Superjail Super Interview
Superjail! While a pilot and episode one have already aired, the new Flash-animated Adult Swim series officially premieres this Sunday, Sept. 28, at 11:45 p.m. (ET, PT). The show, which was created by Christy Karacas, Stephen Warbrick and Ben Gruber, combines so much into one eye-popping soup; Superjail! merges Looney Tunes, Willy Wonka, Dr. Seuss, acid-trip psychedellica, raw-dog blood thirst with perhaps just a touch of Kubrick. The resulting hallucinatory collage is so unlike any other TV series in recent memory that it truly defies labeling. With that said, I’ll still try – Superjail! is simply “groundbreaking.” Here’s a clip from the episode title Superbar.
Bunny Love, at adultswim.com, you can view a whole mess of commentary videos as well. In one, the creators discuss how each episode will feature some all-out madness – a no holds barred fight scene. It’s a legacy from Christy and Stephen’s short Barfight, which is boils down to the biggest, longest, most insane bar fight in this or any other galaxy. We also know there’s 10 11-minute episodes in the first season (all of which have been delivered), and that every frame of animation was produced in Brooklyn at Augenblick Studios. It ranks right up there with Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and El Tigre as the most intense TV production ever attempted with Flash. Plus, Superjail! surely features the highest volume of “traditional” TV animation created on US soil in over a decade. That’s not what anyone would have predicted 10 years ago when Flash debuted as a fancy new tool that could make shapes dance on screen. It’s all the more impressive when you realize that Augenblick did it on an Adult Swim budget, which are known for being thrifty. You gotta hand it to the Augenblick team, who pulled off a real coup here.
Aaron was joined on the animation front by Chris Burns and Kristofer Wollinger, character layouts we handled by Christy Karacas and M. Wartella, while background layouts were delivered by Jeremy Jusay and Will Krause.
That’s about as much as we know, so let’s turn to the show creators to learn more. We’re first joined by Christy Karacas and Stephen Warbrick. Following that, we again meet with Aaron Augenblick, a producer and animation director on the series. Aaron joined us for a 2-part interview back in 2005.
AARON SIMPSON: Christy and Stephen – this psychedelic world is extremely unique and sadistically hysterical. How did the concept come about?
STEPHEN WARBRICK: We tried to come up with a show that was somewhat unique but also interesting… conceptually and visually.
CHRISTY KARACAS: Our buddy Dave Hughes showed Barfight to Adult Swim and they were psyched so they asked if we wanted to pitch something. Stephen and I then kicked around some ideas. I had an old pitch about a jail show but it was more like a reality show parody, and we were like, “eh, that’s boring.” What if it was the craziest most insane, dangerous jail ever created run by a psychopath who was more ‘supervillan’ than ‘superhero?’ And it all kind of came out of that. A Charlie’s Chocolate Factory that was a jail instead. Kind of like a kids show except but not for kids. I think the world itself happened because we all like fun, weird stuff.
CHRISTY: I was a BG designer on Daria and Steve was on Celebrity Deathmatch. We met there and did Barfight – which is how we got introduced to Adult Swim because they saw Barfight (which is hilarious because it got rejected from every festival we entered it into). Its funny because not only did me and Steve work at MTV, but Aaron Augenblick, George Fort (BG designer on Superjail!), and Tom Marsan (character layout on Superjail!) all worked at MTV too. NY animation is a small world – I’ve known all these people for almost 10 years.
SIMPSON: The Warden has been described as “a sadistic Willy Wonka.” Is the original Wilder film a favorite of yours?
STEPHEN: Like Christy said, even though Superjail! was produced in Flash, there is nothing “untraditional” about it. Each episode is completely hand drawn.
SIMPSON: Stephen – your production experience has included work in both 2D and CGI production (Beavis and Butthead, Celebrity Deathmatch, Daria, Ice Age 2, Horton Hears a Who). Does a particular medium help or hurt comedy, or is it simply another tool?
STEPHEN: No. I don’t think the medium hurts the comedy. I think the oversaturation and the retelling of the same story does.
Cheeseburger’s music be featured in future episodes?
CHRISTY: We might turn up again. You can also hear it for a second when Jackknife carjacks the car in the pilot.
SIMPSON: What illustrators, shows and animators inspired the look of Superjail!?
Gary Panter, Crumb, Sally Cruikshank, Mad Magazine, Vince Collins, Looney Tunes, the Fleischer brothers, Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, School House Rocks, Sesame Street, Itchy and Scratchy, kids art, Muppets, outsider art, underground comics add Pee Wee’s Playhouse!
SIMPSON: What animated TV do you both watch regularly?
STEPHEN: No too much. Some Simpsons and some South Park.
CHRISTY: I don’t really watch any animated shows regularly. My favorite things right now are Tim and Eric and I just saw Mike Grimshaw’s Quiet Please [not safe for work] which made my stomach hurt. I think the stuff I watch would be old Looney Tunes, weird stuff on YouTube and Popeye. I like anything that’s fun, gross, retarded, weird or awesome.
SIMPSON: Awesome. We now welcome Aaron Augenblick, founder of Augenblick Studios. Aaron, How did you and your studio first come to be involved with Superjail!?
AARON AUGENBLICK: We were working on Golden Age when Christy and Steve called me out of the blue. I met Christy years ago at a festival, and we were touring around with our thesis films after graduation; he was screening Space War and I was showing Midnight Carnival. Then in the late 90s, Christy, Steve and I all worked together at MTV Animation. Years later when they approached us, they had just been greenlit to make a pilot for Superjail! and were looking for a studio to produce it. I had always been a huge fan of Christy’s animation, so it was a very exciting project to take on. My regular Augenblick crew all jumped on the production. I had just worked on The Ten with David Wain and suggested him for the voice of the Warden, which ended up being great. So a lot of things fell into place in a short amount of time.
SIMPSON: When did Augenblick Studios start production on the series?
Drunky or Jared?
Yo Gabba Gabba‘s 2nd season?
AUGENBLICK: The people at Yo Gabba contacted me because they were fans of our work, especially Wonder Showzen. They asked us to do some cartoons for their show and it was really fun. They were super cool and let us do whatever we wanted.