The most thrilling animated retelling of WWE history wasn’t on the WWE Network this year. It was on ESPN. On ESPN’s 30 for 30: Nature Boy, the docu-series took on a more animated slant for their recent deep-dive into the 16 time World Champion Ric Flair. Yes, we’ve seen animated retellings of WWE stories before, even a few Ric Flair stories, but producers 6 Point Harness took these stories to another stratosphere and we wanted to find out how. As a result, we got a chance to hit up creative director Greg Franklin from 6 Point Harness to get an idea of what went into the animation production for 30 for 30: Ric Flair.
Bubbleblabber: Despite some of the scenes animated being for really funny stories, there’s definitely a “dark” element to them, almost foreshadowing that Ric would inevitably get in trouble for his silliness, was this intentional or by accident?
Greg Franklin: Any time the team and I at 6PH are tackling these kinds of “found audio” stories, whether it’s a stand up comedy bit or a more serious documentary, it’s of the utmost importance for us not to impose our own agenda, but to build the visual space from within story itself, to really define our boundaries and work as creatively as possible within those boundaries.
With Nature Boy, the stories are hilarious on the surface, but on deeper levels deal with denial, addiction, and real tragedy. On top of that, these stories occur in the goofy, bombastic world of professional wrestling. So we played it straight, and with the utmost respect for these really hard working, hard living people, knowing that the darkness would come through even in the more light-hearded moments.
When you’re animating a re-telling of a story, what were some of the important features of the story that you knew HAD to be a part of the tale?
Well, of course, it depends on the story. But we always want to make sure that we’re showing the real connection between our characters and we’re always striving to tell our stories elegantly and observantly.
In general, we knew that our animation style had to reflect an ultimately serious subject, but we wanted to evoke warm, nostalgic feelings as well. Saharat Tantivaranyoo designed the characters and he has a real knack for big subjects. He designed the animation for Cosmos so we kind of started with that, stripping it down and adding more pop culture influences, like silk-screened prints or old “Pee-Chee” folders. Our compositor Tony Christopherson added just the right amount of film grain and projector gate wiggling to give it that 70’s feel.
Were the people producing the Ric Flair bits longtime WWE/wrestling fans and was this a “dream come true” project for them?
To say that it was a “dream come true” for the artists and production staff to contribute to the definitive Nature Boy documentary is a tremendous understatement! Most of the staff at 6PH are either die-hard wrestling fans or are at least very tolerant of wrestling. If you were to walk around the studio, you’d see desks cluttered with wrestling figures, or you might see someone streaming a New Japan tournament while they’re working. The head of the studio even has a MASSIVE oil painting of George “The Animal” Steele in his office. We enjoy our wrestling around here, to say the least.
Watch 30 for 30: Nature Boy featuring Ric Flair anywhere you get ESPN onDemand.