Interview No. 172
Interview By: @The-Great-One
Today's guest is no stranger to the veteran members of Newgrounds. From his series The Spirit of Halloween and ANAKIN. His collaboration works have brought together some of the best Newgrounds creators on the site. His skills an comedic writing and timing are unprecedented. I am pleased to welcome, @squeakytoad.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
A: I had to learn remotely growing up in Thailand due to my parents’ work, so I didn’t have too many opportunities to learn the latest tools and software in art and computer classes. I saw a Flash animation course in Bangkok and hopped on the bus at age 13 to learn this magical software. There I saw the kids watching animations, mostly stick-figure fights, on Newgrounds. Having loved parody whether Mel Brooks or early Zucker brothers, I was a huge fan of all the irreverent parodies on NG making more relevant jokes than mainstream cartoons. I wanted in on the fun and started submitting in 2005. I stuck around because of the great network of artists.
Q: At what age did you become interested in animation?
A: Can’t remember a time when I wasn’t. From a really young age, I’d fast-forward the credits on the VHS tapes to excitedly watch the “making of” featurette behind my favorite animated movies. I burned through sketchbooks drawing comics. I was never an exceptional artist, but I had at least enough talent to convey my ideas in illustrations.
Then my dad got a scanner in the late 90s and showed me how to digitize my drawings, which we could drop frame-by-frame into an old video editor to make the choppiest frame-by-frame animations. Then I discovered Macromedia Flash.
A: Oh hey, Rina-chan was the very first VA I worked with - she played Padme in my first flash animation, a Star Wars parody. She’s incredibly talented and was great to work with.
I started voice acting because it was the simplest route to making my animated stories come to life. As you can tell from my early Worms cartoon, I was no Xiao Xiao or Krinkels with their ability to make wildly entertaining action animations. I had to make comedic content if I wanted to entertain, and it was easiest to convey the humor in my head if I did the voice myself usually. Though I later discovered an amazing voice acting community on Newgrounds that helped me bring other ideas to life.
Q: Looking at your earlier works, there is a usage of music by Andrew Huang. When and how did you come to learn about Andrew?
A: Touchtone Genius! The same day I submitted my first Flash video, Touchtone Genius graced the portal. I probably watched it ten times. Andrew was like the internet Weird Al, and I downloaded a hundred songs from his site that week (which, in the days of 56k modems, ties up your internet for 12 straight hours). I quickly got to animating The Glass Toaster and later used a spoken piece by Andrew in Webcam Confessions.
Q: When Almighty Hans, eddsworld, and RWappin were here we talked about Shorts To Wear Pants To. A collaboration to create shorts using songs by Andrew Huang from Songs To Wear Pants To. You were the organizer for this collab. Why did you want to make a collaboration with Andrew's music? Were people allowed to choose the song they wanted to animate? What was it like to work with these other animators?
A: That’s the first time I’d organized an animated collab, having done an art forum collab, and I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I had a folder full of Andrew’s songs that I wanted to see brought to life with animation, so I asked other people who liked his content if they’d be interested in collaborating. The guys you mentioned above I invited, but we also opened it up to anyone on the Newgrounds animation forum. That wasn’t the norm then - most collabs were invite-only - but I see over the last decade, there are plenty of taking-all-comers collabs (which is awesome, cause they’re a great way to practice and build a network). Everyone picked their own songs too.
Q: When and how did you become associated with the Pass-my-Flash 1 collab? Any chances of this project being resurrected or would the reanimated collabs be a spiritual successor to it?
A: If @Luis ever asked, I’d do another in a heartbeat. Luis had been organizing the NG Sketchbook Tour, which I’d participated in, and he put out the call to those participants to do a hand-off sketchbook animation collab (where you transition from the previous animator’s last frame and the next guy picks up where you left) with a limited timeframe to respond (which kicks your butt into gear when you’ve been procrastinating on animating). I think the Sketch Collab is the obvious spiritual successor, though I’d love to see the hand-off idea return.
Q: You also participated in an art collab called NG: The Zoo. How did you become a part of this collab?
A: I organized that one. When Tom opened the Art Forum in 2006, there wasn’t yet an Art Portal (2009) for people to feature their completed works. So folks started figuring out creative ways to thematically assemble their art to music (I think beginning with the Red Line collab?). I first participated in the “People Are Strange” collab (removed due to copyrighted music) and went on to organize the NG: Food Chain and NG: The Zoo.
Q: What advice would you have to give to those looking to join a collab? What advice do you have to give to those looking to start a collab?
A: Hm, I don’t even know anymore. It’s a whole new internet. Folks have moved from BBS and AOL Instant Messenger to Discord and Twitter. I guess I’d say, whether animated or art collabs, these are big undertakings, and it takes more than one person’s passion to make them happen. I was on board with a handful of other collabs that never materialized because the lone leader pushing it got burnt out. Successful collabs often start with two or more friends hashing out an idea and getting excited about it, which means more than one person putting in the work to make it happen.
Q: A favorite short series by you is entitled The Spirit of Halloween. Where did the idea for this series come from?
A: I loved a range of holiday specials growing up, from the sincerity of Charlie Brown to the irreverence of South Park. Halloween was probably Newgrounds’ biggest holiday back in the day, and I wanted to create a series with a world and original characters that existed entirely in an ongoing holiday special (yeah, I realize this is territory that The Nightmare Before Christmas and a number of other movies and shows have already covered).
Q: Something I noticed in The Spirit of Halloween 1 is that the character at 2:18 pumping gas looks remarkably similar to the character in The Touchtone Genius. Is this merely a coincidence? Is that a separate account by you?
A: Funny you ask since the Touchtone Genius was uploaded the same day I started submitting animations to Newgrounds. I did not make that little masterpiece, but I like featuring characters from internet series and videos I enjoy in the backgrounds of my cartoons, especially the Spirit of Halloween saga. I figure if I’m going to have to draw background characters, I’ll enjoy making them more and the audience might get a kick out of recognizing them when they’re notable characters from web animation. I took it to the next level in Spirit of Halloween 2 by asking @the-swain to voice his Blockhead characters (one of my all-time favorite Newgrounds series) and in Spirit of Halloween 3 invited Mike and Andy Parks to revise their classic College University characters for a cameo.
Q: There would be a long gap between The Spirit of Halloween 2 and 3. Why such a long period of time between them? What was going on at this time?
A: At the beginning of 2007, I returned from Thailand to the US to finish high school and prepare for college. That was really the beginning of my extended hiatus (the content I submitted in 2008-2009 was mostly finished before and just needed some final touches). Through college, I had a lot on my plate, including part-time jobs to pay tuition and board. I finally opened up the old Macromedia Flash (which had become Adobe Animate) again in 2013, when I settled in a new city with my first full-time job.
Q: When and how did the ANAKIN series come into existence? Will there be more chapters coming out?
A: I was a huge Star Wars fan as a kid, and the prequels released during my formative years. They’re universal - I could enjoy them with Thai and American friends.
I made that shoddy first Star Wars parody back in 2005 and every rewatching since then have jotted down other bits I could’ve made out of scenes, with the potential only expanding when the collection came into Disney. I figured I’d revisit the idea for nostalgia’s sake recently, especially with extra time on my hands during COVID, and framed it as an unnecessary origin story for Anakin.
After I finish up this next episode that will cover the end of Phantom Menace, I think I’ll take a break to work on other shorts for a while. There are some fellow Star Wars fans who love it and faithfully watch each chapter I’ve released, but overall the series just hasn’t picked up much momentum. I’m hoping the right viewers find it and enjoy it, which would be some great encouragement to keep it going.
Q: Two of the funniest movies I've seen on Newgrounds have to be Green Knight and Orange Knight. It started off as Castle Crashers meet Monty Python. Can you detail that process more? How did it come from the mind, to the voice, to animation? Will we see Red Knight, Blue Knight, Pink Knight, and Purple Knight?
A: That’s very nice of you to say, thank you. When I was growing up, a lot of what we watched were old videos that came to us one way or another (no English TV or video store until I was about 15), often through ex-pat family friends from Europe. So I grew up with a broad range of comedy, especially stuff from the 70s-90s, including Monty Python’s Flying Circus and, of course, the Holy Grail.
When we got Castle Crashers for XBox360 over a holiday break in 2008, my brother and I played it for hours, narrating our actions with hacky British accents, borrowing a lot of Monty Python bits. I jotted down an idea for an animation that I returned to after college, which was Green Knight. I didn’t expect it to become so popular on both NG and YouTube. Recently I logged into a Castle Crashers Discord looking for tips while doing a run-through of the latest version from Steam, and I was ecstatic to learn people still had fond memories of Green Knight after all these years. I started jotting down ideas again and got to Orange Knight pretty quickly.
I have a few more ideas in mind but will try to keep it fresh instead of going back to the banter reminiscent of Holy Grail.
Q: You have spoken on bringing people to Newgrounds by being a Newgrounds Ambassador. You go into great detail on how creators and members can bring people to the site. Do you think this needs to be updated with the current climate of the Internet? How can we use this to further Newgrounds presence on the Internet?
A: A lot of folks don’t know what NG has to offer now. They haven’t seen the quality and range of content here nor know about the expanded features and functionality.
We could all be more social media savvy in sharing content to the right audiences. @TomFulp spends what little free time he has helping people on Twitter and Reddit find old content they’re searching for on Newgrounds.
We could talk about it more. Talking with friends of mine who have a gaming podcast, I brought up NG’s role in the wave of nostalgia for side-scrolling platformers. They both remembered the site but hadn’t visited in ages.
We’re seeing a lot more art students submit their class projects or thesis films. Would encourage people in the arts to continue to remind their networks what a great place NG is to get feedback on their shorts.
I took a hiatus right when a lot of big artists migrated their audiences from NG to other platforms, and I’d love to hear them all credit NG and keep it in their content plans. Tom was dishing out $50-100k of money that could’ve gone to his bank account each year in monthly and contest prizes. And NG gave anyone even slightly funny or artistic thousands - if not hundreds of thousands to millions - of views that could be leveraged to sell merchandise or support all the crowdfunding these guys did. It’s a shame some artists aren’t grateful for that, especially now that Tom and co are working to make NG much more creator-friendly than other platforms.
Now’s the time to link to as much NG content as possible so folks get the chance to see how it’s evolved to be better than ever.
Q: What is in your opinion, the definition of animation?
A: It’s a good question since NG stuck to being the home of animated content specifically, even when other sites started making bank as broad video hosts. Teenage me, with a weird chip on his shoulder, really tried to play gatekeeper sometimes on what was and wasn’t animation. Some of my favorite content now comes from creators like @JamesLee who experiment with different media and techniques.
Animation is bending or reframing reality or creating entirely new realities with whatever materials best convey the feeling or best tell the story you’ve got in your head.
Q: What can we expect from squeakytoad in the future?
A: Hm, I don’t know. I’m not exactly the most consistent animator. I’ll have a few more shorts out in the coming months (maybe more Castle Crashers content?), I’d like to keep the Anakin series going as the audience grows, and I’m in the early stages of an original series about my dog.
squeakytoad was an animator who always caught my eye here on the site. He was always doing something Newgrounds related. Whether bringing people to the site, collaboration, or just doing his own thing. His love for Newgrounds and the craft cannot and should not go unnoticed. If we all bring others together here on Newgrounds and promote the site not only within, but abroad, it would be incredible!
The Interviewer is a part of Dohn's Desk Productions