In the early 2000’s, Chris Prynoski and his wife Shannon founded Titmouse, Inc. as a T-shirt company. Mr. Prynoski had already done some animation for MTV in the 1990’s after graduating from the School of Visual Arts, but Titmouse didn’t convert to an animation studio until he landed a freelance animation gig for the Tom Green feature Freddy Got Fingered, and the producers said they couldn’t hire “just a dude” to do the work. More than a decade later, the Titmouse logo has appeared on some of the best cartoons in the past decade, including The Venture Bros, Metalocalypse, Black Dynamite, Randy Cunningham: Ninth Grade Ninja, Superjail!, and Motorcity.
One of their recent productions is on the new DreamWorks Animation Television show Turbo FAST, a spin-off series based on the feature film released in 2013. The show centers on Turbo and his Fast Action Stunt Team, and their crazy shenanigans that seem to follow them wherever they go. We were able to talk with Chris Prynoski via telephone on the eve of new episodes of the show premiering on Netflix.
TOONZONE NEWS: I wanted to make sure I told you that I really dug Motorcity, which was a show about speed and things moving really fast. Is it a coincidence that Turbo FAST is about that too?
CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I think originally, we were coming off the movie for thoughts of what this show would be, but it really has changed, especially in this second season. We’ve pushed so far away from racing and speed stuff. It’s really evolved to be more character comedy. But I think you’re right, in the very initial stages, I think that’s why Peter Gal of DreamWorks was talking to me about it as we evolved this Turbo FAST show. The FAST is actually very little of what the show is now.
TOONZONE NEWS: How did this show come to you from DreamWorks?
CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I’ve known (DreamWorks Animation Television Head of Development) Peter Gal for years from different places, and gave me a call and said he had this project and thought I’d be a good fit for it. I talked to him and it seemed really cool. At that point, I don’t think they had figured out the entire plan for the series, and even where it was going to end up, but it was long before the movie came out when we started working on this project. But they called me and said, “I think you’ll do a good job.” So I said, “Thanks!” and then we started making it.
TOONZONE NEWS: What were the parameters that you had to work with? Were 11-minute episodes something they wanted or was that something that was asked for? How many of those changes from the movie to the show were coming from you vs. coming from DreamWorks?
CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I think that they knew they wanted to make 11-minute shows. There was a little bit of back and forth. In the first season, we were ahead of the other Netflix shows. Now there’s Adventuers of Puss in Boots, King Julien, Dragons: Race to the Edge, but at that time there wasn’t anything on Netflix. It was kind of wide open. I think we might have talked to Netflix about, “You can deliver any length you want,” but 11 minutes is a pretty standard TV format. I don’t think there was much discussion of making them longer. Every once in a while, we’ll do a double-episode which is a 22-minute story, but it’s still packaged as 2 11’s. We’ve got one where they go into space, and that was a two-parter.
TOONZONE NEWS: In some earlier interviews, I saw a pretty interesting list of touchstones for Motorcity, ranging from RoboCop to The Dukes of Hazzard. What were the touchstones you were looking at for Turbo FAST?
CHRIS PRYNOSKI: It’s interesting, it really evolved because it was about this crew that was supposed to be characters getting fleshed out from the movie. There’s obviously Turbo and his brother Chet who were fleshed out, but the rest of the crew were really comic relief. So the task was really to develop those characters. There was some talk that they’re a crew and they solve people’s problems like the A-Team, but we really wanted to push into comedy. So just dumb, stupid cartoon comedy is the influence. I don’t know if we’re referencing things. If anything, we were referencing character stuff like Seinfeld as much as not in these shows.
CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Yeah, so it’s 26 half hours out there now, which is 52 11’s. This one is 13 half-hours, and first ones are out on July 31, so it’s 26 11’s. A lot of cartoons to look at.
TOONZONE NEWS: How soon after that initial 26 half-hours did you get the call todo the next ones? Did you jump straight into it, or was there a gap?
CHRIS PRYNOSKI: We were pretty much continuous on this, but they knew that they wanted to make more before we finished the first season. So there really wasn’t any kind of hiatus. We just kept on in production. It takes a little while to amass some episodes, which is why there’s a bit of a gap. The process is a little different from a cable television network where they air a show every week. Whenever we get a bunch of them, you have to get them up.
TOONZONE NEWS: How long does it take you to wrap up one of these 11-minute episodes?
CHRIS PRYNOSKI: You know, it depends. We use a couple of different pipelines. We’re making a bunch of episodes and there are schedule and budget considerations. We do all the pre-production and post-production in-house, but for the animation production, we do some of them within LA here, and we utilize our Vancouver studio to get some done. We ship also to Korean studios to get some of the work done because there’s such a high volume of work. Even some of the ones we’re working on now, early ones, we animated in our LA and New York studios. It’s depending on where we can get it done faster. When we ship overseas it usually takes longer because you have to build more pre-production materials. Trying to map it out, I think it’s probably anywhere from 5 to 8 months, in that neighborhood. That’s from script to delivery for an 11 minute episode. But they overlap, we’re starting a new one very week. It’s not like you wait 8 months and start another one. We have a lot of them going on at the same time.
CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Yeah (laugh). Jen Ray, our producer, she’s always got a lot of balls to juggle. Even working with just one pipeline is tough, but working with multiple pipelines and multiple studios, internal and external studios…it’s definitely something.
TOONZONE NEWS: Have you changed the way you do Turbo FAST from when you got the initial order to the way you’re doing the episodes now?
CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Yeah. Pipeline-wise, the very first batch of season 1, I think the first 20 episodes we did in LA and New York, but all locally in the United States of America. As we’ve had to produce more and more, we’ve had to expand the way we produce these shows. That’s changed for sure. The way we approach storytelling and stuff is definitely changed. Season 2 is so different from season 1. Maybe the back-half of season 1, we started to get a little more comedic and ditch the premise…they don’t really have to race. They will, sometimes. It’s not like it’ll never happen. We just use it as a comedic device, now, but that’s not always the plot or the story in the second season. There’s very rarely a story where the race is the story. It’s more like that’s something they do, and there’s some dumb story around it. We’re digging into dumb a lot more in the second season.
CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Oh, man. Kevin Conroy is great, obviously. He’s been more Batman than any other Batman out there, and Andrea Romano is our voice director, and she’s voice-directed on countless Batman things. We wrote this episode and were thinking, “Well, we really want to get a good superhero voice, and the Stinger is a Batman-esque parody,” so we wanted to get someone who could pull that off. And Andrea was like, “Hey, Kevin might be willing to do it. I can ask him if you want.” We were like, “Man, we never even considered that it could be an option.” So we were like “Absolutely!” And he was super-down. Super fun and did an amazing job on the comedic beats and playing it straight when he needed to. I thought he was amazing there.
TOONZONE NEWS: What else are you working on that you can talk about?
CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Cool! I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about DreamWorks stuff, other than Turbo, so maybe that’ll be an interview next year (laughs). But as far as other Titmouse stuff, Moonbeam City is going to premiere on Comedy Central in September. That’s a fun show, and I think you’re going to like that one a lot if you like Motorcity. Another kind of weird, futuristic city stupid comedy.
Toonzone News would like to thank Chris Prynoski for taking the time to talk with us, and the crew at DreamWorks Animation Television and Click Communications for making this interview possible. New episodes of Turbo FAST will premiere on July 31, 2015, on Netflix. You can follow the exploits of Titmouse Animation Studios on their official website and their Facebook page.