Many years ago while spending my summer vacations @ the French Loire Valley I had the opportunity to meet one of those beings that make our world a bit miserable. A young convinced creationist girl (don’t know from which specific opinion though) who would noisily & publicly laugh at me when suggesting the possibility that we were a result of great apes’ evolution. I’ll always remember her big laugh @ Tour’s Rue du Commerce, and feeling stupid for not sharing her inspiring beliefs…
… I guess I should have payed more attention to the Book of Genesis being a kid instead of waisting my time most afternoons with those nature documentaries aired on public TV (with which I had wonderful siestas on my couch I must admit).
That was over a decade ago, when “La 2” public TV channel still had a decent rating and kids would join straight after school (and after those “Great Documentaries”) for their respective dose of animated steroids.
Things have changed a lot since then, National Geographic or Discovery programs still make it everyday at 14:30 & 16:00 but the contemporary substitutes of He-man, Thundercats or Sesame Street have now moved to their very own channel … the wonders of DTT.
Docu-animation could have been a perfect substitute for those afternoon slots rather than forcing all kids (biggest % of La 2 viewers up to that moment) move. What about those youngsters who loved watching the lion pride savage killings just before a bit of animated educational action? Well here’s a perfect mix (and opportunity) for the Spanish 2nd public channel (or any) to gain back a bit of that momentum… Guillermo Garcia Carsi has come up with a “hopeless” hotchpotch that perfectly fusions the scientific thoroughness of a BBC investigative nature report with the absurd abstraction of a kid animated product. Is it feasible to merge these 2 worlds? Let’s find out.
aqnb: How are you doing Guillermo? Did you used to take a nap while watching those “La 2 documentaries” straight after school … or were you hypnotized by the hyenas nervous laughter?
GGC: hehe, I actually did, I took good naps with those docs, but I also managed to fully watch a few.
For those of you not knowing who Mr Carsi is, Guillermo happens to be one of the few creatives & Spanish animators (remember Headless team?) with enough international critical-acclaim to be able to continue experimenting with new formats & concepts. It seems that bit by bit the Spanish animation industrial tissue from the late 80s – 90s is regenerating itself with this new “ideas” generation.
After 2 seasons with Zinkia & the pre-school animated hit “Pocoyó” Guillermo has decided to try luck by opening his very own “EL Señor Studio” along with his sister Beatriz (and Lucas of course).
aqnb: Doomed looks to be predestined to succeed. Which level of scientific thoroughness & creative nonsense does it contain?
GGC: Let’s say 50-50. The fun thing about “Doomed” is that rigorous scientific appearance mixed with absurdity. Those creatures are studied and analyzed as if they were real animals, that’s why we’re calling it the first “Biological cartoon”. Everything is done as if you were watching a National Geographic documentary but conceived from the cartoon perspective while trying to make you laugh.
aqnb: one of the several unique aspects (and differentiating features) of Pocoyó was its minimalist animation approach: 0 backgrounds, 0 baroque, focusing on very few characters per sequence… which “unique” features would you like Doomed to be identified with?
GGC: What I’ve come to realize about Doomed (and similar to Pocoyó and many other projects I’m involved with) is that I basically take the classic cartoon and bring it to unusual environments. I would like those “pathetic” and bizarre Doomed creatures to look credible, which are neither Martians nor based somewhere in particular; maybe even try to create some empathy in the viewer.
I obviously enjoy working with clean white backgrounds for its clarity, simplicity and the level of creative freedom it provides when willing to introduce or take out any objects without having to follow any realistic criteria.
I guess this hyperrealism & imagination mix is the most important feature or contribution to Doomed.
aqnb: Will there be any technical or creative innovations in Doomed that were not present in Pocoyó? Will it be easier to produce more series for a satirical documentary?
GGC: Doomed emerged as a reaction to Pocoyó… trying to do something different because after more than 100 Pocoyó episodes you end up bored. Despite keeping those white backgrounds all the technical & creative aspects are completely different, we may be getting into trouble but that’s part of the motivation. In Pocoyó all the characters share the same texture while in Doomed each creature is created differently. We’re going to try and innovate playing with procedural animation (something used to get ultra-realistic effects) which I believe isn’t exploited as much in this kind of humorous & imaginative animation.
From the narrative point of view I’ve realized that everything I developed for Pocoyó won’t be very useful for Doomed. Pocoyó is mostly based on strong character personalities & the conflicts between them, but for Doomed we can’t just use the traditional storytelling as if the creatures were simple humanized animals. The challenge in Doomed is to make a comedy out of a documentary, discover and analyze weird animals and combining this study with the humor product of their absurdity and auto-destructive behavior. It isn’t easy but it’s something new and a very enjoyable gauntlet.
The chapters will have a thematic structure, some dedicated to predators, others to social customs, breeding methods..etc. We’ll also account for a scientific tool to play with their ADN, get to see inside their bodies or use the “evolutionmeter”… a microwave-like device to obtain new genetically-modified creatures without having to wait 3 billion years.
Both, the hedgehog or the cube-fish creatures will be recurrent characters throughout the series as well as the variants we get out of them, because we think viewers could easily empathize with them and we can play with that. This, is one of the most important objectives of Doomed, get the public to get to love our pathetic creatures!
aqnb: Narrators usually play an important role in scholar-animated products and they’re essential in nature documentaries. How did you convince Stephen Fry or José María del Río for Pocoyó and who could we expect in Doomed?
GGC: Stephen Fry was a great move from Granada TV, he brought humor and some irony, precisely what we were after.
For Doomed’s pilot we’ve used narrators with very different styles, a very recognizable voice for the Spanish version and for the English one we asked Denis Rafter, a theatre actor who excels at the fustrated-narrator parts and changes his usual style. In any case we’ll decide about this at a later stage.
We want Doomed’s narrator to have a serious speech, he will sometimes feel embarrassed or get frustrated by the creatures and their behaviors. The original idea is to present an old documentary-narrator star who had no other choice but to work in Doomed as there were no better job offers to apply for.
aqnb: Until very recently, the use of live action / animated full feature films hasn’t really been exploited. Nowadays we get this type of films every month. We’ve seen from the trailer you might play with such mix, what can we expect in the first series?
GGC: It’s true that nowadays 3D is easily integrated but for me is just a tool, this isn’t going to make the film or product any better. For Doomed we’ll take the creatures around the city, to work in a restaurant, as food, hanging in a tube wagon… it will just be another way of making people laugh or get surprised.
aqnb: Is the human being the only creature refusing to survive?
GGC: Looks like we’re the only ones to have a choice, it’s our gift and our problem.
About Guillermo Garcia
aqnb: You left Spain to study animation at Bournemouth Art College and in a recent interview with the French animators YannCeline we talked about the international profile French animation schools have. For when a respected Spanish animation school?
GGC:Since I was asked to give a few conferences about Pocoyó I’ve actually started to like the education thing and now I’m considering it seriously. Personally I’ve been doing it for a while… participating in workshops and master classes… but conceived as a professionalizing career we would definitely love to support & create new educational projects in the not too distant future.
aqnb: And from Cartoon Network to Zinkia and now with your own studio… any sacrifices to get this far?
GGC: On the artistic side I’ve had no problems, the not-so-cool bit is not to be paid according to your effort & contribution. Creating my own studio means having many more responsibilities I never really took into account before, like the commercial part. You really have to be hyperactive and learn to do things which aren’t the most fun….
With the current crisis is not easy to keep things moving. Selling an animated series is a very long process and my other advertising projects have also been affected by this situation.
aqnb: Is there any surrealism or critical rationalism in Mr Carsi’s animation style?
GGC: My animation is generally based on characters with very well defined personalities, as authentic as possible without falling into easy cliches; then I try to explore the imaginative and irrational sides. Always trying to surprise the public and myself. If you ask me, I personally think irony is the way to see the world.
aqnb: You’ve mentioned Buñuel, Kaz, Matt Groening, Peter Bagge or John Kricfalusi as some of your influences. What about new young promises?
aqnb: We’ve also read you’re a big fan of David O’Reilly’s works which tends to use Japanese aesthetics and dive into not easy subjects such as suicide or isolation. Is European animation more “naive”? Do we need more American underground acidity or Japanese abstraction? Maybe some…. sophistication?
GGC: I think Japanese animation is at another level… way more advanced… the plots, the aesthetics… animation for adults has a much wider acceptance over there.
In our productions we tend to use the technique not as a means but as an end, we repeat characters & stories and never really create something personal, that’s why I like David’s work so much, it’s the complete opposite.
And back to the Genetic failure…
aqnb: We’ve had Pocoyo anywhere and everywhere… TV, iPhone, gaming consoles… where would you like to see Doomed?
GGC: I would like it to conquer the earth and colonize other planets, that would be the fair amount of success in this case!
aqnb: How did you come up with the idea of a satirical documentary? Is it part of your Freudian Id night break-outs? Is Doomed the hotchpotch of all your creatures & nightmares?
GGC: Yep, it all started with the idea of a fake documentary as an excuse to create bizarre creatures but such idea was purely aesthetics and it really didn’t work out until I came up with the essence of the series: reverse natural selection. And just by observing how humans act against each other I came up with many ideas, most of Doomed’s creatures are a metaphor of ourselves.
aqnb: If we talk about hypothetical distribution strategies for Doomed? Just like Pocoyó is freely accessible via Youtube… is it too soon to talk about potential platforms for Doomed? (maybe even use some Augmented Reality? 3D?)?
GGC: All you’re saying could perfectly fit with Doomed, those are the things we would like to kick-off when moving onto the next step, after having found an investor…
aqnb: A release date?
GGC: We’re currently discussing with a TV channel we think could be the ideal platform to co-produce the series, let’s see if we’re lucky and can give you details very soon…
aqnb: And could you talk about your other projects? More pre-schoolar series, a couple of animated movies you have there somewhere…?
GGC: There’s a pre-schoolar series project where I would like to introduce all those things I didn’t use for Pocoyó. We’re about to present it to an important channel in a few days. The essence is the same as Pocoyó… child’s spontaneity, authenticity… although imagination will play an even more important role this time.
aqnb: And one last question. We haven’t had much time to seriously and deeply discuss the documentary side of Doomed. So quickly… which of the following you prefer… Cousteau, David Attenborough o Rodríguez de la Fuente?
GGC: I like each and everyone’s style, I don’t have a favorite but I guess Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente because I used to watch his documentaries being a kid and I really liked him.
aqnb: A pleasure members of El Señor Studio… Guillermo, Beatriz y Lucas