Interview No. 158
Interview By: @The-Great-One
Today's guest is not an unknown name to the artists and members of Newgrounds. From his works on Pallid Fingers, which won him Daily Feature. To Metropolis Circuit, which won him a Daily Feature and Weekly 1st Place Awards. To his return to Newgrounds with The Lighthouse Girl, where he won a Daily Feature, Weekly 1st Place, and Review Crew Pick, hitting the Triple Crown. I am most honored to welcome @rtil.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
A: When I started messing around with my first copy of Flash in 2004, I found Newgrounds while goofing around wasting time on the internet, which is how I spent most of my free time when I was young. I don't remember how or what I saw that led me there, but I do remember making an account and submitting my first proper cartoon a year later.
Q: At what age did you become interested in art?
A: I've been drawing as long as I can remember. It was always a favorite hobby of mine. But I didn't start taking it seriously until my final year of high school, when I had to start thinking about what I actually wanted to do with my life. It sounds strange, but never until then did I consider the fact that people were artists for a living. When I had that epiphany, I started taking the interest seriously, building a portfolio for applying to colleges and universities.
Q: What brought you to DigiPen Institute of Technology? What did you study there?
A: DigiPen was one of two art schools in my area, and their BFA program specialized in animation for games, something which was rare at the time. I applied there as my #1 choice, with Seattle Art Institute as a fallback - they accepted basically everyone who applied to their program. Fortunately, I was accepted by DigiPen. My major was a Bachelors in Fine Art & Animation, which covered everything from working with traditional mediums to a broad range of digital software in both 2D and 3D. Again, the goal of the school is to get people work in the games industry, so the program was built with that in mind, and we even collaborated with programmers in the school to make a game in our 3rd year.
Q: What is TheBackalleys?
A: At first it was a portfolio/personal site, but for the hell of it I slapped a forum on it. Because of that, it slowly morphed into an online community with people who liked my work - mostly from Newgrounds. Today, the website exists largely as an archive, but the community itself continues to live in the form of a Discord server. It's a healthy mix of people who are there for the community, and people who are there because of my work. But since its inception it has naturally always been very art and animation focused.
Q: Your first submission on Newgrounds is entitled The Rabbit Justice Ad. A funny movie for sure, yet we never got the conclusion to it. How come?
A: Originally, I never intended to even make a sequel to that. It's something that I spontaneously decided to pursue due to the reception of my first Flash animation on Newgrounds getting front paged. I barely knew how to use Flash at the time - I cobbled that cartoon together on strings and wires thinking nothing of it, hoping that maybe a small handful of people would get a chuckle out of it at best. But the result was much more than I bargained for, and when I woke up the next day, thousands of people had seen it. At the time I was quite star struck - I had never gotten that kind of attention on the internet before.
When you get stars in your eyes, it's easy to become overambitious. I made a sequel of sorts, and I bit off a lot more than I could chew. The sequel was messy, stunted, and tonally confused. Eventually, I realized I just didn't care all that much about making a cartoon series about cereal mascots - not enough to continue writing a story I was basically just making up as I went along, anyway - and decided to move on to other things. However, it did start an unintentional trend in my work that I continued for a long time after, and that was the majority of my work being parody.
Q: I love unexpected horror. Something that has build up and hits you with the shock value at the end. You would deliver this to us with GUM. You stated it was made during school for a Nicktoons thing and you would do some things differently. What Nicktoons thing? What would you have done differently about it?
A: At the time, Nicktoons was looking for original content, and I was equally as interested in seeing what I could create that was not parody. It just so happened that one of my classes that semester involved creating an independent animation project, and thus GUM was born. Ultimately, nothing happened with it at Nicktoons, but I still got to show it to my class, and of course Newgrounds, and I was happy that people seemed to enjoy my original work as much as my parody work.
Q: My absolute favorite by you that has quite the story behind it is you can't kill me. You elaborate the story in the movie itself so I won't draw attention to that. I will ask how it started and what was the straw that broke the camel's back? What advice do you have to give to those looking to join a creative community, what red flags should they look for?
A: The SheezyArt community was very tightly knit, so any drama that happened there was drama everyone knew about. I was pretty outspoken in those days, and I would often use my journals on SheezyArt to fan the flames of whatever was going on at the time, be it something everyone knew about, or something I thought deserved attention. But I was always incendiary about it, and often encouraged others to participate, which usually ended up giving the moderation staff more work to do. Their solution to this was banning me from writing journals, as they were my primary tool of stoking the flames of drama. I won't lie - I enjoyed doing this. It was a source of entertainment for me. As for how it started, I couldn't point to the first time I did it, but it was always something new every week. It was pretty much what I was known for there.
I guess my advice for those joining a creative community would be to avoid that kind of behavior if possible, actually. If you feel something is important enough that you have to speak up, do it with tact. After I left places like Newgrounds and Sheezyart back then, whenever I started a new social media account I made a promise to myself that I would keep it about the art, no matter what. It's a personal thing for me, and I don't chastise anyone who mixes their personal lives, politics or opinions with their art - but I know why I follow artists and that is for their art. Sometimes, seeing how they behave, talk or treat other people tarnishes their image in my mind. I don't want other people to feel that way about me, and so I give them what they followed me for - art.
Q: Metropolis Circuit is quite the thrill ride from start to finish. Getting the details down to the absolute second of each movement must have been a lot of work. Where did the idea come from and how long did it take you to make it? Were there any mistakes you made that you can tell us so others don't fall into the same holes?
A: It was a mix of sci-fi/cyberpunk inspiration from things like Blade Runner and Akira, with the visual stylings of cel-shaded games and movement of Jet Set Radio. I smashed those two things together and wanted to introduce a world I was creating with a purely adrenaline-fueled animated short. There isn't much story there, and I intended it to be that way. But I think while it got people interested in the visual aesthetic, there wasn't much else for people to care about.
It reminds me of a lot of anime that try to hook you with intense battles and action right from the starting scene - but if there are no stakes, it can feel hollow. My only advice in this instance is that it does help to establish character and give something to the audience besides what you can offer visually, because a setting and characters people care about will amplify everything else around it.
A: This massive parody collab was organized on TheBackAlleys. While I wasn't the person who organized it, as the person responsible for the community even existing I couldn't resist participating. My part in it was called "Rina-chan and the Brawl Boyz", a raunchy parody of a character meant to portray Rina-chan (a voice actress Kirbopher often used in his cartoons) going to a club and seducing characters that appear in Super Smash Brothers. It didn't really have much to do with anything besides the fact that I wanted to use the song "Move For Me" by Kaskade in an animation, and I basically created the entire parody around the use of that song.
We also did another parody in the same style called "Metal Gear Funnies", but unfortunately it's harder to find these days because the person who organized it deleted it off of Newgrounds. My part can still be found here.
A: Back in 2013 I was introduced to a visual novel called Katawa Shoujo, a romance story about a high school student named Hisao Nakai who almost dies from a heart condition called arrhythmia. He ends up at a school for the disabled, where every girl he meets has a different disability. At the time, Katawa Shoujo was exploding in popularity as it was a volunteer project 5 years in the making from a group of writers, artists and programmers who met eachother on 4chan. The fact it was ever finished was astonishing, but it also surprised people with its tastefulness, heartfelt stories and meaningful relationships it builds. Many people became very closely attached to their favorite characters in the story.
But Katawa Shoujo also has adult content - and the community wanted more of it. I was commissioned that year to draw some Katawa Shoujo hentai after I had expressed interest in it with some fanart I posted. I had never done anything like that before, but I took the offer on a whim, and the rest is history. Nowadays I'd say a good half of my content is NSFW. If I wanted, I could probably become a full-time NSFW artist, but I don't want to burn out on it, and I enjoy having a healthy mix of both SFW and NSFW art.
Q: A favorite art form of mine and one I don't see too often on Newgrounds is charcoal drawing. What can you tell us about charcoal drawing and its appeal to you?
A: Charcoal is a very messy medium that requires a large canvas and broad strokes. It's easy to smudge and difficult to preserve. Most people use charcoal on newsprint, a very cheap and flimsy paper that is easy to tear and meant to be discarded. However, it's got a great texture to it and is ideal for gesture drawings. Charcoal is something I believe every artist should try at least once in their life, and in the ideal environment. It's good for teaching people to be bold and energetic with their strokes. It's not a medium that is intended to be used for small, minute details. It's for making broad, sweeping and powerful lines that fill the page. With our little digital tablets we get used to working in these confined spaces, charcoal can be freeing in that sense.
Q: While I was researching for this interview I came across a short film you did as your senior project. You would grace Newgrounds with it entitled The Lighthouse Girl. You state that it got out of hand. What was the process from beginning to end? When did it get out of hand? Why now release it on Newgrounds?
A: It got out of hand because it ended up taking longer to complete than the entire school year we had to make it. While we submitted an incomplete version as our final, we kept working on it after the fact until it was finished. Most senior animation projects are around 2-3 minutes long, The Lighthouse Girl is closer to 5. With a team of 2 animators doing everything, creating 5 minutes of high framerate animation in 8 months, along with storyboards, animatics, backgrounds, sfx, post-processing and everything else is a lot to ask - especially when you consider it wasn't our only class that year.
I released it on Newgrounds now because I want to flesh out my Newgrounds account with all the art and animation that I released since my hiatus. Work that I am still proud of, anyway. And I can't say I'm still proud of too many things I created in 2009, so The Lighthouse Girl is special to me in that regard, and I want to share it with as many more people as possible as I can.
Q: When RWappin was here we talked about Studio Yotta and his work on Sonic Mania. You too are part of Studio Yotta and have done work on Sonic Mania. How and when did you join Studio Yotta? What was your part in Sonic Mania?
A: I've been loosely associated with Yotta since their inception, and have worked on a couple of projects with them throughout the years. I've known its founder long since before Yotta was ever a thing, so when he started it I was there, watching it all happen. At the time, I didn't think it would work, but I was wrong, and I think that's a good thing.
For Sonic Mania in particular, I did tie-down and clean-up frames for three sequences, the most notable near the beginning where Sonic dashes across the screen, creating a storm of dust and stars, and you see Tails fly in while Sonic does some loops and spins. It was one of the most difficult shots i've ever done, because it had to be absolutely perfect for SEGA's standards, and keeping those characters on-model is a lot harder than it looks.
Q: What can you tell us about your work on Rick & Morty?
A: For the "Run the Jewels" music video, I did shots that focused largely on special effects, like the tube of green liquid that bursts open, some blood flying off a slow-motion punch, or a grenade being thrown into a room of aliens. It's one of my specialties, so a lot of the animation work I do is for effects like that if it's not character animation. Which is also a shot I did in S4E1, where a bizarre type of ferrofluid wraps around the leg of Rick. The fluid behaved like nothing in the real world, so you had to think outside of the box for that. Despite it only being a 2-second-ish shot, it took well around a solid week of work to finish that shot because of the high detail of every frame. Each frame took hours to draw.
Q: What is in your opinion, the definition of animation?
A: Animation is the exaggeration of reality. The opportunity to romanticize the mundane, or create something that couldn't exist. This is inherent in how the medium works. For animation to be believed, our brains must be convinced that a sequence of drawings smashed together is actually persistent motion, and not just a collection of unrelated scribblings. Animation does not work like film, it's not a replica of what our eyes see.
This is why rotoscoping often looks awkward if done without understanding how animation works. When you boil it down, animation is an elaborate series of tricks we play on our brains, and it took animators a few decades to figure out a lot of those tricks when it was in its infancy. And while the animation industry has been around long enough to establish some basic principles of animation, we still tinker and toy with them all the time. Sometimes these experiments work, sometimes they don't. But the most important thing to remember is that to justify animation's existence, it needs to separate itself from film.
Why do we animate? Because animation gives us the opportunity to express ourselves from nothing, a blank canvas. There are things we can do in animation that we can't capture on a camera, or capture a feeling in a unique and specific way. So it's important to take advantage of that.
Q: When and why did you leave Newgrounds for so long?
A: Being wrapped up in so much internet drama back then, it was affecting me in a negative way. I decided to get away from it all and figured that returning would bring back bad memories. It wasn't until recently that I realized I can put all that behind me. But for many years inbetween, I just didn't think about Newgrounds. It was only until Tumblr banned adult content that Newgrounds entered back into the narrative in the online art community. At first I disregarded it, but now I believe Newgrounds has a relevant space.
Q: What can we expect from rtil in the future?
A: Hopefully some "bigger" things in terms of the scope of what I usually do. I create a lot of art these days, but most of them are sketches, short animation loops and paintings I don't spend longer than 2-3 days on. I'd like to get back into longer animation, comics, or games. And while I do participate in projects like that as an animator, it's been a while since I was the creator of any of those things. I'm not sure if and when I'll have any ideas for something, but my mind is constantly all over the place and I'm sure it's only a matter of time until I come across an idea I can't let go of.
Seeing rtil make his return to Newgrounds was an absolute joy for me and I'm sure many others. He has been a favorite of the site now for a long time and looking at his works, it is no secret as to why. He is a gift to this site. One none of us should take for granted. I hope The Lighthouse Girl will not be the last time we see him grace us with his presence here.