li The art of Gruesomestein's Monsters

Friday, September 30, 2005

Rough posing.

Sometimes Flash can really look like crap...especially if you try to make the character comp do things that it is not designed to do. So, on Gruesomestein's, we posed out the episodes like crazy. It was the only way to get what we wanted out of the characters. At first, Riccardo and I were hesitant about using Flash because of the stigma it had and because neither of us were very familiar with the program what so ever (Riccardo had never used it before, and I basically knew how to paint in it, so we had to learn, fast). We originally wanted to send it overseas but were concerned about that as well because we didn't have an enormous budget to pay a really good overseas studio (mind you Steve Daye sent his "Manly Bee" overseas and it looked great!). In hind sight, for quality control, as well as being able to tweek things very easily, Flash was definitely the way to go. In order to keep the show dynamic, and looking as traditional as possible, we did tons of poses for the animation that were all traditionally drawn, inked, scanned, and trace bitmapped. The Flash libraries ended up being huge, but I think that the animators appreciated it. These are just some of the various poses from the 6 episodes. Witchy from "Russell's Tussle"
A cop from "Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Jerk"

Doctor from "The Worst Date"
Gus from "A Wolf in Geek's Clothing"

Mr. Jerk from "Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Jerk"

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Thanks to everyone for all the positive feedback so far! This is the first of many final BG's that will be posted. All of the backgrounds were designed by Riccardo, and the awesome Ian Hastings was our art director for the series...not to mention he actually painted every BG himself, aside from "Russell's Tussle" where we were lucky to get Don Gauthier to paint a few. This particular background is Gus' house (the werewolf boy) from "A Wolf in Geek's Clothing".

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Characters and music

This is how the characters ended up looking from each episode. The clean up was done by the best clean up artist in the world...Mike Tymochko.
We really wanted to make sure that each episode had it's own feel...from the characters, to the backgrounds, to the animation timing, to the music, all bound together by the same sense of humour. We were lucky enough to get Scott Buscis, the greatest music man in the world to do our music. He switched up the music from episode to episode so nicely. It definitely gave each episode it's own feel. He edited the shows as well, which really helped the music match well with the cutting.

For "A Wolf in Geek's Clothing" the episode was set in a 50's theme, mainly because the '50's seem to be synonomous with werewolf stories ("I was a Teenage Werewolf" being one). We tried to rip off old 50's ads for the character designs and colours, and Scott came up with some pretty swingin' retro tunes. We wanted to exploit as much from the 50's music as we could...rock n' roll, doo wop, r 'n' b, and Scott pulled it off authentically.
We wanted "The Worst Date" to play like an old black and white monster we did it and white. The timing of this episode is completely unlike all the others. We wanted the main character, James (who is meeting his dates 'father' for the first time), to feel really uncomfortable, so we set the pacing excrutiatingly slow. There is no score for this episode either. It's all atmospheric. To make things extra odd and creepy, Scott came up with some old operatic scratchy music that plays on a gramaphone throughout the entire episode.
For "Freddie and the Yeti", which takes place in the middle of the woods in the winter, we kept all the backgrounds really cold. No warm colours at all. Then we put Freddie and his Dad in the hottest colours possible to make them stick out like sore thumbs, showing that they really don't belong there. Scott referred to Stanley Kubricks "The Shining" for musical inspiration...really ominous and slow, with oboes and violins. Kids love "The Shining"!
In "Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Jerk" we wanted the colours a little more drab to play like an old train robbery movie (the episode takes place on a train and features a bank robber). We got Scott to score it as if he was playing a tack piano while watching a silent movie, like they used to do in film houses back in the good ol' days.

We wanted the Witchy shows to be very candy like, playing upon the gingerbread house theme. The colours in this episode tend to be the most colourful in the series. The music in this episode tends to be more playful as well, helping to make it more 'storybooky'.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More concepts!!!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Chicago International Children's Film festival!

We are honoured to find out that "Gruesomestein's Monsters: Russell's Tussle" has been accepted for final competition at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival!!! Other funpak shorts; Harold Rosenbaum, Rotting hills, and Coolman have been accepted as well. Congrats y'all!

Thanks Cartoon Brew!

For mentioning our blog on your site right "here"! Those guys keep the animation world connected!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Concept designs

Nelvana originally produced 5 Gruesomestein shorts. However, later on in production it was realized that there was still a 5 minute spot to fill in the "Fun Pak" program, so they asked us if we wanted to do another episode. We each did a back flip, and then made a sixth episode as well.

The episodes were as follows:

Home Sweet Home:
Witchy Wart Witchelson, a recovering child eating witch begins a new life in the suburbs only to find that her new gingerbread house is infested with pesky candy munching kids.

Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Jerk:
A brutish bank robber on the lam, hops a train for a quick getaway and shares the car with an unsuspecting little doctor who unleashes his own form of justice.

Freddie and the Yeti:
On their yearly outting, little Freddie and his Dad venture into the deep and snowy woods where they encounter a psychotic ranger hell bent on ridding his forest of the notorious beast, The Yeti.

The Worst Date:

Our hero James is in for the blind date of his life when he is 'dissected' by his date's father who happens to be a mad scientist in search for the perfect brain

A Wolf in Geek's Clothing:

Gus is the happiest geek in school. After a day of torment and ridicule from his peers, his raging hormones run wild transforming him into a blood thirsty werewolf in search of revenge.

Russell's Tussle (the return of Witchy):

When Witchy meets the love her life in a wizard named Baldy Beardo, things go awry for her pet...thing "Russell" when he bumps heads with Baldy's no good pet Owl, "Rudy".

These sketches are various concepts from all of these episodes.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Pitch Package images...

These were the images that we did for the pitch package back in probobly 2001 or 2002. I did the characters and Riccardo did the awesome backgrounds for them. In later posts you'll see that we really tried to maintain the essence of these designs as they evolved. We wanted these characters to be funny and silly looking, but then have them trying to be truly scary. That way, the scarier they tried to be, the more ridiculous they would look.

All images are copyright Nelvana.

The Gruesomestein back story...

Well...for the first entry, I find it only fitting to post the first Monster's designs. I actually liked these versions. At the time I drew these characters, I was trying hard to rip off Tales of the Wizard of Oz which Riccardo and I were both crazy about. However, the character designs evolved quite a bit for the show, but it was needed in order to do the things to them that we wanted to do. It differs depending on who you ask, but I say I came up with the seed idea for the show, and Ric says that he came up with the seed idea, so I guess we'll never really know. But what is certain is that we both love Monsters, Classic cartoons, and have a very similar sense of humour. The original idea of for the show was that there was this great big book called "Gruesomestein's Monsters" that was written by millionaire embalmer R.M. Gruesomestein. The book was compiled of all these odd and eery stories that he had collected as he collected bodies during his many years of embalming. Gruesomestein himself, as gloomy as he was, made it a point to read the stories to the kids in the neighbourhood everyday (those who dared to listen anyway). But he is now retired, and this disturbing story time is now the chore of his servant Uncle Wadsworth (he is the guy in the top left corner of the image above). Wadsworth is like a really screwed up Mr. Rogers. Of all of Wadsworths many horrid chores at the Gruesomestein mansion, the one chore he hates the most is reading the book to the kids. So essentially, each episode (if it were a half hour series...wishful thinking) Wadsworth would read the book to the kids - the kids being us, the audience. He would start the story and then dissolve into the actual short. You never knew what story he would tell and this is what we liked most about the concept. One story would be about Witchy, the next would be about Ghosty or Me bones. Then we could revisit these characters in different stories and scenarios. Unfortunately the Uncle Wadsworth bit had to be dropped on order to keep with the indiviual 5 minute short format of "Fun Pak". Sorry for being long winded. I'll shut up now. I just figured you should know the back story...