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- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog!  You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.  You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Streets Paved With Pork Roll (Interview With Chris Prynoski, Emmy-Nominated President and Owner of Titmouse, Inc.)

Children, I know you love to ignore me.  It's one of your favoritest pastimes, no doubt.  But when I told you earlier this year about the power of asking, you should have listened.  I know I did.

And through the power of asking (patent pending) I have secured an amazing guest today.  As president, founder, and owner of Titmouse, Inc., Chris Prynoski is responsible for bringing such mindblowing shows as "The Venture Bros.," "Metalocalypse," "China, IL," "Moonbeam City," [deep breath] "Megas XLR," "Motorcity," "Turbo: F.A.S.T." and countless others to your eyeholes.  And before all that he worked on "Beavis and Butt-Head," "Daria," and was nominated for an Emmy for "Downtown."

Just listing a few of our guest's credits is making me winded, so let's meet him briefly and then jump right in with the interview!

About Chris Prynoski

Chris Prynoski began on shows such as "Beavis and Butthead" and "Daria" for MTV in the early 90s. MTV's "Downtown" earned him an Emmy nomination. In 2004, Prynoski founded the animation studio Titmouse, Inc. where he has continued his string of hits with projects like "Metalocalypse," "China, IL," "Black Dynamite," "Superjail!," "The Venture Bros.," "Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja," and his own creation, "Motorcity" for Disney XD.  He is currently executive producing a number of shows, including "Turbo: F.A.S.T." for DreamWorks, and directing a 2-D animation feature that he’ll be submitting to Sundance later this year.


SK:  Thanks so much for being with us today, Chris!  I’m absolutely spoiled with things to talk about with you, but I don’t want to impose too much on your time so I’ll just try to stick to my usual format of five topics and then give you the last word.

That being said, we absolutely have to talk about “Moonbeam City” first.  This show looks like nothing else on television and like nothing I’ve seen since the ‘80s, when, presumably, artists weren’t trying to achieve this effect ironically.  How do your animators create that Reagan-era feel?

CP: Well, we totally owe a lot to Patrick Nagel on this one. He was clearly the inspiration for the character designs. If only he was still with us, we would have reached out to him. As a young teen I enjoyed many a Playboy spot illustration drawn by his hand. Jo Jo Park did a great job channeling him. She is an incredible draftsman with an eye for fashion! And Antonio Canobbio (the art director) and Brandon Cuellar (the background supervisor) also killed it like Sonny Crocket's gator attacking a sockless maritime intruder.
"Ah, a bowling metaphor.  Now I'm interested."

SK:  Let’s take a step back and take kind of a bird’s eye view of your career.  My dad used to work at the Ocean Spray plant in Bordentown, NJ, so I actually know that area a little bit.  What was the road like for you from the mean streets of Bordentown to the gold-paved (I assume) Titmouse headquarters in LA?

CP: The Ocean Spray factory! It smelled so good! That factory was the holy grail of jobs when I worked at Hilltop Exxon. Everyone wanted a gig there. It had great wages and benefits! I, unfortunately, never got to step inside - although I did eat some ice cream from the Häagen-Dazs factory store next door. I left B-Town for New York City in the early nineties to attend the School of Visual Arts. From there I moved on to MTV to storyboard and direct on such projects as "Beavis and Butt-Head" and "Daria." Then I moved to LA when my show "Downtown" was cancelled. After working for the major studios, I started Titmouse with my wife Shannon. Our streets are not paved with gold, but imported New Jersey pork roll.
The Titmouse Studios (artist's conception)

SK:  Just looking at your IMDB page there are so many shows I want to ask you about.  But it looks like there’s some big news coming about “Metalocalypse,” so let’s talk about that.  Can you tell us once and for all for the record: why is Murderface so obsessed with urine?  (And also do you have any super secret squirrel “Metalocalypse” scoops you want to share with us?)

CP: Unfortunately I can't share any "Metalocalypse" scoops! Murderface is obsessed with urine because it's funny. Everyone knows Planet Piss is a great band name. Here's a tidbit for you: Brendon Small and Tommy Blacha both recorded all five voices for the pilot of "Metalocalypse." I cut the radio play and got to decide who played who - so you can blame me if you think Skwisgaar and Toki's voices should have been switched.
There are precisely zero secrets to be revealed about this show right now...

SK:  So, “Downtown” and “Motorcity” seem to be your “babies” (or at least the shows you’re most deeply involved with.)  But considering they were at such different times in your career and for such different companies (MTV vs. Disney) how was the experience between making them different?

CP: They were very, very different. MTV was a crazy company back in the late 90's. They pretty much let me hire anyone I wanted. That is unheard of out here in Hollywood. My college buddies, George Krstic and Jody Schaeffer were brought on as writers and directors. They then went on to create "Megas XLR" which I directed and produced on! When "Motorcity" came around Disney wanted to do stuff for "older kids" and we tried to push it as far as we could but we had to make a lot of compromises with the writing. I was able to blow the roof off of the animation though! I'm super proud of how much production value we were able to squeeze out of a TV budget.

SK:  Let’s talk about pacing for a minute.  I don’t have any experience writing for television so I’m interested in the timing differences between an 11-minute (quarter-hour when it airs) and 22-minute (half hour) show.  Now two of the shows you’ve worked on, “Metalocalypse” and “China, IL” switched from 11 to 22, and then “Metalocalypse” even switched back.  Can you tell us a little bit about what prompted those (fairly major) format changes and how it affects the storytelling?

CP: Yeah, 11 and 22 minute episodes are really different beasts. You need more story in a 22. In a quarter hour you can have a simple premise and then pretty much shit on it at the end. As long as you go out on a funny joke, it generally works. A half hour needs a plot. And it needs your characters to care what happens. That's one of the reasons we went back to 11s with "Metalocalypse" - It's hard to make a group of characters who don't care about anything function in a longer story. Basically, the creators wanted to try the longer format, and [adult swim] is cool as shit, so they let us.
Except for Penn State, obviously.

SK:  Well, thanks so much for stopping by the blog today, Chris!  I really appreciate it, and as I said, I admire so much of your work, and we could only really reasonable cover a small slice of it today.  But bearing that in mind, is there any subject that we didn’t get to talk about, or just anything you’d like to say to your fans before we go?

CP: Thanks for watching our cartoons. We try to make quality shows at Titmouse. I'm glad people dig them. Look out for the next season of "Venture Bros." on Feb 7th, a new Brad Neely show called "TV Sucks" not too long after that, and a bunch of other stuff I can't talk about yet!

About the Shows

"Moonbeam City" currently airs on Comedy Central at 10:30pm EST, right after "South Park."

"The Venture Bros."  - Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, and Season 5 are on DVD

"Metalocalypse" - Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, and Season 4 are on DVD

"China, IL" - Season 1 and Season 2 are available on Amazon Video

"Megas XLR" - Season 1 and Season 2 are available on iTunes

"Turbo: F.A.S.T." - Season 1 is available on DVD

"Beavis and Butt-Head" - several versions are available on DVD

"Daria" - the entire series is available on DVD