Article by Sam Marlow.
On Thursday, February 19th, the creators of “Super Jail” got together at The School of Visual Arts to give insight about their first season. The panel was moderated by animator Dan Meth, and the guests included Christy Karacus (creator, director, the voice of Alice), Stephen Warbrick (co-creator, editor), Britt Myers (sound designer), and Richard Mather (the voice of the Twins). “Lets get this party started… in my pants.” Said Richard, in the voice of his character. Christy Karacus explained the origins of his collaboration for Super Jail. In the 1990’s, Karacus worked at MTV doing background designs for Daria. At the time, MTV was proposing to commission animated shorts for a program called Labs. In 1999 Christy and Stephen collaborated on a short film called “Bar Fight”. In the similar style of Super Jail, bar flies find themselves erupted in violence for 4 minutes. After its completion, MTV shelved it, along with the rest of their animated shorts program. Karacus and Warbrick made copies of it on VHS, as passed it around.
Without success from Bar Fight and not animating for three years, claimed Christy, he moved on with Warbrick to create Super Jail. They approached Dave Hughes, an editor from MTV (Beavis and Butthead, Celebrity Death Match), and at that time he was at Adult Swim (Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Squidbillies). The show was animated at Augenblick Studios in Brooklyn, and distributed by Adult Swim. The pilot aired on May 13th, 2007, followed the next year by the first season, which included 10 episodes.
The show itself has a different approach than most Adult Swim cartoons. Like most of the shows, there is a lot of improv, or simple animation, with room for adjustments (Aqua Teen Hunger Force). Christy explained that Super Jail is not that kind of show. They can’t repeat background, every environment is different for every scene, and the timing has to be worked out early on in the animatic, which was explained as being more animated than a usual animatic, in order for the action and story to play without losing momentum. In terms of the animation itself, they used an “Army of animators”… “They were 1000 % into this thing”, said Christy. Using the animators and many interns, they hand drew each frame, mostly doing it with 24 frames per second. Christy explained how they were using on screen Wacom to draw each frame into Flash.
When they were discussing the opening title sequence, they had to animate it on ones, with no holds at any point, which is a technique used a lot when there are many characters playing out their action. They do this because it’s easier to miss all the mistakes, and keeps the eye moving along with the animation.
Super Jail required a very tight script for the same purpose of the timing. They explained how they write a story, and then hand it off to a scriptwriter, such as John Glazer or Ben Gruber. During the script-writing phase, the animators and the creators collaborate on any idea they might have for the fight scenes.
The sound design of Super Jail is just as important as the animation, as is gives credibility to the action. Britt Myers, the sound designer, claimed there were 5000 sound effects in each episode. “Every episode is like a mini feature film.”, said Britt.
The title song of the show is very catchy, and was done by a band called the Cheeseburgers, including a member such as Christy Karacus. Bradford Reed, who is a friend of Aaron Augenblick, created the music for ending credits.
Toward the end of the discussion, they showed us the last two episodes of season one (Time Police part 1 and 2, which was originally one story, but Adult Swim thought it was too long), and a music video by The Cheeseburgers.
As of now, the creators are shopping around for a studio, so they can begin working on season 2.
As a funny anecdote, they talked about a Comic-Con fan, who suggested they start keeping a death count on the bottom of the screen. – Sam