LA Company And US Animators Make The “Motorcity” Engines Run
DISNEY/ABC TELEVISION GROUP
Chris Prynoski, the creator, director and executive producer of Disney XD’s new animated series "Motorcity," is happy the show wasn’t picked when he first pitched it over 10 years ago.
"I’m super lucky it got green lit later than I had hoped," said Prynoski. "I really got to earn my sea legs on a lot of other projects.”
The concept for "Motorcity" arose early in Prynoski’s career, when he was an animator on "Beavis and Butthead" and "Daria." He created his first series, "MTV Downtown," while employed by MTV before moving to California and founding animation studio Titmouse, Inc. While pitching his series idea, Prynoski worked on a number of award winning commercials, TV spots, music videos and television shows, including hit series "Metalocalypse" which he continues to direct and producer for Spike TV’s Adult Swim. It caught him by surprise when Eric Coleman, who he pitched the series to over five years ago, called. Taking over the role of SVP of Production at Walt Disney Television Animation, Coleman remembered the series and felt it would be a great fit for the Disney XD channel.
A place worth fighting for
"Motorcity" takes place in futuristic Detroit (called Detroit Deluxe) where an evil billionaire, Abraham Kane (voiced by Twisted Sister’s Dee Snyder) has banned all personal freedoms, including automobile transportation. A band of teenagers named The Burners have created Motorcity, an underground haven, where they craft hotrods and dedicate their efforts to liberating Detroit Deluxe from Kane. While there were characteristics of the show that Prynoski modified to fit Disney standards, such as having characters wear seat belts and some dialogue tweaks, he found Disney to be very embracing of his concepts, designs and themes for a show that focuses on the battles between freedom and control.
"Disney’s been incredible, Eric Coleman said ‘I want to see you do what you do,’" said Prynoski. "It’s not what you’d expect to hear from a big company."
Prior to production, Prynoski visited Detroit to get a first hand look at the city’s current state of affairs. He discovered amongst the boarded up houses and businesses that litter the streets there are entire city blocks that have been taken over by artists who have planted gardens, opened art galleries and are revitalizing the area. The splashes of color really popped against the areas of decay. Prynoski’s trip and the images he saw provided great inspiration for the optimism The Burners have towards Detroit Deluxe that fuel their tireless efforts against a powerful overlord.
"While aspects of ‘Motorcity’ are dark, I didn’t want it to be scary," said Prynoski. "The world has to seem fun, like a place worth fighting for. Color became very important to create that feeling."
When developing the concept designs for the show, Prynoski felt "cool cars and characters" along with plenty of action were the main requirements. He referenced his favorite animation from his childhood; Japanese fare such as “Gatchaman” (Battle of the Planet) and “Yamato” (Star Blazers) for Motorcity’s sleek look. He assigned Titmouse, Inc. animator Brandon Cuellar to create the vehicle designs and employed artists and animators based primarily in Los Angeles and New York, along with some Canadian artists for background development. Using proprietary software Titmouse, Inc. has created, the computer animation dailies were easily transferred between NY and LA using cineSync.
"We’re doing all our background work in town, which is unusual for an animated show," said Prynoski. "So much work goes (to animators) overseas; they are great because they are doing it all day long. But sometimes descriptions get lost in translation. We’re able to achieve a level of detail that’s harder to get when shipping overseas."
Lots of mechanical detail
While the animation style of “Motorcity" was established when vehicle designer Brandon Cuellar joined the process, he was allowed creative freedom in crafting the cars. With a background in automotive design honed at companies such as Renault, Cuellar incorporated great detail into the designs of the vehicles that populate the two worlds seen in "Motorcity." Although the show has been written and created with young adults in mind, Cuellar does not minimize the intricacy in the vehicles’ designs.
"The vehicles are not over simplified, they have lots of mechanical detail," said Cuellar. "It looks like there is technology behind them, making them operate. I’m not trying to make it easily digestible; I want it to look like something that would function."
Because the various characters in "Motorcity" have their own vehicles, Cuellar first began developing designs after receiving a character breakdown from the director. Then he integrated the personalities of each character within the cars they drive. While he did soften some of the edges on the vehicles for the female drivers, he felt they were just as strong as the male characters, so he was careful not to fully eliminate the edginess. Once confident the vehicle matched the character, Cuellar would make a quick sketch on paper before drawing the design in the computer program where it received 3D rendering before being fully realized.
In addition to the Japanese animation style crafted by Prynoski, Cuellar found influences in the vehicle designs by looking at the classic cars from the 1950s and 60s, when extravagance was at the heart of the cars’ features. Many of the vehicles have dynamic, over exaggerated details, such as in the exhaust system, the intake, and the steering wheel. While most of the designs harken to the classic cars of yesteryear, one of Cuellar’s favorite designs has a much more contemporary base.
"One of my favorites is Sasquatch, Jacob’s car," said Cuellar. "It’s a monster truck with old school charm."
"Motorcity" is produced by Robin Red Breast, a subsidiary of Titmouse, Inc. To learn more about "Motorcity," please visit:
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