Chris P On Titmouse Migration

The west coast Titmouse has migrated eastward. To Manhattan, in fact. opened a second office in 2010, initially to take a crack at Superjail! season 2. The TriBeCa-based shop has since taken on a bunch of commercials and TV series gigs, often working in concert with the Hollywood team. It’s a busy time for Shannon and Chris P, but not too busy to answer some questions for us about bi-coastal business, studio rivalries and bringing jobs back home:

AARON SIMPSON: Why did you decide to open a NY studio?
CHRIS P: Really, it was an easy decision to make. I came up in NY. I went to SVA and worked primarily at MTV in the mid-to-late nineties. I always thought I’d work in New York or at least be bi-coastal – a concept I’d recently given up on. I had resigned myself to a life in LA. When Shannon and I got the call from Adult Swim that they were interested in Titmouse starting a studio in NY, we jumped at the chance.
AS: What projects have been moving thru the NY pipe?
CP: In addition to short form stuff, we’re doing a pretty good amount of TV series work. Currently, we’re working on Metalocalypse, Superjail!, The Venture Brothers and Motorcity in the NY studio. We’ve also done some video game and commercial work. We pretty much just love making cartoons.

AS: Do some Titmouse projects involve artists and staff from both studios – bi-coastal production?
CP: Absolutely! We really like to think of the NY and LA studios as one super-brain-art-entity. We send work back and forth all the time. Sometimes one coast will do pre-production and the other will do production. Other times we’ll work on all aspects of the production in both studios. cineSync. It allows us to do bi-coastal dailies in sync without dropping frames (most of the time). The production management pretty much runs on Filemaker. Ben Kalina over here is awesome at figuring out tracking and pipeline stuff. He programs scripts and shit! Crazy! And we’ve had some custom plug-ins written for Flash that seem to help out a bit. It depends on the artist and their personal work preferences. Hooray for computers! Another technology we use at both studios is the kegerator – it keeps the beer at a drinkable 36 degrees.

AS: What’s the biggest struggle operating on two coasts?
CP: It’s just been corporate culture stuff. I wish I could be in New York more. It’s tough to give the same kind of face-to-face encouragement across a Skype call. We have a really talented crew of both experienced folks I know from my 10 years living in NY and brand new talent, right out of school. I wish I could spend more time getting to know the new folks. I mostly interact with the NY crew during dailies for 30 minutes, every other day, on a computer screen. It’s amazing and cool that this technology even exists, but nothing beats being in the same room. I thank my lucky stars for Kayla and PeeDee. Without them it would all fall apart – and it would be a lot less fun!

Last year we were able to do our annual 5 Second Day of independent animation at both studios on the same day. That was one of the studio culture events that translated really well. Every year, we shut down the studio for a day and everyone makes their own cartoon – whatever they want. Then we screen them the next day. We plan to do it again this year. We’ve been doing it in LA for the past 4 years. It’s one of the ways we select artists for our independent shorts program. We hope to produce some of our future short films with our NY animator/directors.

AS: Any rivalries emerging between the two studios?
CP: I think of it as healthy competition. Animators want to animate. Nobody wants to have the shittiest scene in dailies. I think the two studios push each other to do better work. If you see a scene that inspires you in dailies, you try to inspire someone else at the next one. Artists want to impress other artists! The artists have even started their own Titmouse studio blog where both coasts contribute beautiful drawings of some very crude subject matter. Maybe there’s a rivalry about who can illustrate the best dick joke.

AS: What trends are you seeing in the US animation industry?

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