Shake Your Bunny Maker, part 1

Most animated programs on TV are produced by relatively large teams. It’s not unusual for a program to have upwards of 75 people working in some capacity on a project. A cursory Google search turned up these facts: ‘Sitting Ducks,’ the 3D-animated show hosted 64 employees, while ‘Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi’ is created with a 40-person production crew.

Now imagine a crew of one.

That crew is Jennifer Shiman, and she is currently working with the cable network STARZ! to produce a series of 30-second spoofs of Hollywood movies, all reenacted by Flash-animated bunnies. ’30-Second Bunnies Theatre’ was already an internet sensation, drawing over 25,000 viewers a day, and then the Starz Entertainment Group came hopping along. Now Jennifer has moved up to the big time, without adding a big time crew.

It’s a testament to Jennifer’s well-rounded skills – she writes, storyboards, voices and animates each short from her home studio. The animation medium has always been inviting to auteurs who want to do it all, but with Flash the possibilities are even greater. With Flash’s low barrier to entry (cost and ease-of-use) and it’s penchant for low-bandwidth delivery, animators can do quick work and then quickly get it in front of a huge audience.

And that’s what Jennifer did. In the halcyon days of the dotcom boom, she was steadily working in Hollywood as a multimedia designer and animator, occasionally pitching a project or two around town and updating her website. Three years later, she pieced together a 30-second reenactment of ‘The Exorcist,’ and in place of Linda Blair and Max von Sydow, Jennifer inserted animated bunnies. And just like that, Jennifer had ushered a hot new show concept into the digital world without scheduling a single pitch meeting.

Since then, she’s been invited to the 2004 Ottawa International Animation Festival, where her ‘The Shining’ short took first place in the ‘Internet Series’ category; she’s been interviewed by G4 TV; the writers of ‘X2: X-Men United,’ Mike Dougherty and Dan Harris, chipped in voices in one of her shorts; her ‘Titanic’ spoof was screened on ‘Good Morning America’ and this same short is reportedly going to be included on the upcoming ‘Titanic’ Special Edition DVD this October; and of course, Jennifer landed her STARZ! TV deal. Not bad for 30-seconds.

Cold, Hard Flash recently passed on a set of questions to Jennifer, which, ironically, she answered with the help of a 60 person crew.

AARON SIMPSON: So you’re really a crew of one?
JENNIFER SHIMAN: I do everything from concept development to implementation, except additional voices (friends and cohorts help me out) and post-production, such as laying off the Flash-exported file to tape or film.

AARON: I’d guess there’s not another TV series on the air with such a small production team. Do you ever see a need to expand?
JENNIFER: I’m asking myself that question now. In various capacities I am going to need help soon, and I’m ruminating on how to go about getting it (and, where extra help will be most helpful).

AARON: Do you create animatics before you begin animating your ‘Bunnies’ shorts?
JENNIFER: No I don’t. I do run through a bunch of versions of thumbnail storyboards though. And by “thumbnail storyboard” I mean an indecipherable scrawl of half-notes, lists and pictures in my notebook.

AARON: As you animate new episodes, do you find any opportunities to re-use assets from previously animated ‘Bunnies’ shorts?
JENNIFER: Absolutely, I try to re-use assets whenever it makes sense. For instance, I have a library of bunny mouths and certain background elements such as clouds, light fixtures, doorknobs. These assets still need adapting, depending on e.g. the line thickness of the scene in which I use them. But they do save time.

AARON: Describe how you got the bunnies from inside the Flash program out onto tape and ready for TV?
JENNIFER: On my end, I work within a reticle/action-safe template that I found on Flickerlab.com’s great tutorial on using Flash for output to broadcast. AndrewProkos.com had great tips too. Then I export the .FLA movie to a hi-res Quicktime Video, which is usually 700-900MB in size (I work on a Macintosh, by the way). I compress the exported QT video using DropStuff and upload it via FTP to a server where the Starz people can download it, unstuff it and plop it into e.g. Final Cut Pro (I work at 15 frames per second, and they covert the frame rate and lay it off to tape over there).

AARON: Did you have to re-build any of your Flash assets in order to make your short films TV-ready?
JENNIFER: I did need to make adjustments, for example, I created a few of my first re-enactments at the Flash default size, 550 x 400 pixels. When Starz licensed those particular ones, they needed them sized at 720 x 486 pixels for their broadcast purposes. So I needed to place the entire re-enactment within a movieclip and resize it accordingly on a 720 x 486 stage (and adjust any animation to fit within action-safe boundaries). Then I had to make sure all movieclip instances of animation had been changed to graphic instances, so they’d appear animated when I exported to Quicktime video. Additionally, I had to be careful of the color palette I use, to avoid having colors appear shockingly bright on TV.

AARON: How did you celebrate when your ‘Bunnies’ shorts first aired on STARZ!?
JENNIFER: I whooped with glee! Then I sat down at the desk and got back to work.

AARON: Any chance we’ll start seeing ‘Bunnies’ merchandise on the shelves?
JENNIFER: I already have bunnies and other angryalien merchandise available via my website Â? I use the proceeds to offset bandwidth costs. Eventually I’d like to expand the merchandise offerings though.

AARON: Is it safe to say you’ve learned the intricacies of parody and fair use legprecedentent?
Indeed!

That’s it for the first part of the Cold, Hard Flash interview with Jennifer Shiman, the creator of ’30-Second Bunnies Theatre.’ Check back soon for part 2.

84 Comments

  1. Anonymous March 4, 2007

    From Puppy and Ally Cat,

    We want you to make a movie on norbit. Don’t make it say the f word or we wont be allowed to watch it. Also make one about ferris bluler’s day off and don’t make it say the f word too. P.S. We think you’re great!!!

  2. Anonymous March 4, 2007

    Ally Cat and I want to say that we think you are very cool. Make Some films on little man and white chicks.

    My dad doesn’t usually laugh alot and he died laughing at your films.Once again you are great.

  3. Anonymous March 5, 2007

    From Puppy,

    I want you to make something on a song. Not a movie, but a song. Make it on My humps, Fergalisous, Don’t Cha, and on thriiler. I think you are great and so are the bunnies.
    P.S. Puppy is not my real name. (like duh) P.S.S. my friends call me puppy. Make the bunnies sing and dance and sing like crazy!

  4. Anonymous March 5, 2007

    From puppy,

    My dad named bunny wants you to make a film on Dr. Stranglove. ( seriously I didn’t even know that was a maovie and I had not heard of it untill now.) P.S. You rock Jennifer Shiman!!! P.S.S. I went on Google Images and I put pictures on you on my screen saver.

  5. Anonymous March 8, 2007

    From Puppy,
    Make the bunnies be on a 30 second video of south park!

  6. Anonymous March 8, 2007

    From Puppy,

    Make a film on shoes on uTube. Whatch the real one. It’s very funny, but it says the f word about ten times when this girl tells Kelly that Kelly has fat feet. Kelly is a boy dressed up as a girl. Pu-leese make more bunnies films.

  7. Anonymous March 10, 2007

    From Puppy,

    My B-day party is today and I’m going to show all of my friends the bunnies films. ( Exept for the MA ones.) Jennifer Shiman, youare like so so so so so so so so so so cool!!!!!!!!

  8. Anonymous March 13, 2007

    From Puppy,
    Make films on Dr. Chopper, Silent Hill, She’s the man, Mean Girls, Sideways, Stranger than fiction, Thank you for smoking, Dr. Strangelove, Don’t tell mom the babysitter’s dead, and on Ferris Bueller’s day off,pretty pretty please with sugar on top!!!

    P.S. I’m only 10.

  9. Anonymous March 14, 2007

    Hey my sister is 11 and I am 15. She wants to know why some clips say the F word. For example, Office Space. She isn’t allowed to watch it because of ” The Word.” But she like totally loves Office Space. She is allowed to watch the ones that say other bad words, but not the F word. Jennifer, please try to make the films in the future that don’t say the F word. Okay?

  10. Anonymous March 15, 2007

    From Ducky and Puppy,

    Dear Jennifer,
    Make films on Blood Dimond, Saw, Black Snake Moan, and John Tucker Must Die. P.S. You like totally rock!!!

  11. Anonymous March 16, 2007

    From Puppy,

    I want you to make films on The Wizard Of Oz, Thank You For Smoking, John Tucker Must Die, Plains Trains And Automobiles, Sideways, Stranger Than Fiction, Stick It!, RV, Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead, Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events, and on Saw. Make ring tones for some of the songs at the end of some of the clips.

  12. Anonymous March 16, 2007

    I have a question. do the people in the real movie the Big Chill do the people really hump?

  13. Anonymous March 16, 2007

    From Poop and Butt,

    Make films on Sex in the City, Dr.Chopper, Dr.Dollitle, The Bench Warmers, How to Eat Fried Worms, The Simpsons Movie, and Little Miss Sunshine. Also do Mottor Hogs. P.S. Keep your poop in a jar. Hee Hee:) (Turn sideways the Clolen and the perenthisie is )

  14. Anonymous March 18, 2007

    Dear Jennifer,

    In each film, I think you should put weather the film is TV14 or MA.( It does that on Starz on Demand.)

  15. Anonymous March 18, 2007

    Dear Jennifer,

    4 each of the films, I think u should put a play button, a pause button, a fast foward button, and a rewind button.

  16. Anonymous March 18, 2007

    Dear Jennifer,

    4 each of the films, I think u should put a play button, a pause button, a fast foward button, and a rewind button.

  17. Anonymous March 19, 2007

    Dear Jennifer,

    My friend Symone just made a new website called http://www.1eydjax.com.
    You can post funny bunny there

  18. Anonymous March 21, 2007

    Make a clip on Weekend at Bernie’s Please.

  19. Anonymous March 21, 2007

    My friend Anna Maria just would love it if u made a quickie on her favorite movie called Don’t Tell Mom the Babbysitter’s dead.

  20. Anonymous March 21, 2007

    My friend has the same name as u Jennifer! ( only Shiman is not her last name.) She’d love it if u made a film on Father of the Bride 1 and 2. Go on her website to post Funny Bunny on there. It’s http://www.Jennifer111222.com. Kind of a wierd name. Don’t cha think so???

  21. Anonymous April 8, 2007

    From Puppy,

    My real name is not puppy, it is Scarlett. Ducky’s real name is Cassy. Kitty’s real name is Rey. Ally Cat’s real namee is Joel.

    Also do a film on Just my luck and mean girls. Thanks!!!

  22. Anonymous April 8, 2007

    Wee- Snaw. I’m a wee-hog. wee wee wee and a wee wee wee. whoa yeay! That was my little song. Go to my website named http://www.keepyourpoopinajar.com. Watch my wee-hog and wee-snaw videos and make your own crazy person. Have a great time on my site!

  23. Anonymous April 8, 2007

    Cat, I’m a kitty-cat, and I dance dance dance, and I dance dance dance. Cat, I’m a kitty-cat with a meow meow meow, and a meow meow moew. Cat, I’m a kitty-cat with a boo-bop-bee and a boo-bop-bop. Witch the kitty-cat dance on google video by typing in kitty cat.

  24. Anonymous April 9, 2007

    From Puppy,
    I have a friend named Spider. H er real name is Chloe. My cousin’s nickname is birdy, but her real name is Jess. I have another cousin named hog and his real name is Peter.

  25. Anonymous May 3, 2007

    Hi there I have a website called mycatlovesyou.com I Think your a…ANGEL BUNNY.IM YOUR BIGGEST FAN

    From,
    Mikote

  26. Anonymous May 3, 2007

    Make the bunnies do quickies on Moolan Rouge and on Saw. Yo hi bunny trophy online .com I am not sure if i spelled that movie name right. here are the people who sing the song lADY MARMALADE . Pink, Christina, Maya, Raquel. Wee Snaw horsies like chocolate cheese.

  27. Anonymous May 20, 2007

    Hi!

    I really like your videos! THEY ARE SO FUNNY!!! My friend told me about this site. We hope you ppl make more videos with Bunnies! We would like that very much! and we hope u guys have fun with making videos. Maybe you peoples can make a video out of the bunnies! Again, I love ur videos! I just love them so much!

  28. missick :) June 10, 2007

    The bunny videos are brilliant! Good luck with your future buntastic-ness!

  29. Anonymous June 23, 2007

    I think you should make a film on LA Story.

  30. Anonymous September 1, 2007

    I think there should be a funny bunny on The Simpsons Movie and Nanny Diaries.

  31. lol i love these bunnys!!!!!!! they r awesome i hope the bunny movies keep comming!!!

  32. pansygirl September 13, 2007

    make a funny bunny on the simpsons movie.

  33. Anonymous September 22, 2007

    Make a funny bunny on the simpsons movie and pushing daisies and good luck chuck and nanny diaries and shut up and sing and highschool musical 1&2.

  34. I LOVE THIS SONG SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>