Interview No. 115
Interview By: @The-Great-One
Today's guest is an up-and-coming animator whose works vary with each new creation he brings to us. From his start with an action thriller, Precision Strike, to a comedy with Boredom in Mordor, to a somber story with In Solitude, to where we are now with an homage to different genres of music with Nyan Cat - Genre Hopping. A jack of all trades, I ask that you please welcome, @WoodTick.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
A: I've been a fan of silly internet videos ever since silly internet videos were a thing, and when I discovered that gems like this, this, and this could all be found in one place, I started lurking around the site. I didn't actually join until I realized that I might have the desire and wherewithal to contribute something, although I think the real catalyst for that decision was a friend who worked at Adobe who was able to get me a copy of Flash at a pretty phenomenal discount. As I recall, this was back in '07, when Adobe had JUST acquired Flash. Now I feel old.
Q: When and how did you become interested in art and animation?
A: Like most other kids, I grew up watching He-Man and TMNT and whatever animated shows were on, but unlike most other kids, I never really outgrew it. When I got a little older, it was Ren & Stimpy and The Tick, and when I got older still, it was Invader ZIM and The Simpsons, and now that I'm an adult, I watch... pretty much the same stuff. But I've always been an artistic person (read: "nerd") and animation as an art form has always appealed to me. I used to make flip books out of anything I could get my hands on. In 7th grade, every single one of my school text books was completely filled with crude animations of stick men decapitating each other and motorcycles crashing into stuff and exploding. It's fun to make a world come to life, and that's what animation is, at its core. The day I discovered that Flash existed was like a dream come true. All that time spent doodling in notepads was suddenly useful for something.
Q: What year did you attend the Lewis & Clark College of Arts & Sciences and what did you study while there?
A: I'm not entirely sure how you know that about me, but yes, I did go to Lewis & Clark, where I majored in music composition and was also fairly active in the theater department. Nice school. Beautiful campus. I got to take a lot of different courses there, from philosophy to history to poly-sci, and everything I learned impacted me in some way. I think a liberal arts education is tremendously valuable, if any of you kids out there are thinking about it.
Q: While at Lewis & Clark College you did a number of plays. Tell me, why the jump from stage to animation?
A: I don't really consider it a jump. Everything I've learned as a musician, a playwright, and a stage actor shows up in my animation. Teller (of Penn & Teller) once said that he really should have been a film editor, and the only reason he stood out as a magician is because he thought like a film editor, filling his act with Hitchcock-esque surprises. Likewise, Shakespeare stood out as a playwright because he thought like a composer, filling his plays with musicality. For me, working in theater was a way to expand my storytelling, which I've been doing since I was a child, and I think part of the reason my animations stand out is because I think like a storyteller and a composer, rather than an animator. I've also just always loved animation.
Q: Your first movie here on Newgrounds is an action thriller entitled Precision Strike. What was the inspiration behind this movie and why haven't you continued to expand on this idea?
A: That was literally my first attempt at real animation using Flash. I had to learn everything on the fly, and in retrospect, I don't think I really grasped how work-intensive a project of that size would be. You can see the spots where I got lazy and recycled animations and the points where I just said, "fuck it," and used tweening for important moments rather than taking the time to draw things frame by frame. There was no specific inspiration for it, but it's a prototypical example of the kinds of projects I like to do: music-driven, storytelling pieces with a lot of Star Wars references. While I have no plans to revisit this concept, the next animation I'm working on will return to this style in a big way. Stay tuned!
Q: We go from an action thriller to a subtle comedy with Boredom in Mordor. When Appsro was here, we talked about how he and some guys got together and started shooting ideas back and forth about what to make, and those ideas came to make Prostitute Mickey. Could the same be said for Boredom in Mordor? Also will there be any follow-ups to this idea?
A: That's exactly how this project came about. My roommate and I had just finished watching all three LOTR movies back-to-back (EXTENDED EDITIONS. Seriously, it took, like, the entire day), and we noticed that orcs are fairly one-dimensional characters. We started joking about what an ordinary day in the life of an orc looks like, and then we just sort of improvised a bunch of stuff into a microphone and then I animated it. Incidentally, if you happened to notice that the sound is TERRIBLE, that's because it totally is. The microphone we were using somehow got disconnected, so everything we recorded was actually picked up by the onboard laptop mic, three feet away. Oops. It would have been too much trouble to redo it (is what I heroically said), so that's what happened there. Probably shouldn't have told you that. I actually had a few ideas for a follow-up video, but I shelved them, mainly because I'm not a huge fan of the genre. Rambly improv usually makes for boring animation. Usually. There's some pretty good stuff out there, too.
Q: In Solitude is a very beautiful and dark piece that I feel is your best work. It can connect with different people on different levels and it certainly connected with me. What is the story behind this movie? Does it have an emotional impact on you?
A: That work is based on a piece of music I wrote a while ago, when I was in college. I'm usually a pretty methodical composer, but that song sort of emerged spontaneously and took on a life of its own. I've always felt that it had a very powerful, emotionally evocative quality to it, and I decided that I wanted to pair it with some imagery. First, I rearranged it with better VSTs, and then I listened to it over and over again and tried to picture what kind of story it was telling. I came up with the idea of solitude and the different facets of being alone, and then started animating from there. It was a very intuitive process, and I think that's a big part of what people connected to. It's more emotional than logical. On a personal level, I've spent a good portion of my life being alone, and whether that's a good thing or a bad thing depends on your perspective. So in a way, it was therapeutic for me to work on this project and hash out all of those ideas, and then to get such a positive response from the viewers here, who seemed to really understand the feelings I was expressing.
Q: Nyan Cat [original] is a YouTube video that has amassed millions of views and has become very popular on the Internet. Many spin-offs and spoofs have been made off of this little video. Your contribution would be the song Nyan Cat - Genre Music and the movie it would be used in would be entitled Nyan Cat - Genre Hopping. Which did you have the idea for first, the song or the movie? How did you come up with the idea of having Nyan Cat go through multiple genres?
A: My introduction to Nyan Cat was this amazing video I discovered on YouTube. If you didn't watch it, it's a Slipknot video with the audio removed and replaced with the Nyat Cat song, so from the beginning, I was already primed to hear the song in ways it was never intended to be heard. While I was obsessing over that Slipknot video, I did another search and found the "a cappella" version of the Nyan Cat song, in other words, just the vocals. And then I started thinking about all the cool things I could do with that, and that's when I had the idea to just cycle through as many genres as I could manage. Of course, I instantly wanted to turn it into a video as well, so I started brainstorming visual styles as I brainstormed musical genres. Pixel-art was a no-brainer, since I have some experience doing it, and the original Nyan Cat was done with pixel animation. For those of you who find this sort of thing interesting, there were a lot of genres that I wanted to do that didn't work out for one reason or another, like jazz, rap, baroque, and even a Simpsons version. The main problem was the tempo. I couldn't keep speeding up and slowing down in the middle of the song, so I had to stick with the original tempo, and a lot of those genres just don't work at that speed.
Q: What can we expect from WoodTick in the future?
A: I don't actually have much content on NG at the moment, and a lot of what's up there is stuff that I rushed or threw together. NG deserves better. I'm currently working on a pretty epic animation project, and I'm trying to take the time to do everything right. I'm not going to give away much, but I will say that it's action and music driven, and it will combine several of the more successful elements of my previous work here. But, you know, don't hold your breath. It's taking forever.
WoodTick is sort of similar in a way to scriptwelder. They both don't stay in a comfort zone. Each creation they bring to the table is different and unique. If you were to look at two different kinds of their works you wouldn't be able to guess that the same person made both. However if you do look very closely at their works you can see small similarities working in them. WoodTick is quite the fascinating individual who mainly creates what seems to tickle his fancy, and that is what I love about animators like him. It is what I love about storytellers like him.