Mr Annable has developed a very dark obsession lately, drawing hideous dwarfs to perturb children’s minds, so they wee their beds and wake up their parents with their high-pitched cries at night. He’s one of those artists with too many dark secrets, who would probably have been burnt for diabolical practices several centuries ago. But he was born in the 70s, way after the disbandment of the Spanish Inquisition, so in our current jolly, holy, colourful world we shall consider his art more like an endangered species.
He calls it humor, we think it has more to do with his membership to the secret society of nightmares&otherobscurearts. They gather once a year in Texas just after SXSW and plan the next season’s horror trend, and it looks like 2011 is all about dwarfs.
Well, we’re a bit unsure about the picture above, but what we do know is that despite drawing most of his Grickle characters as children of Nosferatum, Mr Annable (in his previous life as an ordinary human) used to be a leading animator @ Lucas Arts, and his cartoons or character designs for Nickelodeon & Walt Disney didn’t make us shiver as much.
Nearly a year after the publication of his “Book of Grickle” under Dark Horse and after the release of his very personal game “Puzzle Agent” with Telltale Games it looks like the Grickleverse is far from imploding… so we went to ask Graham about it…
Hi Graham, thanks for dedicating us a few of your minutes, mind a few obscure questions?
aqnb: Let’s start by taking one of your latest works, the universe of Nelson Tethers from the FBI’s “Puzzle research division” which was initially conceived as a pilot game with TellTale Games. How has this dark-puzzely experiment been welcomed by the gaming community? Is a good way of introducing beginners to the dark Grickle universe? Will there be new episodes?
GA: The game has done exceptionally well! Telltale and I really had no idea how the gaming community would react. All I knew was they (Telltale) presented me with an opportunity to make the kind of game I personally wanted to play. I’m happy to report that a lot of other folks were apparently interested in playing this type of experience too!
I think Puzzle Agent is a wonderful entrance into the Grickle universe. The game has the exact vibe I try and capture within my comics and animation work. I’m in the middle of creating art for Puzzle Agent 2 as we speak! 🙂 So yes there will be at least one more episode created. This second game will conclude the storyline in Scoggins, Minnesota and I can’t wait for people to play it!
aqnb: From Ontario you cross the border and jump directly into Lucas Arts Studios… why where they looking precisely for Canadian animators?
GA: I think at the time it was tricky for them to entice CalArts students to move all the way up to the Bay area to work on video games. There was so much animation work in LA at the time (and still is) that most animators didn’t feel the need to move up to the San Francisco area. LucasArts was willing to go through the trouble of dealing with visas and getting Canadian animators down to California. At least this is what I presume was a big factor in allowing me to get a start there. I’m very grateful for it.
aqnb: You have let’s say… a bit of experience within the gaming industry creative side… from 1995’s Full Throttle or Monkey Island to Star Wars Episodes, C.S.I… etc, your most gratifying experience in this industry so far? a game you would have loved to be involved with?
GA: I think the most gratifying and unfortunately most devastating experience was working as the lead animator on the unreleased Sam & Max: Freelance Police project at LucasArts. We had such a stellar team together for that project and I don’t think I’d ever worked on anything as fun and efficiently as we did for that one (with the possible exception of Puzzle Agent). So it was equally as heartbreaking when the company decided to shelve the project due to a change in overall direction for LucasArts. Truly a dark day for the team after all the hard work and how good the game had been looking.
In hind sight I think the game I most regret not having worked on was Grim Fandango. A very special project and the tone of it was just great. Tim Schafer is an amazing fellow.
aqnb: And if you have “a bit” of experience in the gaming sector, let’s say you know the basics about animation. Currently storyboard artist at Laika Entertainment for Coraline… Are you willing to put gaming aside for a while and fully dedicate yourself to the storyboard? Where else will we see your artistic touches in the near future?
GA: I’m currently still working as a storyboard artist at Laika Entertainment and I absolutely love it there. I hope to continue having the opportunity to juggle things and keep my toes in the gaming world alongside comics and animation. If I have my way I won’t be leaving any of it aside for any length of time. As far as seeing my artistic touches in the near future, I’ve spent the last couple of years helping to board out the next animated feature from Laika Entertainment. Unfortunately I’m not at liberty to talk about the project just yet but I will say it’s been amazing to work on.
aqnb: What is a short attention span good for? what’s it bad for?
GA: I think it’s good for keeping me fresh and inspired by what I do on a daily basis and it’s certainly attributed to my penchant for doing a variety of things in different mediums. The down side part of it is there are some longer form projects that I can never seem to stay focused on long enough to gain any real ground. Sigh.
aqnb: You often mention Harvey Kurtzman, Matt Groening, Seth or Mr Trondheim amongst some of your many admired artists. What about fresh new talent, who should we be following?
GA: Well, the fresh new talent that I tend to like also happen to be good friends. Jon Klassen is someone whose art inspires me like no one I’ve met. Scott C. has been such a good friend and inspiration for years now. Vera Brosgol and Chris Turnham are also people everyone should be following if they haven’t been already. I feel so lucky to know so many great and talented friends. Pen Ward, creator of Adventure Time, is another ‘fresh’ talent you should follow. Definitely.
aqnb: and that author or artist who’s got such level of black humor that you’ve thought to yourself… “that’s too much”?
GA: Hmm wow I don’t know if I’ve ever thought that really. Johnny Ryan constantly goes into the “that’s too much” category I suppose, but that’s the attraction of his work and why you read it in the first place.
and now………. The Grickleverse!!!
aqnb: Grickle’s characters are sometimes stingy… or a bit miserable, sometimes narcissistic… or a bit unfortunate (naive maybe?), but they all end up in the weirdest and most absurd situations. How many real-life Grickles have you met?
GA: Well I’d like to think we’ve all been real-life Grickles at one time or another. I certainly exaggerate the extreme in some of the situations I create but we’ve all been in those awkward and unfortunate spots where perhaps a side of our personality comes to light that we would have preferred to have kept in the shadows.
aqnb: Your stories have certainly grown in complexity … from those initial 20-30sec shorts from 4 years ago, to your last 4min “really smart dog” short. More characters, more sounds & effects, more work we imagine… evolution to somewhere or just seasonal whims?
GA: It’s all been whims but of course the more you create I think the more you refine. You get better at your technique which allows you to spend less time dealing with technical things and that frees up more space and energy to devote to crafting the idea further. You are able to juggle that much more each time out.
aqnb: Always dark, but always with humor…. is that Grickle’s leitmotif?
GA: It’s just naturally the stories I want to tell. It’s the type of movies and books I generally gravitate towards.
back to you…
aqnb: Kubrick, Lynch, Archie Comics, Mad, Peanuts strips… a film and a magazine you can’t live without?
GA: Certain movies will always be with me. I absolutely love Blue Velvet and even more so The Straight Story by David Lynch. I’ll never get over the impression that all the Peanuts strips had on me as a kid. Stamped for life.
aqnb: We try to follow the Canadian animation & the comic scene in particular here @aqnb as much as we can. We talked with Todd M. Dennis in one of our first interviews, and constantly review new talent… Graham Robinson, Chirs Dorosz, Matt Forsynthe….a lot of well hidden gifted individuals. Where’s the Canadian pool coming from?
GA: I may not be the best person to ask as I have now spent nearly the last 17 years living and working in the United States. Canada does seem to breed more than it’s fair share of artistic talents though and I’m very proud of that fact. Whether it’s for the good things or the bad things about Canada I’ll lay the blame/credit on the long winters for shaping the sort of people we are.
aqnb: One penultimate and inevitable question… what are you working on right now? Future projects?
GA: Right now I’m in the middle of storyboarding on Laika’s second animated feature and in the thick of production on Puzzle Agent 2. I’ve also got a few small comic book projects bubbling on the side too.
aqnb: Do you really like Christmas Graham? Or is Canadian Christmas really that dark?
GA: Canadian Christmas is just fine and don’t let anybody tell you different. Despite what I may post on Youtube.
aqnb: A big pleasure Mr. Annable!
GA: The pleasure is all mine. Thanks!