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Today we are speaking with comic book writer, artist and television art director Chris Callahan! His most recent comic book, RoboChuck, is available on comiXology. But for more information about him and his work, I spoke with him. Find out more in our interview below.
Me: You are a television art director. What does that job entail?
Chris Callahan: A number of things actually. Anything from set design to picking out plants and fruit for a commercial shoot. Primarily though, I work as designer, creating the graphic look of the show. This starts with selecting a show font and color palette, creating a logo, and designing a title sequence.
Me: What television shows or commercials have you worked on and what specifically did you do for them?
Callahan: I’ve worked on quite a few things over the years. My two most recent completed projects are a pilot for SyFy and a new show for Nat Geo WILD called Shear Madness. The SyFy pilot is a Talk Soup style show, and I created a bunch of onscreen comedy graphics for it. If you’ve ever seen The Daily Show or Colbert, there’s usually some parody animations that come up from time to time during the show. I created elements similar to those for this pilot. It was a lot of fun. My latest show was Shear Madness which will premiere on Nat Geo WILD on March 1st. I designed and created the opening title sequence for that one.
Me: What is your comic book, RoboChuck, about?
Callahan: The story takes place in a cartoon world where computer-generated characters are animation’s biggest stars, and the flat drawn characters are all but forgotten, living in a slum version of their once glamorous city. RoboChuck and his group of friends aim to change all of that and restore their town to its glory days.
Me: Who are some of the characters in RoboChuck?
Callahan: The main character of the comic is RoboChuck, who happens to be a computer-generated character, but one that loves traditional animated characters. He was raised in the slums by a pair of drawn toons and longs for the days when his city wasn’t in such disrepair. Standing in his way is the evil Piczar Corp. and their president, Don Masshurter. With their money and computers, they own every aspect of the world and will stop at nothing to keep control of it.
Me: Which characters do you prefer to use, computer-generated characters or flat drawn characters? What do think are the benefits and drawbacks you’ve come across when using either of them?
Callahan: Can I cheat and say that I like them both for different reasons? The good of working with CG characters is consistency. You’re never going to screw up and draw a character off-model. CGs do take a lot more development time initially, but once that’s done, you can basically just pose the character, find a camera angle, light them and it’s done. However, with a drawn character, you can get a lot more exaggerated expression and dynamic posing with less work. One way to think about it, when you create a CG character, you’re essentially creating a digital puppet. If you want the character’s knee to bend, you have to create a joint for that knee, then tell the computer how to move the character.
Now taking that a step further, if you want to recreate something like the classic Tex Avery wolf pose with his jaw hitting the floor and eye balls popping out of his head as a damsel walks by…all things being equal, it’s probably better to just draw that. To create a rig that would deform the character to that degree requires a lot of back-end hours of work and additional modeling. If given the choice in that situation, it would be much more fun for me to grab a pencil and start drawing some big cartoon eyes on a piece of paper.
Me: What inspired you to write RoboChuck?
Callahan: I’ve always loved animation. I lived on Looney Tunes as a kid. When CGI movies had started to really take over, and Katzenberg dropped his “traditional animation is likely a thing of the past” quote, I had this very simple comic strip idea of a drawn rabbit filling out an unemployment form and submitting it to a computer-generated character. While I certainly don’t hate CG movies (there are quite a few extremely good ones), I do sometimes feel nostalgic and a little bit sad at the loss of the American cell-animated feature film.
Me: Why did you decide to do the artwork for RoboChuck as well as the writing?
Callahan: RoboChuck originally started out as an animated short. The main character was actually the result of me playing around, learning how to model elements on a computer; work that I often do while creating show opens and elements as an art director. Since most of the look development was done and storyboarded when I decided to do it as a comic, it seemed natural to just handle that myself.
Me: Who is the target audience for RoboChuck?
Callahan: It’s an all-ages book. The characters and story lines are enjoyable for kids, while the humor and social satire will interest adults and cinephiles alike.
Me: Have you worked on any other comics before this?
Callahan: RoboChuck is my first comic.
Me: When and where can you get a copy of RoboChuck?
Callahan: Pleased to announce RoboChuck will be available on Comixology starting Wednesday the 22nd, and available in select comic book stores in the next couple weeks. Check our site for more information as it becomes available.