Sean Corey Adams, Animator
On the Williams Street mystique, animating the interesting part of Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theatres, and what it’s like to be doing exactly what you wanted to as a kid.
Interview by Glossolalia Black, drooling geek.
Quick aside: Mr. Adams and I have been LiveJournal buddies for ages, and when I found out that he was responsible for what is commonly referred to as: “the only decent five minutes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters,” I had to bug him by email for a few weeks. He’s a decent guy, and I hope he gets more chances to show off his considerable work.
GB: What do they have in the food machines over at Turner?
SCA: To my knowledge, there are soda machines but no food machines, at least nothing selling candy bars or chips.
The Turner Techwood campus has a cafeteria called Station Break” which is open 24/7 and serves a variety of food. At night the choices are limited to grilled food and sandwiches, but during the day they offer an assortment of soups, salads, gourmet meals and even Chik-Fil-A.
On each floor (of my building) they have soda machines which only take tokens. The tokens are free, and we get them from our producers. However, after a month of such sedentary work and sodas, most people cull their drinking and pay for water or juice.
Our department also gets special treats thanks to our producers. Twice everyday a lady brings around a snack cart filled with bagels, pastries, fresh baked cookies, chips, trail mix, and fruit… this has proven to be very helpful when I’ve mismanaged my bank accounts and can’t afford lunch.
GB: Goddamn. That whole blurb that Williams Street did on Turner not being very nice to work for sounds like a lie!
SCA: Yeah, I’m not sure what they have to complain about, since their building was upgraded last year… the old warehouse has been converted into a sleek hub of offices, full of eye-candy and bizarro stuff. Then again I don’t work over at there, maybe the halls are full of dangerous animals or something. Perhaps they don’t get free tokens.
GB: Are there executive washrooms? Are there places like a solid gold toilet where Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick can squeeze one out when they come to town?
SCA: I haven’t seen any golden toilets, but then again I’m just a lowly mercenary without any executive privileges…. but yeah, let’s assume there are golden toilets, if only to keep up the mystique. They did have a foosball table. In fact, I’m getting the impression that every studio is required to have at least one foosball table.
GB: What is the difference between the Williams Street Offices, Turner Offices, and, say, CNN? Or BET?
SCA: Ah, that’s not so easy to answer… considering that the Turner properties are scattered throughout Atlanta, in a variety of buildings. Williams Street is an old ware house with new guts. Turner Techwood is a glossy, expanding corporate campus.
Do you mean the difference in appearance, location, politics, work ethic, number of windows or something else?
GB: All of the above, or none of the above. Make something up if you have to. Hell, you could go into who’d win in a snowball fight, except it never snows in Atlanta.
I’d say offhand, without any charts or graphs, that Williams Street would be the heroes in a snowball fight. The suits across the highway would eventually win with sheer numbers, but [adult swim] would give them a helluva a fight… in fact they’d probably start it.
The Williams Street building is pretty much just an old warehouse. It was one of Ted’s early acquisitions. They renovated last year, and the catacomb of new offices is finally evolving to mirror its eccentric tenants. One hall has been completely covered in Astroturf and ivy, and decorated with topiary owls on pedestals. There’s an office resembling a hillbilly hubcap dealer’s shack, complete with plywood, hubcaps and chain-link fence. Another office is filled with plastic owls (rumor has it that Lazzo loves owls). Somebody’s computer is camouflaged with real shrubbery. There’s stuff stacked in the hallways; like a life-sized replica of Han Solo in carbonite; a towering robot from Big-O; a stuffed bear wearing a Santa hat…etc.
Usually, I only visit Williams Street to hang out with my friend John Lau, the designer for Toonami (I call him Toonami-John), Maguzi and a dozen other projects. He’s artistically prolific, but the public rarely sees his work. His office, though free of owls, is full of his robot and spaceship designs, so it’s always treat to see what he’s been working on.
Williams Street is like an outpost, separated from the Techwood by 14 lanes of I-75. Some of the staff at Williams Street want to either dig tunnels under I-75 or run a zip-line from their rooftop to the front lawn of Techwood. I favor the zip-line idea – I mean, not only would it be awesome to see execs zipping over traffic, but the inevitable fatality rate would cull the weak and make for a great media.
Techwood on the other hand, is like an ever-growing experiment in architectural diversity. Ted’s original HQ, an antebellum mansion -called “The Mansion”- still sits on the large front lawn facing I-75. It’s centered between larger, red brick office buildings which mock traditional Southern style, while the structures behind The Mansion are more contemporary in
The new building facing 10th Street, is a wall of glass, overlooking the GA Tech and Downtown. It’s got one of the best views of the city and because the interior is fully visible from the street, the designers adapted the it as a means of advertising. The walls of levels four through seven are murals of Cartoon Network characters.
I’m sure there are dull corporate areas at Techwood, but the departments I frequent are full of artists, who fill up space with toys, theme park props, posters, books, original artwork and other stuff. I have some friends who work in the new building and visit them when I need to recharge after animating for hours on end. The more competitive marketing artists work there, and they go to great lengths decorating their workspace. They’ve got life-sized statues of CN characters, like Bloo and Mac from Foster’s, and Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons (she was originally over at Williams Street). Last time I was up there, somebody had made their cubicle into a Chinese temple, complete with red shingles, gold pillars and guardian dogs.
As for CNN, I imagine it looks a lot like the Daily Planet or Daily Bugle…but I’ve heard it’s terribly boring. It has a huge gift shop though.
GB: What’s your actual title… which I suppose I could get from IMDB?
SCA: I prefer to call myself a Mercenary Artist: for hire. ie. Freelancer. I’m also a character creator, illustrator, sculptor, and for a time I was even a stuntman and stilt-walker. IMDB
lists me as animator.
Casually, I say I’m an animator; it saves fuss, and gets the point across. But among artists at the studios I’m considered an In-Betweener and Inker. Animators are the artists who draw the Key Frames and direct the animation, while In-Betweeners assist by providing the tedious bulk of drawings or ‘tweens’ which go between keys. While these are details most people don’t care
about, in the industry it’s a big distinction.
To get an idea of what a key frame is, say you have a character raising its arm in salute. The Animator provides the drawings for Arm 1 in the down position, and Arm 5 in the saluting position and the In-betweener, following the keys, provides drawings 2, 3, and 4 thus completing the action. That’s the basics.
In ATHFCMFFT I was credited as an Animator because I animated the opening act. In other words, I drew everything with no assistants. ATHF obviously isn’t animated the same way, that say, Dexter’s Laboratory was (and yes, Dexter, the Power Puff Girls and most Cartoon Network shows were animated on paper. There’s a common misconception that it’s all done in computers). ATHF kind of splits the animation between an Artist and a Compositor. Together they create a library of common actions for each character, which can be used over and over. An artist provides drawings on paper, they’re inked and scanned into a computer. Those files are sent to a compositor who can further manipulate the animation. For example, in the ATHFCMFFT, I animated the Hot Dog marching in place, and the Compositor made it look like the Hot Dog was actually moving forward.
GB: I’ll probably start asking you technical questions next, once I do some research and ask you the right kind of questions. Next question: What are the right kinds of questions?
SCA: The right questions are those you think you can’t find the answer to elsewhere… most technical queries could better be answered by a trained pro, and not a squirt like me who’s learning on the job.
GB: Question after that: What kind of schwag do you find yourself receiving, lately?
SCA: Ah the schwag…I love my schwag. Generally, schwag is rare in my department, but recently one of my friends, Nate Pratt, an animator on Harvey Birdman, met the lady who holds the key to The Closet -the room with all the toys and things you can’t get a hold of easily. He and I hauled in a load of Birdman happiness including a pair of Birdman bobble-heads and collection of the rare Birdman Tin-Posters! Nate got the last Birdman Magic Oracle ball, but I got a Class of 3000 iPod case (I gave it away because I don’t have an iPod).
Talking about ATHFCMFFT there was only a small amount of movie related ATHF schwag. At the premiere they handed out bags of candy-coated peanuts labeled MEATWADS and we pulled some posters off the theatre walls after the movie. That was all I found.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters Is Now Available For DVD. Apparently with a bunch more stuff than they had in the theater release, you know, to make up for the small screen and the lack of smelly strangers all around you in the dark.
Glossolalia Black is way too old to be watching cartoons.