Having employed stop-motion animation to mutilate celebrities in the ring with MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch and skewer them on their home turf with E!’s Starveillance, Eric Fogel has again teamed with MTV to create Anton and Crapbag. Part of a new initiative to launch short-form content across multiple platforms, the series uses rod puppetry and 2D animated mouths to give life to two slackers who try various Jackass-esque stunts that inevitably end in disaster.
We figured it was time to catch up with Fogel and get the scoop on the new show and other aspects of his animated show biz career.
Animation Magazine Online: When did you know you wanted to get into animation? What was your fist project?
Eric Fogel: I knew I always wanted to try animation. It wasn’t until film school at NYU that I completed my first real animated film: a satirical, post-apocalyptic story titled Mutilator. The film was distributed by Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival and it was the first time I ever got paid for my work. It was an exciting time for me and that’s when I knew I wanted to pursue a career in animation.
AMO: How did you get hooked up with MTV?
EF: I’d been working at a now defunct animation studio in NYC when I got a call from someone at MTV. They had seen my reel and responded to my work. I pitched them a board for a show idea about an everyman and the alien living inside his giant head. It was called The Head, and they optioned it immediately. I was only 24 at the time.
I knew I wanted to do a series using stop-motion animation involving celebrities. Then I thought, what better way to skewer celebrities than by having them battle it out in a ring? [Celebrity Deathmatch] was a very simple pitch and MTV got it immediately.
AMO: What were the challenges of bringing Deathmatch to the screen, and what did you find most rewarding?
EF: Of course, actually making the show proved to be more challenging. There was no infrastructure at MTV animation for doing stop-motion, so we had to build a studio from scratch. Then we had to go out and find animators to fill the studio and, in many cases, train people who’d had very little stop-motion experience. It was very funny to walk the halls of MTV animation. The building itself was very corporate and then you’d find little cubicles filled with our puppets. Some of the animation stages were set up in utility closets! It was amazing, the work we were able to do in there.
The most rewarding aspect of Deathmatch was working with really talented people on a show where we were given a tremendous amount of creative freedom. When those two elements click together, you can’t ask for a better working experience.
AMO: How did Starveillance get off the ground?
EF: Starveillance was a project I’d been developing for a while as a sort of animation/reality show hybrid. The concept was simple: Iconic celebrity moments caught on tape. Unlike Deathmatch, we employed a good amount of improvisation during the voice records and we used “handheld camera” techniques to shoot the animation. I’m glad E! took a chance on this show. I’m really proud of the way it turned out.
AMO: Why did you decide to switch to rod puppetry for Anton & Crapbag?
EF: The reason we went with rod puppets for Anton & Crapbag was twofold: A) it allowed us to perform ridiculous, Jackass-type stunts in real time and B) it’s way more cost effective than stop-motion animation.
Each Anton & Crapbag episode is structured around a particular stunt, so they’re all unique. In a given short you might see the boys tangle with real alligators, crash little remote controlled cars in a demolition derby or slingshot themselves around the Earth! They do it all and they die every time. Horribly.
AMO: Any other projects in the works?
EF: I’m currently developing a handful of new shows, including a stop-motion series for Tornante, Michael Eisner’s company. I also have a script for a stop-motion action film that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s incredibly cool, stylized and grownup’my own version of 300.
AMO: What inspires you?
EF: I get inspired by work where it’s clear that the makers were willing to take a chance and just go for it. I love it when a movie or TV show shocks, surprises and takes me in a direction I didn’t see coming. It’s a rare and beautiful thing. I loved how Cloverfield re-invented the monster movie genre. And I love that Stallone made another Rambo movie. I miss those R-rated action movies from the 80’s. They were great and they just don’t make them anymore.
New two- to four-minute installments of Anton & Crapbag will debut weekly at 10:58 p.m. on MTV2 beginning this month. In May, a half-hour compilation special will air simultaneously on MTV2 and on the MTV live-streaming linear television channel on Vcast TV. The special also will air on MTV Tres.