The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on September 19, 1993 · Page 155
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 155

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, September 19, 1993
Page 155
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Animators feel free with 'Rocko' Rocko's Modern Life: 11:30 a.m.-noon and 6-6:30 p.m. Sundays beginning today, Nickelodeon. By CHRISTOPHER GESSEL Los Angeles Times Daily News LOS ANGELES Just inside the entrance of a button-down glass and brick office building in suburban Studio City is the tape outline of a body, a sight usually associated with a crime scene. It's not the figure of a victim, but of a cartoon wallaby named Rocko. There's nothing dead about this animation studio as teams of artists create Rocko's Modem Life, a half-hour show that makes its debut today on the Nickelodeon cable television channel. "Manically relaxed," creator and producer Joe Murray calls the atmosphere. It's an apt description of a workplace where yelling and shouting, thrashing music and casual clothes take the place of intercoms, Muzak and full Windsor ties. Flexing creative muscles Part of the reason for such a working environment stems from the fact that Murray and Nickelodeon the company making the series have given the directors and storyboard artists wide latitude in the creation of individual episodes. Instead of a finished script, the animators usually get a three-page outline, which requires they come up with most of the gags and dialogue. "When they can flex their muscles in that environment amazing things can happen," Murray said. 'There's a show being produced that everyone would like to watch." Rocko's Modern Life is in the style of the old Warner Bros, cartoons: A visually driven show heavy on humor, sight gags and good animation. Rocko is on his own for the first time, living in a place called O-town sort of an Anyplace, U.S.A. "The concept of the series is making the transition from child to adult," Murray said. "We take something we're familiar with and really stretch it." In the pilot, a simple chore such as taking out the trash Rocko's Modern Life stars a wallaby named Rocko (center), who attempts to tidy up his life with no help from his sidekick, Heffer (left), or his dog, Spunky (in vacuum cleaner). becomes a battle for survival as well as possession of a slimy piece of mold. "Because Rocko's so visual, we felt the animation directors would do better by actually drawing the story on the story-board," executive producer Mary Harrington said. It's an approach the animators relish. Storyboard artist Jeff Myers used to work on The Simpsons, a popular animated show that relies heavily on scripted stories. "The script . . . was carved in stone," Myers said. "Here it's ... more of a challenge and a lot more fun when we're given a rough outline," he said. Myers and director Tim Berglund make up one of four creative teams. Berglund, who used to make animated commercials, showed a current outline covered with red pencil marks. "We have a conflict and we must figure how to get him out of it and be funny," he said. But the show's writers aren't maligned. "If we get stuck we'll call the writers in and say 'Help!' " Myers said. Many of the animators were wary of taking on the role of artist and writer. "When a lot of guys started they felt a little bit inhibited," Harrington said. "They were great artists but they felt, 'Can I do this?' " Berglund said that he was nervous about his first episode, called Carnival Knowledge, which featured a toxic chemical toss and the oil spill ride. " Now he's more confident. "You get your chops down," he said. Control over changes Making changes is another area where the animators have exerted considerable control. "You can fight here for all the gags and bits," director Jeff Marsh said. "You can actually talk to the people who will approve it and get them to understand what you're trying to do." That's not the case at other companies, Perry Kiefer said. "It started off fun but the bigger it got the less creativity we were allowed," he said of his work at another studio. After the storyboards are approved, they are sent for voice, color and animation direction. For reasons of cost, the h actual filmed animation is pro- m duced overseas. It's the same for many other animated TV 2 shows. S Rocko will join Nickelode- o on's animated lineup that in- eludes Ren & Stimpy, Rugrats $ and Doug. H It's part of the animation revival that's been growing in recent years, analysts said. W

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