EXCLUSIVE: RUGRATS Creator Arlene Klasky Discusses New Digital Comic Books And More
Arlene Klasky and her partner, Gábor Csupó, formed Klasky Csupo, Inc. in 1981. While they have worked on numerous projects over the years, and still continue to do so, they are perhaps best known for the creation of the Emmy Award-winning Rugrats and The Wild Thornberries. With big screen box office hits such as The Rugrats Movie (1998), it's unlikely that you will be unfamiliar with the Klasky's work, while many of you (myself included) will have grown up watching shows such as those mentioned above. The studio is now working on two new digital comic books, Ollie Mongo Adventures in the Apocalypse and Splaat!. Recently, I was able to quiz Arlene Klasky on all of the above and much more (including the online debut of never-before-seen animated pilots). Links to where you can see all of these can be found in the interview below.
Looking back at the creation of such iconic TV shows as Rugrats and The Wild Thornberries, as well as revealing whether there are any plans to resurrect them for a new generation of viewers, Klasky Csupo's Arlene Klasky discusses their new series of digital comic books and much more.
Firstly, can you tell us about the new digital division you’ve launched? What made you decide to enter the world of digital comics?
The Klasky Csupo animation studio had grown to 550 employees over a number of years. After more than a decade of work, almost exclusively for Nickelodeon on animated TV series and for Paramount Pictures on four feature films, the world was a different place. Digital media had taken root and it was an exciting prospect for me to adapt the studio’s creativity to different digital platforms. Comic books were fascinating to me because the story telling process uses storyboarding in a similar way that animation does. In creating webisodes for the Internet, two minutes can be produced and aired much quicker than a half hour show. The rules for getting content to fans all changed!
What kind of thing should we expect from the 20 animated pilots you intend to premiere via the Klasky Csupo YouTube channel?
While Klasky Csupo was under contract with Nickelodeon we created or produced six TV series for them: "Rugrats", "Aaahh!!! Real Monsters", "Rocket Power", "The Wild Thornberrys", "As Told By Ginger" and "All Grown Up". During that period we produced more than twenty pilots as well as some animation tests that have never been seen by the public. There are six videos posted online already and we intend to roll out something new every two weeks on YouTube.com/klaskycsupoInc.
Tell us about OLLIE MONGO Adventures in the Apocalypse.
We just finished the second digital comic book issue of "OLLIE MONGO Adventures in the Apocalypse". Ollie’s a sixteen year old blue skateboarding zombie who lives two hundred years in the future in post-apocalyptic Asbury Park, NJ. He was adopted at birth by humanoid parents. Ollie has a few supernatural powers, shreds like a bandit and hears telepathic thoughts of others. He’s part human which sets him apart from other zombies because he has empathy toward humanoids. At night Ollie goes under-cover and zombie chases with his best friend Yuki, a humanoid stunt-girl. Together they thwart zombie bullying and kick zombie butt! It’s a combination of epic storytelling and straight up comedy. Check out Facebook.com/olliemongo and read the first two issues of Ollie’s comic books. Also see Ollie’s music video on YouTube.com/klaskycsupoInc.
And how about SPLAAT!?
"Splaat!" is a teenage urban philosopher/know-it-all that lives on the Internet and gives off beat, ridiculous advice. "Splaat!" was inspired by the Klasky Csupo animated logo that was the end tag on our shows for at least a decade. He was named by fans as the "Klasky Csupo Robot Logo" and has since been mashed up and viewed literally millions of times on YouTube. You can learn more about Splaat’s personality as he talks to fans on Facebook.com/splaat. We’re excited to be in production on Splaat’s animated webisodes which can be seen on YouTube beginning in October. You can see Splaat’s music video now on YouTube.com/klaskycsupoInc and hear what kind of music he likes.
Who exactly has been involved with the creation of all these new properties?
Craig Singer is my partner on the new Ollie Mongo project. Craig’s a fantastic live action director, producer and writer of horror films. He is also the co-founder of Take 180, a digital media company that was purchased by Disney in 2008. Craig continues to be a Creative Director and Producer at Take 180. We both created "OLLIE MONGO Adventures in the Apocalypse" and it’s been a plus for me that he’s an expert in the zombie genre. I’ve created and written twenty five "Splaat!" webisodes. I’m thrilled to have the talented Greg Cipes, who voices a character in Ben 10 and the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for NICK, come aboard to channel Splaat’s personality and introduce him to the world. Charlie Adler, a brilliant actor and one of the best V.O. directors in the industry, joined me in co-directing Greg Cipes.
A lot of our readers (myself included) have grown up watching Rugrats. Can you tell us about how you came up with the show, and what it was like to work on the series for such a long period of time?
The origins of "Rugrats" began when Vanessa Coffee, a development executive at Nickelodeon, contacted our animation studio. I had taken fifteen months off work after my second child was born. I was working from home on concepts for "Sesame Street" shorts. Gabor Csupo, my husband at the time, asked me to come up with ideas to pitch to NICK. So, I quickly expanded notes I’d written from one of the "Sesame Street" ideas. My thoughts were, "if babies could talk what would they say" and "what was the logic that drove tiny humans to desperately want to stick their hands in the toilet?" It fascinated me, but mostly I found it humorous. Paul Germain, our development executive at the time, and Gabor Csupo then pitched several ideas to Nickelodeon. Vanessa Coffee had the foresight to choose what ultimately became "Rugrats" and Gerry Laybourne, the President of NICK at the time, had the vision to green-light it! Gabor and I sketched some of the original characters and worked with Paul on creating the world of "Rugrats". Together we produced a pilot that Peter Chung, a brilliant artist and animator, directed. The super talented Mark Mothersbaugh created the music for the show. The studio produced the "Rugrats" and "All Grown Up" series over the next decade as well as two "Rugrats" movies and a third film, where the "Rugrats" meet "The Wild Thornberrys". Our studio just exploded with work! The next ten years were intense for me because I was raising two children and working. Gabor and I continued to create or produce nine more animated series.
Would you ever consider bringing the "Rugrats" or "The Wild Thornberrys" back to the small or big screen?
Gabor and I have a great fondness for both those shows and their characters. We hear on a regular basis from fans that have big love for the shows we’ve produced. It would be an honor for Gabor and I to be creatively involved in bringing back "Rugrats" and "The Wild Thornberrys".
What are your thoughts on the current wave of comic book movies such as "The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises"?
I just came back from Comic-Con last month where we hosted a Klasky Csupo panel to share our new work. I can truly say I’m a convert. I think comic books are a great story-telling medium to directly connect with fans in a powerful way. Films like "The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises" that began as comic books with a loyal following and then were made into films, heighten the sensory experience for fans. The film then becomes an event to look forward to. As a creator, I love using the comic book medium because reading and looking at illustration is a very visceral, personal way for fans to take in story!
Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Yes, our animation studio was created out of Gabor Csupo’s and my love of art and film. We felt there was room in the Universe for a different kind of an animation studio where things could be quirky and odd. We developed hundreds of projects over the years and it was an amazing opportunity to work with gifted and talented animators, artists, writers, actors, musicians, editors and staff. What came as an unexpected surprise is that now there’s so much nostalgia and fan love for the shows we created. We could never have imagined the impact these shows would later have, particularly "Rugrats". I want to thank all of the Klasky Csupo fans who watched our shows growing up and who continue to show us so much appreciation!
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!
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