Interview No. 161
Interview By: @The-Great-One
Today's guest is known throughout Newgrounds for his horror and humor. From Scratches, to his Still Spineless Series, to The Problem With Bill. His creations have horrified and brightened many a Newgrounds member with fear and sheer laughter. I am most pleased and terrified to welcome, @AntonM.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
A: I remember one of the first times I ever visited the site was for the ‘Is That OK’ Dragonball Z video back when I was in early highschool, it’s still one of my all time favourites and I can’t remember if it was just a random google search result or if a friend linked it to me on msn. I only started to visit the site more regularly when I found Egoraptor and Yotam Perel’s cartoons on youtube, some of their cartoons were Newgrounds exclusive or they would reference the site a lot and it made me want to check it out. I would watch stuff here and there, mostly rewatch a lot of Yotam’s and Ego’s stuff. I remember Oney, Zach and Ukinojoe were putting out videos that a friend and I would quote endlessly. I got really inspired by what people were making and after a couple years I started to get the itch to make stuff too. I made an account and posted my first cartoon and a couple drawings in June 2013.
Q: At what age did you become interested in art?
A: I would always draw a bunch as a kid because I loved cartoons, I remember drawing a lot of Dragonball Z and Spiderman. I would draw comics in spare exercise books from school and try to do flip book style animation in them. One of my first original characters was a combination of this fox from a children’s book crossed with a Samurai Jack-esk robot and he’d just slice a bunch of monsters in half with a katana. I always loved any kind of art project at school too. There were a lot of inspirational shows that I watched on TV as a kid, not just the copious amount of funny and violent cartoons, but the show Art Attack really made me love making stuff even more.
I stopped drawing almost completely in highschool and my interests were changing to music and playing in a band, but after I found that a bunch of people are just making cartoons by themselves, Yotam’s videos in particular, it really inspired me to try it out. After posting my first cartoon, the second one got frontpaged and it really shocked me. It was really surprising to me that that happened and it gave me a huge confidence boost in making cartoons. I went to university and didn’t really draw too much for that first year, I made an album instead, but I was slowly realising that animation is what I loved to do the most and slowly started to pursue that more than my other hobbies. I think it was right at the start of 2016 where I was really looking into trying to improve in animation specifically, I never really kept a sketchbook prior but as soon as I got one I just filled it up quickly with a bunch of gesture drawings.
Q: Your craft tends to focus on the element of horror. What age did you become interested in horror? Where did it start, how did it grow over time?
A: As a kid the only horror I really remember actively wanting to watch was Courage The Cowardly Dog, it’s one of my favourite shows. I was way too scared to want to watch scary stuff or play any horror games though. A lot of the horror I saw as a kid were just weird tangents in otherwise non-horror stuff, the big one was the pink elephants in Dumbo, but there were many others, especially in games, the PS1 Rugrats had a nightmare upside down world with clowns and strange colours, and there was this PS1 demo disc with a dinosaur just walking towards the camera in a black void. I think that may have influenced what I like in horror a bit, normality that becomes strange and weird. As more horror shows started showing on TV, like Goosebumps and Are You Afraid Of The Dark?, I started to like it a lot more, in those kids shows there's a fun aspect of telling scary stories and stuff.
It was only when I was around 15/16 where I started really getting into horror, I was just discovering Kubrick’s films and I watched The Shining, it opened up the door of horror movies for me. I would look up more of that specific kind of atmosphere and that led me to Jacob's Ladder, which really cemented my love of the genre and from there, after researching a bit about this film, I found out that it was a major influence for the Silent Hill games. After playing the first four games in a row I was just blown away, I needed to make stuff like this.
When I went to university I remember friends telling me about David Lynch and weird Japanese horror films like Hausu and Noroi. Right now I’m getting more into manga and just re-watching/ playing old favourites for the most part. I don’t watch too much modern horror but Ari Aster’s two horrors have been amazing and the Suspiria remake was great too, I really didn’t think I would like it because I’m a huge fan of the original but it goes in its own direction and does so much with a loose connection to the original.
Q: Your works set out to sometimes make people laugh or scared. Either way you are building tension with a release at the end. How do you build your suspense and when do you realize what the final outcome should be?
A: Usually I want to express a certain thought or an emotion. Ideas on how to do it come to me in the form of a scene or a doodle of a character might make me project a story onto them. Shots just start to follow and connect to themselves if I like and think about the idea a lot. I try to build on each scene in a way that would hopefully add mystery to carry you all the way to the end of the cartoon. The final outcome always tends to change while making the video though, sometimes parts are added or taken away at the last minute. I feel that it’s more like writing a song, the video kind of tells you where it wants to go in a way, it has its own momentum. It all depends on the idea or feeling that I want to express too, the tone. I’ve seen so many horror movies and played so many games that I just like to play around with the silliness of horror suspense, for a joke or for something a little more sombre. I leave a lot to intuition and what feels right/ what would be fun or interesting to animate.
Q: One of your first movies on Newgrounds is entitled Ripped Off. It received a Daily Feature, however the page states that you removed it. Why was this?
A: There are a bunch of cartoons that I’ve deleted because they are just way too embarrassing haha. That may have been my fourth or fifth video and maybe if I muster up enough courage I’ll reupload them all one day and have a lil giggle. A lot of artists delete their early stuff and to be honest I’m a little disappointed that I can’t see their origins but at the same time…. I hope you never see those early vids of mine lol.
Q: When it comes to tension, you built it up in people with a twist that was surprising with Scratches. What can you tell us about this project and how you came to the ending?
A: Scratches was inspired by hearing that exact sound in my room A LOT back then. I had no idea what it was and I could never pinpoint where exactly it was coming from. At first I thought it was a mouse running about beneath the floorboards, scratching everything up but I never heard any squeaks... It turned out to be a bird pecking at the side of the house.
The bird pecks would trigger the image of what the ‘real culprit’ in the video was and I feel like it’s a fun cliché of horror to have THAT kind of thing beneath the floorboards. I still like that last shot….
Q: I want to talk about the following movies. Still Spineless: Crows, Still Spineless: Arms, Still Spineless: The Tomb, and RIP IT OUT. What was the initial idea behind the Still Spineless Series? Will we see this story continue?
A: Still Spineless is a massive soup of everything I love. There is so much Silent Hill, Forbidden Siren and Bloodborne in it with a ton of movie, book and TV influences too. It was the story of how a small village tried to deal with a monster that appeared out of the woods one day. It would steal away citizens from the streets, leaving a bloody trail leading into the dark forest at the edge of town. It would show how the village broke down and how the people there were trying to survive.
I had so much fun making the first episode, the feeling of building this world and the characters in a mysterious and vague way was so gratifying and exciting! Doing the sound design might have been the part I had the most fun doing. It was one of the reasons I really wanted to make the series too, I dreamed of doing sound design and the score for horror stuff so I just made a show to do it.
Arms, the second episode, was 10 minutes long (8 minutes of actual animation), I still can’t believe I did that. I remember it being quite gruelling but it was a really important bit in the story and I had to make it as strong as I possibly could. This was the first time I worked with voice actors too which was super fun! Dorrie voiced a cartoon called A Really Cool Girl and I really loved her performance in it and I’d been a huge fan of Piper’s work in The Finger Eater and Red Minus’ stuff too.
For the third episode the style had a massive change, it’s pretty close to how I wanted the whole show to look from the beginning. The video was supposed to be structured like the previous 2 episodes, with a flashback at the beginning and the present time after but with the new, more detailed style and other stuff going on in life, I just couldn’t pull it off, so I just chopped it to the flashback and would try the second half next year. For this one I worked with Piper again but also another one of my favourite artists on Newgrounds, Deathink. I’d been a massive fan of his from when I first started visiting the site and after watching one of his streams, I knew he had the perfect voice for Vincent!
The more and more I think about making another episode, the more I think that Rip It Out might be its finale. Making that cartoon in particular was really difficult. It changed sooo much as I was making it and became a little stressful to try and mould it into something I was happy with. After finishing it I had to take like 6 months or so off from working on another project to just do anything else, I can’t remember if I was even drawing much in that time. The project became devoid of fun while making it and I think it was because of the pressure I put on myself of making a ‘big’ cartoon every year for Halloween. Originally it was going to be fully shaded and after spending a month shading one shot I vowed to NEVER have shading in a cartoon ever again haha. I do think it’s my best-looking cartoon though, I love the inky black lines and the overall atmosphere. I think this and episode 1 are my favourites.
Rip It Out encapsulates a lot about what I wanted the series to be and is why it drops the SS title, it feels a little disconnected because it's almost a self-contained story, which is where I wanted to go with what I make in general. Even the third episode, The Tomb, was going for a self-contained feel. If I ever were to return I think the feel would just be way too different, to keep it in line with the other episodes I would really have to have a couple people help me out to get that specific anime-esk aesthetic and to get it out in a reasonable time. That or just make shorter episodes in a similar style that I have now which could happen one day.
Q: Still Spineless is a great example for writers and animators to take note of in terms of world building and character development. Especially so for horror. How did you know when the creature should be on screen and for how long? How the characters should respond to the creature? How much is show don't tell and how much should be kept vague?
A: This was all from trying to attain the same atmosphere of my favourite stuff. Alien is a big one of just don’t show the monster at all, I remember the Silent Hill games would always obscure the first reveal of the monster. I wanted to keep everything as vague as possible because I love David Lynch’s style of filmmaking. I’m just a fan of not revealing anything to be honest. Everything is scarier when you have less information about the thing.
Q: One of your best works in terms of animation alone is Infected. The way everything just naturally moves and the message it delivers. I must know the inspiration behind it.
A: That music video was born from the desire of self improvement and trying to figure out how to get better, where negative aspects of yourself come from and the fantasy of being all healed one day or at least better equipped to navigate through the world. I really liked using that imagery of that dark smoky room, the confusion and the hazy aimlessness that self improvement and a critical introspection brings feels exactly like this to me. There is a lot of Eraserhead in this cartoon, it’s one of my favourite films. I really like the idea of removing a ‘disease’ from your body in a violent way, it’s in Rip It Out too, I wish things were that easy lol.
Q: Nightmare Installed is a creative idea from beginning to end. What can you tell us about working on this project and will we see it expanded in the future? Perhaps as a game?
A: That was for the bad dream jam and it was made pretty late into it, I had to rush it because I just couldn’t come up with a good enough idea. I was also putting all my focus on making Rip It Out too. A few of those ideas came from dreams I’ve had and just general funny anxieties of mine. I would love to make a game about it, that’s a great idea, it would probably play a lot like LSD: Dream Emulator and Yume Nikki. I just downloaded pico-8 the other day and I’m pretty excited to try out some small basic game development….
Q: My absolute favorite by you has to be The Last Campfire Tale. It was scary, creepy, and hilarious. Where did the idea for Old Man Lindy come from? Why did you decide to do a campfire tale?
A: This was born from The Beatles method of writing a song where you start with a title and go from there. It was a method that Mega64 would use, I first heard of it when they were talking about how they make their videos. This was in a batch of titles with Green Potato as well and the idea for Campfire was pretty much fully formed back then in 2017. It immediately conjured up ‘Are You Afraid Of The Dark?’ vibes and this video was a little bit of a parody of that show, down to the characters looking like the actors and the dust they throw on the fire at the beginning.
I have no clue where Lindy came from haha, he might have come from a funny doodle I made once, I’m not sure, all I know was this cartoon just fell out of the sky and into my head, it was a rare one where very little was changed while making it. I actually had to start the video from scratch because I was using a more detailed style that was just taking too long and I was starting to get bummed out with it. With this cartoon I really learnt that the more simplified the characters look the more fun it is to move them around. The style is heavily inspired by Creepshow, a really fun horror movie from 1982. I wanted to push the animation for this one, I think I was just finding Masaaki Yuasa’s films around then and got instantly inspired by his loose, dynamic, lively animation.
Q: As a writer I always try to figure out where the story is going to go before the ending. A lot of your movies have had me guessing where it was going to go. The one that really got me though was The Problem With Bill. At first I thought that Bill was going to be an alien. Then it turns out everybody is an alien. I was not expecting Bill's response to this revelation nor the ending which I laughed so hard at. You said you had fun making it, especially with the sound design. Could you elaborate more into the process?
A: Bill came from a lot of different places, I don’t work at an office but two of my friends do and initially I was going to make a cartoon about a specific thing one of my friends was going through at his place, it was about a guy who stunk 24/7. But I decided to merge the environment of an office with the thoughts I was having at the time with my job, mixed with my friend’s office woes too. And plus you gotta make an office cartoon as an animator, it's up there with Dragonball Z parody.
With the sound design I remember it being really fun because I was working fast and tried to be as dumb as possible, it became apart of how to make the cartoon funnier. In a previous cartoon The Song from a Dream, I had a lot of fun making the sounds for that too, but with Bill it was for comedy instead of straight horror. A lot of it was just “what if I add these heavy, serious drums?” or “what if his voice just gets demonic here?” Just playing around and experimenting, but in particular, abstracting, I don’t remember doing that all too much in vids before Dream Song.
Q: We now come to a tragic and yet beautiful story that I believe everybody can relate to on some level. It is the grim tale of A Crack In My Skin. A lot of people are going to have different interpretations on this story. What could you tell us about the story?
A: It's funny, I think this video did so well because of ol’ covid, but this was a cartoon that I started to make way before any of the quarantines started. I guess a lot more people were forced to experience that kind of feeling lately. While making it with all the quarantines coming into effect I really wondered if it was a good idea to make the video or not. I didn’t know if a darker cartoon would be appropriate and I think most people did walk away from it with a negative reading too… I wonder what people would think of it outside of covid. I don’t really want to share my intentions with what the cartoon means or what the ending is because it will kill the interpretation of the person reading this. I’ve seen a bunch of weird and personal readings for it and would love to see more!
This one had a few inspirations, there are four posters in Cera’s room and if you can recognise them you’ll find out a little bit more of who she is. Stylistically, there is a lot of Japanese horror in this, all four posters are Japanese media too. Manga was a big influence too, my two favourite mangakas are Junji Ito and Hideshi Hino, I also love the Fuan No Tane series. I re-watched/ played a bunch of Japanese horror films and games at the time to best express the style and mood I wanted to go for, The Grudge movies, the Forbidden Siren games. I wanted that specific dark, gloomy, melancholy of Kiyoshi Kurosawa movies and a lot of the spacious shot composition was inspired by Cure and Pulse, I love those shots, it’s such a simple, effective way of showing how isolated a person feels.
This cartoon is very personal and I really love the sound design in this one, there are a lot of little details that I wanted to nail. I think I spent the most time with sound effects in this one than for any of my other shorts, usually I can get it all done in a day but for this one it took four or five. It might have been the least fun to actually sound design though lol, just a lot of fine tuning.
Q: What is in your opinion, the definition of animation?
A: Animation is the movement from one image to another. It’s my favourite art form, it is so limitless in what you can do to express an idea with. There are so many styles and all of them have their own rabbit hole of intricacies and specific qualities only that technique can achieve, each feeling different not only with how the images/ clay/ models move but in how you can create it, the process of it. I don’t think that there are any universal rules for how an animation should be but each animator has their own goals and crucial aspects of the medium. For me the only rule I try to keep is to make the process as fun as possible. Animating can be gruelling and so slow sometimes, especially if you’re pretty impatient like me, so if you can find a method to make the whole process enjoyable and efficient, you won’t feel overwhelmed and your next project won’t be as daunting.
Q: What is in your opinion, the definition of horror as a medium?
A: Horror is like a set of symbols/icons or a kind of theme. It uses darker and maybe grotesque imagery to achieve so many different reactions from you, not just fear. Some of my favourite directors have used the genre of horror as a ‘mask’. You use the tropes, the mood, the face of horror to express an idea in a much more effective way than you could in any other genre or visual style. I know Andrzej Zulawski and Kiyoshi Kurosawa have both talked about this mask, sometimes a specific idea can only be portrayed with darker colours. To me these images are also really fun to explore, there is some kind of exciting aspect to watching and making horror stuff. I also just enjoy delving into darker subjects, probably because I’m just a moody guy anyway.
Q: What can we expect from AntonM in the future?
A: Right now I’m working on a cartoon and I’m around halfway through the animation, it’ll be out one of these days. In the far future I don’t know, I hope I can make as much stuff as I possibly can, forever! That’s my biggest dream, just that I can keep going, maybe get a little faster too… I would also love to make a couple small games, I just need to crack it open and learn how.
AntonM I have absolutely no problem of giving the title of Newgrounds Master of Horror. He knows his timing, pacing, and execution down to the letter. When I first saw A Crack In My Skin on the front page I instantly knew there was something special here. As I was going through his works, he made me laugh, he made me frightened, he made me paranoid. After researching for this interview I was not able to sleep because every sound in the house made me jumpy, I have Scratches to thank for that. So naturally I watch something light hearted to calm my nerves. I've seen every episode of The Berenstain Bears now. All I can say about Anton is that there is a lot to learn from him. I can't wait to see what he brings us next.
The Interviewer is a part of Dohn's Desk Productions