Transylvania Television creators Michael Heagle and Gordon Smuder are creating retro-monster comedy with puppets. Parents beware, though — this stuff is not for kids! The show’s rowdy cast of characters are crass, mischievous, mildly demented … and funny as hell. Just check out their project video (above) for proof! Michael and Gordon are using Kickstarter to help fund a 60 minute Transylvania TV Halloween special, and backers will be helping bring to life characters like “Furry the party Yeti” and “the somewhat morally ambiguous Pumpkin Prince.” We can’t wait!
Read our Q&A with co-creator Gordon below. Support the series here.
TVTV has some extremely interesting characters — how do you and your partners come up with them? Do you come up with the puppet and then build the character as you use it? Or do you build the puppet to look like an already conceived character? Or…?
So far its been an extremely organic process. In the case of LeShoc or Furry or Dwayne, they were all existing puppets I had built. We simply applied them to a scenario. The personalities came mostly from the performers. If you watch the pilot episode, you can almost sense the emptiness behind the characters. But they have all grown quite a bit since that time. We’re all pretty comfortable with them now.
Batfink was originally going to be called Ratbat. Literally a rat who wanted to be a bat. That gag got shifted into the pilot when we did “Babushka Buzz” and Esmerelda interviewed a rat who was having self-esteem issues. So our beatnik, gearhead, Hawaiian shirt-wearin’ Irving Batfink was a character that sprung out of a need in the pilot script.
We have several characters waiting in the wings, so to speak. There’s a demon and a lady mummy and a nuclear movie monster as well as our swamp hag. All of these guys just haven’t found a way to insert themselves into the flow of things. The puppets exist, but we haven’t found definitive personalities for them yet. Some have been seen already (if you watch the fund drive video you’ll see our Lady Mummy… Kim Ho-Tep and the nuclear movie monster…Gorzon the Cosmic Destroyer).
A puppet show for adults is unusual — but awesome! What fueled the decision to do this with puppets?
Co-producer Michael Heagle and I are both puppet fans. He had just finished up an independent movie called “Planetfall” and was at my place and noticed the puppets I had built. He asked if I’d ever thought about a film project with them. Of course, I had! But I’m not schooled in the making of film. I’m a puppeteer and a prop builder. So the agreement that he’d handle everything behind the lens and I’d handle everything in front of the lens was struck. Of course, he ended up playing Dwayne in the final equation, but he’s still doing a terrific job directing and editing.
But being a fan of (here it comes!) Jim Henson, I couldn’t get it out of my head that he’d fought his entire career to bring puppetry into a place where it would be accepted as an adult entertainment form, too. Like animation has moved in the last decade or so, I wanted to produce something that would be strictly for grown-ups.
There have been several good, but short-lived puppet offerings for adults including Greg The Bunny, Crank Yankers, and Avenue Q as well as the venerable tv series DC Follies. But I figure the only way to get past the stigma is to keep trying!
What are “Shrinky Dinks”? (Editor’s Note: A reward available for backers beginning at the $20 level.)
Back in the 1970’s there was a toy/activity set called “Shrinky Dinks” (which is probably copyrighted). You would trace cartoon pictures onto a clear plastic sheet and color them with colored pencil. Then you’d put the plastic sheet in an oven and the heat would cause the plastic to contract…turning your flimsy drawing into a perfectly shrunken plastic chip. As part of our “retro-ness,” we’re going to give certain donors a custom set of “TVTV Shrinky Dinks”. Images you can trace onto the shrink plastic provided to make your own cool retro TVTV art.
Any favorite episodes so far? Favorite character and why?
I perform Furry Ackermonster… so I’m a little biased, but I’m also very happy and proud of all the good character work that our “fleece animators” have been up to. I don’t think there’s a character that I don’t like. As for episodes? I think so far my favorite is “Another Word For Tits.” Its got a peppy pace and a great punch line at the end. Good editing and performance too.
Any good anecdotes from making the series thus far?
Being the rebel I am, I’m particularly fond of the fact that we got our first piece of crank hate mail the other day in the form of a review on YouTube. Evidently some people get confused by the description we have on every one of our YouTube video postings that says “The Retro-Monster Comedy That’s Really Not For Kids!”. This guy was evidently letting his 4 year old cruise YouTube for funny stuff to watch. When he heard our sketch called “Bat’s Butt” (which has plenty of casual mention of anal intrusion) he felt it was his moral duty to sit right down and cuss a blue streak at us and accuse us of using “children’s puppets” to spread “filth” on the internet. As soon as he can define for me exactly what “adult’s puppets” would be, I’ll be happy to adjust the show so that we never spread filth in the improper fashion again.
How has your use of Kickstarter been so far?
Actually, Kickstarter has been amazing. You guys have provided a tremendous resource for legitimizing individual fundraising. The interface for posting your project pretty much covers everything we needed. I’ve actually fielded a dozen or more questions about Kickstarter from friends asking if it really is as easy as it seems. And the answer (assuming you have your crap together and have a clear vision and purpose for your project and get invited to Kickstarter) is YES!
Just that I’ve been completely blown away by the response so far. And we’ve only just begun! Thanks to everyone who’s stepped up and thanks to Kickstarter for giving us this opportunity! Lets keep it rollin’!!