A year after the first animated short debuted online, the team behind Cartoon Hangover’s Bee and PuppyCat came together Thursday at Comic-Con International in San Diego to discuss the creation of the series and to preview a new short, Manly.
Created by Natasha Allegri, the cartoon centers on Bee, an out-of-work twentysomething who encounters a mysterious creature she dubs PuppyCat. The original 10-minute short proved so popular that Frederator Studios was able to raise more than $872,000 last fall on Kickstarter to produce a full season of Bee and PuppyCat, which has also spawned a BOOM! Studios comic series.
Moderated Eric Homan, Frederator Studios’ vice president of development, the Comic-Con panel featured Allegri, voice actor Allyn Rachel, voice director Kent Osborne, art director Efrain Farias, character designer Becky Dreistadt, writers Madeleine Flores and Frank Gibson, and background designer Hans Tseng.
Homan began by asking Allegri about her reaction to the short's success. "I'm reading all the YouTube comments," she said. "They're nice."
The idea for the show, she said, came from "trying to make something as close to Sailor Moon as I could make without completely ripping it off." Throughout the panel, the anime inspiration was emphasized, particularly Sailor Moon and Ranma ½.
Rachel, the voice of Bee, said when she received the first script, she thought, "I, like, fully get this person." Allegri admitted she wrote the character with Rachel in mind, having seen her in an eBay commercial.
The actress said she’s been surprised by the response to the short, even from her own friends. “The series so far is just so amazing, because people responded so positively,” she said. “I’ll show it to friends, thinking they’re not going to get it, and then they lose their minds over it.”
Osborne said directing the actors is “a pretty easy job.” Homan agreed, noting that they use natural voices rather than “crazy cartoon voices.”
Writers Flores and Gibson discussed the process of writing episodes for the series. "We open up Google docs and paste in a lot of ASCII art," Flores said. Gibson added that they “spent a lot of time coming up with fake credits for each episode.”
According to Gibson, their creative process also involves watching a lot of anime, eating candy bars and drinking mini-sodas from the office refrigerator. For each of the series’ 10 episodes, Allegri gave the writers basic plot ideas, and after creating two-page outlines, Flores and Gibson sent them back to her for storyboarding.
Bee and PuppyCat: The Series will feature redesigned characters, which have drawn some negative responses from fans of the shorts. "Any time something changes, it's upsetting," Allegri said. Having created the designs for the pilot herself, she said, “It’s so much nicer now. When I did the pilot, I did most of the stuff myself, because I thought I could do it. But then I realized by the end of the pilot that I couldn’t do it by myself. And now that I have a lot of people working on it, it’s so much better, and it’s exactly what I wanted it to be.”
Homan introduced brothers Jesse and Justin Moynihan, creators of upcoming Cartoon Hangover short Manly. Jesse works as a writer and storyboard artist for Adventure Time, while Justin has no background in cartoons. A simultaneously gory and philosophical space adventure, Manly features the voice talents of Joey Richter, Steve Agee, Jill Bartlett, and Roger Craig Smith.
The first episode of Bee and PuppyCat was also screened. Although the animation and sound effects weren’t final, a score by Will Wiesenfeld was complete and in place. The episode featured Bee and Deckard cooking, setting up for a job on another planet in the second episode. Rachel said she was pleased by the strong theme of food and snacks in the series.
A new character named Cass was also introduced, with Allegri explaining she was developed “to show how inept Deckard is at being an adult. I wanted someone who was seemingly more put together.”
The presentation was opened to audience questions, but first Hoban posed a few from Twitter. One fan asked whether the show's success on Kickstarter would lead to the creation of more cartoons by and for adult women. "I don't know,” Allegri replied. “I have no idea."
An audience member asked what it would take to make cartoons for adults popular in the United States. Flores pointed out that one barrier might be the "gatekeeper" culture surrounding some shows. “We should just all hold hands and invite everyone,” she said.
The panelists answered a number of questions about the used for PuppyCat. Allegri said she chose to use the singing voice synthesizer because “didn't want it to have a personality.” “I wanted it to sound really hollow, and to show personality through body movement and facial expressions,” she said. “Also, I really like vocaloids.”
Rachel joked that she finds it difficult to work with because, “Overall, it had a bad attitude. We worked it out, it’s very civil, but that’s all.” The writers said they try to keep PuppyCat’s dialogue minimal. "It's a cartoon, no one wants to read it," Gibson said. "Except for the comic, which is great, and you should go buy it right now." Allegri explained that the vocaloid's speech is composed of random sounds, including the syllables in "Pikachu" and the name of her cat.
Giving advice to animators looking to break into the industry, Allegri advised, "Don't be mean to anybody." She also emphasized the importance of putting material online, a sentiment echoed by Jesse Moynihan, Flores and Farias. "Make something and show it to people," Moynihan said. Flores and Farias both explained that their current jobs, as a storyboarder at Nickelodeon and as a colorist for Steven Universe, respectively, came about because someone found their work online.
Hoban said the date for the season premiere will be announced in the next few weeks, to Kickstarter supporters first.
After the discussion concluded, Bee and PuppyCat cosplayers from the audience gathered in front of the stage to take a photo with the panelists.