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Five Animation Revelations From Craig McCracken

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The second season of Craig McCracken’s latest project, Kid Cosmic, was just released on Netflix, and he’s doing the promotional tour. Can you believe there’s a new 90-minute interview with McCracken out there that has less than 2,000 YouTube views? We’re gonna have to give that sucker a little more exposure. It’s from the What’s In My Head Podcast, and here are five interesting things we learned from this conversation (there were a lot more, but only so much time to type)…

CRAIG FIRST GOT TO SHOW OFF POWERPUFF GIRLS IN 1992
It’s assumed that nobody at CN knew what Powerpuff Girls was until “Meat Fuzzy Lumpkins” was created in 1995, but this was not so. Linda Simensky, who would eventually take charge of Cartoon Network, was introduced to a fresh-faced McCracken while he was still in college, working on an animated short film called “Whoopass Stew.” The short was about a professor who aimed to chemically create the perfect little girls, but accidentally added a Can of Whoopass to the concoction, resulting in an explosion followed by the formation of who were at the time called “The Whoopass Girls.” Simensky saw a rough cut of the short and liked it. Years later, that introduction would prove valuable for McCracken as Simensky, already familiar with the Puffs, was willing to greenlight an entire series despite the What A Cartoon shorts testing poorly with boys.

THE FIRST SEASON OF DEXTER WAS ORDERED PIECEMEAL
Ever wondered why the first season of Dexter has six episodes with a cartoon called “Dial M For Monkey” and seven episodes with a cartoon called “The Justice Friends”? It’s because all 13 episodes of Season One were not ordered at once. The initial pickup was just six half-hours, with the other seven confirmed later. By that point they wanted to try a different short.

BOTH CRAIG AND GENNDY CITE THE WORLD’S GREATEST MOVIE AS THEIR INSPIRATION
It shouldn’t surprise you that both McCracken and his co-worker Genndy Tartakovsky took their sense of animation timing from the greatest movie ever made, The Hudsucker Proxy. McCracken mentions a specific scene, which was shot and scored with almost no dialogue, as a big influence, as it showed him how to tell a story through pictures alone.

In Genndy’s case, his parents emigrated from Russia when he was seven years old and it took him a while to learn English, but cartoons were one of the few American TV programs he could understand. He leaned toward the ones that could communicate their stories whether the dialogue was understood or not. This gave him the skill to later direct nearly wordless shows like Samurai Jack and Primal.

PRODUCTION SLOWED DOWN ON POWERPUFF GIRLS BECAUSE EVERYBODY WAS PLAYING ZELDA
The first season of Powerpuff Girls was released in 1998, and so was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The game was so popular among the staff that it was hard to concentrate on anything else. Craig would have to open a meeting by saying “Okay, who’s finished Zelda? We have this stack to work on….” Eventually a scene depicting the Mayor playing Ocarina of Time made it into an episode.

IT DOESN’T BOTHER CRAIG THAT HE HAS TO SELL HIS IDEAS
Craig was asked if it ever bothers him that networks and streamers buy the rights to his ideas wholesale. “Not necessarily. We sort of have something that each other wants. I have an idea, but they have all the money, which I need to do it. They have a network, and international distribution, and a marketing department, which I have no access to. So it’s kind of like, I’ll give you THIS if you give me THIS, and then I get to do what I want to do, which is make cartoons.”

Craig says when people ask him what his favorite show or episode is, he can’t really answer, because he judges them differently than a viewer would. He thinks about “where I was working, who I was working with, what was happening in my life…[they’re] more personal.”