Joined: 07 Jan 2004
Location: Milford, PA
Fri Nov 15, 2013 9:30 am
In this edition of #BeyondTheBooth, we chat with Pete Browngardt, the creator and lead voice of the new Cartoon Network animated series, Uncle Grandpa, as well as voice actor Eric Bauza, who voices "Belly Bag" on the show. We discuss the creation of the series, the process of creating an episode, start to finish, and the casting and recording process for the show.
Voice Chasers (VC): Hey, guys. Kristy from Voice Chasers, here, and today I have voice actor Eric Bauza, and I have the creator and the voice of Uncle Grandpa, Pete Browngardt, with me today. Thanks for coming today!
Eric Bauza (EB): Hello, Internet.
Pete Browngardgt (PB): Hello, Internet.
EB: Please keep it down, we're trying to talk, here. Internet, just pipe down.
PB: It's so loud.
EB: The Internet's so loud.
VC: I know. So Pete, I want to talk to you first, about the show in general, and how it came into creation....
PB: Well, I kind of came up with it on my own through sketchbooks and stuff, and had the opportunity to pitch it here at Cartoon Network as part of their shorts program. I pitched it, and it went well, and they green-lit a seven-minute short. And then I did that, and then after that, it went into development, and then it became a series.
VC: I remember the first time I saw anything about the show was, we were in a movie theater... and I forget what film it was... it was another animated film... but it was before the film, and my kids got all excited when they saw the little clip of the show, and they said, "That's the show we want to watch!"
PB: Yeah, they did a promotion...
VC: Yeah, they did the promotional stuff...
EB: They did a huge promo push this past summer.
PB: Yeah, in the month of August.
EB: Apparently at the Six Flags parks, they would show...
VC: They did a promo push there?
PB: Yeah, like when you waited on line for rides, with the TVs...
EB: They took away the sprinkler system that cools you down, and put in Uncle Grandpa...
PB: The flames came out, to heat people up for the show.
VC: So, tell me a little bit about the process, so when you have a season that you have to go through, what's the process of, let's say, one episode, from start to finish?
PB: It starts with getting together in a room and talking about ideas, land on an idea, and then we sort of flesh it out with a springboard, kind of a loose paragraph of what the episode would be, and then we involve the network, talk to them about it, and then we write an outline, get that approved, and once that's approved it goes to storyboard. We have teams of storyboard artists that are writers and drawers.
VC: So they do both? Writing and the storyboarding?
PB: We only have two writers on the show, and we don't write scripts...
EB: So it's almost like the old school, you know how Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett would do it, they would have almost like story artists...
PB: It's a very specific thing... Ren & Stimpy did it that way, Spongebob [Squarepants], Adventure Time, and Regular Show, did it that way. But there's only like, let's say, six shows on planet Earth that do this process, and what I feel like what the process gets you is a more visual cartoon.
VC: Is it more fluid because...
PB: Yeah, it's more fluid. It's more animation-friendly. A lot of times scripts are dense with dialogue, or dense with very difficult visuals to do, like they'll set something in a football stadium with crowds, and crowds are never fun to do in TV animation. So it's a little more of a streamlined process.
VC: So is there a script that you read when you go into record?
EB: There's a script. On Uncle Grandpa that they send you to prepare, for the voice actors, they will send the actors the storyboard itself, and then a line of script so that when you're reading off of it, you can kind of see how it was written out. But you also have visual reference. Because I feel when you have story artists working on it so personally, it kind of takes on a life of its own, and I feel like, like going back to old Looney Tunes, every director had a different way to do Bugs Bunny. That's why Bugs Bunny had different personalities almost... sometimes he was calm, sometimes he was a wise-ass, so at least on this show, I always feel like the boards are always different. There's so much variety.
PB: I embrace that, too. I embrace the different artists' styles of drawing trying to come through in the board, and their sensibility in writing and stuff like that.
EB: So as a voice actor, you don't want to miss anything that they may have drawn that isn't written on a script. There's so many nuances...
VC: So is there a lot of improv when you're recording?
EB: There's room for it, but I also feel like you've gotta do it as written once, and then... Pete's very open to different interpretations.
PB: And all the best voice actors like Kevin Michael Richardson, and Tom Kenny, and everything, you can tell when a voice actor comes in who has actually read the board and the ones that haven't. They're always very prepared, so it's very fun, because they always surprise me. They remember the boards better than I do, sometimes.
EB: It's like getting a new comic book every week. Well, we have to keep track how many boards you have at the same time...
PB: I know, I have to manage like twenty-six at once in my head at different stages, so it's a little different...
EB: And deliver the main character's voice.
VC: So did you do the casting and directing, as well, for the show?
PB: Yeah, I picked the cast, I worked with the network, they always have approval on everything in the process. They're very freeing, they're very open, but... yeah, you just sort of search through a lot of MP3s...
EB: That's a big process.
PB: It's a very long process.
VC: Was there a long audition time?
PB: There was, for certain characters, like Mr. Gus, who is Kevin Michael Richardson. And Bauza, it took a while to find him. And then once that's in it helps... We actually were boarding and writing without the characters' voices locked in and that's actually really difficult because the writers need that voice in their head. Once you have the character and voice actor together, you can write easier, you can hear the voice in your head. It's like imagine writing stories for Kermit the Frog without Kermit's voice, it's like, how do you do that? Or any famous iconic character. But once that happened, I feel like... we actually did a lot... like eight to ten boards, without some voices cast, but then once we got the cast, I feel like the writing got better.
VC: I was going to say... did that help to develop the characters?
PB: Yeah, definitely. All the board artists kept coming to me and going, "I don't know if this is right or not, because we don't have a voice yet..."
EB: And even when you do find the voice, it'll still grow from there. Just the more comfortable you get, all the moods and the different plot lines that these characters can get into... and they are so different.
VC: So, Eric, you play Belly Bag on the show?
VC: Tell me a little bit about that character.
EB: Well, he's a fanny pack that resides around the waist of Uncle Grandpa, so he's, technically, the closest person to Uncle Grandpa. His best friend, you could say. And yeah, it's just one of those roles for me, not just the role, but being involved in a show like this, for me, as a cartoonist, as well, it was just so important to me. It just seemed like something that... you see, and read, so many auditions as a voice over artist, every day, every week, and I've been doing this for seven years, and this is the first one in seven years that I was like, I cannot let this one go.
VC: You just had to have this role?
EB: Yeah, for me it was one of those one where, I was like, I don't want to do anything else. But I do have to, because I have to put my kids through college, pay for gas, but this is one of those ones for me that, I feel will, and has, it's been on TV now for a couple of months now, and it's getting a good following.
PB: Yeah, we're doing really, really good.
EB: People were a little unsure, they're unsure of anything that's new, but then as soon as they find out it's a pretty fun show, then that's the payoff. All that hard work and worrying was not for nothing.
VC: So when you went into the audition did they show you a picture of the character?
EB: Yeah, you usually get a character description and then a few chunks of dialogue, they call them sides, I guess, audition copy. So you have an idea who the character is in the spectrum of the show, how it relates to the other characters. And, you know, sides are always difficult, because they're only short spurts, and they're supposed to show different moods, but that could mean anything out of context. He could be sad, but why is he sad? So once you get past a certain part of auditioning, you go in and meet with the director. I actually met Pete while auditioning on another show of his before Uncle Grandpa, which was Secret Mountain Fort Awesome, and that was one of those one for me where it was like, "Oh my god." It was like meeting Elvis. I was like, "Hey, dude, I like that song that you wrote." It was like, "I like that short that you made." That original Uncle Grandpa short. And I didn't see you for a little bit, and then this show came around, so I was like, we gotta do it, and luckily I made it through.
PB: And not only is Bauza one of the main characters on the show, he is so many other parts. I was just talking to someone the other day, and I was like, man, Bauza's going to have the ultimate voice-over reel after our show. Not only is a main character, he's Hot Dog Person, he's Zarda, he's like, endless funny little incidental characters that have moments of comedy within the show. And I couldn't do it without someone as versatile as him, and others that are on the show.
EB: But he just said, all the side characters. What's so unique about this show is, like we were talking about earlier with Looney Tunes, that it wasn't a full 11-minute or a full 22-minute, it was shorts, like 7-minute shorts. So in this show, there's maybe a 4-5, or 7 minute storyline, and then they have interstitial characters. Fake commercials, little bits...
PB: Like a little variety show.
EB: You get so much in entertainment than you would in maybe other shows that are just about like one thing. This is like a million things. And I feel like that is missing. That kind of weird surprise that you get from shows? I don't think you can find that anywhere else. It was important to me to get on the show...
PB: It was important for me to have him on the show.
VC: So after the storyboards are all done, then what happens after that?
PB: We record them. We type a script off of the board, which are basically all of the lines, in order, and then we record it. After we record it, we build an animatic of the storyboards with the recordings. That gets turned in to the approval process to the network. After we pass that, we break the board down, we have a meeting and the art director, Bill Flores, and the other supervisors, we all go through the board, and we designate what we need to create here before we ship it overseas for animation. So we do all key background art, character art, stuff like that, design for about a month or so, and then we ship it off overseas. Which sounds like a shipment, like you'd mail it, but it's actually all over the Internet, to deliver it to them, and then they animated for, I think it's around 8-10 weeks, and then we send back work prints of the color footage, which has the voices, and then we look at it. If there are any mistakes here and there, or if something's miscolored, we send notes, it's called the retake process, we send retakes. Once the retakes come in, you lock picture, so you have your final locked picture with just the dialogue and acting in there. Then we send it off to sound effects and music, that's put in, then we do the final mix, and then we deliver it to the network.
VC: And who's doing the music for the show?
PB: Two guys. Mike Conte, who is a recording artist, has a heavy metal band called Early Man, and Tommy Meehan, who is also a recording artist and has a band called The Manx. They team up and do the music for the show. It's a wide variety music... it can go from thrash metal to R&B, to every type of music, to parody, commercials...
EB: We did a fake informercial where Uncle Grandpa sings the classics. It's like those 90s infomercials where you see the songs scrolling up, like the names... You went through the whole gamut.
PB: Yeah, we even did ones that they would never do in those type of commercials like black metal, or GG Allen parodies, stuff like that. Yeah, very diverse.
VC: So how long does that process take from inception to air?
PB: To air? It's about eight months. Maybe more than that? Nine months?
VC: And it's all hand-drawn?
PB: It's all hand-drawn. We draw on the computer. We use these things made by Wacom called Cintiqs, and you draw directly on the screen, but yeah, it's all hand-drawn. I really encourage... What I love about animation is the hand-drawn aspect. I'm not a huge computer animation fan. I like some files, but I like the organic-ness and the sort of unique personality that comes out of every artist's hand.
EB: I'd shown her around a bit before this, and we'd stopped off at David Gemmill's workstation, and even though they have the technology to do everything digital, he still had a notepad and pen there, and thumbnails.
PB: Oh yeah, he always does. And Post-Its. We draw with Post-Its all the time. We do just gag drawings, or to write an idea down, or storyboard an idea.
EB: It's still like holding a book...
PB: And some of those designers still work on paper, and then we scan it, and clean it up on the computer.
VC: And then all the coloring is done on the computer?
PB: Yeah, coloring is done on the computer, in Photoshop. It's very digital... For a hand-drawn look, it's a very digital process.
EB: [in Belly Bag's voice] So that's all, that's all you wanted to know?
PB: [in Uncle Grandpa's voice] That's all you've got?
EB: [in Belly Bag's voice] That's it? We're done? Okay, well, back to work!
VC: Thanks you guys, I really appreciate it.
PB: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. Thanks, Internet!
EB: Yeah. Bye, Internet!
Learn more about "Uncle Grandpa" at the official Cartoon Network website and get a behind-the-scenes look at the show on the crew of Uncle Grandpa's official Tumblr! On Twitter, follow Pete Browngardt at @peebgardt and Eric Bauza at @bauzilla. Special thanks to Cartoon Network Studios.