There are lots of people in this world who think they have a good idea for an animated show, but few of them actually do something about it. A good concept, paired with a striking visual, can sometimes be the starting point to a project that ends up being animated and picked up by a TV or new media outlet. The positive-thinking folks who entered Animag‘s Pitch Party contest all took the time to think of an image and a few words to describe what they think would make a good toon for today’s demanding audiences. We hope that they all spend time polishing their ideas and honing their talents, because as anyone who works in this business will tell you, follow-through and persistence is about 80 percent of the job.
Animag‘s annual Pitch Party contest works as an extremely targeted ad campaign designed to help indie and up-and-coming artists present their ideas to a panel of industry professionals. The contestants who purchased a 1/6th page in this issue (which has a huge bonus distribution at San Diego’s Comic-Con confab in July) also have the chance to showcase their ideas to the animation community at large.
We are very happy to announce that this year’s Top Prize winner is Paul Trineer who received the highest score from our panel of judges for his pitch for a show called Chili Conn Carnie. As part of his prize package, Paul will be reimbursed his entry fee and get to pitch to the judge of his choice directly. Our three top winners will also take home a copy of the award-winning Toon Boom Storyboard Pro license to help them continue with their future projects.
We would like to thank every one of our spirited 2013 Pitch Party contestants. Many of our previous editions’ winners and runners-up have had success with their toon ideas (you can visit www.animationmagazine.net to read up on some of their experiences). As one of our seasoned judges pointed out, “We hope that everyone continues to work on their pet projects and pitches. It’s important to pay attention to what kind of shows each company currently airs to get a good feel for what types of programming we like to greenlight and develop. If you think you can produce your show on your own, go ahead. By all means, don’t let anything stop you. Once you create a short and put it out there, you never know how many people will end up noticing it.”
Our 2013 Pitch Party Winners
First Place: Paul Trineer’s Chili Conn Carnie
This year, our judges flipped for Paul Trineer’s clever pitch about a boy who finds himself the recipient of all kinds of crazy carnie powers thanks to a magical medallion. Ted Biaselli, VP of programming for the Hub, said, “The art is pretty strong, and I like the idea of something fun happening in a carnival world with sideshow freaks and other characters like that.” PBS’ Linda Simensky added, “It’s a slightly confusing concept, but a cursed medallion always sounds like fun.” Nickelodeon’s Jenna Boyd said she liked the image and the kid hero. “I’m not sure the carnie concept is one that this generation of kids will be familiar enough with, although it is a funny idea.” Hasbro Studios HasLab’s Michael Ross added, “The poster really conveys the look and feel of the series. He just needs to be careful to distinguish it from Gravity Falls.”
Trineer, who holds a B.F.A in classical animation from Montreal’s Concordia University, says he started in the animation biz later than most. “It was actually my girlfriend (who later became my wife) who convinced me to change directions and pursue my passion,” says the talented artist. “So, I quit the bar business and went back to university to get an education in animation and I never looked back. In short, I went from ‘Bar Fly’ to ‘Toon Guy.’”
He has been working in the industry up in Canada as an animator, sheet director and animation director/supervisor for the past few years.
“I thought it would be fun to watch a show that centers on a regular kid—who consistently forgets to take out the garbage—but is destined to use his newly acquired super powers to battle ‘evil doers,’” says Trineer. “The twist was to have his powers be those that replicate only the traits of Carnival Folks like the Rubber Man, Human Light Bulb or even the Half-Ton Lady, to name a few.”
As far as his plans for the future are concerned, he says he’s hoping to get his show made and have it picked up by a toon studio. He adds, “After that, it’s global animation domination!”
Second Place: Chris Gruszka’s Night Watchdog
Chris A. Gruszka’s Night Watchdog pitch also appealed to many of our judges—and almost tied with our first-prize winner. The Hub’s Biaselli said the pitch had a great look and was simple and easy to understand, while Cartoon Network’s Curtis Lelash also admired the strong image. He added, “There are some similarities to Courage the Cowardly Dog, maybe, but it’s easily one of the most intriguing pitches that made me curious to see more.” Marvel’s Cort Lane thought it was a fresh idea and that there was a nice contrast between the funny animal cartoon with monster/horror parody angles.
Gruszka is a St. Paul, Minnesota-based animation prof who owns his own traditional 2D animation production house called SeeGru Ink & Animation, where he primarily works on TV commercials and web and corporate videos. He also recently illustrated a couple of books and has a web comic about two aliens on Earth called Proberz.
Gruszka first came up with his lead beagle character about 20 years ago, but he didn’t have any stories or ideas about him. “All I had was that he wore a baseball hat,” he tells us. “Then last year, I entered the Pitch Party Contest with an existing idea I created that had been all worked up (including a pitch bible and even some finished animation) called HeroGuy and CockRoach Lad, which didn’t place high enough.”
He decided to enter his ball cap-wearing beagle this year. “The hat reminded me of a security guard hat and the thought of a dog living in a world of humans along with a human wife and human problems kind of just snowballed … I thought the combination of this tired Night Watchdog in a scary dark place would make for a striking visual.”
The creative artist says he really wants to help create something for TV whether it’s his idea or someone else’s. “That’s my dream,” he says. “I love doing character designs and helping to create worlds. Lately, I have focused more on trying to get some of my own ideas and IPs in front of the right people in the hopes of creating my own shows. I really want to work in animated television, where traditional 2D is still very strong.”
Having loved drawing and cartoons since he was a very young boy, Chris studied graphic design and worked as a graphic designer until he got into commercial animation in 1994 and founded his own company in 2001. “I love cartoons!” he says. “It’s as simple as that.”
Third Place: Dustin Yee’s Hard Time Candy
The Animag staff got a big kick out of Dustin Yee’s imaginative take on our favorite sweet treats, and so did many of our judges. The Hub’s Biaselli loved the idea of a candy prison. “There’s so much surrounding childhood obesity that the idea of doing a show about candy seems dead on arrival—however, when you make candy the villains, there is some potential,” he said. “The look is great, too.” Michael Ross said he like the jumping-off point for the series, but he felt the idea needed more “oomph” to make it as a strong toon. “I think the designs are a huge plus,” he pointed out.
Dustin says he has been a comic-book and animation fan since he was six and he has a huge amount of admiration of Eastman and Laird and their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. “As a kid, I wanted to be an animator or a comic-book artist so I could do something like TMNT,” he recalls. “I moved more towards comics in my late teens, particularly digital color for comics, and dedicated myself to that pursuit.”
The idea for his pitch came to him one day as he was doodling and created a little girl with lollipops on her head. “She took on a bratty, hyper, candy-obsessed personality,” Dustin says. “So I thought it’d be funny to do a comic that dropped her into a situation of moving to a new town that didn’t have a candy shop, and watch her freak out and run up and down every street. When her search leads to a seemingly abandoned candy shop in the forest, surrounded by a moat, the Alcatraz-for-candy angle took off from there into a Charlie & the Chocolate Factory meets Dick Tracy kind of concept. The Hard Time Candy title fell into place later.”
Dustin, who has been a comic colorist for the past 10 years and made some comics of his own along the way, says he would like to continue down that path in the near future. “I love creating characters, high concepts and stories, and I’ll pursue that in whatever outlets I can find access to,” he adds. “I plan to pitch a short that I’m really excited about to Frederator’s incubator program this year. And, hopefully, the judges who voted for Hard Time Candy in the Pitch Party will let me send them comics and other materials going forward!” They’d better, or else we know some tough candy criminals who’re going to make them an offer they can’t refuse!
Animag Staff Picks
First Place: Night Watchdog (Chris Gruszka)
Second Place: Hard Time Candy (Dustin Yee)
Third Place: Fast Sloths (Stephanie Komure / Joseph Medina)
Online Readers’ Picks
First Place: The Tinies (Jazz Paws/Michael Kursher)
Second Place: Fast Sloths (Stephanie Komure / Joseph Medina)
Third Place: The Surf Seekers (Stacie Crist Harmon)