Exclusive Interview : Chris Prynoski from Titmouse Inc.

5 Jun

Chris Prynoski of Titmouse

Here is an interview I did with Chris Prynoski (CP) of Titmouse Studios (Metalocalypse, Superjail, Freaknik, etc). My questions are preceded by “ATVS“.

ATVS: Hi Chris!

Firstly, thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview! I’m truly honored, as I’ve been a huge fan of what your studio has released (Metalocalypse, Freaknik, etc.)

I read that you worked in New York and at MTV with Daria and other shows right after college, and that you’ve always doodled in classes. Have you always had a passion for animation/cartoons/art, even when very young?

CP: Yep. I love cartoons. I think the doodling in classes and whatnot is common to every single person I’ve worked with in animation. There are so many post it sketches after every meeting we have at Titmouse, I don’t know what to do with them. Sometimes I fight the post its with my bare fists. Sometimes I have to use lasers.

I did work in New York after I graduated in the mid-nineties. Mostly at MTV. I started on Beavis and Butt-Head during the 4th season in the storyboard department, and eventually directed the hallucination sequence in Beavis and Butt-Head do America. I also worked on 2 season of The Head and directed on the first season of Daria. I created a show called Downtown and moved to LA after the first season was finished. It took me a year before I realized I lived in LA and wasn’t just on vacation.

ATVS: How and when was Titmouse started?

CP: I was directing cartoons for Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network and I thought it would be fun to start a t-shirt company on the side. My wife Shannon and I started a company, made some shirts, and set up a website to sell them. Titmouse sounded like a good, stupid name for a t-shirt shop.

When I got freelance gig doing the animation for the movie Freddy Got Fingered, they asked me the name of my production company. I said a was just a dude. They said they couldn’t hire a dude, so I showed them the paperwork for Titmouse and it checked out. After that we ran all my freelance through that company and we eventually grew into a real animation studio. We now have over 200 employees making cartoons! Besides forcing me to start an animation studio, the best thing that happened to me on that movie was Rip Torn jamming my drawings up his asshole. True story!

ATVS: From the Titmouse portfolio, it looks like you do a pretty good mix of commercial work, music videos, and the TV shows too. What are the main shows/projects that are currently being produced?

CP: Right now we’re in production on seven TV series, a bunch of pilots, some video game content, commercials and shorts. I can’t talk about all of them. Here’s a little cross section: Metalocalypse season 4, Superjail! season 2, Venture Bros season 5. New shows include Black Dynamite and China, IL. Besides the Adult Swim stuff we are also currently in production on gigs for Disney, MTV, Sesame Street, various video game companies and we just finished a Cocoa Puffs commercial. I also just finished eating a bowl of Cocoa Puffs.

ATVS: Everything is done in-house there? Even voice-over work, etc.?

CP: It varies from show to show. We have a studio in Los Angeles and one in New York. In LA we have a full sound booth and post production facility. In New York we work with other folks. On all of our shows we do writing through animatic internally – including design, color, storyboard, etc. Then some projects we animate in house and others we ship to studios in Korea, Canada, Ireland and Nepal. Then we do editing and post. We usually do the final sound mix at an outside facility. We do most of the voice over work in LA at our studio. Tommy Blacha developed the voice for Murderface by doing a scene where he was supposed to be eating baked beans in the second episode. We all realized that was IT! THAT was the character! So we went back and re-recorded his voice in the first episode. It’s harder to do that stuff when you don’t have a booth in house.

ATVS: About how long does it take to make an TV episode, start to finish?

CP: Every show is different. It depends on the style, the budget and when the network needs it to be finished. Also, sometimes you get an order of six 11 minute episodes and sometimes you get an order of fifty two 11 minute episodes. Usually it’s somewhere between 6-9 months to produce an episode, but many are being made at the same time. The fastest season we produced was 20 half hours of DJ and the Fro for MTV. We started writing in February and had aired all 20 episodes by June. I don’t recommend that kind of schedule.

ATVS: What show is the most fun to make?

CP: They’re all fun in their own way. Recently, Freaknik and Superjail have been great because we had the freedom to go really batty with them. Adult Swim is great because they really let us go insane.

ATVS: What is your personal favorite TV show to watch that is currently on the air – cartoon or otherwise?

CP: Wow! I like a lot of shows. I play a lot of video games too. It’s tough to nail it down to a favorite. I like to watch are Adventure Time, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and I have to say I actually watch our current season of Superjail! I’m really proud of our animators for making that show so crazy you can watch it twelve times in a row and always see something new.

ATVS: What is your personal favorite TV show of ALL TIME?

CP: Man, that’s tough. Maybe Chris Elliot’s Get A Life. It has the surreal tone of a cartoon, even though it’s a live action show. It was way ahead of it’s time. Actually, my studio’s name was influenced by an episode of Get A Life. It’s the one where Chris eats toxic waste and gets really smart and starts entering spelling bees. When he is asked to spell the word “titmouse” he can’t stop giggling.

ATVS: What would you be doing if not making cartoons?

CP: I’d probably be doing wiring diagrams. In the early days, before we could afford to hire tech folks, I was the network engineer and admin at Titmouse in addition to my creative duties. I kind of dig it. Either that or a homeless guy, drawing pictures in my sketchbook for money.

ATVS: Any advice for aspiring animators/show creators?

CP: Do what YOU want to do, not what you think will sell. If you are doing what you love, it will come through on screen. That’s what separates the good shows from the great shows.

ATVS: Thanks again for taking the time, GREAT interview!

(Chris can be found on Twitter and the official Titmouse site is Titmouse.net.)

-Jake, Animated TV Shows

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