Category - Episodes

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‘Contra with Friends’ begins production

Contra with Friends concept art

Contra with Friends concept art

I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but the next episode of Read Only Memory, tentatively titled “Contra with Friends”, has begun production. I suppose the surprising part is that it took so long for production to begin, I mean, Howard & Nester & Metroid has been out for weeks now! Well, I took a week off, and then last week got a bit nuts personally and also with preparing for the Full Hearts Marathon. Would you believe it took me longer to set up Thursday night than the time I actually spent playing games the following night? Computers. They suck.

So anyway, Contra with Friends. I’m kind of excited to make this one, because it’s an idea I’ve been kicking around for ages now. In fact it goes all the way back to “How to Hook Up the NES.” I’ve said in the past that GFG#5 was actually cut in half when I realized just how much work it would be. After Jacquo finally hooked up the NES, a SECOND Jacquo (another throwback to the old Goofy shorts where multiple Goofy’s would be walking around) would enter the scene and they’d begin to play Contra together, hence the reason it was the featured game in the short. The narrator was going to sort of do a play by play type thing as the Jacquos played Contra and eventually rung each others necks and both passed out. ‘Contra with Friends’ obviously won’t be that way, nor will it feature bunny version of Lance and Bill, but it will explore some of the ideas I had there. It’s nice sort of being able to complete something, even though it’s so far removed from where it originally ended up.

That’s sort of the fun of the creative process, pulling bad ideas, saving the good ones, refining them for use later, and so on. Heck, Howard & Nester & Metroid was actually two ideas combined into one. Howard & Nester was going to be its own thing, and the whole bit with Samus being “Metroid” was another short I had planned, but the two ideas worked better together.

Anyway, the above shot is a sketch from a series of sketches I did in an effort to help get a feel for how the characters will look in the short. I decided to make Lance and Bill look like identical twins instead of one looking like Arnold and the other Sly. I figure I’ll do it the legit NES way and make the only difference between them be the color of their pants (and hair I guess).

I’ve written up a script but it’s a bit complicated. I’ll hopefully have boards done by the end of the week, and it’s during that process where I’ll start to find out exactly what needs to be cut and/or changed. It’s always kind of grueling, but once I’m done with that I usually find it much easier to fall into my working groove. Wish me luck!

Read Only Memory: Howard & Nester & Metroid!

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After a few months off and a complete overhaul of what I already had completed, the latest episode of Read Only Memory is complete. Thank heavens! Watch the video and then feel free to read below.

I’ve already said so much about this short by this point that I almost don’t even know what to write!

When I conceived this short, the idea was always that the ending we have now, in which Samus turns out to be the fabled “Metroid” was always the end game. As work moved along on the short and I redid the script for it, I thought maybe I shouldn’t do that ending and started to shy away from it. Would people actually find that funny? I mean, it made me laugh when I thought about it, but I didn’t know how people would react. As a result, I decided to have Samus stay as Samus and then wrote some speaking lines for her as she was originally not supposed to say anything. That’s when I got Rinry involved, and after hearing Rinry’s work, I returned to that idea of making her into Metroid. Hearing that voice come out of a buff cyborg seemed even funnier to me, so I sent her a request to give me a Kirby style “Hiiiii!” It killed me when I matched it up to what I had. I feel bad that I sort of left Rinry in the dark as far as her playing the part of a male cyborg, but I’m hoping she’ll get a kick out of it.

The idea of doing this ending was the result of not only a common Metroid misconception, but also something I dealt with in real life on several occasions. I can vividly remember drawing pictures of Samus in High School and people asking “Who’s that, Metroid?” To save face, I would just go along with the person and simply agree with it, shaking my head. With this short, I finally wanted to visit the idea of this fabled “Metroid” character.

I’m glad I stuck with this ending too, because the alternate ending was Howard simply informing Nester of Samus taking her clothes off and Nester replying with “Oh, my ankle is suddenly starting to feel better!” That felt cheap to me, I didn’t want to end with the two of them just being pervs, I needed to have something for the audience to react to, for better or worse. Considering people were very receptive to something like Pizza Links, I’m hopeful they’ll like this too, but you never know.

Aside from the ending, I managed to work in a bunch of Ace Attorney nods throughout the short. As I’m playing lots of Miles Edgeworth lately, I worked in some classic Ace Attorney poses, but as I moved along with the project I decided to really give it more of the flavor of those games. I figured there are some similarities in the static presentation of both the game and the short, and Howard’s classic purple suit just has way too much in common with Edgeworth’s suit to ignore it. It’s a strange mash up, Howard & Nester, Metroid, and Ace Attorney, but I think it gels together well.

So there you have it, the finished the short. I hope you enjoyed it for what it is, which is simply a take on the old Nintendo Power comics with a touch of Shamoozal style humor and storytelling. Now, let’s move onto the next short!

Few words on ROM#06

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Haven’t spoken about Howard & Nester & Metroid in a while so I figured I’d throw a few blurbs out there. It’s actually kind of hard to think of something new to write about! I feel like I’ve written about this short so damn much that I’m out of things to say! So, I might be going over the same territory again, I apologize if that’s the case.

First, no new photo for the top of this write up. You get a new photo in the form of that little “coming soon” ad over there. If I show anything else, there won’t be many surprises for you now would there?

It’s kind of amazing how I wanted to make a motion comic because I thought it would actually be easier than animating a whole short, but in a way it’s probably taken me more time than any other ROM short yet (with maybe the exception of Pizza Links, another one that gave me trouble). The other three episodes of ROM were all kept pretty basic, just a background or two, a character model I was able to use for most of the shots, and very minimal animation. Little did I realize that making a bazillion different illustrations would take just as much if not more time. Okay, a bazillion is pushing it, but there’s a lot to draw and paint here.

I don’t have much experience with comics, so making a motion comic is kind of new territory for me. I had a long debate about whether or not I actually wanted any of the art to move (like a head tilting to the side for example) but I decided that the images should be mainly static. That brought up another issue, now things were sort of boring to watch. I spent a lot of time coming up with a whole aesthetic for it asking myself how I can make it interesting without the characters actually moving. How do you make a static image come to life? Well, there are plenty of amazing pieces of art out there that tell a story, so the hurdle is in trying to make interesting pictures. I hope that I was able to do that. I’ve also tried to use interesting camera movements and the way the panels appear over one another. So while the images aren’t animated themselves, there is plenty of motion going on, and plenty of things to look at.

I’d say at this point I’m halfway through all of the main illustrations. Thankfully with the animatic I was able to pretty much build the entire flow of the short, so I’ll simply be plugging in the final art and most of the short will take care of itself. I have a few timing issues I’ll need to iron out and other effects to add, but I’m hoping it won’t be a huge deal. Of course whenever I don’t think something will be a big deal it turns out being a big deal!

Then there was the issue of voice work. I rerecorded Howard’s line so many times. I have audio of me doing about four different voices for the guy. At one point I had the entire thing timing out to what I thought would be Howard’s final voice. However I let Frank check out the animatic and he suggested redoing his lines. I gave Howard another voice and this changed up the flow of the animatic drastically. I needed to retime nearly the entire short, but I think it was worth it. It works better, even if his newest voice isn’t as goofy as it was before.

Anyway, I’m still hopeful it’ll be done by the end of the month. I’m able to get about an hour to an hour and a half on it a night. I’ve been going strong with that for about three weeks now taking a few nights off here and there.

All I know is that the next one is going to be a lot more focused and smaller in scale than this one. Or so that’s what I tell myself.

I’m talkin’ about the beat goes on, YEAH! The beat goes on….

Nester gives Samus the point

Time distortion. Space is the place. Going down that lonesome highway… but the beat goes on.

At least, that’s how I feel right now. I’ve mentioned before how I’ve scraped what I did so far with Howard & Nester & Metroid, and tonight I “finished” my first redone shot. I use finish in quotes because it’s not nearly finished, there are still a few more drawings that go along with it and of course it needs to be timed out properly to dialogue. So yeah, it’s not nearly finished at all! But the beat goes on.

Last night when I started this shot I had another struggle that is likely the reason I’m not happy with the artwork I already created. In fact, when I pulled up the image I previously did, I was actually trying to trick myself into thinking it would be okay to use that art again. I seriously almost tricked myself, but something just didn’t feel right about it. So I looked at it for a while to try and figure out what I thought wasn’t working.

Nester is upset with Samus

The issue, I found, is that I was too interested in preserving the original look of the characters from the early Nintendo Power comics. Instead of having fun with the characters, I posed them rather plainly and used the old comics not only as a point of reference, but essentially redrawing some of the shots from them. I was being maybe a little too true to the source material. These images needed a little more “me” in them, so I ended up belting out a bunch of Nester gesture drawings in order to get into my OWN groove, and I think it helped me. I was so stuck on making it look like the old stuff that it never came into its own. Though, the result isn’t too original and it’s telling that I’ve probably been playing a bit too much Miles Edgeworth as of late, but that’s part of the fun here.

Nester gives Samus the point

Most people would probably look at the two images together and think I’m making a big deal out of nothing. Just know I’m happier with the second one and that should be good enough! HA! Samus by the way, is based on her appearance in the original manual for the NES game. Considering the idea behind this is that it was supposed to be made during the days when NES Metroid was new, I felt that designing her around that look would be fitting. Plus, I think the more cartoony Samus fits in better with Howard and Nester’s designs.

Original Samus Designs

Also, I really wish I was better at inking stuff. Though I’m not too sure I could actually ever be good at inking anything because my hand is just too damn shaky. I find that when I draw I can only make good figures the faster and quicker I made my strokes, which is probably how it is for most people. Yet when I go back to ink those lines they always look like garbage, things aren’t much better here but I’ve tried to allow myself a bit more freedom by letting things be a little messier.

It’s kind of amazing that when I planned this short I decided to do it this way in an effort to cut down on my work load while I adjusted to life with the babies. Yet here I am finding myself once again saying “There is never an easy way out.”

But the beat goes on.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back… or something

nester isnt happy

nester isnt happy

Well I’ve officially started working on ROM Vol 2 again and hopefully I’ll be able to keep a steady pace now. I’ve spent the last week or so trying to condition myself into staying up later than normal which so far hasn’t killed me, so that’s good.

I say I’m working on “Vol 2″ because I’m actually already in the process of creating the package that will tie the four episodes together. When I was doing the shorts for Vol 1, I knew I always wanted to combine them, but I was never aware of just HOW I should do it until I sat down and thought about how the four shorts could possibly link together. With Vol 2 I’m thinking ahead and have already pieced together exactly how this thing is going to tick. As a result, I have more work done on this than on the actual shorts, which is kind of strange but will make sense when you actually see it. I’ve also gotten permission to use some really great music for it too, so I’m pretty pumped about that.

So the bad news. I was looking at what I had created for Howard & Nester & Metroid a few nights ago. I looked through my final drawings and skimmed through the storyboard sequence. It’s kind of nice getting perspective on things after a few months. I found myself extremely unhappy with most of the drawings, and in rereading the script I found that it was not only too long but also lacked an ending that actually worked well. I’ve decided to scrap everything I’ve done so far (so the above image will not appear in the short), rewrote the script and have rethought how this entire thing is going to work. I’m still going for a motion comic look with this one, but I think I’ve given it more personality. This is actually the third time I’ve rewritten this short, and in looking at the amount of “panels” (or shots) I’ve gone from 17 to 13 and finally settled on 11. It’s hard trying to picture how everything is going to move around in your head while writing drafts, but I think this is the best take on it that I’ve come up with. I just hope I can pull it off.

So yeah, flipping sucks turds that I’m starting from just about nothing, but I know it’s was the right call to make. The time between working on it also allowed me to contact Rinry of GoNintendo/BlisteredThumbs fame to lend her talents to a handful of lines. This is the first time I’ve ever worked with someone outside of people I know personally to do voice work for one of my shorts. I’m looking forward to seeing how this thing all comes together.

Anyway, yeah. There you have it!

Happy New Year – Thoughts and Resolutions

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Another year in Shamoozal history is down in the books. I think we had a fairly decent year all things considered, and having reread my thoughts from a year ago, I think we had a more fulfilling year for the site. Maybe I shouldn’t say the “site” but the brand.

Lately I’ve been thinking about Shamoozal as more of a brand and not a website. I spent a lot of time asking myself this year what Shamoozal is. Are we a website? A blog? Animation group? What are we? We were founded on the idea of cartoons, and the series of cartoons were called “Shamoozal” but the name has now transcended the cartoons and we’ve branched out to so many different areas. So what is Shamoozal? I think I came up with a good answer in our About Us page I typed up a few months back; we’re Shamoozal, and we make cartoons.

So we make cartoons, what exactly is everything else? It’s for the people that really like those cartoons, for the people that want to know more about the group that makes it tick. So the Nerdlog is here to show our interests and for us to present whatever we’d like to talk about, while the podcast acts as a way for us to be more personal with our audience, and of course our forums are here so we can all interact with each other. All of these things come together to support our cause, which is making cartoons. Though that sort of brings us to another point… where are the cartoons?

I’m tired of making excuses and by this point people know the drill, they’re done when they’re done. Shamoozal is a labor of love so things come as they happen. Rereading my ’09 thoughts, the only cartoon we had to show was “How to Hook up the NES.” I’m glad that this year I can say that I’ve brought five different shorts (though I’m cheating a bit with that fifth one). Sure, combined they are the length of NES, but I’m glad that for close to half a year I was able to bring you guys monthly shorts. I had never done that before since launching the site, so for me personally it was pretty fulfilling. I’m of course talking about Read Only Memory, which were mainly created for the GoNintendo.com audience but that relationship helped full my desire to get this stuff done. I always worked better under pressure, and though Kevin over there never pressured me, I gave myself the monthly deadlines.

I’m sad that I couldn’t get Vol 2 wrapped up before the years end as I had planned. It really is a bummer but when my two girls were born my life was literally thrown upside down. I expected it to change everything, but not in the way that it had. However, things are turning around with their schedules and I fully expect to be back at work on Vol 2 in the near future. I’m part way through the first episode of the volume, though I haven’t touched it in months. I imagine I may actually start the episode over again from scratch. I still have what I think is a fun idea to tie the shorts together and I can’t wait to have Vol 2 ready to go.

After Vol 2, I’m taking a break from the video game shorts. I still have a really good GFGames idea that I’ve been kicking around for over a year now, but that new Frankensteiner is going to be the next big one. I don’t care if it takes me until the end of 2011, I’m getting that short done.

Aside from the shorts, I think we had another really good year of Shamoozal Radio. I said it last year and I’ll say it again, SRP is one of the best things we offer here. I really wish our download counts were higher than they are, or that our live stream audience was bigger. If you noticed I’ve been selecting a segment from recent episodes and putting them onto our YouTube page, I’m hoping this will help more people find SRP and listen to it. The numbers on those videos haven’t been great, but I don’t think they’re for nothing. Hopefully little efforts like this will at least spread some sort of awareness.

Anyway, I’m going on for too long now. 2010 will go down as a really stellar year for us. It started out with my trek to MAGFest, was interviewed on several different podcasts, we did some great SRP episodes, we produced a fair amount of shorts that even won them some acclaim on different sites, and refreshed our entire site by the end of the year. All told, I really can’t complain.

Also, a special shout out to JohnnyManf who has somehow single handedly kept the Nerdlog afloat with his movie updates. I always feel really bad when weeks go by without writing anything and there is John, the only one updating the Nerdlog. I’ll try to do at least one new post a week, even if it’s something as stupid as writing about Voldemort’s fingers. Though really, thanks to Frank, Steve, Joe and Jim as well for everything else they’ve contributed to making Shamoozal what it is. Every amount of effort from them always goes a long way.

So my resolutions for this place? Create ROM Vol. 2, Frankensteiner Amazing (we’ll call it that for now), keep doing great podcasts and hopefully find more ways to bring you guys fun and/or interesting content, and hopefully a once a week update on the Nerdlog from yours truly. I’m thinking those goals should be obtainable.

Thanks everyone for following us and supporting us. Have a great 2011!

‘Jacquo’s Carol’ Returns to the Episodes Page

Decided maybe I should get this episode up early this month instead of waiting until the day before Christmas. We have some company over so it gave me enough time to run into the Shamoozal Dungeon and render out a new version of this short for YouTube.

Jacquo’s Carol was the first thing on Shamoozal to ever go semi-viral (I don’t believe we ever produced anything truly worthy of being called viral before, though we’ve come close a few times). I remember checking some statistics out on Christmas Eve of ’05 and finding that this video got absolutely hammered. Well over 20k in a night, which was a huge deal then (and to be honest, it would still kind of be a huge deal to me with any other projects we do) all thanks to a link on the site Milkandcookies.com. I felt pretty good about it because a week or so earlier I uploaded it to Newgrounds without much fanfare, certainly not the numbers ‘Black Friday Blues’ pulled anyway. It was probably the best Christmas gift I could have received that year.

Tonight is the first time I’ve watched this in ages. Like everything else I created from those days, I think it’s pretty ugly… but you know, I still find some charm in there. I like Joe’s music, and despite my terrible lyrics, I think there are a handful of decent laughs in there. I still like the idea of Jacquo eating boxes, stealing Santa’s sleigh, and of course Loose Leaves detachable leg and rotating teeth (later to be seen in ‘The Last Copy‘). I had never written a song before and know zero about music, but Joe did his best to show me what he felt would work and how it should be sung. It was a really challenging project, and considering I busted out the actual animation in about three or four days (with Frank doing about two shots himself), I had my work cut out for me.

So I guess I like this one, faults and all.

‘Black Friday Blues’ added to Episodes page

Slowly getting that old content back onto the site. Just in time for Black Friday, I once again present Black Friday Blues.

Like most of our older stuff, I’m not exactly pleased with how this short has aged. I still think it has some decent enough gags (more so than Candy Corns at least) but it does lack direction. It just kind of happens and then that’s it. I won’t lie, originally it was planned that Grey would make it to work and be completely bombarded with customers, but I saw how much time I had to work on it and knew that wasn’t going to happen. From there I just decided that maybe it would be best if Grey didn’t make it to work. After releasing it, I had the intention of making a “Black Friday Blues: Part 2″ where we would see Grey at work, but well, you know how it goes. Anyway, happy shopping tomorrow you suckers.