Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Spooktacular New Adventures Of Casper

When I moved back to NY in early 1995, I had secured freelance work on a show with a new production outfit in Manhattan. It all sounded good in the beginning. Everyone was impressed with my work and credentials and couldn't wait for me to get going on the first storyboards. Then everything came crashing down. Nothing went right. Changes were ordered on almost every single panel; from just about everyone in the studio including assistants. I have no problem with revisions, but some of the changes were absolutely moronic. After a valiant attempt to please everyone, there was a second round of revisions on top of the revisions!
That storyboard which should have taken 3-4 weeks to complete was now taking 8+weeks to complete.
I stopped work on the show and told the production manager I was done. Although I was happy to be off that show, the sudden realization hit me; I had no work and virtually no prospects of future work. I called around to a bunch of studios and there was no work to be had. It was a scary moment. I began to doubt my decision to move back to NY, but miraculously, I soon found myself being offered series work from a good number of studios. First came a series offer from Hanna/Barbera, then another from Universal Cartoon studios and then there were other various freelance jobs. I grabbed all of them; I didn't turn anything down! The longest lasting of these jobs was offered by Alfred Gimeno who was Producer and Director of the new Casper show at Universal. I ended up storyboarding a whole bunch of episodes from 1995 through 1999. When I was young, one of my favorite cartoons was Casper The Friendly Ghost, so I thought it was a real kick to work on the new show!
To say that working on Casper was a breeze would be an understatement. It was a fun show to work on, with lots of opportunities to do a whole lot of funny business. The ghostly trio, with their obnoxious personalities were my favorites; lots of great character business! The problems that I had with the previous studio were practically non-existent on this show. All I remember from the experience was laughing a whole lot at some of the drawings I created. Of course there were changes; a few here and there, but basically what I boarded remained pretty much the same in the finished version on the small screen. The first few boards were really rough in nature and I was asked to draw cleaner. I can rattle off drawings pretty quickly and by slowing down a little bit I can actually get a good amount of info into the drawing. The boards presented here are actually still considered rough storyboards, drawn in Ebony Pencil that look clean. What I did was rough out each panel with a quick gesture of the action, then rubbed that down with a gum eraser and drew over it with a sharpened ebony pencil. That's probably why you don't see a whole lot of construction lines in the board pages posted here from 'Pen and Tell Her' (click on the images then click again to enlarge the pages). This enabled me to save time in clean ups later. One board that I did in this way went through without a single change! Alfred would later leave the show and a new director, Marija Maletic Dail took over. Pretty much it was business as usual although Marija had a few suggestions here and there with her take on the boarding.
Looking back at these drawings, it's definitely not my best work (hard to believe it's been 15 years since I drew them) but it's still better than the drawings done for the finished cartoon!There were lots of shortcuts taken (as the boards had to be done fairly fast) and some of the drawing seems a bit off. However, I think it captured the attitudes pretty well and it's cool to look at. We had a whole bunch of people working on this show from the Animaniacs and Tiny Toons crew including writers, voice people and animation artists. Overall, it was a pretty neat experience but looking at the end product left me a little non plussed. The cartoony expressions and attitudes were basically discarded by the overseas animation studio (obviously not knowing what to do with them!).
As I recall, there was a whole lot of frustration with the production being on a such tight budget.
The finished animation was extremely uneven at times, sometimes downright horrible, but that's what you get sometimes with overseas animation houses!


Spiritto said...

Hello there!

I came across this sample while googling for reference.

I am a big fan of the Casper series (I have "Pen and Tell her" in digital format, not an easy thing to find around)

I am Jordana and I am a fellow 2d artist. Me and my husband both work in the videogame industry, but we would like to migrate to TV animation. Since you freelanced for some fantastic studios, I wonder if you could give me some advice of how to enter into that particular circuit. I am well aware that it works by hiring "Intern" (the offers not shown publicly, and artist being called because they are already networked with the studio) but there must be a way in.

Spirit Storm said...

I'm unsure if my first. Comment went through so I'll repost this just in case.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this experience with us. As a HUUUUUUGE Casper fan of the 95 film and the 96 series, I can't tell you HOW GRATEFUL I am that you would share this. I had no clue that you worked on the Casper show, though I did watch your website for quite some time inspired by some of your Disney works. This is just icing on the cake.

Pen and Tell Her was a GREAT episode and you did A fantastic job capturing the Trio. They were personally my favorites as well because of their variety of expressions, pranks and personalities. Stinkie was/is my favorite though! XD

These storyboards are just FRIGGIN AMAZING to get to see! I'm a HUUUUUGE 95-96 collector and have searched high and low for storyboards like these! Willing to pay a pretty mint....<3....hrmn....if you ever would sell some I'd be willing to buy! ;) LOL!!

I can't help it the Casper movie and Series REALLY touched my life...and has been a HUGE part of say the LEAST....I lve it and will always love it.

Anyways, thank you for sharing and I hope you don't mind ut I'd love to add this to my Casper website "Whipstaff Manor". Would that be alright?

Brian Mitchell said...

Glad you liked the show and thanks for the kind comments!
Feel free to add this to your site, just add me as a link to return the favor! Send me your email address and I'll see what I can do about your request. Thanks again.

Brian Mitchell said...

Regarding getting into the industry.....
The portfolio is really everything...the better you can put the shapes together, the more in demand you'll be! My thing was getting that elusive muse called 'appeal' into my drawings. If the drawing has appeal, people want to look at it because it has a magnetic quality. But the drawings should also exhibit balance, perspective and a point of view.
A good drawing should make some sort of statement, meaning it should communicate something; the best are story telling drawings. Above all your drawings need to stand out above the rest. Remember, quality over's best to present 15 great drawings rather than 50 okay ones! Get a studio
Iist from the mpsc Hollywood and see who's hiring....then call the studios to see what they are looking for in a portfolio. Some of this info is online....above all....Persistence is the key! Good luck!