Stay on target You Can Now Pre-Order ‘Dungeons & Dragons Vs. Rick and Morty’ Set‘Rick and Morty’ Season 4 Returns This November If you’re a fan of Adult Swim, or of Fox’s new partially animated sitcom Son of Zorn, you’ve probably seen the name Titmouse on your TV screen. They’re the animation studio behind some of your favorite late night cartoons, including The Venture Bros. and Metalocalypse. The studio was started in 2000 as a T-shirt company by Chris and Shannon Prynoski, but when they kept getting requests for cartoons, it morphed into the animation studio we know it as today.Now is a busy, very exciting time for Titmouse. They’re gearing up for the release of their first full-length movie, a new season of Venture Bros. is underway, and their New York animators just finished moving into a brand new studio. I got to sit down with Chris Prynoski and ask him some questions about Venture Bros., Son of Zorn, and how these cartoons come together.Right off the bat, I had to ask about the upcoming seventh season of Venture Bros.. As someone who spent almost all of his 20s obsessed with that show, I was ecstatic to learn that it was coming back. All he could tell me was that they are currently in the writing stages of the next season.“It takes a long time to make that show, so I’m not sure what they’ve announced, but you know, the most general thing is we are making it… I’m sure there’s no information on when this thing will be coming out, but expect to wait a little bit of time.”Dr. Venture in The Venture Bros. season six. (Photo: Screenshot via YouTube/Adult Swim)To give us an idea of how much time we could expect to wait, he took me through the process of how a show like Venture Bros. gets made.“The process of making Venture Bros., or really any other cartoon is the writing, and then we record the voices, and you do storyboards, and you cut an animatic. Simultaneously while you do the storyboards you’re doing designs, location designs off the script, you’re doing character designs, all that stuff, cutting animatics,” Prynoski said. All that goes into a pre-production package that lays out the timing of the animation.“You’ll do these things called exposure sheets where you plan out all the action,” Prynoski continued. “Then ship it over to the Korean studio who will do all the animation drawings and send it back, and we work on editing it further, maybe doing animation changes until it’s a cartoon and then you do the sound mix, and there you go.”That whole process typically takes nine months to a year to produce a half hour of animated television. That may sound like a long time, but as you can imagine, they work on a lot simultaneously. A year from now, they’ll probably have more than a single episode of the new season completed. That said, it’ll probably still be a pretty long time before we hear any more concrete Venture Bros. news.For their new show Son of Zorn, the animation process is even more complicated. Being a hybrid live-action/animated show (I called it “Roger Rabbit” style), they can’t start storyboarding as soon as the episode is written. Employing techniques they learned by working on Disney’s Kirby Buckets, they send Titmouse director Barry Kelly to the set so they can coordinate how each shot will look once the animation is added in.Animator Allison Mehner works on a scene from FOX’s Son of Zorn“There’s a lot of back and forth, it’s not like you do a storyboard for an animated show and that’s how it is,” Prynoski said. “You figure out shots that can work, and then they do a rough cut and we do drawings on top of the rough cut to get an animatic, so it’s a really different process.” Prynoski also said that one of the show’s executive producers, Eric Appel, really likes animation and is very involved in determining the look of each scene. “I love working with him.”I had to bring up my other great Adult Swim obsession: Metalocalypse. Despite a successful crowdfunding campaign, the network decided not to bring the show back for another season. Brendon Small isn’t letting his work go to waste. Some of the music he would have used in Metalocalypse will appear in his upcoming solo concept album, Galaktikon II. Prynoski also said that Titmouse’s creative director is drawing the album covers so, in a way they’re still involved. He also revealed that they’re working with Small on a pilot for a new show.One thing that’s always struck me about much of Titmouse’s animation, particularly Adult Swim, is how improvised the dialog can feel. Since everything has to be drawn by hand, I wondered how that happens in animation. Prynoski told me that Metalocalypse the show with the most improvisation involved. Sometimes the voice actors would find the story of a particular episode while they were recording it.“Sometimes we’d go in the booth and the entire story would get thrown out… It really helps to have funny people as your voice actors who are also good at improv, and if they happen to be the creators of the show, it makes it easier because you do not have to bring actors back every time you have a new idea.” Sometimes the show’s editor would be given 45 minutes of improvisation and have to cut it down into an 11-minute show.Metalocalypse. (Photo: Screenshot via YouTube/Adult Swim)Prynoski is especially excited about Nerdland, an R-rated animated comedy that’ll see a theatrical release in December. Written by Andrew Kevin Walker (Seven), Prynoski describes the movie as a dark comedy with a nihilistic point of view on fame and Hollywood. The movie has been getting encouraging responses on the festival circuit, and the cast is really exciting. The big stars are Patton Oswalt, Paul Rudd, and Hannibal Burress, but Adult Swim fans might recognize the voices of Brendon Small and Tommy Blacha from Metalocalypse, as well as Chris McCulloch from Venture Bros., and Dana Snyder and Dave Willis from Aqua Teen Hunger Force.Nerdland is the first feature that is fully theirs. Titmouse has done work for hire on a number of animated features in the past, but this is the first time they’ve made a full movie all the way through.“We learned a lot,” Prynoski said. “I directed this one, and I think I’ll do a much better job on my next one because you learn… Also, because it’s low budget, we had to do it in between other jobs, so it’s not like I was full time only directing that movie and nothing else. It was kind of like having a part-time job, but it’s a really important part-time job.”What did help, Prynoski said, was treating the movie like a TV show. “It’s 85 minutes, and it ends up being kind of like making a four-hour episode. We broke it up into four ‘reels.’” Breaking the movie up into chunks and working on each as if it were an episode of a show made the whole process more manageable.Titmouse deals almost entirely in traditional 2D animation that probably isn’t going to stop anytime soon. Prynoski says working in 2D allows him to keep budgets small and projects profitable. The low budgets also allow the studio more creative freedom. “The more money you take from people, the more they want to chime in and say what the movie should be, or the more successful it needs to be for them to feel like it was worth it. If you make a movie for $100 million, it’s got to make multiple hundreds of millions. If you make a movie for $5 million and it makes $10 million, you’re in great shape.”Fans of hand-drawn 2D animation, and comedy in general should look out for Nerdland when it hits theaters in December.