Radical Axis is an animation studio based in Atlanta, Georgia. The studio produces animated TV shows such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Squidbillies, 12oz. Mouse and Perfect Hair Forever for Comedy Central. Most recently, the studio animated FX’s latest show: Archer.
The Radical Axis panel comprised of Radical Axis founder Scott Fry; vice president of production Craig Hartin; animation director Todd Redner, and their special guest and co-creator of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Matt Maiellaro.
The panel was fairly free-form and informal but, displaying some of that infamous Southern Hospitality, the guys handed out free schwag to everyone who asked a question.
They also screened this brilliant short film: Behind the Scenes of Radical Axis Animation Studios:
The Radical Axis crew also invited the audience to participate in a game of Finders Keepers. Todd designed a piece of artwork – a mutant shake – and stashed it away somewhere in the city of San Francisco. If you find it, you get to keep it. More details of this are available on Todd’s blog, and you can find updates about it on their Twitter.
A lot of people at the panel asked what inspires you when you make a new show, but what are your influences? What did you grow up watching?
- Craig: I grew up watching traditional Disney movies and just sort of grew from there. I couldn’t have been happier with anything Disney did as I was growing up, they were just amazing. Tom and Jerry, too, I loved Tom and Jerry.
- Todd: I‘m a huge Tom and Jerry fan! Also Warner Brothers: Road Runner and Wylie Coyote, Bugs Bunny was my favourite. Rabbit Season, Duck Season… those things were always just crazy cool to me.
Was it always the wackier animations that drew you in?
- Todd: Yeah, yeah. For me, the wackier the better.
- Craig: If it came out of left field, I loved it. Anything that kept me on the edge of my seat!
How much cross-pollination is there between your shows?
- Craig: In our studio, it’s quite a bit. People tend to float from project to project and we keep moving people around. Some people are stronger at a certain style than others, so we’ll move them over for temporary use on another show and move them back if we need them on the first show again. There’s a lot of mixture and collaboration going on in the studio with people working from show to show.
- Scott: It’s amazing because it keeps the creativity flowing and keeps everyone in the studio in contact with each other.
Trish Tunney Photography
Left to Right: (Me), Scott Fry, Craig Hartin, Todd Redner, Matt Maiellaro
Tell me about the process when you all work together. Do you do a lot of real-time collaboration in the studio via instant messaging and so on?
- (They all laugh.)
- Matt: Craig has a whole monitor dedicated to IMing! Wall-to-wall IM!
- Scott: We were at lunch the other day and Craig didn’t have his iPhone with him, he was freaking out.
- Matt: He spent three days at my house like this! (He mimes texting). Dinner, watching a movie… all day like that. Yes. IM is all over.
- Craig: Yeah, IM is great, especially since we can send files, get things approved, all that stuff. We can do a quick post on an FTP site for them to download and approve for Aqua Teen, or we can send files back and forth via instant messenger and email.
Do you consider your audience as you create, or go with what’s funny to you?
- All: It’s all about us!
- Scott: Actually, I think with most of the things we do, we entertain ourselves. I can’t speak for Matt…
- Matt: We just write what makes us laugh, then these guys make it even funnier.
- Todd: Yeah… we don’t really think about the audience, it’s just all about us.
- Craig: … And the celebrities we can get on the show.
- Todd: Yeah! We like to get celebrities onto the show so we can hang out with them. Who do we want to hang out with this week?
- Craig: Tom Cruise! We really want to get Tom Cruise on the show.
Do you ever watch the shows back, and does it ever remind you of a particular moment when a joke was formed or the idea that sparked it?
- Craig: We’ll be working on jokes for the show and then go, “Oh, we had that funny thing that we did for that other episode!” Then we’ll either pull assets from it, or we’ll go back and watch it. Things that happen every now and then will make us laugh because it reminds us of something from an earlier episode.
- Scott: It’s funny. When we are working on the shows and we’re laughing it’s a little bit different because Matt and Dave wrote it. What’s really funny is when Matt and Dave are there and you hear them laughing at the stuff. They come up with this great thing, then we get to execute it. That way we feel like we’re doing a good job because not only do we entertain ourselves, but we get to put it out there. It’s a lot of fun.
Does having your own company and a fairly exclusive audience make it easier to have explicit content, or do you still have things censored and sent back?
- Todd: Oh, no. They have a legal department and things get flagged a lot, so we come up with different and fun ways to figure it out… Well, we send it to Craig and he does it!
- Craig: Usually, “Find a way to cover that up, and it will be okay.”
- Todd: And it works!
- Matt: That’s very collaborative, too. It’s great!
The first two episodes of Archer premiered on UK screens in February. The series screens on FIVER on Thursdays at 10pm. Archer is also currently free to watch at the Channel Five website.
[Additional images from Todd Redner’s blog.]