Home Channels Digital Media SDCC 2017: Toonzone Interviews Titmouse Studios’ Chris Prynoski and Ben Kalina

SDCC 2017: Toonzone Interviews Titmouse Studios’ Chris Prynoski and Ben Kalina

Niko and the Sword of Light

Once again, Titmouse made the scene at San Diego Comic Con by driving its branded RV through the streets. Chris Prynoski, Titmouse President and Owner, along with Ben Kalina, COO/Supervising Producer, stopped by to pick up Toonzone News for a spin and some Q & A.

Niko and the Sword of LightTOONZONE NEWS: How’s it going?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: It’s going well. Lots of cartoons being made at the studio.

TOONZONE NEWS: Catch me up to date. What’s this past year been like for you?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Venture Bros. season seven has been going on. We’re working on Big Mouth, a show for Netflix by Nick Kroll. It’s an adult comedy, so that’ll be out later this year. Niko and the Sword of Light is the big thing we’re promoting at Comic Con. That comes out Friday, the first season. That’s action, adventure, fantasy. Hanazuki for Hasboro, it’s weird toy property that ended up being really weird and good. We can make it super surreal. Some of our other stuff I can’t talk about, other adult swim series stuff. Lot of adult swim Station IDs, like those Toonami Exquisite Corpse. They’re done in all these different styles, like Tom from Toonami. We just did one for Rick and Morty, it’s all these different crazy styles, so that was fun. We also animated this video, the Story of OJ for Jay-Z.

TOONZONE NEWS: Was that difficult to do because it was so racially charged?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: We just did the character animation, not the concept, so our role in that was very straightforward. It’s like, “Animate it and make the animation look good.” But I think the message is really cool. Obviously, it’s counterpoint to the artwork. Other short form stuff, we’ve been doing a lot of Virtual Reality videos. We’re working on one for Brendon Small for his new Galakticon album called Icarus Six Sixty Six.

BEN KALINA: And Turtles stuff.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Yeah, we did a lot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shorts. We did one that came out recently, a super fancy one. “The Scavengers” was a short we did for adult swim. Joe Bennett was the director for that. Kind of sci-fi, not even a comedy, just a cool, weird sci-fi short for adult swim. There’s that one eye zero that was pretty cool.

Little Big AwesomeBEN KALINA: Going back to series stuff, Little Big Awesome.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Little Big Awesome we’re doing for Amazon, that’s a series. It’s kind of like weirdo comedy. It’s animation but also puppets and live action and stuff, so it’s got a lot of elements to it. So those are the main things.

TOONZONE NEWS: Do you guys feel you have a certain look? When someone wants Titmouse Animation, what do they expect?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I think we have less of a house style and more of like a house sensibility. We do stuff that appeals to us and we try to infuse stuff that we like into the projects that we do. But I don’t think there’s one design style that we stick to consistently. We have a lot of the same artists working on stuff, so there’s probably a little bit of that that seeps through, but we try to explore different styles every time and make them real different from each other.

TOONZONE NEWS: I feel like you’re experimental. Like with Exquisite Corpse, you just go nuts.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Speaking of experimental animation, we’re working on one show that has a lot of animated sequences in it, but I don’t think it’s been announced yet.

BEN KALINA: We’ll put out a blast about that in the next month or two.

TOONZONE NEWS: With Exquisite Corpse, do you keep track of the different animation styles or how does that work?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: For the Rick and Morty one, the director was Matt Taylor, and he oversees it all. We task him to make sure the overall thing is tracking, communicate with all the different animators, also curate it, choose the animators that you want to work with, and kind of organize. “Hey this guy would be good, followed by this person.”

TOONZONE NEWS: So play to someone’s strengths?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Yeah, exactly, so it’s not like a free-for-all. The idea is to make it seem like it’s a free-for-all, but it has to be organized pretty specifically.

TOONZONE NEWS: A very organized acid trip.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Yeah, exactly. It was cool because there was dialogue and stuff in there that was just written by the animators, “Hey, do you want dialogue in here?” And then Justin Roiland just recorded it. He’s like, “Yeah, I’ll just do a day and record whatever lines are needed for this,” so that was cool.

TOONZONE NEWS: Was there a lot of back and forth?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: There wasn’t much back and forth. I mean, there was a little bit of kind of ideas, but there wasn’t a “you have to do it this way.”

BEN KALINA: There wasn’t much creative push-back. If anything, it was more like what’s allowable on air. Some people went a little bit further than you can go on a TV screen. Otherwise it’s pretty comfortable.

Niko and the Sword of LightTOONZONE NEWS: The landscape for animation has changed drastically, like working with Amazon. What’s that like?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I really like them. They’re a great client because they’re new as well, relatively, as far as networks and studios go, and it’s good because I think in the beginning, when we started working with them, they had a very small team, and we got some trust on their side. I think that trust goes a long way for letting us experiment and doing crazy stuff. And Niko has been a great experience. I think the production value for that thing is as good as anything on TV. It’s probably one of the better things on TV, if not the best thing, so they really let us push it and go crazy, so I’m stoked about that.

BEN KALINA: To let us do a serialized storyline too, that’s something with kid’s shows you don’t always get to do. With Niko, an episode bleeds right into to the next one.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: It’s perfect for streaming. Binging. Because sometimes the last scene goes right into the first scene of the next episode.

TOONZONE NEWS: The benefit of Amazon is you can’t miss an episode. You’re not going to go into the next episode and not know what happened.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: The only way you’re going to miss it is if your internet is down. People don’t watch stuff out of order any more. A lot of people still watch stuff on a digital service, even if it is broadcast on TV. There used to be that concern — there still is — but there was a very heavy concern that these episodes had to be watchable out of order because you never know what order they’re going to be aired. But if you watch a show on Amazon or Netflix, it would be very unusual if you skip around and not go in sequence. Let me just watch episode 7 to see what that’s like before I watch the rest of them. I don’t think anybody ever does that. They don’t have shuffle for episode order.

Venture Bros Season 6TOONZONE NEWS: Is the serialized storytelling a concern for Venture Bros? Because it’s on hiatus.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I think it’s got a very specific and loyal fanbase, so since Chris and Doc write the whole thing, it takes them a relatively long time to write it because it’s hard to be writing it while they’re in production, because Chris overseas production. I think that’s the price of quality on that one. We just like making the show, and we have crews on all different other shows, and when it looks like it’s getting close, we start staffing up on Venture Bros. It’s not really a concern on our part. I don’t think we can anything about it as far as speeding it up, but I don’t think it’s going to work. As frustrating as it may be for a fan or viewer of that show to wait two years for a season, I would think they’d be a more angry if they got it a little bit sooner and it wasn’t as good. “Oh, we got it sooner, oh this season’s bad,” probably not be the best move.

TOONZONE NEWS: Of all the projects you’re working on, which has the toughest deadlines where you had to make the biggest creative sacrifices?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: It’s usually the short form stuff. TV schedules and things where there’s a long schedule and you can see things coming ahead of time, especially with the Netflix and Amazon stuff, the early episodes have a little more wiggle room to fix stuff and change stuff. But the two that were really hectic recently were that Story of OJ and this Nike commercial we did for the MVP pick. For Story of OJ, it was a very short schedule, and that one had to be kept very very very secret for obvious reasons. One, because it’s a Jay-Z video and they don’t want stuff getting out ahead of time, but secondly, because the imagery of that video. If it was leaked out of context it’d be, “What the (censored) is this? This is not appropriate!” It was, I think, particularly effective, even internally at the studio because so many people were saying, “I didn’t even know this was being worked on at the studio.” People kept it pretty secret.

For the Nike commercial, the Westbrook piece, it was kind of inspired by a Schoolhouse Rock kinda vibe. It has a Schoolhouse Rock song in it, but they came to us because they wanted something similar in vibe to Black Dynamite. That had a very short schedule because it had to be out before they announced the MVP. It was like, “Hey you should pick this guy to be the MVP,” and if it came out after it wouldn’t make sense. So that one was super, super, super fast. If you link to that on YouTube — this is a little trivia nugget — there’s a shot in there at the end of the kid character that we didn’t have time to clean up. The rough animation line was good enough, we were like, “this is good enough, right, all right, we’ll just send it through.” So there’s this one shot where the line quality looks very different from the other shot if you’re paying attention. But it just had to be delivered. That one, I’m really happy how that one came out. Chase Conley and Ron Wimberly were the two directors, and Chase was a character designer on Black Dynamite, and he has gone on to direct and stuff, so we brought him on to direct this shot. And Ron Wimberly is a great comic artist in New York, he sometimes works out of the New York studio. Good folks. So that was stressful, that was very high pressure. Not super stressful for me because I wasn’t on the ground, but I could feel the stress coming off the people working on it.

TOONZONE NEWS: How close do you usually work with your directors?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: It depends on the project. Sometimes I had to be really hands on and on the ground if I’m an EP on a show. Venture Bros I just look at it and say “that’s cool, that’s funny.” I don’t have anything to do with it, since Chris really runs that 100%. I’ll only chime in if he’ll ask me advice or opinion, or if he had a shot he wanted to do for one thing, “How do you think we should pull this shot off?” That’s the only times I ever get involved.

TOONZONE NEWS: You seem like a pretty easy going guy to work with.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Yeah, we’re an artist-run studio, we came up that way. We don’t come from investors and we’re not producer-run, so I feel like the best way to get good work out of artists is to let them do what they’re good at. Let them experiment. That works like 95% of the time, and then every once in a while, you have to be like, “All right, let’s just do it this way. This has to get done.”

Niko and the Sword of LightTOONZONE NEWS: What were some of the influences on Niko? It looks great.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I don’t want to speak for the creators, but they come from a lot of concept design. The thing that I feel when I look at it — and I don’t know much this is the original intent or how it evolved during the pilot — but it feels almost like a Don Bluth movie or something like that. Or an anime meets an 80’s 2-D feature film.

BEN KALINA: What’s interesting is there’s the creators who made the original comic and Rob Hoegee, who adapted it into an original TV series. He’s the show runner for the show. A lot of time when they’re in the writer’s room talking to him, he talks about how he got into storytelling through Dungeons and Dragons. You see a lot of that in how he writes episodes, too, like he’ll even talk about episodes like this episode is the “Fetch Quest” episode. You have to go get an item and get back. I think he draws on that stuff a lot when he’s writing.

TOONZONE NEWS: You worked on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shorts. The shorts are very kinetic, everyone’s always moving. Is that different from a TV show?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Yeah, that’s pretty difficult to pull off. To pull off a TV series at that level would be very time-consuming and very expensive. I don’t think anybody would want to wait long enough to see that thing or pay enough money to see that executed. That one was a labor of love, too. We were like, “We’re not going to make money on this job, we might even lose money, but it’s really cool, let’s just make it look good.”

TOONZONE NEWS: They did it to promote the brand.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Yeah, Nickelodeon, they bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when I was there so they want to promote it and are working on multiple versions of that brand. I’m not sure what they’ve announced, but believe me, there’s no lack of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle projects right now.

TOONZONE NEWS: Were you ever a fan of TMNT?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I’m a little old for it, I think I just missed it. I would watch the re-runs after school, but I was only watching them because I was into animation. I was in high school.

TOONZONE NEWS: You’re talking about the original stuff from the 80’s?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I wasn’t a kid. I was in high school when that was a huge, huge giant. I guess I was a kid when the indie comics came out, but I didn’t see those. Mostly in my early 20’s, I guess when I was in animation school, I probably watched every episode many, many times of the original series because there weren’t as many ways to watch animation. So I just watched the Disney Afternoon, the Turtles, Real Ghostbusters, all that stuff every day. Because that’s the only way you can see animation. You didn’t have YouTube or anything. It’s like, “Well, this is animation, I’m watching it.”


CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Exactly. I had some stuff on VHS, but I was a college student. It’s not like I had hundreds of movies on VHS. I had a handful.

Star BlazersTOONZONE NEWS: What kinds of stuff did you grow up watching?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: It was a combo. Like everybody, I saw Disney animated features and stuff like that, but I think I was more influenced by TV. I would watch a lot of Star Blazers, which was Space Battleship Yamato, and Battle of the Planets, which was Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, and I always thought that stuff was cool.  I didn’t understand that they were not American cartoons when I was a kid. I didn’t know it was “anime” at the time. I just thought these shows looked the same and they’re cool and there’s a lot of action and I kind of like them better than whatever the big shows were back then. There’s a lot of toy stuff. I guess G.I. Joe, Transformers. I liked all that stuff, for sure. I was also a big fan of Scooby Doo.

TOONZONE NEWS: I was going to say, Hanna-Barbera churned out a lot of cartoons back then.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: There were so many of those like teenage kids driving around in a van solving crime shows. And there was a lot of churned out Saturday morning stuff back then that I barely remember. I think Scooby Doo sticks. Star Blazers and Scooby Doo. I guess if you look at our stuff, Star Blazers and Scooby Doo is a pretty good jumping off point.

TOONZONE NEWS: Things have changed since those days. Do you miss Saturday morning cartoons at all?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: What I miss is the event of it. I have a five-year-old kid now, and he can watch whatever he wants whenever he wants. There’s no special time, like when Saturday morning is the only time you’re going to get to see a brand new cartoon. You could see reruns during the week after school or whatever, but Saturday mornings were the time to see new cartoons. Every once in a while there’d be a holiday special in prime time, but there was never cartoons on at night. It was a communal experience with all the kids growing up because you’re all watching the same thing.

Now I think it’s very fractured. It’s not like every kid is watching the same thing. They’re all going to have different experiences, so I think the closest thing to that now is video games. When the new video game is released, that’s what everyone is talking about. As opposed to everybody watching the same cartoon at the same time. Because you’ve gotta play that game quick or else you miss out and then it’s going to be blown for you.

TOONZONE NEWS: Video games are hard to keep track of.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: You like virtual reality? Ever messed around with that at all?

TOONZONE NEWS: Slightly. Are they on home consoles now? How does that work?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: You can get PS VR, that can be put on your Playstation. That’s what I have at my house. There’s phone version games, you can snap that Samsung into your VR and use that, but most of the good stuff currently is either PS VR or it’s Oculus or it’s Vive. And those are more expensive PC-based. You’ve got to have, probably at least, a thousand dollar home computer. And the gear for it–Oculus is going to go on sale, previously it’s been six or seven hundred dollars, plus the PC, so you’re probably talking a two thousand dollar investment all together to get all the crap you need to make it work. Not everybody’s going to have that just to mess around with VR. Maybe if you already have the gaming PC, you might get the VR stuff as an add on. But I’m real interested in that. We’re focusing more and more on that. Doing more and more VR projects and stuff, so that’s fun.

TOONZONE NEWS: What projects have you done lately?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Last December we released our Smash Party VR, which is a really fun party game. It’s based on this party that we actually do where we build a steel cage in our parking lot and smash TVs, but it’s real cartoony, and that one’s been really fun. There’s tons of videos on YouTube of people doing playthroughs and stuff on that, and then we’ve done one full music video and we’re in progress of a second music video now. One was in South by Southwest and one we showed a work in progress we showed at Annecy Animation Festival. We haven’t released those yet, we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to release them. I guess Show It 2 Me is in an art festival in San Diego right now, but it’s a little off the beaten track. It’s not in downtown. It’s also distributed in China in these VR arcades, but we haven’t pushed it to a wide release in the US yet because there isn’t an established marketplace for it yet. I guess the Steam store is probably the most focused place where you can buy VR stuff right now, and music videos are a little weird, as far as “what do you charge for a music video” kind of thing. So the Smash Party game we gave away for free, but we’re eventually going to have to start charging people for this stuff if we want to keep making it.

TOONZONE NEWS: You’re whetting their appetite that way.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Exactly, build some good will. It’s like hey, they gave me a free thing, maybe I’ll pay 99 cents to check this one out. So who knows?

TOONZONE NEWS: Have you seen the King Kong 360 Degree 3D Experience at Universal?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I haven’t done it, but I’ve heard of it.

TOONZONE NEWS: It’s very short, but because it’s 360 degrees, it’s basically like animating a much longer film. Is that something you guys are experiencing?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: You do have to deal with more of the 360 space, you have to think about what’s going on behind you. For the stuff that we’ve done, primarily, it hasn’t been that story driven. It’s either been a game or a music video, that’s just cool stuff to look at. So although we had to make sure there is stuff all around you, it’s not story stuff where it’s like, “The story of the thing is happening behind me.” We’re starting to get into that, but it is a tough thing for stories. I think it works well for theme park rides and video games and stuff and I think horror, where some guy jumps out from behind you. But comedy remains to be seen if 360 is going to make stuff funny or not. I’m not quite sure that it’ll be funny to have a 360 experience.

TOONZONE NEWS: You also have to take re-watchability into account. Maybe I should be paying attention to this thing because I didn’t get a good look the first time around.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Yeah, that’s where I think you may get a lot out of the rewatchability part.

TOONZONE NEWS: Would you say playing VR is communal or is it personal?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: It can be. The stuff that we have made has been single person experience, although Smash Party has global leader boards. So although you’re not playing with somebody, your stats get uploaded. Everybody who has downloaded on Steam can check their status with every other person in world, so there’s that kind of community aspect to it. The thing that I’ve played that has the most fun community multiplayer aspect is Star Trek: Bridge Crew. You’re on the bridge of a starship, and it’s all the members of a bridge crew, and they’re all separate people in their own VR headsets from wherever. You can log-on with friends and people you know too, and it’s cool because you hear everyone’s actual voices and the camera picks up their motions, more or less. And you’re trying to accomplish this mission together to pilot this starship and possibly fight Klingons or something. It’s pretty crazy.

TOONZONE NEWS: Where do you see the future of VR?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I feel like there’s going to be some real, deep, early adapters…and there already are people like this, like this one guy I met refers to he like apologized to me for being socially awkward when we met. He’s like, “I only spent 10% of my time in the meat world and the other 90% of my time I spend in virtual reality.” I’m like, “All right, this guy has already forsaken real life for virtual reality.” I think for most people it’s going to happen a lot slower. Where I see it already working really well are like practical fields rather than entertainment. Medical is using it a lot. All different kinds of training, like military training. I tried this one that’s piloting a fighter jet, it’s super cool because it’s virtual reality on an alien planet. They have specific hardware controls made that are the actual size and with the same resistance of the actual fighter jet controls. I also learned I would crash a fighter jet immediately if I was allowed to fly one. So it’s good for training, for sure.

TOONZONE NEWS: Good to do it in a virtual space rather than with an actual fighter jet.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Exactly. Also in industrial design. They’re using it to do car interiors where it’s like maybe should the knob be here? That’s kind of awkward. You don’t have to mock up and build a whole interior of a car to find out if it works or not. That stuff I think is super practical. Games, of course, they’re starting to translate first person shooter. They just announced a VR version of Fallout 4, I think. And Resident Evil 7 is horrifying. Have you tried that? That thing is ultra scary.

TOONZONE NEWS: No, but I’d be such a wuss.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: And virtual reality is a hundred times worse. It’s so scary. So all that stuff, I think, is going to take off. The entertainment stuff is harder to crack, if it doesn’t have an interactive element or a game element or a practical element to it. I also think as a tool. We’ve been using Tilt Brush a lot and Quill is another one as VR paint software. Blocks is a new one that Google just put out. It’s a great environment for constructing art elements, whether they’re going to be used in virtual reality or not. It’s a cool way to draw and paint and sculpt stuff. So I think that’s going to be good as an authoring tool in a weird way. Puppets. There’s these VR puppets now you can create performances with and save them out as a cartoon or whatever you want to call it.

Turbo FASTTOONZONE NEWS: Do you have to be a brilliant artist or animator to use all this stuff?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I don’t think so. Paint is just like anything else. Yeah, if you’re a good artist, your work will probably be more polished, but it’s still fun and cool to draw even if you’re not a professional and the same thing for using these puppets. I think that’s even less important that you know how to animate because it’s really just acting. You can grab things and use different elements and create a performance out of something. And then it exists, and it’s much more acting than animating. Tool Brush has a rudimentary puppet tool that they just added. There was one, I can’t remember, where they had pre-existing characters and pre-existing scenarios and you can pick an avatar to use and an environment and it plays out a scene. You can play it out either with another person or an AI, it’s pre-programmed, and walk through a little scene together, and it records your voice and your motions. Then you get a thing you can show your friends. I can’t remember the name of the software but it’s pretty cool.

TOONZONE NEWS: In general, how has the technology changed since you started?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: It’s just better and faster and more advanced computers always helped. Software advances help a lot, just speed. The thing is as soon as it gets better and faster, you’re like, “We’ve got these great, fast servers and everything renders faster and this and that,” and then the game is upped a little bit. At first, when I was first working, everything was delivered in standard definition, and then it went to HD and it’s like, “It takes longer to do everything and your backgrounds have to be tighter because you’ll be able to see them better and your line quality has to be better and all this stuff.” Now we’re delivering jobs in 4K for Amazon and Netflix and I’m sure that’s all going to be 4K at some point, so it’s just like as things get easier, they also get more advanced. So it knocks the technical advantages you get down back to zero and you start building it up again. When I first started with the TV industry specifically, the animation itself would all be painted on cells and shot under a camera, so that I’m glad we don’t do that. That’s a pain in the ass.

TOONZONE NEWS: Sounds tedious.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I would do short projects. We’d do some of those in house and just painting the cells and doing all that stuff, that’s a labor-intensive thing.

TOONZONE NEWS: When you hire new people on your crew, what are you looking for? A certain level or education or skill set?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: As far as their academic education, I don’t care at all. I don’t care if they went to college or anything. It’s really about their work and their portfolio. Referrals are huge. With art, it’s tough. You see somebody’s work and you don’t know how long it took them to do that. You don’t know if they’re a person that can operate in a group. Animation is very collaborative because you’re all working on a piece of a bigger project. You don’t know if they worked under a director who heavily noted their stuff, and it’s good because they held their hand through it. So referrals are the best way if you have a person that you worked with and they’re like, “Oh, I worked with this person once and they were great, they were fast and they were really nice.” Those are generally the way we like to hire people. And I think we have a pretty good number of interns that end up working on productions ultimately. I’d say, there’s likely to be one intern that gets a job each year because then they show their skills while they’re doing internships. While we don’t generally have interns working on the actual production footage in a show, there’s opportunities that they’ll have to show off their art while they’re at an internship. And even more importantly, that they can work in a group. That’s one of the things I think that should be near the top of a list for an artist thinking about skills for the workplace that they have to work on. That ends up being a huge one. I’d take someone who is a slightly worse draftsman who can get along better with everybody at work over a more talented draftsman who’s an asshole or difficult.

TOONZONE NEWS: Do you find animators are of a certain personality type?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I don’t think so. I think animators are generally like, “I think it’s cool you get to mostly draw all day.” It’s hard work, it’s difficult. I think people who really make it in animation are people who do it anyway. It’d be their hobby. They’d be drawing all the time and animating all the time anyway because if it’s something that you see as a job, I don’t think you’ll last. If you’re like, “Aw, I got to go to work and animate,” then I don’t think you’re ever going to like it. I think the general thing, the type, is people are generally happy to be drawing, more or less. There’s days when it’s a pain in the ass like any job, but you generally want to be drawing all day. And you want to make stuff good. I think that’s where we encourage artists to take risks in improving a scene, and then it pays off. I think that’s a valuable thing. When you’re talking about earlier to trusting artists and giving people leeway to do what they do well and not ride their ass and be like “You must follow this exactly,” then you get like paint by numbers work. But if you’re like hey man, embellish this, make it better, then people generally do it.

TOONZONE NEWS: You’d want a mix of someone creative and a perfectionist. Take pride in their work.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I think that’s a big thing. I think that’s a common trait too. The artists that we hire take pride in their work, for sure.

Space DandyTOONZONE NEWS: What animation do you watch out there that’s not yours but you like?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I like Space Dandy a lot. That was really cool. It’s like a good vibe, it really is the type of show that I like to make. It’s in a world that makes some kind of sense, but there’s also a lot of nonsensical stuff and it can ride that line from really silly to actually kind of dramatic, too. That’s probably the thing I like the most in the last couple of years that we didn’t make. I like stuff that our friends work on, too. I think Justin is doing a great with Rick and Morty, that stuff’s great. I’m friends with the Mr. Pickels guys, Will and Dave, I think they’re doing a great job. So there’s that, Loren, who makes Bob’s Burgers. A lot of our friends, I like their shows.

TOONZONE NEWS: Do you find you’re more impressed with limited TV animation than big budget movies?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: The big budget Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks features are so different. I went to see Moana, I’m actually good friends with the art director on that or the lead character designer…I forget his exact title on that, but he was telling me about it when they were making it. I went to see that and it’s such a technical achievement. It’s so beautiful, there’s no way you can do something like that for TV. At least not anytime soon. It’s just not possible. I think on TV you have different things you have to focus on. It’s much more about characters. Whether it’s a funny show or a dramatic show, movies are about the story. It’s about that one story and that one story better be good. TV shows are about these characters you want to come back episode after episode and see what these characters are up to. I think that’s the big difference in the format. With TV you’re never going to be able to afford to do something as epic, crazy. I just saw Valerian on Monday, and that thing was such a technical achievement. Beautiful. And really complex sci-fi concepts that they executed really well. Things that are really interesting, deep, science fiction settings to explore that easily could’ve been confusing, but where it was directed in a way where you’re like, “Oh, that’s actually clear to see how all that stuff is working.” Movies like that, if you think about it, it’s pretty much an animated movie. Even though it’s a live-action movie, the two stars are live-action and there’s a couple other live-action actors, everything else, every character in it is CG, almost every set is CG. I’m sure there’s more animation in that movie than live-action.

TOONZONE NEWS: Weird to think about how that stuff gets blended together.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Yeah, that’s crazy.

TOONZONE NEWS: So I haven’t gotten to the Bill Nye Saves the World episode. What did you do for that?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I was just a guest on it where I was using Tool Brush, this virtual reality painting software, and I had to play a version of Pictionary with him where he couldn’t see what I was drawing. He wasn’t allowed to look, and I guess the audience could see it. I had to memorize this list of vocabulary words and draw whatever, and then he’d have to guess them, so it was funny. It was good because it wasn’t scripted, and I messed up one of the things and they left it in, and I got to learn from Bill Nye. I didn’t know what a beaker looks like. Apparently, I drew a flask, which has triangular bottom, a straight tube and a bottom like this, that’s what I drew as a beaker. But a beaker is just straight down all the way. And now I know that forever. I learned it from Bill Nye.

TOONZONE NEWS: Do you do other live-action appearances as yourself?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I was just on this thing for YouTube thing for SoulPancake, which is a YouTube channel. It was called Art Attack. It was produced by VR Scout, and it’s got me painting a piece of art in Tool Brush and they do a time lapse of the painting and interview you and talk about it. So occasionally stuff like that, but not acting or anything. Not unless I’m doing a cartoon voice. Mostly be myself on a thing about making art or animation or VR or whatever.

TOONZONE NEWS: Is that a natural thing for you or do you get nervous?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I think it’s pretty natural for me. I’m not worried about looking handsome or whatever it is. If you’re an actor, maybe you’re worried about your image like that. It’s much more focused on the art process or something like that, so not too nervous.

TOONZONE NEWS: So you’re not one of those people that gets nervous when others are watching you work?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I do have to say the Bill Nye thing was hard. You do get a little bit of a mental block when you’re drawing because I had to think quickly and draw something quickly and there wasn’t time to rehearse anything. It seemed way harder to draw than it would be if I wasn’t under this pressure, so I guess there’s a little bit of that.

TOONZONE NEWS: Exercising muscles maybe you don’t normally use.


TOONZONE NEWS: Anything I can look forward to from you in the future? The things you can talk about.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Niko and the Sword of Light is the big one. The first episode is up on Amazon Prime. Can you watch that for free or do you have to a prime member for that?

BEN KALINA: I believe you can watch it for free.


BEN KALINA: Niko is the big thing right now. Rick and Morty Exquisite Corpse, which just came out. Otherwise, things coming out, we will have some announcements at New York Comic Con. We can tease right now, but we will be talking about Big Mouth, which is our Netflix show that’s happening right now.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I think it’s safe to say it’ll be out before the end of the year.

BEN KALINA: This year. Say this year.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Yeah. Niko and Big Mouth are the things that are going to come closest.

BEN KALINA: Venture Bros. is in production right now. I can’t say when it will air, but seasons seven, we’re making it.

TOONZONE NEWS: So this is a new season for them?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: A new season. A brand new season. Because six was kind of broken up between that two part special and the rest of season six. So now season seven is its own thing.

Toonzone News would like to thank Chris Prynoski and Ben Kalina for taking the time to talk with us, and the Titmouse PR team for setting up the ride in the Titmouse RV.