I’ve been reading a lot of the articles being written about Animals, however it’s less about the series and more about the impact the series could have on TV distro at Sundance or the fact that it’s a ‘Duplass brothers’ produced series. And while both of those are true, the actual creators of the series, Mike Luciano and Phil Matarese weren’t thinking about that while working for an ad agency in NYC.
Nope, all the guys did was just gaze out their windows in Manhattan watching pigeons nearby and acting out scenarios born out of sheer boredom of working a typical 9-5 work day, ”We already wrote funny content for a living, but one day we decided to just start talking like them, ” says Luciano, ”from there we decided to start producing a cartoon about pigeons. From there, once a month we would develop a new web short derived from different animals. One month it would be pigeons, the next month rats, and so forth.”
Unfortunately, neither of these guys had much experience in any sort of cartoon producing. Rather, Phil Matarese decided to go the Eddie Van Halen route of learning how to produce animation i.e. self-taught, and what came of it was a web series that gained the attention of Mark and Jay Duplass after a much-deserved win at the New York Television Festival. ”Literally during our work day, Mike and I would sneak into a closet office and take Skype calls with Mark whom would give us a few options on routes to take on taking Animals to the next level, and we are at the moment on that path and we couldn’t be happier.’ Phil would later note just how valuable a resource the Duplass’ would be as they would provide advice on everything from the business end of working in the TV business to the creative aspect to which Mike would add, ”Mark and Jay promised to set us up real nicely here, and kind of leave us to our own in terms of producing the series. They don’t stifle our creativity whilst breathing down our necks.”
That’s not a privilege afforded to most whom make their first trek to Hollywood as most could regale tails of sucking dick just to make ends meet. Instead, Mark and Jay do what they do best…the writers’ room, ”these guys are the masters of just bringing talent together and helping us act out scenes and embed arcs that eventually flesh themselves out. But for the most part, he tells us to trust our instincts.”
So what’s the result of working with Mark and Jay Duplass? Enter Animals. A new quarter-hour series that is being developed into a 30-minute sketch animated series that the creators say is more like a Portlandia but animated in a dark and meek New York City setting where only the strong survive that certainly should please fans of Life and Times of Tim. Pigeons, rats, cats, even those turtles you see in Chinatown all account for subjects that you could only see in the city that never sleeps. Hell, even when I pitch to Phil the idea of traversing outside of New York City for other animal encounters he very quickly shoots me a, ”NO! Batman never fights crime in Philadelphia!” And while I dropped some major plot point bombs as evidenced in many a Dark Knight tale of Batman leaving Gotham, the guys were steadfast in making sure NYC was THE place to be if you’re an animal.
And these animals have a hell of a guest-voice cast behind them, too. Not only are Phil and Mike voicing characters, but a laundry list of guest voices are already confirmed to take on roles in the series like Ellie Kempler, Paul Scheer, Ike Barinholtz, Marc Maron (!!!!!!!!!), and a whole host of others. And while producing, Phil and Mike took note early on to let these talented voices do a lot of improv which isn’t always the norm with animated shows, a lot of which give you the script and ask that you keep ad-libbing to a minimum. Not to say shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy completely restrict ad-libbing, but it’s VERY rare when you hear producers actually press the issue for actors to use their talents as much as they can in the voice booth, ”We’re very humbled by having people come in that I truly admire and work on what is essentially a passion project of mine for little over a year.”
The journey isn’t over, if anything it really kicks off on Monday, July 26th @ Sundance Film Festival where the guys will be presenting Animals and taking part in a Q & A. And if Mike and Phil can get THIS much accomplished in a year without a moment’s notice…what can they do THIS year?
Watch a trailer for Animals here.