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Title: Monkeys, Robots and Frogs, Oh My!
Debut: January 14, 2007
It's winter break again, and time for another Monito episode!
Episode 3 was our big, epic, half-hour-long episode with 3D effects, and episode 4 was a holiday special. After those two diversions, we felt it was time to do "a regular episode", which is what we've accomplished with episode 5.
This time, the story follows Monito and his girlfriend Chiquita as they go out on a date, while Ribbet and a robot named T4H20C set out on a quest to obtain a mystical device known as the Omega 3000.
One thing I can say about this episode is the amount of stuff we left on the cutting room floor was almost as much as we left in. My original outline called for the episode to cross-cut between Monito and Chiquita's story, and whatever Ribbet and Orange Head were doing. The original secondary plot (which I will probably animate some day in the future) involved Orange Head trying unsuccessfully to unsubscribe from a cell phone spam service, and was a sort of deliberately mundane side plot that would be easy to animate. The story that John came up with was much more interesting.
We put far more time into the final soundtrack and storyboard layout for this episode than any previous ones. Halfway through production, we had the entire soundtrack completed and could watch almost the entire episode from beginning to end in storyboard form, which was a huge advantage because we knew exactly what the episode was going to look like and it sped up the rest of the work by allowing us to "fill in the blanks" one shot at a time using the story reel as the schedule for the whole episode.
The first shot I animated for this episode was Ribbet's transition into his ninja frog flashback. (The very last shot I completed, incidentally, was the shot that comes a few seconds before that shot, where Monito comes back from the pantry.) I experimented a lot with the lighting in the Ribbet flashback scene, and it came out very well. First, I animated it with the normal colors, then I overlayed the entire scene with an image of a solid light blue background using a "multiply" filter. This effect is also used in the outside scene just before the Indo Silver Club. After darkening the image with the "moonlight" I added yet another layer for an orange/blue highlight from the fire on the characters, using an "additive" blend, and the fire is animated with additive cels with varying transparency. All in all, the shot that transitions from Ribbet talking to the flashback (with the 3D multiplane forest zoom) took 35 layers of animation.
We brought back the original intro for this one, this time with a black bird. I re-animated the entire intro using much more up-to-date technology, so this time it's at 30 frames per second, has much smoother camera movement and transitions, and everything is scanned at twice the resolution and rendered with anti-aliasing. The 3D bouncing shape in Monito's picture frame is an homage to "Second Reality" and is meant to showcase the fact that we can import 3D and live action video directly into the animation software.
Jason Valchovic's scene is by far the most complicated Monito shot we've ever done; for the 6 seconds he appears in the episode, I rotoscoped his face by hand for nearly 200 frames, coloring him blue and cutting him off at the neck. It took 3 days working 60 frames at a time in order to get that shot complete, but it is now one of the most impressive shots of any Monito episode.
When Monito goes to the comedy club, all of the jokes that the comedian says are based off of jokes I've heard real comedians say; hypothetical questions that have factual answers. Monito's joke at the end is based off of an actual article I read online, but I wasn't able to find it online when I searched for it, so I made up a location ("a couple in Utah...") and had Monito claim that it's a true story. Monito's final punch line came to me after reading the article, and for that I am going to hell. The scene where Monito gets thrown out of the club and then gets his hat thrown in his face is one of my favorite Monito moments, and it turned out exactly the way I saw it in my head.
The ending scene at the Indo Silver Club was animated in a few hours on the day we premiered the episode. A few shots in the dance-off scene have extremely shoddy animation, but overall it's still better than the first episode. We were working right up until we were supposed to premiere it, and ended up going an hour and a half over our schedule, but we still managed to premiere it that night.
This episode has by far the best animation from John Kieres. John did a few scenes for episode 3 (the ones with the crappy animation, i.e. the Go Go Fuku San scene) and did some animation for episode 4, but an entire half of this episode was made by John, hence us being able to finish 20 minutes of animation in four weeks. Every scene that features Ribbet and T4H20C was completely drawn, colored and animated (with my software) by John, except for the backgrounds. He has gotten really, really good at animating; in fact, the character animation for Ribbet is even more impressive than my Monito animation, because he has so many random poses and eye movements. John also animated the character of Barrington, which is now one of my favorite Monito scenes.
The very last shot with the ending credits was tacked onto the episode at the very last second, half an hour before we had the premiere. Ironically, that shot was hastily drawn and animated in about 10 minutes and yet it's now one of my all-time favorite Monito shots. I used it for the preview image on the main page of this website.