A recent episode of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s IFC skit show Portlandia, which lampoons the city of Portland, Ore. and its colorful denizens, got some extra animated oomph thanks to local studio Bent Image Lab. The nearly three-minute skit is titled Zero Rats and was directed by Rob Shaw.
Zero Rats combines live action footage with stop-motion animated rat versions of Carrie, Fred and third friend, John, who plot to infiltrate a new zero-packaging grocery store, only to have their exuberance overrule their good sense. The three Portlandia figureheads brought up the idea for the animated skit when they came to tour Bent and discuss vfx elements for other episodes, according to Shaw.
The segment was created by first recording scripted and improvisational voice over material from the actors, which was then used to create an animatic. Much attention to detail was given to capture the look, movement and mannerisms of the actors and translate them into the rat characters, gleaned from previous Portlandia episodes. Lead animator Jen Prokopowicz was charged with perfecting the caricature of Fred, Carrie and John’s movements and worked closely with Portlandia director of photography Bryce Fortner. Even the attic set in which the rats make their scheme is full of subtle nods to the world of Portlandia—including a kombucha water cooler added by art director Greg Arden, amongst other special touches.
Shaw says the Portlandians were happy with the results, as Brownstein told him personally.
“I said good, because we loved doing it… I just hope that they find an excuse to re-use the rats and we get to see more of them in the future.”
Check out Zero Rats below. You can also watch a cool making-of video from Bent: