and your inspirational work on ‘Doodlez.’ Best of luck with the upcoming episodes!

One Comment

  1. Miyon Emorej October 19, 2006

    Great Post! So much info.
    I loved DOODLEZ when I watch it on Nick! =D
    It’s a really nice cartoon.. =D

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