Utica Cartoon was my first professional animation project, and possibly my last chance to produce a traditionally-animated cartoon for television. Fran and I left New York City (where we were living in a basement) to go to Providence for the production of Utica Cartoon. Not only was rent cheaper, but we also scored Mike Overbeck and Jesse Schmal at a fire sale price because they were fresh out of school. Hooray!
We set up shop in a little cottage from 1754 that we rented from a local preservation group. It was terrifyingly haunted and had a possum in the basement, but there was also space to set up a stress-relieving drumset so it all balanced out.
As I called to find places to get our cells xeroxed I learned that most businesses that supplied materials and services for traditional cell animation were out-of business or packing up their cell machinery as I talked to them on the phone. That whole Furniture Design degree finally came in handy as I had to build our own light tables, camera stands, and cell pain drying racks. We rented a xerox machine and did all of our own xeroxing and re-registering, and I must have mixed about a gallon of slightly different bear and monkey colored paints.
The pitch went from bible to pilot at a remarkably fast clip, so we had to get rolling quickly! I’d never animated before, so a crash course was started. It all turned out well in the end… well, except for it becoming a series. Our friend Tom Warburton was the lucky one this time around, though we did get to travel to a festival in Turku, Finland with Utica Cartoon. I met some wonderful people and ate lots of liquorice!
The story was inspired by a friend whose plan to beat the local hot dog store’s record was “a blender and a can of sprite.”