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Interview with AlmightyHans - Part 1

Posted by TheInterviewer - May 27th, 2012


Interview No. 98

Interview By: @The-Great-One

Today's guest is an underrated animator here, yet many people know him. His works aren't as big Newgrounds household names here, but they are still recognized as they should. From his works on Valentine 29', Africa Dudes, Ace Pilot, and The Ballad of CrippleKane, which was nominated for a Newgrounds Tank Award. His story has taken him to many different places and he has seen more than probably any other animator and more than the average Newgrounds member, he is none other than Hans Van Harken, also known on Newgrounds as @AlmightyHans.

[ PART 1 | PART 2 ]

Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?

A: It must have been 2000, I was 10 years old. It was a rare thing, but my brother invited me over to his friends house. There, his friend had a computer with internet in his room. We had a Windows 95 with no internet at our place. When we entered his room he was playing this game on his computer where he's point and click down a hall way to move this little panicking red haired kid with a green shirt. I was blown away already. The only thing I played on a computer was 'Load Runner: the legend returns" and 'Rayman'. My nintendo 64 and super nintendo were my only experiences to games. But then the next thing that happened blew me away.

The little red haired kid shot the pink haired punk in the face and blood started gushing out of his face. I really liked the comic violence. It was something I was always into. Not real violence but exaggerated violence. And the most violence I had scene in a video game up until this game was the Metal Slug arcade machines when the blood wasn't censored white. Something about making violence over the top pleased me. Normally you fall and scrape your knee as a kid, it sucks and it's painful. But when violence is over blown and made to be funny, it sort of relieved the misery of it for me.

Two years later, my parents got divorced and I moved to Barcelona, Spain with my mom. For the first time we got a lap top with internet connection because she wanted to keep in touch with her family back in Mexico and U.S. I discovered the internet. And I started searching all these things. I used to love going to the library and opening books and reading bits and pieces here and there, but this time it was the biggest library and on my fucking desk. This was a big deal, since in Spain, I had nothing. It was me, my mother, a small couch with a stereo system instead of a TV in front of it. It was a one bedroom and I slept on a bed that rolled out from under my mothers every night.

I started getting in the mood for playing games and I tried to remember what that game was my brother's friend was playing. I didn't know about search engines so I just punched in a bunch of details like "kid shoots school game with red hair and green shirt" after an hour of searching I finally found it. "Pico? Yeah that sounds about right!" that naturally lead me to newgrounds which lead to the most important discovery of the internet for me. Community. I started watching cartoons and playing games. I had no TV no console, this was my entertainment in my young life in Spain. The best part was. I could leave and read people's comments on work. I realized I could get a response from the creator. I realized... that I could get a response from MY work.

Q: How did you get into art and animation?

A: I can't think of a memory where I wasn't into art. And I can remember vivid memories from when I was 2. At least when I tell them my memories, my family let's me know I was 2 when that was.

I've always drawn pictures, but more importantly, put little stories to them. i wasn't just drawing to see a picture, In my brain I was imagining a little story in what not. When I entered first grade, I had this really cool teacher who made photocopies of this paper she drew a bit cross over that divided it into 4 squares. Whenever we'd be done with assignments she'd give us one of those little pages and told us to tell a story in those 4 panels. I'd always be excited to finish a test early to get one of those and make some story. It was awesome. That was the start of my love for making comics.

At age 6 I started this 'series' of comics that lasted until I was around 12. It was called "Spike" and he was this dinosaur that everything bad happened to. I was always making those damn comics. they were usually a page long and consisted of 12 panels. And it was always like Spike with a themed sort of misery. Lost in a desert thirsty as hell and his dinosaur 'friends' who always fucked with him would create a flash flood and drown the poor bastard. Like Mr. Bill but a poorly drawn dinosaur version.

Q: As an animator I'm sure you have had inspirations. What roles do Tom and Jerry as well as the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote from Looney Tunes play in your creative process?

A: All those cartoons were part of that outlet of violence I liked. It all brought this humor in failure. Nothing was funnier to me as a kid than watching this poor coyote spend all this time into making an elaborate thing only for it to back fire. Then my favorite part would be watching Coyote walking away humiliated but all smashed up like an accordion. It was bitter sweet to me.

Because I grew up in a super guilt filled Catholic environment, I always felt bad drawing blood and anything sexual as a kid. So I chose that loony toons style violence. Big bombs and anvils sorta stuff.

Q: Your first Newgrounds submission would be Sneek. Something very basic no doubt. Where did the idea of this come from and looking back on it as well as its second episode, are you still proud of them?

A: The idea came from all that Tex Avery crazy Looney stuff. Also from that 'Spike' comic series I made. I couldn't figure a way to animate spike how I wanted it to look so I went for that detached limbs look. That was very popular in those days of Flash. Like 'Madness' and 'I love egg' and so many other things. And because I had never taken any animation classes, my only experience for animation was Stop Motion and I really liked Rayman. I decided to go with it.

I literally animated all that stuff horribly and primitively in F6 move. F6 move... F6 MOVE! Basically frame by frame, one layer and just with a knowledge of groups and frames. The limbless style worked well for that without getting too sloppy. That's why I also didn't use backgrounds. Sneek 1 has 10 short skits in it. That kinda gave the episodic feel that I liked Spike had. Then I decided to add more story for Sneek 2. Also switch swap it and make it that this dude needs to get out of a place rather than sneak into it.

I'm still 'proud' of it, but obviously with the cushion thought that I was about 13 when I made those. I never show them to anyone myself though...

Q: What was 24-7 going to be about?

A: 24-7 was going to be the story of two brothers who move together with their uncle who runs a cheap apartment complex in a small shitty town. It was basically going to be my attempt at something like the Simpsons. I even had the first episode half animated. But I realized I didn't have enough practice to pull it off. Comedic timing. Terrible and I mean TERRIBLE microphones. STUPID SCRIPTS. I had an outline for 12 different episodes. Some of them I still kinda like. But with my terrible technique there was no way I was going to basically pull them off. I might have gotten them done, but they would have been very very bad. So I moved onto other things.

Q: For those who know me on here, I am a fan of Monopoly. Your movie MONOTONY is certainly a funny movie, basing a commercial off of Monopoly, but parodying it at the same time. You stated it was for a school project to make a commercial. Could you elaborate more on the project, what you were allowed to do and not allowed to do? Also why did you choose Monopoly, how long did it take, and what did your teacher and class think?

A: I always hated school. After that one good year of first grade that I mentioned, it was all downhill from there. I used any opportunity possible to make something creative out of a project just to stay interested. I was living in Elkhart, Indiana for a year with my dad, with my mom being in Spain and all. We had been studying the Second Industrial Revolution, with the railway systems and all. And we had to create this presentation and parallel it with a board game for some reason. Obviously everyone just spoke their presentation to the class. But I just played this animated video I made. I took the 'Row Your Boat' song and put lyrics to it that kinda connected the game and themes in the Industrial Revolution. Somewhere in the lyrics I mention "Robber Baron" and that was a name for a type of criminal in those days. I got a lot of inspiration for that cartoon from Ren and Stimpey's Log toy. But mine wasn't as funny. I think I made that in 5 after school days.

Q: Glympse would be your first serious movie. You say it is based off of a book you are writing. What is this book about and will we see more of Glympse in the future?

A: During that same year in Indiana every day during every class I could, I was writing this story. I went with this idea about someone who couldn't see someone for more than a day or else they'd die, so this dude would have to be constantly on the move. And without thinking I just kept writing and writing and writing. Until one day I counted the pages and I had like 200 or more. It was funny too cause I'd write with whatever paper I had around. Note book paper, or graph paper from math class or if I was with my dad I'd steal one of his Johnson Control's factory notebooks.

I decided to make a trailer. Not because I ACTUALLY wanted to make a full blown animated movie, but because I really like trailers and I decided to take a jab at it. Personally I cringe whenever I see that title "Glympse" and especially when I watch it. It's incredibly cheesy and immature. I also think the book sucked balls when I try to read it. But it helped me at the time. It was a rough year for me in Indiana. And it sorta acted as therapy. Hahaha!

Q: When did you get into claymation? Also what can you tell us about the CLATOMIC series?

A: I got into claymation when I was 7. I remember when I was younger than that, like 3 or 4, I'd seen trailers and VHS commercials for "The Nightmare Before Christmas". I was so blown away and interested by the visuals. But my mom never let me watch it 'cause she figured it'd be too scary for me. I felt stupid and kept my urge to see it to myself. In 2nd grade, when I was 7, our teacher decided to bring the movie to class for Halloween. I was so excited. And the movie started with that song. And the camera gets going through this weird creepy world. It felt like a disneyland ride. Like indiana jones, just moving through this crazy world. But then she had to turn it off cause of a fire drill within the first 5 min. That was the first and only time I didn't like a fire drill. It interrupted the most interesting moment in my elementary school history.

I went back home jumping and excited telling my mom they were playing the movie at school and it wasn't scary at all. I convinced her to get the VHS. I watched it that night and loved it. The music the story, the design. Everything. And the credits rolled and I kept listening to Danny Elfman's music playing. The credits rolled until it reached the end of the tape and I saw the first 'Making-of' documentary in my life. This was when I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. Make Movies. I saw the process and comprehended it completely. 'Stop Motion' frame by frame, picture by picture, they made these puppets move. I decided to try it for myself.

Because I knew my animation was going to be jerky and what not, I decided to make mine these clay figures of robots. I used my mom's home video camera and hit record and stop very quickly then move the puppet, so on and so forth. As I was looking back at my footage I realized fast forwarding the movie made it look more fluid. So I showed my family the movie in fast forward on tv and talked over it for the voices. Kinda like the piano guy used to play music over silent movies in the theatre back in the nickelodeon days. (not the tv channel).

I stopped making those cause we moved and didn't have a camera anymore. But Clatomic started years later (2005) when I had a logic tech camera with it's own stop motion system built into the program. I was so excited.

I'm going to go out and say I hate animating in 2d. It's a painful process for me that I don't enjoy, I mainly only do it because of the satisfaction of finishing a project. But as tedious as it sounds, I get off on animating in stop motion. The linear step by step isn't so bad for me, because the puppet retains its shape and it's all just you knowing how you want to move it. This is why no matter what style I work in, I like motion tweening. I guess I'm more of a 'puppeteer' than an 'animator' if you want to get snobby.

The Clatomic series started off as a test. I wanted to see if I can take advantage of flash to achieve making a guys head explode. It was just an example situation for me to practice and get back in the grove of stop motion. Then I also thought about character expression and such. Can I also make a guy gesture enough to look like he feels awkward? So I decided to make a simple story about a guy telling his friend to not concentrate or his head will explode. I finished the first episode but as I was animating I was thinking where this could go. So the bigger story started unfolding in my head, so Clatomic turned into a series.

Personally, it's one of the things I'm most proud of. Especially episode 3 and 6. Maybe it's partly because they were my first front paged pieces... I had planned for 9 episodes. It was going to turn into this North by North west sort of "fugitive story" a fugitive with an insane and unpredictable sidekick that made things worse for the main character. And I had this great idea for how to end it. But I don't know if it'd be a spoiler or would at least put to rest the curiosity of anyone who followed the series... I'd rather not say...

I stopped making them cause I got pretty annoyed at the Knox comparisons. I mean sure, it was claymation on newgrounds and the characters were each one solid color. But I hoped people would see that they were completely different in style of humor and even in animation style. My character were very energetic and story fueled. His were more casual and dead pan humor. On top of all that since I move around so much, it was becoming a nightmare buying props all over again the inconsistencies in the series are present. The characters change clay type, the sets change. So it was annoying to keep track of all that.

Q: Valentine 29' would have you leading a collaboration and a beautiful one at that. What inspired you to tell the story of the St. Valentines Day Massacre, and have it told through different animators? Also to those who want to start a collab and or lead one, what advice would have to give them?

A: During the time I was making Clatomic. This guy had come up to me who went under the name of Gorilla Studios with an idea for a collab on the Valentines Day Massacre. And asked me if I wanted to make a part. I was up for it. I did some researched and learned of the story. Since I really liked gangster stuff. Like the more classic gangster stuff, Dick Tracy and all that. But originally, the animations were going to be stick figure like shoot em ups. At least I knew that was going to be a part of it. Which was cool, I didn't mind. One thing lead to another, and the collab fell apart. But I really really liked the possibilitys of the collab. So I asked Gorilla Studios if I could take over? He was cool with it.

I'd always loved collabs on newgrounds. Like the "Matrix Has You" and "There's Something About Halo". I loved seeing all these artists come together to create something under a consistent theme. The styles were different, but it was consistent. I wanted to try something else with approach. Come up with a sequence of events and break that into 5 parts that each artist will animate how they please.

I knew that for this collab to work, the same way everyone comes together and agrees on a theme, I needed everyone to come together and agree on a due date. If we were making a Valentine's Day movie, no one could argue the due date. It needed to be done by that day. And in a collaboration, everyone needs each other. One guy messes up, we all pay for it. So I put the forum to use and made a post not expecting much. But luis was the first to reply. And I FLIPPED. I loved his grime and squeeze so much, my brother and I had peeked out all over it. And thankfully, because of him more people were interested. Including Osuka and Meebs. Critias was already a friend of mine so we was definitely in.

I was really surprised how well everyone did. I thought each piece was unique enough but set up the next sequence well. The only person who started getting on my nerves was Critias. And I'm not saying this out of spite, we're still good friends and talk haha! But he was the only one who didn't have his part done. And the due date was the next day. He hadn't told me and he was being very lazy. And since I was having so much trouble stitching these things together as it is, I told Critias to give me the file, so I made that sequence of the guys sweeping the bullets and getting the hell out of there super rushed. On top of that I had a really REALLY bad flu. But I uploaded it JUST in time for Valentine's Day. Over all I'm incredibly happy and proud of how that one turned out. I think it's sadly rare for awesome collaboration to happen on NG. Where everyone chips in and the final product turns out better than expected. I'm glad to have at least contributed that to Newgrounds with the team.

I had an idea for more "Horrible Holidays" collaborations. Including a Christmas one about the legend behind Christmas Caroling. But I never got to it.

Q: Shorts To Wear Pants To would be an amazing collaboration that would bring together a lot of different animators. The movie used songs from Songs To Wear Pants To. How did you become a part of this collaboration and how did it feel to work with these different animators?

A: Me being in this collaboration was completely out of the blue. I had never heard of this musician, and one day, SqueakyToad asked me on messenger out of an emergency. If I could make a part cause someone dropped out in one night. Funny enough I hadn't slept the night before he asked me that (I have a problem with sleep) so I pulled another all-nighter and made my part. Thankfully it was short cause I didn't know what to do by the end of it. I do think it was good that I was so exhausted. I don't know about you, but if I haven't slept I almost feel this surreal high, and everything is a lot more relaxed for me. I tend to over think everything I do and that can be destructive sometimes. In this case, I just let loose, didn't question and shit my part out of my brain.

[ PART 1 | PART 2 ]



Ummm... AlmightyHans is a Newgrounds household name

Yes AlmightyHans is known here, I stated that, but most of his works are not.

I will always remember him as that guy with the mustaches.

Well FINALLY, the long awaited interview that I wanted to see has just been posted!

But seriously, I'm a big fan of the AlmightyHans, so I really appreciate this interview ^_^

Its annoying they don't have the news slider anymore. I used to enjoy reading these

@veselekov: If you want to get a notification on these news posts, you can make The Interviewer one of your favorite artists.