Titmouse Takes Flight: On The Road With Chris Prynoski At Comic Con 2017
By: Marjorie Galas
They got me with the chirp.
I first encountered Titmouse, a LA-based animation production company, when I wrote an article highlighting Disney XD’s “Motorcity.” Created by Titmouse President and Owner Chris Prynoski, I was impressed in the tremendous amount of research and auto engineering that Titmouse staff engaged in to create the animated series. From that point, I’d periodically check in on Titmouse projects, eagerly awaiting their cute, rotund feathered trademark – a tufted titmouse who’d utter one husky, guttural sound. Well, word, actually.
When the offer came to ride in a Titmouse-branded RV with Prynoski at Comic Con, I immediately said yes. Arriving exactly as planned, Prynoski opened the door and helped me step out of the blaring San Diego sun into the vehicle’s air-conditioned, cave-like interior. The space was adorned with random wild animal prints, a giant container of cheese balls and rubber coasters that kept our waters in place on the RV’s dining table as it cruised through the highly-congested city streets.
We chatted about the origins of Titmouse. After graduating from NYU’s School for Visual Arts, Prynoski began his animation career at MTV, working on series including “Beavis and Butthead” and “Daria.” He eventually began crafting original pilots, including his Emmy-nominated “MTV Downtown.” He had a study influx of work, but decided to leave NYC and expand his experience level when an offer to take on a directing position with “Daria” opened up in MTV’s LA location.
Relocating with his girlfriend (now wife and VP/Co-Owner of Titmouse), Prynoski found LA to be “ground zero” for animation. He was able to land full time work for companies including Nickelodeon, MTV and Disney, but was itching to break out on his own. Wife Shannon Prynoski was producing cereal commercials at the time and was able to land his first jobs as a production entity. To do so, however, he quickly had to devise a company.
“I didn’t have a production company, I was just a dude,” said Prynoski. “I decided to use the Titmouse name.”
Titmouse was a side business that, up to that point, was the moniker for his graphic tee designs. Under the Titmouse wing, the company became a solidified business. Diverse projects came calling, such as the animated sections in Tom Green’s 2001 feature about an unemployed cartoonist, “Freddy Got Fingered.” Originally housed in a tiny West Hollywood store front, the lack of a dedicated brick & mortar structure was preventing Titmouse from landing larger deals. Taking a gamble, Prynoski funneled all his money into buying a building. Soon after, Titmouse was contracted to do eight shows as well as promos and specials for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.
Success continued for Prynoski when he pitch an original idea to Disney. That idea was “Motorcity” and it became the first Disney TV animation property that was created entirely offsite. The series cemented Titmouse’s ability to develop a wide range of content, leading to work at every major network. Simply put, Titmouse has grown from that tiny West Hollywood storefront to operating facilities in New York and Vancouver as well as LA in just shy of fifteen years.
Prynoski stays on the look-out for diverse and talented artists to bring into the Titmouse fold. Talent and ability of course are essential, but he wants people that will also be able to work on a team. It’s hard to judge the quality of an animator’s work by simply looking at their reel, for one has no knowledge of how much that person was directed or their work speed, so he relies frequently on referrals. Prynoski has also shied away from a “house style” for Titmouse. He prefers a “house sensibility” where freedom is given to his artists.
“The best way to get great work is to let the artists do what they do best,” said Prynoski.
Research and innovation are another key component to Titmouse success, and are well exhibited in two recent projects. Working with rapper Jay-Z on his music video “The Story of O.J.”, the animators researched the racist cartoons and drawings of the early 20th century, particularly the 1930s, to create Jay-Z’s parody character, “Jaybo.” The animation infuses a variety of racial stereotypes into an authentic style that reinforce the message of the song: no matter how rich, famous or powerful a black man is, the negative stereotypes found in media persist.
Titmouse also recently partnered with Google, along with other select artists, to assist with the development of Google’s latest VR tool, Tilt Brush. The tool allows the artist to not only draw in real-time 3D, but also in a virtual space. Google financed the use of Tilt Brush in the creation of a yet unreleased Titmouse VR music video, “Icarus Six Sixty Six.” The video shares the same name as a track from Prynoski’s long-time collaborative partner Brendon Small’s latest death metal album, “Galaktikon II: Become the Storm.” The VR experience places the viewer in a device that looks like the fusing of a pinball game and a cockpit. With controls outlined in cool neon colors, the view begins to travel through space as the music thrusts them forward.
“The concept involved marrying a lot of elements from the last ten years,” said Small. “I thought of the opening sequence in ‘Stargate’, Queen, ELO and mixed it with heavy metal.”
Smalls was also greatly inspired by the Space Mountain ride. Working with the animators at Titmouse, they created candy-colored neon highlights that were fully realized with the Tilt Brush tool. The linear graphics help provide the feeling of speed and the rush of traveling on a roller coaster ride.
“We were working with a sense of speed and control, of size and space,” said Prynoski. “It’s the first time heavy metal and VR have come together.”
Click HERE to learn more about Titmouse.