"Get me Adrian Fossbite."
These words, uttered by Producer Ken Leavings, caused a chain reaction that would take "The New Claw" from the flat pages of the funny books to the heights of animated television entertainment as we know it today.
As I interview this unshaven, straggle-haired man in his paper strewn office and coffee-stained hawaiian shirt, it's hard to reconcile the world-weary businesslike man before me with the entertainment powerhouse who knocked hits out of the park like:
"Invisible Crime-Solving Bugs"
"Radioactive Hillbilly Bears"
"Totally In School"
"The Night Force Defenders"
"The Hijinx Pups"
"Twins Times Two"
"Dracula X-Treme 3000"
"The Cutest Unicorn In Daffodasia"
Yes, this titan of television was prepared to work his magic on a superhero with lobster hands!
ME: So tell me, Adrian, what makes you so amazing?
ADRIAN: Are you putting me on?
ME: No- I just-
ADRIAN: Because if you're putting me on, you can hit the bricks right now.
ME: No, Mr. Fossbite, I run the website about animation-
ADRIAN: That one Leavings was blabbing about- right. Right.
ME: How did you get into animation?
ADRIAN: I dabbled in playwriting- then I did a couple of episodes of "Kingston and Kompany"- sketch show. I had a knack for taking what was topical in the day and getting material out of it. Did a killer bit on the "Swine Flu" epidemic, mixed with Carter's Iran Hostage Crisis. Even today, I can't stress enough to the young writers how important it is to liven up your material with topical references- the latest catchphrases, movie parodies, song lyrics. It makes your stuff CURRENT.
So anyway- one of the writers on "Kingston and Kompany" was moonlighting for "Truckboy" -cartoon about a kid who turns into a truck. He got me a gig on that show, and I found out that that type of writing comes real easy for me.
ME: What makes a good animation writer?
ADRIAN: Well 3 things. First, a good imagination. In live action you can have two characters stand there in a hallway and talk and talk and talk. In animation, that's boring. Dull. Animation can do anything, right? No restrictions on imagination. What I like to do, see, is have two characters stand on the MOON and talk and talk and talk.
ADRIAN: Second, you have to create interesting characters- give them souls- the audience could care less about a cardboard cutout on the screen, but give the character a soul, and you're golden. For instance- not many people know this. I was the one who made Grandmaw Bear always eat corn on that Hillbilly show-whatsit,there...
ME: "Radioactive Hillbilly Bears"
ADRIAN: Right. Anybody else would just make her an old lady. But I made her into an old lady who eats a lot of corn, and talks about corn.
ME: I remember that! "Dadgum my coo-o-o-o-o-orn!" (laughing)
ADRIAN: (laughing) Right. Originally I wanted her to be drinking corn squeezings-
ME: What's that?
ADRIAN: Corn squeezings, like moonshine- booze.
ADRIAN: But the BS&P wouldn't allow it, so I put on the old thinking cap, and changed it to corn, and the rest, as they say, is history.
(Note BS&P is industry jargon for Broadcast Standards and Practices-Animazing)
You always gotta give characters 'character'- like on "Twins Times Two" I always had Amy saying that line :"Super-Dee-Duper!", you know, that way you could tell the twins apart. Plus the numbers on their shirts.
And the third thing you gotta have is originality. You take something like, a plot from an old "Saved By The Bell" episode, and you TWEAK it, y'know? Make it something new, once you stick new characters in there. I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, you gotta be original. For instance, old time radio is a goldmine. Nobody ever listens to that stuff, and it's chock full of plots. Jack Benny, the Shadow- pretty soon, it all turns up as episodes of "The Hijinx Pups". Plot is king.
If jokes get in the way of plot, dump 'em. If characters get in the way of plot, dump 'em. Audiences would rather know what the pieces of the puzzle are than hear a dumb joke or watch some cockamamie cartoon characters act as if they were alive. Your characters are there to set the puzzle pieces of the plot in motion.
ME: Anything else in the pipeline?
ADRIAN: I'm pitching a show I've come up with- should be a real winner. It's this kid see, in school, and he sneaks away from school to do secret hero stuff, and nobody's the wiser. It's something that's never been done before, and I think it'll give "White Kids Go To School" a run for it's money!
ME: Thank you Mr. Fossbite. After talking with you, I feel like I know more about cartoons than ever!
ADRIAN: Now I gotta go figure out how a guy with lobster mitts can scratch his ass.
As I made my way out of Adrian's building, past the used CD store with reggae music thumping and the Vietnamese grocery with ducks swinging by their necks in the window, I looked around wondering if the people on this corner knew- that as they led their normal lives, a scant few yards away, was the man who made television history, using characters like "Colonel Panic" "Maw Dawg" "Blipsy-Poo The Unicorn" and "Dippy The Cross-Eyed Dingbat".