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 The Hound presents a Poxing Pesky Q&A...
  Enk and Adi...Xan in control...

    Back in April 2002 The Amazing Adrenalini Brothers were warming
    up for their first UK appearances....

    Pesky Ltd
   P is for Pesky          P is for POX         A is for Action
    David Hodgson          The POX               Last word
    speaks...                  talk too..               from THe Hound...


    The Amazing Adrenalini Brothers are Xan, Adi and Enk, a talentless trio
    of circus daredevils who, ordinarily would have died a thousand grisly
    deaths by now. But this is a cartoon, so the hapless troupe are forever
    able to come back for more humiliation and calamity. So far 10 of their
    extraordinary performances have been captured on film. Clocking in at
    2'30", each has been produced with extraordinary efficiency using just
    Flash animation software. The BBC are currently showing each film as
    it is finished on their CBBC website, with a terrestrial broadcast to follow.
    The results give encouragement to budding home animators like myself
    around the globe. But of course, it's not quite as simple as that...

    Firstly you need a Great Idea.The Adrenalinis were born from the twisted
    minds of The POX, a lauded trio of comedy writers whose work has
    featured in shows on BBC2, BBC3, Play UK, Channel 4, Channel 5, ITV,
    Radio 4, and on the web courtesy of such ridiculously painful delights
    as their Pygmy Shrew site - Ouch!

    Then you need a co-production partner like Pesky. Pesky's animation
    CV includes tv idents for OnDigital, websites for companies and products
    like Fruit-Tella, online games including a Puking Maria game for the
    'Stressed Eric' website, Interactive Cartoons for Radio 2 and - oh - a
    wealth of familiar names and companies...

    Mix those ingredients together and you may have a sparkling, uproarious
    comedic gem on your hands but it's all for nothing without a broadcaster
    willing to showcase your idea to the world. Fortunately, in this case, the
    BBC were already familiar with with both teams of talent involved, so they
    gave The Amazing Adrenalini Brothers a big fat thumbs-up and production
    could begin...

    It must be an exciting time for both Pesky and The POX. The Adrenalinis
    should bring them exposure and applause around the globe, and open yet
    more doors for their creative outpourings. Half-hour series beckon, methinks.
    But let's not jump the gun. Today's talk is all about those amazing, anarchic,
    unbeatable, enthusiastic Rendoosian daredevils and how they came to be...
     P is for Pesky Ltd    

      Pesky's website tells us that the company was born in 1997 'in a
      Brighton flat with two desks and one copy of FutureSplash Animator'.

      First projects were computer-game related - a pc-beastie called
      'CyberPest', Screensavers and similar.

      Producer David Hodgson co-creates and shepherds projects through the
      production process whilst Claire Underwood sweats away at the
      animation, producing minor miracles of staging, pacing and wit.
      The Pesky partnership is now found in London, in offices on the
      fringes of Clerkenwell and Bloomsbury - or Bloomin'Well as they
      like to call it. Their CV has expanded to include a late-night gameshow
      pilot for Channel 4 called 'Stress Maniacs', and a wealth of interactive
      bits, bytes and pieces. For the BBC they've created games for Steve
      Wright's Radio 2 site, a Holby City game, even a Randall & Hopkirk 
      screensaver for the Radio Times. Plus there's the little matter of 80
      original on-screen idents created for the twice-named now-defunct
      OnDigital. The Pesky website says it best:

           'Pesky champions witty and well-made 2D animation in the
            the new digital entertainment world - we want everyone to
            go digital with GSOH!'

      Pesky have a number of projects in development at any given time.
      Right now their site directs us to the bucktoothed 'Disco Vicars'
      and a long-gestating interactive show called 'Crime Crackers'. But
      all bets are off at the moment, 'cos everything's gone Rendoosian...

      I caught my first sniff of the Adrenalini Brothers when co-producer
      David Hodgson sent me an email about the show. I linked through to the
      CBBC site and laughed all the way to Rendoosia. This Q&A emerged from
      my excited reply, together with a fine collection of Adrenalini images, which
      I've adapted and interspersed through both this page and April's edition of
      The Hound.
 As I've done in previous Q&As, I followed a chronological path
      through the interviewees work up to the current creation and beyond, and
      I started with the obvious first question:

Pesky was 'born' in 1997. Where did you and Claire meet - at

      I employed Claire in her first job (CyberPest) and when we left Epic
      (the Brighton multimedia company we worked for), we decided to set up
      Pesky and try to go it alone, together... if you see what I mean.

      I always ask this of partnerships: How do you operate, are you
      chalk and cheese or birds of a feather, Batman and Robin, even?

      I am words, Claire is pictures. I have ideas, but only Claire can actually turn
      them into reality. I am can-do, but she actually CAN DO! ie, Claire is the
      talent and I am the pimp! Actually we're a brilliant team - we need to be,
      we also live together (shock! horror! probe!)

      Another question I always ask: Who are your influences? Whom do you
      admire in the industry?

      Claire loves Dexter's Laboratory so our favourite cartoon-maker must be
      Gendy Tartakovsky, but the animator that most inspired her when starting
      out must be Mark Baker (who has since gone on to create the brilliant
      Big Knights with Neville Astley).
      What was the first Pesky commission - was it CyberPest? - How did
      it come about?

      CyberPest was the first thing we made together - but that was under our
      own label at Epic called Scratch'n'Sniff: the home of cheap and cheerful
      interactive novelties. CyberPest was born after I pestered (pardon the pun)
      the MD into giving me some money to make an imbecile cartoon pet, arguing
      that it was what the world wanted (instead of the multi-million pound CD-ROM
      games that they were wasting their money on) Our first Pesky commission
      was a screen-saver for another company down in Brighton. We were so naive
      about how to use Flash (I think it was still called Futuresplash back then) that
      the file ended up being about 10 MB and running at one frame a second!

      When did you make the Big Move to Bloomin'Well?

      We came to London after an abortive stint in Cambridge trying to make the
      artificial life game "Creatures" look less ugly. Sadly we were ripped off badly
      by the first company we did work for down in the Big Smoke but then we
      found our feet in a tiny studio in the Clerkenwell Workshops: home to
      some (other?!) great animators, including Oscar-winning Michael Dudock
      de Witt. When we expanded slightly after getting more regular work, mainly
      doing interactive funnies for BBC Online, we moved to our current slightly
      larger space on the Bloomsbury-Clerkenwell borders (Bloomin'Well).

      Spinning through your CV, the Adrenalinis look like your first
      fully-fledged series commission, am I right?

      Yep, the first true series. The biggest job before this was a series of
      80 idents and promos for the now defunct broadcaster OnDigital. So we've
      moved up from 20 second slots to whole two-and-half minute episodes - what
      next, a whole five minutes? Well actually we're working on some new series
      ideas that would be 11 or 22 minutes long.

      This fine trio were first created by The POX. How did you get involved,
      and indeed, when?

      The Pox came to see us with Tiger Aspect to discuss how their
      excellent Pigmy Shrew short could form the basis for a whole series
      created in Flash. I think the meeting was Tiger's idea (maybe they'd found
      our website somehow and liked what they saw).

      And did the Beeb then come to you looking for a new toon series, or did
      you and The POX take the project to them?

      Yes, we had done loads of little funnies for the BBC and they always
      came back to us for more, but this time they also mentioned they were
      looking to commission a new series. It just so happened that The Pox
      had left me with a treatment for The Adrenalinis, which I had said I wanted
      to make with them, and when I shoved it under the BBC's nose they almost
      bit my hand off - I was flabbergasted, the guy actually ate the document in
      front of my very eyes. And he loved it.

      2'30" is perfect the internet, but an odd length for television - will
      The Beeb be broadcasting two episodes back-to-back, or dropping
      them in-between other programmes?

      No, they are going to air the identical show on TV as is currently up online,
      on their own. I think for their CBBC digital channel they are interested in
      putting programmes together in a new and original way, and this includes
      having "interstitial" funnies between things and/or embedded inside longer

      How long does it take to create an episode?

      We have churned out one every week and it hurts - never again!
      The actual lifespan of each episode is six weeks, from initial story idea
      to actually going up online (through scripting, storyboarding, voice recording,
      animatic creation, animation and finally sound dubbing - with approvals from
      the BBC at two key stages in this process: script and animatic)

      Were The Beeb cautious about the level of 'danger' in each
      episode, given that the series is screening on a kid-specific channel?

      Yes and no. They immediately saw the funny side of the extremes the
      brothers go to - and obviously realised that you can't make an omelette
      without breaking a few eggs (a totally inappropriate analogy but it just
      sounded so good to say it). As any comedy producer will tell you, there
      are always discussions over the first few scripts. But happily their concerns
      dried up once they saw how funny the final product was, at which point
      they just trusted us to get on with it. I completely understand our
      responsibilities and agree with the need to follow the ITC guidelines on
      not portraying acts which could encourage kids' imitative behaviour - luckily
      for us there just aren't the volcanos or dinosaurs around these days for kids
      to go up against, so I think us Pesky kids have gotten away with it.

      Can you tell us more about Rendoosia?

      Crazy place, crazy people. A nation that lives (briefly) for danger. Its flag
      has a hole burnt through it - what more can I say. Actually, their language
      is interesting - totally made up on course, but the font we use is actually
      from a real, now extinct, Slavic language: 'Glagolitic'. Claire found it on
      the web - we had to ask a Professor in the US who had recreated the font
      for his permission to use it. Hopefully, we'll be able to create more mileage
      out of their unique language in the future - you know, Rendoosian phrasebooks
      and the like.

      The Adrenalinis have 'cult' stamped all over them. Are there any licensing
      plans afoot?
(Yes, please - we'd happily stock items on ToonsToGo!)

      The BBC have the rights to exploit the show in the UK and we have kept
      the rest of the world. Our distributor Egmont Imagination has already sold
      it to ABC in Australia and we're hopeful of doing more deals abroad soon ...
      I think shows to need to shift a lot of "volume" before anyone wants to make
      merchandising, so I expect we'll have to do another series first - which would
      be great (as long as we get a less punishing schedule I'll be happy)...
      BUT, we were thinking about designing some Adrenalini T-shirts, blue with
      the flaming "A" logo on them - what do you reckon? Would any Toonhounds
      be interested in these magnificent garments?

      So what's next on Pesky's agenda?

      I have started writing some scripts and a 'bible' for another new kids
      comedy series. Once Claire has had a chance to do some initial character
      designs we will be taking it to Cartoon Forum, the industry's matchmaking
      event, to find the necessary funding to get it off the ground. Developing a
      new show from scratch is a great challenge but also the most fun time for
      both of us, so we're going to really enjoy the next few months (after the
      post-Adrenalini holiday that we desperately need!). Claire and I are hoping
      the Adrenalinis will return to perform more stunts soon and we're also
      optimistic of further collaborations with our new pals The POX - we
      make a great team.

     The Disco Vicars look like fun - can you tell us more?

     That would be great fun to make but unfortunately we've no takers...
     Claire had a positive meeting with Baby Cow (Steve Coogan's company)
     a while back but nothing has come of it - yet.

     And Crime Crackers - Again, can you tell us more? - How is
     it progressing?

     We have had "Crime Crackers" in development for over three years
     with Egmont Imagination - it's a series of comedy-mysteries for TV with
     compelling parallel "webisodes" (kids go online to investigate the case further
     after the show). Its cross-media format reflects our heritage as interactive
     designers and is typical of the Pesky way of thinking (or "brand" - but I hate
     that word). We have got the point of finding Co-production partners in Canada
     for this, so hopefully that can get commissioned this year.

     At the moment you're championing Flash animation, have you
     thought about moving into other animated fields and forms?

     Definitely. Having used Flash exclusively for over five years, we feel that
     it's probably time for change, especially as every new version of the
     software gets more and more programming-oriented and less useful to
     animators (we still us Flash 4 rather than 5 for this reason). We did use
     After Effects with Flash for a gameshow pilot we did for Channel 4 last
     year, and that worked a treat - but it was frustrating having to wait for
     scenes to render overnight after enjoying the immediacy of Flash.
     Claire would love to experiment with Cel-action (used to make The Big
     Knights and 2DTV) for the next production.

     What about production length, have you plans to move into
     10minute series, half-hours, even?

     We'd happily work on any new production, of any length, as long as we
     can have a significant input into its development, design and direction -
     that's the fun part... but the most important thing of all is that it has to
     be funny. I want to make good, original comedy - that's what gets me
     out of bed in the morning. If Pesky can become build a reputation for
     being both funny and novel, and I can still laugh everyday at what we
     do for a living, then all will be well with the world!

     And on that note, we wrapped the Q&A. For those left hankering for
     more on Pesky and their projects past, present and future you should
     make a beeline to their official site at once. As for me, I'm grateful for
     the time David spent responding to my questions, and would have been
     more than happy with just the above - but - who'd have thunk it? - I
     then got an email from Nick Ostler of The POX...


      U2? - No! - The POX!  

       The POX are actually a trio. Dan Chambers, Mark Huckerby and Nick
       Ostler first wrote and performed comedy together at Nottingham University
       in 1993. They brought a sketch show to the Edinburgh Fringe which
       The Scotsman described as “manic… chaos… genuinely funny”.
       Work for a host of jolly broadcasters followed.

       In 1999 Dan animated a POX radio sketch called The Pygmy Shrew,
       a short about the most useless animal on Earth, using Flash. Mr Shrew
       has become something of a cult on the web. It's a very simple idea,
       but infectiously painful fun. I defy you to play it just the once. The
       Independent described it as “some of the best animation on the web”.

       Mark & Nick meanwhile have achieved a growing reputation as top
       class animation scriptwriters - recent writing credits include The
       Hound's fave, 'Aaargh! - It’s the Mr Hell Show', 'Bounty Hamster'
       (see last month's rave), 'Stress Maniacs' (Pesky, Channel 4),
       'Something Else' (TV Loonland, in production) and 'Microphonies'
       (Happy Life/Greenlight, in production). They are currently developing
       and scripting two shows for Tiger Aspect, Brave and Earth Alive!...

       Nick furnished me with some rather useful additional info to back up
       my Pesky interview. I've edited the best bits into bite-size chunks
       for you:
      On how The POX work...

      'When all three POX get together, Dan takes design and directing
      responsibilities, while Mark & Nick handle the writing. But essentially,
      the three of us lock ourselves in a soundproofed room and shout at
      each other until something makes us laugh so hard that we choke.
      If it’s funny it goes in. We then bash out a storyboard until the table
      is completely covered with small, rectangular pieces paper. This is
      how things were done on The Adrenalini Brothers films...'

      On the origins of the Adrenalinis...
       'The Adrenalinis first appeared on stage in The POX’s student days,
       conceived as a “crap tumbling act” in tight shorts and big wigs. Since
       then they have evolved into their present day incarnation - Xan, Adi
       and Enk, three dare-devil brothers from the fictitious, gobbledygook-
       speaking East European state of Rendoosia...'

       On their influences...

        'Because we come from a comedy, rather than an animation background,
        most our early influences are comedy ones - people like the Pythons,
        Peter Cook, Bill Hicks and Spike Milligan (who once described The POX
        as a “bloody awful name”). A lot of our influences also come from film -
        things like Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, anything by Terry Gilliam, the
        Coen Brothers, newcomers like Wes Anderson. And of course, Aliens.

        Dan has always been interested in cartooning and animation. Having left
        art school after six weeks, though, this interest remained strictly a hobby,
        until he taught himself to use Flash on a flatmate's computer and produced
        The Pygmy Shrew. His artistic influences include Tex Avery, Tom Paterson
        in The Beano (Sweeney Toddler, Calamity James), Bill Watterson (Calvin &
        Hobbes), Cosgrove Hall (Dangermouse, Chorlton and the Wheelies), Jim
        Henson, Edward Gorey, and of course his father, Jim “Golden Boots”

        On the future..

        'Well, first we’ve got to finish The Adrenalinis and take them to the
         Bristol Animation Festival in April and then Annecy, France in June.
        Then hopefully some time to work on our own website www.pox.co.uk
        which has been sorely neglected of late!

        Also we have a major animated comedy series, this time aimed at
        teenagers and adults, in development with Tiger Aspect, which hopefully
        we will be able to make an announcement about soon. It’s called
        'Earth Alive!' and is a format that has evolved from the early days of
        The Pygmy Shrew...'

     For plenty more information on this off-the-wall trio you should stop by
     their official site. There are links there to some fine examples of their
     own animated efforts, including not only The Pygmy Shrew, but also the
     unfortunate Wishing Bird and a very blood-soaked cartoon ChristmasCard!


       Flamin' 'A'!  

     Go on - give the brothers a try. You'll laugh! You'll cry! You'll hide
     your eyes behind your hands! - But you'll thank Pesky and The POX for
     bringing these Rendoosian friends to our attention.

     Now I'm very keen here not to be seen to be jumping on the bandwagon
     of excitement over every new show I get a sniff of, but the brothers are
     great fun. Here is a simple creation that's achieved much from what you
     might think are the limited capabilities of Flash animation.

    - 'Yahzaa' for now!

Pooch again!     thehound@toonhound.com    

copyright Pesky Ltd/The POX    'Pooch' copyright / site copyright - F2000-2003