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Inside View: Cartoon Lagoon Studios

Pat Giles and Manny Galan
Executive producers, Cartoon Lagoon Studios • New York City
(www.cartoonlagoonstudios.com)

by Christine Bunish

Pat Giles and Manny GalanMarkee: You’ve had an exciting autumn with the debut of Captain Cornelius Cartoon’s Cartoon Lagoon on DVD.

Mr. Giles: “DVD pre-sales launched October 10 at New York Comic Con with worldwide sales beginning on Amazon October 23. And we had our world premiere screening in primetime at the New York Television Festival on the 22nd. The run up to this has been like nothing else in our lives: We’re used to shooting commercials and working on TV shows. But with this project every detail was ours to deal with – there was no passing things off to someone else.” (Note: Manny Galan (right) was setting up at Comic Con when Pat Giles (left) spoke to Markee 2.0.)

Markee: In Cartoon Lagoon the Captain and his shipmates aboard the submarine Manta Ray are on a mission to find and watch every cartoon ever made – good and bad.

Mr. Giles: “Public domain cartoons are an unleveraged asset in pop culture, so Manny and I thought it would be cool to curate them in some way or even make fun of them. Manny said what if they were abandoned in the ocean to be plucked out and viewed? I thought he was insane, then I thought it was a really good idea. You know, there’s a legend about a landfill with millions of copies of Atari’s E.T. video game that no one bought back in the early ’80s.”

Markee: Did you consciously riff on Mystery Science Theater 3000?

Mr. Giles: “Very consciously! We reached out to them to see if they could participate, and they were super-gracious. Our schedules didn’t permit us to interview [the MST3K creators] for the DVD, but they agreed to voice characters in our future volume. This whole project has been a love letter to pop culture from MST3K to Captain Kangaroo – but the most expensive love letter you can make!”

Markee: What techniques did you employ?

Mr. Giles: “It was amazingly difficult to sort out. We had puppets less than a foot high, sculpted by Julia Rosner, with tracking marks on their faces. Manny built our submarine stage set in his basement out of toys and parts, and we had to squeeze three puppeteers from Puppet Kitchen (Michael Schupbach, Noel MacNeal, Frankie Cordero) underneath it. We shot in a classroom at a Catholic girls’ school on the Lower East Side. Then our animators hand-animated the faces in Flash and composited and tracked them with After Effects for a very unique effect.”

Markee: What’s the content of the DVD?

Mr. Giles: “There’s a 31-minute first episode which introduces our characters and includes cartoons from Captain Nemo, Casper and Popeye. Plus another 90-minute Cartoon Revue with old Superman, Popeye, Woody Woodpecker and Gumby cartoons mixed in with musical guests the Gregory Brothers; an interview with Butch Hartman, creator of The Fairly OddParents; skits; commercials; new animated shorts; outtakes; bloopers and a Making Of segment. We’re targeting a Mad Magazine demographic.”

Markee: You and Manny have devoted so much to Cartoon Lagoon that it’s hard to realize that you both have different day jobs.

Mr. Giles: “We have a great relationship with Saatchi & Saatchi/NY, one of our biggest clients. Pat-Man Studios, our advertising and animation studio, services the agency’s General Mills clients. Manny and I are character specialists. At some level, we’ve worked on all of General Mills’ equity characters – an amazing stable of American icons – Lucky the Leprechaun, The Trix Rabbit, Green Giant and Sprout, Sonny the Cuckoo Bird. We’ve just finished writing the character bible for the Pillsbury Doughboy.

“Another Pat-Man client is Classic Media. We’ve redesigned Underdog for them, and they’re pitching a new series now at MIPCOM. We’re in the early stages of redeveloping Tennessee Tuxedo and just refurbished the character Super Chicken. Cartoon Lagoon Studios is Pat-Man’s entertainment division; we set it up to produce the Cartoon Lagoon pilot.”

Markee: Where do you see Cartoon Lagoon headed?

Mr. Giles: “We’d love to get picked up by a network, but we have fought hard to be independent and don’t want to lose that. Our options are wider than they used to be. We’re talking to Netflix On Demand and DVDs are on sale through Amazon. We’ve struggled with the idea of giving the show away for free when we spent a lot of money and time producing it. But we certainly hope to create virality out of pieces of the show.

“We didn’t need a giant infrastructure to develop Cartoon Lagoon, but we needed our friends to help make it. The infrastructure of movie studios and agencies sometimes is too big to come up with something funny – or at least this ridiculous.”