The rooms were bursting at the seams for animation favorites at the 2012 Comic Con International Convention. Response for Disney Channel’s “Fish Hooks” went swimmingly, crowds continue to clamor for Disney XD’s “Phineas and Ferb,” even the channel’s newest entry, “Tron: Uprising” had to turn fans away at the door. The creators of these three shows took time out from greeting throngs of fans to speak about their creations, their Comic Con connections, and interacting with their virtual doppelgangers in the multi-media universe.
Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh – Phineas and Ferb
Sharing a history as animators on “The Simpsons” and bearing credits such as directing episodes of “Family Guy” (Povenmire) and art directing episodes of “Aaarg! It’s the Mr. Hell Show!” (Marsh), this duo was surprised when Disney green lit their original concept featuring two young boys experiencing an endless summer vacation. Since premiering in 2007, “Phineas and Ferb” continues to rule the airwaves as well as being shown during NHL hockey games, turned into iPhone apps, and is currently being developed into a feature film. Its success continues to amaze both Povenmire and Marsh.
“This show has really exceeded our expectations,” said Povenmire. “Disney has been 100% behind us on everything. My hope is that we can continue doing episodes for the rest of our lives.”
In addition to overseeing the animation and writing the episodes, Povenmire and Marsh also collaborate on the music for the episodes. Scoring the show really allows them to flex their creative muscle. While the show has combined multiple musical genres per an episode since its inception, the team has found subgenres to incorporate, as well as branching into arenas such as opera and musical comedy.
“We’re combining so many genres within an episode it is crazy!” said Marsh.
The duo credits the success of the show to writing episodes that they enjoy, not necessarily catering to a specific age group. The result has generated content that is as appealing to a nine-year-old as it is to an adult.
“People come up to me and tell me that ‘Phineas and Ferb’ is considered family time in their house, it’s a show they all watch together,” said Povenmire. “It’s not just kids at our (Comic-Con) panel. It was really sad to see the room fill up and fans turned away.”
In addition to a feature, Povenmire and Marsh hope to iron out an agreement with Marvel that may create some cross-over potential for “Phineas and Ferb.” In the meantime, they’ve found it fun to create games for apps, not only lending their voices to characters within the game, but they also taunt players making less than stellar choices. Povenmire found it particularly disturbing to be teased by his virtual persona as he attempted to maneuver the game’s upper levels. Marsh, on the other hand, finds discomfort in fan’s apparel.
“There was a family wearing Perry the Platypus t-shirts at the beach, and their son had Perry underwear on,” said Marsh. “It was a little overwhelming, but it was cool.”
Noah Z. Jones – Fish Hooks
As Jones prepared to join the talent who lends vocal support to the adolescent fish that populate “Fish Hooks, he remained as mesmerized by the adoration of children and adults alike as he did during his first Comic Con visit last year.
“It was really amazing – the room was filled and during the signing we ran out of posters,” recalled Jones. “It’s great for fans to have the opportunity to connect to the people they love. It’s so rare and such a joy to see.”
Now heading into its third season, Jones is excited to be introducing some new characters and situations that will both challenge high school buddies Bea, Milo, and Oscar as well as encourage growth and maturity, such as a Prom episode. He’s also looking forward to simplifying the visual style and bringing it back to the bright tones and collage effects found in the first season.
“So much as evolved since the first show, we know what works now. The studio that is creating our animation has become more comfortable and familiar with the intricacies of the animation style and the characters,” said Jones. “In looking to simplify the style and bring it back to the way it was in the beginning we have been able to explore story lines that we weren’t expecting to explore in the beginning.“
Jones, an accomplished children’s book author and illustrator, continues to keep “lots of plates spinning.” When not exploring story lines that will let the “Fish Hooks” universe expand, he was working on the upcoming book “Duck, Duck, Moose” – a story that explores the turbulent relationship of a friendly group of teamwork-oriented ducks and their clumsy moose friend whose very nature creates chaos.
Charlie Bean – Tron: Uprising
Bean’s first Comic Con experience was several years ago when he was a writer and storyboard artist on the animated hit “Samurai Jack.” He was thrilled to be presenting a standing room only panel alongside “Tron: Uprising” actors including Elijah Wood, Tricia Helfer, Lance Henricksen and many others. Having developed a strong visual style on animated shows including “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Dexter’s Laboratory,” and “Samurai Jack,” Bean was excited to tackle an animated homage to the theatrical franchise.
“I saw it as a young kid, and the impact of that first film – the potential of a virtual world - was huge,” said Bean. “It’s really a challenge to create an animated series from a live action movie. We’re not looking for a new way to skin the cat: the choices really come from the material. Our visual style has to springboard from what was designed for the films.”
To help define the animated style, Bean reached out to art director Alberto Mielgo. The team’s greatest challenge was finding a means of capturing “Tron’s” signature motif, the use of light. Because “Tron’s” world is a world enveloped in permanent midnight, lighting runs through their clothing, the structures, their cars, and their weapons. Bean had an epiphany one day when he was passing by a shipping warehouse and saw the way light was reflecting off wet shipping containers. Working with Mielgo, the two created an animated depiction of the refraction that held up successfully in the animated cells.
Bean feels the team’s traditional 2D animation roots enhance the series which is created in a 3D program. Their process still begins with designs and storyboards that are hand drawn.
“Rob (Robert Valley, character designer) still does so much on paper, and Alberto does a lot within Photoshop, but he’s always trying to get the brushes to mimic real pencil,” said Bean. “I think our traditional background is a real benefit. In 2D you are constantly looking for cheats and ways to maintain the plain. We’re very attuned to shadows, everything that helps reinforce the depth of field.”
In addition to feeling incredibly proud of the style of “Tron: Uprising,” Bean is delighted with the cast who have committed to the show. As he began asking around, he found many actors were fans of the original and were excited to become involved.
“As I began talking about casting with different artists, my dream cast started to say ‘yes’ and we were able to build from there,” said Bean. “When that happens you have the confidence to ask the people you really want on board.”
To learn more about “Tron” and “Phineas and Ferb,” please visit:
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