Friday, November 7, 2014

Bee and Puppycat: From Pilot to Premiere

It started as most trips did for my friend and I: half a tank of gas and a GPS that we suspected was secretly trying to kill us. It was the just the right mix of confused and justifiably concerned that we needed to get us anywhere. And on a particularly sunny morning in June we found ourselves crossing over into the land of maple leaves and no highway rest stops: Canada. We were sleep-deprived, listening to the only station that would come through clearly (a strange mix of jazz and 80s-esque rock and roll), and had long gotten over trying to read the kilometers conversion on our speedometer when it struck us.

We had actually just traveled to another country to meet someone who has been one of the biggest inspirations to us art-wise (and for me, film-wise). See, my friend and I have a strange sense of humor that consist of a series of half-assed miming and off-beat puns. It’s become a second language to us and it’s something that’s defined the things (of comedy) that we enjoy. That being said, we had had the amazing opportunity to stumble across the works of Natasha Allegri, creator of Bee and Puppycat, earlier in the summer and just so happened across this convention she was attending (the “Toronto Animation Arts Festival International”). Now, Natasha had been a well-known name in the cartoon-industry, for her work on award-winning shows such as Adventure Time and Cartoon Hangover-curated Bravest Warriors, but it was the unique style of her animation and writing that hooked us.

Bee and Puppycat premiered on Cartoon Hangover’s youtube channel in July of 2013. It was originally a quirky little short about a girl who loses her job, bumps into a dimension-skipping puppycat, and takes on a freelance job in Fishbowl space. Pretty ordinary, right? But the amazing thing about Bee and Puppycat is not only the visual style and natural flow of dialogue, but the process it has gone through (and the influence it has had on my own filmmaking) to become an actual full-length series.

With a kickstarter that launched back in October of 2013, Bee and Puppycat collected $872,133 by the end of its fund-raising period making it the most successful animation kickstarter in the history of the website. And after months of waiting, the newest and most re-vamped version premiered yesterday (November 6th).

And I remember sitting in the third row of a lecture hall, out in Toronto, watching the original storyboards for the first episode (of the newer version). It’s a weird and nostalgic feeling to realize that I was there witnessing the creation of something truly delightful. It was worth the moments of panic as we missed our exit more than once, and that one time that biker got mad at us and flipped us off.

Fast-forward a few months and everything that had been discussed was a completed thing. It’s gives me goosebumps, in a good way. Because what was Bee and Puppycat before was not what Bee and Puppycat was now.

For starters, the visual look of the series has changed significantly from its pilot-era. While it definitely threw me off for a few seconds, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. If anything, it just shows how much can change in the production process and how much power you (as a content creator) has to to change the things that you want. For me, this new style only helped match the ideals and characteristics that screamed Bee and Puppycat.

You look at how Bee is drawn, you look at Deckard, you look at Puppycat, and any of the other characters and you see diversity. And it’s sadly hard to find that in mainstream media. You know, a female character who not only looks like someone you’d see in everyday life but someone who has embraced this sort of can-do attitude for the things (that would be trivial to some) in her life.

And the dialogue of the series only attests to the sense of realness that comes with such a personality as hers (and the others). It’s like you’re physically in the room having a conversation with the characters, or at least observing in close proximity. It’s natural. It’s insanely natural and it adds to the atmosphere.

Bee and Puppycat at its base, is a very whimsical story but it tackles very serious and actual problems in our lives: unemployment, heartache, betrayal, budgeting, ugly work uniforms. Haha, well not every problem is a very serious one but you get my point.

Sure, it’s not what it was a year ago but that doesn’t make it any less of the show that attracted thousands. And sitting in the back of that mildly-warm room, in an unfamiliar city in Canada, I didn’t feel like I couldn’t make it anymore: as an artist, as a filmmaker, etc. Hearing how Natasha cried when she had run, sweating in an uncomfortable business suit, through the streets of California to get to a pitch meeting that she utterly bombed, was strangely inspiring. Because it had failed. She had failed. But that didn’t stop her. She pushed on and it pulled off because someone was interested. And that’s the best thing to keep in mind these days. That no matter what, there will be on person who will be avidly captivated by your work. So let yourself fail. Let yourself make that wrong turn, and get over it. Because you learn from it and you learn to pick yourself up and to find a different route.

So here’s me pointing a big arrow-shaped stick at this series. Hopefully you’ll give it a chance, if not a quick glance, because it did something great. Maybe not to you, but to someone.

And maybe you’ll find yourself traveling across the border with half a tank of gas and a GPS out to get you. Who knows? I guess the point of this entire thing is that you just have to create.

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