The twisty anarchy of a family movie deserves a tribute

Brendon Small in court (screenshot: home movie)

Brendon Small in court (screenshot: home movies)

Today’s animated situation comedy—— great north, Crapopolis, rick and morty, the list goes on and on, with a level of quality that would have made animators sell their drawing tables in the 1990s. Smoothness and fidelity are two of the first qualities you'll notice in a show like this, no matter how offbeat the character designs or lavish the vocal lineup. even Nampak's clever twist on its famously grungy style goes far beyond our wildest dreams. The animated situation comedy has now become so refined with its superpowers and homogeneity that it makes the old series look like home movies It feels anarchic in comparison.

It’s not just nostalgia. by the time home movies This animated sitcom, which premiered on UPN in 1999, is nothing new. By then, the space for primetime animation had also been filled. Fox and MTV were The Simpsons, king of the hilland Daliaas well as other famous series – heck, Seth MacFarlane's family guy dropped a few months ago home movies May appear on network television. Yet cheap technology and a pedigree of outside creatives, more akin to a comedy open mic lineup than a roster of animation giants, give it an edge. Given the competition, its small scale is disruptive, home movies It has never been more subversive than in its first season.

Of course, it seems ridiculous to quote home movies Co-creators Loren Bouchard and Brendon Small are now outsiders. Even suggested the same to Tom Snyder, the man behind the scenes home movies, Dick and Paula Celebrity Specialas well as Peabody Award recipients Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, is pushing it. Yet there they were: Tom Snyder Productions (later renamed Soup2Nuts), a Massachusetts-based company that operated outside of the larger animation industry and built a reputation within it, charting a course that would lead to Future projects like Bob's Burgers, Metalocalypse and the aforementioned Great North. “it [was] It was more like being in a rock band,” Bouchard told in 1998 about the animation studio's early incarnations.

home movies The show stood out from the competition for its vocal talent, with a cast that includes Small, Paula Poundstone, Jonathan Katz, Melissa Bardeen-Galski, Ron Lynch and H .Local comedians like Jon Benjamin, who gave their characters uniqueness while sounding untrained. (In fact, this is the first time Small and Galski have voiced their voices.) The dialogue in the first five episodes is distinctly original, thanks in part to an impromptu recording process called “reverse transcription.” This method is also used in Snyder's work PhD. catwhich leans into the awkwardness and vulnerability of live performance to maximize the character's personality.

As a family situation comedy, home movies Having a personality is worth burning. The show tells the story of 8-year-old Brandon Small, who lives with his friends Melissa and Jason in the home he shares with his little sister and divorced mother, Paula. Filming in the basement of the house. When Brendan isn't shooting movies with his precious camera, he's trading nonsense with alcoholic football coach McGuirk (Benjamin) and mustachioed teacher Mr. Lynch (Lynch). Through these relationships, we discover Brendan's contradictions: he's creative but a lazy student; he's socially sneaky but a complete control freak behind the camera.

The modulation takes Small's tense, fast tempo and turns it into the voice of prepubescent Brenden, who, like Melissa and Justin, often sounds wiser than his years. Brendon could also display a refreshing sensitivity as a child protagonist, as was evident in the pilot episode “Stay Away from My Mom” ​​(air date: April 26, 1999), in which Paula and her son coaching appointment. One sequence takes place after their disastrous night out, with Brendan jumping on the phone while Paula navigates McGuirk's fumbling attempt at another take. The actors improvise together in front of a live microphone, speaking in the broken, layered, messy way of three people living in real life, not a TV show. It's a scene that shouldn't work, but it works brilliantly, cementing the sonic rhythms that define the series.

home movies It's clearly in the early stages of invention judging from its first five episodes, which aired on UPN before being unceremoniously removed from the network. But it blends sonic and visual disruption—reverse transcription plus “Squigglevision,” another of Snyder’s innovations in PhD. cat — established an unruly punk rhythm that was smoothed out the following year; the curves were toned down as the first season progressed, not as frenetic as Katz's. However, the constant movement of the character's lines gives the character an on-screen dimension, separate from the flat, abstractly designed backgrounds that provide home movies Its style and sense of place.

Squigglevision also gave the world some reality (if not meaning) to the character designs of animators Chris Georgenes and Kim O'Neil. Later seasons airing during Cartoon Network's mature Adult Swim block would address this issue entirely via Flash animation (which was the cheap and preferred method at the time; see also Aqua teen hunger power and Sealing Labs 2021). The character's skintight costume, created almost by accident by O'Neill (“None of us are professional animators, we just make stuff because we feel like it,” says Georgenis), comes to life in Squigglevision like a sock puppet show, Comes with a light dose of acid. Without it, they look like lenticular trading cards – still attractive to look at, but oddly more lifeless.

Despite early limitations, Snyder, Bouchard and others believe. found some way around their limited budget to animate the first five episodes, much like they did with the episode “We Always Have Tuesdays” (titled “Yoko”, depending on who you ask) , in which McGuirk takes Brendon and his classmates on a cheap camping trip. The first third of the episode, set at night when most of the campers are supposed to be sleeping, is almost completely black, with the only animated assets on screen being the characters' distinctive eyes, blinking every so often.

According to Bouchard, the idea was Georgenis's: “Even if it's only five episodes, we're already running out of time […] Then [he] Said, “What if the whole fifth episode takes place in the dark?” I was like, 'I love this guy!

The show's transition from UPN to Adult Swim took a year and was further developed by “Dr. Katz” writer Bill Braudis, who worked with Small and Bouchard on the show A more compact structure was conceived. There is no doubt that the first “Director's Cut” episode of “Adult Swim” (air date: September 2, 2001) has a level of complexity that the previous five episodes did not possess. For example, its parallel storyline – Brendan has creative differences with local rocker Dwayne on the set of the musical Franz Kafka, while McGuirk notices his assistant coach's ability to It looks bad – incorporating future seasons' character in a way that clearly informs Brendon (and McGuirk).

Before, Brendan came across like an arrogant kid; now, he feels like an arrogant kid. Here we learn that his control issues stem from his father's absence. This emotional trauma begins to show in the episode “Brandon's Choice” when Brandon expresses interest in finally talking to his father. This was prompted by a series of interview questions from a local newscaster, who introduced thematic and metaphorical ideas into his work and suggested that his creative inspiration may have come from his parents, of which he had little recollection. One person.

Later, Brendan shows the newscaster the new movie he's working on and tells a twisty, fantastical plot about princesses, gangsters, and a minor league baseball team—when he yells “Action!” 傑森打扮成黑幫的樣子出現在現場,並宣稱:“我想念我的爸爸!” “還有,切!” 布倫登宣稱,他對這件作品感到滿意,但似乎沒有註意到他的電影text. It's a hilarious joke and a deeply sad one, two ways to describe the family movie. “Brandon's Choice” ends with a question that needs to be answered – will Brandon reconcile with his father? How will this decision change the show?

The answer will be revealed in more confident and complete seasons ahead. By this time, Squigglevision was gone; its aesthetic was cleaner, but its ethos was still brutal. home movies Still weird, at times off-putting, oddly affecting – everything we loved about the series in its early form. “Squigglevision is wonderful and charming, but this is definitely a PhD. cat Small said in a Cracked oral history last year. home movies It should be its own thing. This isn't such a dramatic change, though. We're still punk rock.

Small is right that the visual changes didn't ruin his show, his improvements to the story made it better. But there was a drop in quality in the transition from UPN to Adult Swim, which made home movies Cleaner, less raw, and, yes, less punk. But for a season of five episodes, Home Movie takes the animated situation comedy and smashes it into pieces and reassembles it into something almost alien in design and endearing in concept, a combination that's at odds with the current state of the genre. Far from it. Season 1 home movies It may be flawed, but it's the kind of weird, wobbly TV that's worth remembering.

home movies Seasons 1 to 4 are now streaming on Max.

Jarrod Jones is a freelance writer currently based in Chicago. He reads a lot (a lot) of comics, and as a result, he's a bit of a goofball.

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