Bernard Derriman, part 2
A few days ago, the first half of the Cold, Hard Flash interview with Bernard Derriman was posted. Now we’re back with part 2. In this half, we dive into the world of ‘Arj and Poopy,’ the hit web series that recently won a major animation award…
AARON SIMPSON: Congratulations on the Net Surfers award at Annecy for ‘Long Distance Relationship.’ Did you fly over to France for the ceremony?
BERNARD DERRIMAN: Thanks heaps. I was in Annecy for the full week which was great – I also had a film clip (music video) in competition called ‘Everyone else has had more sex than me.’ I wasn’t expecting anything so it was a real buzz to get the award.
AARON: How did you team up with your ‘Arj and Poopy’ partner, Arj Barker?
BERNARD: I had seen him do stand up here in Sydney, and I thought he was the funniest comedian I had seen live. I came up with the idea of animating him, so I went to his site and downloaded one of his skits, took the sound file and made a little cartoon around it. I sent it to him and he loved it, so the next time he came out (he is based in California) we got together, created Poopy and recorded a whole bunch of episodes. You can see that first short here.
AARON: How has your animation process changed since the first ‘Arj and Poopy’ episode?
BERNARD: The episodes have become more elaborate, the most elaborate being ‘Unlucky in Love’ which had a lot of animation in it. I’m trying now to put out more episodes more frequently, and in order to do that I’ll aim to keep the animation a little simpler. But as far as the actual process is concerned, I do them now the same way I always have – the only difference being I’m able to reuse more and more stuff – rarely do I have to draw a new mouth for instance.
AARON: What can you tell us about the next ‘Arj and Poopy’ episode, ‘Yoga’?
BERNARD: Yoga is going to be a fun one, as it has a lot of Arj jokes throughout – not necessarily building to the one punch line like the earlier episodes. I think it will be one of the funnier ones for sure. But before that comes out I will be creating a little teaser for an all new character to ‘Arj and Poopy,’ which should be out soon…
AARON: Do you storyboard the ‘Arj and Poopy’ episodes before you record?
BERNARD: No, which is one of the fun things about doing this series. When we record, 90% of the time the situations don’t exist at all, so when it comes to animating one of the recorded jokes, I have the freedom to create any situation I like – I can have them talking on the beach, on the moon, or as in the latest episode, trainspotting in the country.
AARON: Have you considered releasing the ‘Arj and Poopy’ shorts on DVD?
BERNARD: Definitely, and that will happen eventually, but I want to get a lot more material before we do. I have been filming recording sessions, which would be a DVD extra at some stage, and I’d love to get together with Arj for some commentary. So maybe in another years time – I just need time to do some more episodes!
AARON: How did you find out about the TISM music video contest for their song ‘Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me?’
BERNARD: A good friend of mine told me about it, and I had always wanted to animate a film clip, so this was my chance.
AARON: How long did it take you to animate the TISM video?
BERNARD: I found out about the competition 3 weeks before the deadline, so that’s how long it took me to do it, ‘after hours’: a couple of hours in the evening, couple in the morning before work, and a few days on the weekends.
AARON: Between ‘Arj and Poopy’ and the TISM video, which project would you say has a bigger internet profile?
BERNARD: Definitely the TISM video. I originally submitted it to an online category of a little animation festival in Australia, and it screened on their site for a while, didn’t win, and then I forgot about it. But someone saw it, loaded it up on their website, then someone else took it from that website, and then the next minute it was all over the place. I’m just fortunate I put my name on the front, otherwise no one would ever know who had done it!
AARON: Your shorts employ a high drawing count, but you’re still leaning on re-use a bit. What’s the best way to achieve a full-animation look while still employing a stock method?
BERNARD: I try not to draw too much, and rely on quickly getting characters into strong poses. Having settling cushions after an action really gives simple animation a full animation feel – a good example is the whiskers on the bunny cushioning to a stop every time he moves – it’s a little thing but it doesn’t make those sharp movements of the bunny look so abrupt.
AARON: When you’re building your Flash character models, do you build the various eye and mouth symbols into the head symbol?
BERNARD: Not really, I just do them all on their own levels – and the only time I will combine them all is when I have to move the head around. But when it comes to technical stuff don’t listen to me – I’m sure there are heaps of easier ways to do it!
AARON: Do you sketch out new character designs, and then scan them in to the computer, or are you drawing straight into the computer?
BERNARD: I am always sketching character designs everywhere, but for anything on screen I draw straight into the computer using a Wacom tablet – I don’t own a scanner.
AARON: How do you balance your time between work and your personal animation projects?
BERNARD: It is tough, as work can be pretty hectic sometimes, and the last thing you feel like doing when you get home is go into the office and start animating again. The only time I seem to get things done lately is when I give myself a deadline. As a result I end up going berserk as the deadline approaches. To meet the deadline I set for myself for ‘Unlucky in Love,’ I was doing 2 hours in the morning, working all day at Disney, coming home and then working on it until early the next morning. That deadline nearly killed me.
AARON: You and Arj produced a live action short. Can you tell us more about this project?
BERNARD: How did you find out about that one?! I came up with an idea for a live action short film and got Arj on board as the star, and filmed it in a bar with about 100 friends as extras. It was a great learning experience (code for ‘it turned out a piece of shit’) but Arj was very funny in it, and it was great fun to do.
AARON: Are you working on any new personal projects – new series or shorts?
BERNARD: I am currently developing an animated series for television, and I hope to animate a short pilot for it later in the year. Other than that it’s all ‘Arj and Poopy!’
AARON: What animators and character designers have had the biggest influence on you?
BERNARD: I grew up watching the Warner Bros. cartoons, and when I look back at all my favourites as a kid I realise most of them were by Chuck Jones, so I’d have to say he is a big influence. Another big one would be Jim Henson and ‘The Muppet Show.’
AARON: What animated DVDs have you purchased recently?
BERNARD: I recently got a bunch of Miyazakis, part of the prize for the TISM clip, including ‘Castle in the Sky’ which is my favourite Miyazaki. I also got ‘The Incredibles’ which of course is awesome – the bonus Jack-Jack short was classic.
AARON: Do you regularly watch any Flash animated web series?
BERNARD: Not really, except ‘Brackenwood’ – but Adam puts out episodes less frequently than I do!
AARON: Your latest Arj and Poopy movie ‘Unlucky in Love’ has a very definite ‘Brackenwood’ feel to it. Are you getting more than just good conversation out of your weekly coffees with Adam Phillips?
BERNARD: He loves to think that, the little bastard!
AARON: I apologize for that last one. It was Adam’s idea. Thanks for the interview, Bernard, and best of luck with the next installment of ‘Arj and Poopy.’ Now get some sleep, for crying out loud!