Xavier: Renegade Angel Interview With Animator M. Wartella

M. Wartella, an illustrator, comic artist and animator, has worked on several Flash-animated TV series, including Wonder Showzen and Superjail! His recent gig, however, found him creating storyboards for the CG Adult Swim show Xavier: Renegade Angel. For an upcoming episode, the show creators, Vernon Chatman and John Lee, invited him to bring a sequence to life in 2D.

The episode, titled Damnesia Vu, premieres Thursday, March 19th (tomorrow!) at 12:15 am ET/PT. Below we ask him a few questions about the production, and his response includes a video tutorial detailing his one-man-band process. But first, here’s a :25 second clip from the 2:00 minute sequence he animated.

AARON SIMPSON: When did you produce this segment?

“Quantum Leaping” into different lives, sort of a reincarnation theme, and they had the idea that it would be a cool twist for Xavier, a CGI character, to jump into a flat 2D world. They wrote the script, and we just kind of developed it back and forth from there.

WARTELLA: We actually ended up doing two different levels of animatics. The first pass was storyboarding the entire episode. I’d never worked on a CGI show before, so I was curious to see how my animatics would translate into CGI. But the animation house, Cinematico, did a great job and really took the basic boards and added some great 3D flourishes. The next step was going back in and doing a second animatic for just my 2D segment. The second animatic was even more detailed, and here the timing and action were finessed in even greater detail. I’d basically go frame-by-frame through each version with John and Vernon, and sometimes new ideas would come out right there and we’d work them in. Von Daniken‘s Gods From Outer Space and Landsburg’s In Search of Ancient Mysteries, so I had a few other references on my bookshelves. There’s a touch of Egyptian hieroglyphics in there, too. So it was basically comparing all these different images and then applying that look and color palette to my character designs. John and Vernon had this idea that Aztec art kind of looked like Looney Tunes stuff, so I think that was also an inspiration for the segment.

discussion boards over on Adult Swim and you’d be surprised how much people pick up on. Personally, I believe that they aren’t nearly as nihilistic as a lot of people think, and that there is what David Lynch calls an “all-pervading happiness” that underlies their writing. But that’s something you’d have to ask them.

SIMPSON: How did the Cintiq change your process?


  1. I totally hate that show. But that 2d sequence was very nice. I love Aztec culture the art is so beautifully graphic.

  2. Great funny stuff Mike! Love the fast action and meaty chunks.
    Cant wait ta see more. Kudos

  3. hey,
    love the interview, sequence and especially the making of. exactly my workflow. :) very funny sequence.

  4. Dude, Love the show it hits on so many different levels. I have to watch it like five times to get all the subtleties to shakespeare and semantics and radness that are incorporated in the show. I almost see it as a mind puzzle syphoning off the stuff that is supposed to throw you off and the stuff you are supposed to pick up on. The aztec sequence was the best. Regular TV is just no the same!

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