Tag Archives: The Brothers Flub

I Was a Teenage Sunbow Intern – Pt 9

Title card for Tim Finn's Sunbow internship blog article part 9

In our last episode,  ([Part 1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]), Tim spent his first day reading materials for Brothers Flub, and soon accomplished his only art-related task of the whole summer.

The real work for production interns was filing paper and dubbing tapes.  Let’s start with the former.

Every morning from the Los Angeles office we received a large FedEx box, the size that holds 10 reams of copy paper.  In it were photocopies of scripts, storyboards, character designs, background designs, and prop designs for Brother Flub.  This was before e-mail attachments of any reasonable size, and FTP sites, so this remarkably inefficient method was the most efficient way to get these materials across the country.  And they needed to be filed.  Ostensibly producers Randy and Tammy were reviewing them all, but either they had already seen earlier versions, or that’s one of those jobs that no one does even though on paper it’s part of the job.  Again, this was thousands of sheets of paper per day.

So I or one of the other interns would slide this very heavy box (sometimes there were two) over to the oversized beige metal filing drawers, pull open the Brothers Flub folders, and file away all this paper.  There were folders for each category, for each episode.  And much of the paper – storyboards and models particularly – was 8.5 x 14 inches, bigger than standard letter-sized paper.  It was brainless, but exactly the kind of task someone is obliquely referring to when he or she says to you that your internship or production assistant (read: gopher) job will be a learning experience even if you don’t do anything important.  Because you will observe things, overhear things, and become familiar with processes that make up the everyday at a company.  And you will see physical objects up close you would not have otherwise.

So it was for me.  Model sheets for costume changes of the main characters.  Model sheets for props or anything that moved in the episode, like the shape of the tear a finger made poking through a newspaper.  And teleplay scripts, with minimal stage direction, and names and dialogue centered on each page.

And of course there were folders for shows besides Brothers Flub.  There were many for Salty’s Lighthouse, the other show in-production (and on-air at that time, I think), and there were many for The Tick, one of the last shows Sunbow had worked on prior.  But the real teases were the folders for the older shows:  G.I. Joe, Transformers, Visionaries, My Little Pony.  (Also, shows I didn’t care about, like Conan the Adventurer.)

Sadly, those folders had very little of interest.  At one point, years earlier, they would have had everything.  Every script, every design.  Not color cels and backgrounds, of course – those (mostly) stayed in the Orient, but many contour images on white paper.  And a single half-hour of animation generates of lot of that over its six months of production.  By the time I got to Sunbow, the show folders mostly consisted of episode lists, writer lists, episode summaries, and the like.  I recall a box under the desk in the dubbing room had transcripts of dozens of G.I. Joe episodes – transcripts, not scripts.  In the UK, G.I. Joe aired as Action Force, so here I suppose British actors could redub the parts where the Joes yelled their “Yo, Joe!” battle cry with “Full Force!”  I’ve never seen Action Force, so if there are any international readers out there, please leave a comment if this rings true.

I did find two fascinating G.I. Joe documents in those files, however.

What were they?  Tune in next time to find out!  [Click here for Part 10]


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I Was a Teenage Sunbow Intern – Part 8

1980s Sunbow Productions logo as title card for Tim Finn's blog post

In our last episode ([Part 1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]), Tim began his internship exploring production materials for The Brothers Flub.

In the first week, there were two art-related tasks given to the interns.  The first was for MIP or MIPCOM, annual markets where networks, producers, and studios meet to buy, hype, and sell programming for television.  Much as ToysRUS’s year revolves around Christmas, Sunbow’s year revolved around these.  I don’t know who attended, but presumably our top Sales, Production, and Development people from the New York office.  I think they were in different cities each year, and the two different conferences were six months apart.  And one was exclusively for kids shows?  Notably, these weren’t just about American studios and English-language programming.  These were global, where a small network in Chile might plan its broadcast year, or a French studio might sell its first package of 52 half-hours and finally get on the map.  Both names you have heard of and lots you haven’t are in attendance.

My boss Randy explained what needed doing.  Some large color artwork for Brothers Flub was to be mount spray mounted on foam core.  Presumably at a Sunbow table at one of the conventions there would be an easel to display it.  Thinking back, studios probably brought (or rented?) TV/VCRs, and certainly brought VHS tapes, but I doubt they had portable video projectors.  So besides small printed ad slicks and press kits, an old-fashioned sign might be the best way to attract eyeballs.  Two other interns handled this, and I think they did the work in the back stairwell that no one ever used, probably not known for its proper ventilation.

I don’t recall what the other task was for, but it may have been a network or the Los Angeles office.  But I got to do it, and I was thrilled to be working with Sunbow assets, even if Randy said something like “It’s not a big deal/it doesn’t have to be perfect,” meaning the stakes were not high and no one was actually relying on my ability to color match.  It had something to do with communicating what colors the main characters in Brothers Flub were, and the client/end user/mystery person was then going to… print out their own version?  Better know what the paint colors would look like as a broadcast signal?  I don’t remember.  But for some reason, it wasn’t being done with actual paint or the code numbers for animation cel vinyl paint.  I had some oversized Brothers Flub printout, and was matching the colors as best I could to Pantone colors.  But instead of comparing to a Pantone chart and writing down the color codes, I had a Pantone swatch keychain with plastic chips for each color, and Randy had encouraged me to cut a small piece from each and glue it into the poster next to its analog.  I think the New York office lacked some prop for doing this the correct way.  I didn’t understand why it was okay to ruin this presumably expensive item, but Randy was unphased.

And so I did, a little distressed that I was chopping up a fancy Pantone tool because we were missing some other tool, and disappointed that this job was not important.  On the other hand, I was happy to be doing something rather that sitting in the intern room, and I could somewhat put to use the small bit of color theory I had taken two years prior.  I mean, not just anyone could match color swatches, right?

There were two other main tasks for production interns, one which led me to treasure I had seen on my tour, and the other that led to buried treasure the likes of which I could not imagine.

What were they?  Tune in next time to find out!  [Next Part]

[Part 1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

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I Was a Teenage Sunbow Intern – Part 7

Title card for Tim Finn blog post about Sunbow Entertainment animation internship

In our last episode ([Part 1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]), Tim got the lay of the land of the Sunbow office in New York City.

I remember very little of my first day.  On my dad’s advice, Nick and I had taken the subway from our apartment on Roosevelt Island into Union Square the day prior.  A practice run.  I was nervous about being late, nervous about getting lost on the subway, and nervous about sweating too much.  New York was hot that summer.  So were the subway platforms.  The office was suitably air-conditioned, though.

I didn’t wear a tie, and probably did not wear a button-up.  Everyone dressed casually – no jackets, no ties – but nicely.  A few people wore blue jeans.  My t-shirt was probably a solid color, and I was two years into growing my Jesus hair, which is to say that that June I looked like “Vs.”-era Eddie Vedder.  With a beard, but no moustache, my preference for three years of college.

In addition to meeting everyone who was paid to be at Sunbow, I also met those who weren’t – the other interns.  Whom I hated.  But not for any good reason.  That was just an unfortunate chip on my shoulder.  I was a RISD Animation student.  I went to a fancy art school, I was a decent animator, I was working four days a week, and I knew much about Sunbow’s past product – I was a fan.  I was going to be the best intern of all that summer, and the best intern Sunbow had ever had.  The other interns, three gals and a guy, were… just… somebodies.  They were probably Communications majors, or Business students, or they knew someone who knew someone who had casually said “Oh, you should work at that company where so-and-so works.”  They weren’t art students (actually, one was), and they weren’t fans.  They couldn’t care as much as me.  So I didn’t get too close, didn’t make conversation, and didn’t make friends.

I was jealous that they were there, that they might perform a task better, or that they would be asked to do something first.  Fortunately, there was very little for us to do.  Sunbow had, in fact, too many interns that summer.  One or two days a week I was the only one there, so I would always at least look busy, but sometimes an intern or two would hang out in the intern room waiting for something to do.  I did that a little on my first day.

Then producers Randy and Tammy gave me the bible for The Brothers Flub, a tape of an episode, a script, and a suggestion to familiarize myself with the property.  I was thrilled.  This was an easy task, a nice way of easing into my two months as a Production Intern, and a peek behind the curtain that was both fun and informative.  Even though I knew how animation was made, there were still loads of details to absorb from an actual show on actual television in an actual studio.  The sample dialogue on each character’s bible page, the episode summaries – paragraphs outlining potential half-hours should a network approve the bible, model designs for one-off props that would only appear in a single episode, or a background packet of interiors for the main locations.

Brothers Flub was a lot like Futurama, although it predates the latter by two years.  Since it was airing on Nickelodeon, and I had no affinity for that network and wasn’t 8-years old, Brothers Flub wasn’t my speed.  But it was cute, harmless, mildly distracting, and crafted by talented hands.  In the show, two cartoonish couriers (Fraz and Guapo) deliver packages to differently themed planets, getting into trouble and learning lessons.  One is organized and worries, while the other is a messy buffoon.  Characters and attitudes are cartoony and silly as if made by Klasky Csupo.

Dave Bennett storyboard panel from The Brothers Flub "On My Case," Tim Finn's G.I. Joe blog

In watching a tape, I was hoping to hear G.I. Joe alumni – voice talent like Bill Ratner, Michael Bell, and Mary McDonald-Lewis.  No such luck, although Charlotte Rae (The Facts of Life) was Fraz and Guapo’s boss, a fun surprise.  I didn’t watch any whole episodes after that, and only saw bits throughout the summer, but Michael Bell does contribute to at least episode 5A, “Flub, Flub, & Away,” as Very Evil Man on a super-hero themed planet, his raspy delivery unmistakable.

If Production Intern Tim didn’t draw anything, what did he do?  Tune in next time to find out!

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I Was a Teenage Sunbow Intern – Part 6

Title card for Tim Finn's blog post about his Sunbow internship

In our last episode, ([Part 1] [2] [3] [4] [5]), Tim’s summer living situation on New York City’s Roosevelt Island was crowded yet lonely, and precarious.

On the Sunbow front, I remember some confusion or missed connections regarding my start date.  In the final week of school I called Tammy or Randy, nervous that after several months of not talking my internship had shriveled up through attrition or that they had given it to someone else closer.  But it was safe and still available, and we hammered out my schedule and that I’d start in late June.  I wanted full time, but there was some kind of rule barring it.  When I heard that other interns were working between one and four days a week, I knew that I had to at least tie for that maximum.   So I would work Mondays through Thursdays.  Fridays I would draw at the zoo, something hammered into me by fellow RISD student Brandon Strathmann. (Hi, Brandon.)  Saturdays Nick and I would go to museums and movie theatres.  That was the idea, anyway.

On my first day I was given a tour.  Entering from the elevator, the 5th floor of 100 Fifth Avenue had three rows of offices split by two corridors.  The offices in the middle row were low-walled cubicles, so there was an openness to the floor plan.  To the right were the President’s office, a closet with old Sunbow summer outing t-shirts and office supplies, a kitchenette and lunch room, the photocopy and fax room, and the archive.  In the center were the conference room, those cubicles for Sales, and several oversize filing cabinets.  On the left (facing Fifth Ave) were offices and the intern room, and against the far wall (looking out over West 15th Street) were a few more offices for the higher ups, small, but private rooms with doors and window views of Manhattan.)  Though Sunbow had about 30 employees, and never felt overcrowded or even bustling, it was active, people moved around, and there was much work to be done.  Air conditioning and carpets kept noise to a minimum, though.

The intern room was in the corner where that left wall met the far wall, a glassed-in room with a desk, a couch, a TV/VCR, and a glass door.  I expected my two months would be spent there, but it quickly turned out that all I did was stow my backpack there each morning.  I never took my lunch there, and only watched a tape there once.

Along the tour I was introduced to everyone and the company was broken down for me.  Sunbow had three departments.  Development created new shows and got deals with networks, Production worked on current shows, and Sales sold the shows to stations and networks.  I don’t recall anything that Development was working on, and I had almost no interaction with those people.  But since the company was more than 20 years old and owned most of what it had produced (rather than the networks or the toy companies it had produced that content for or with), Sunbow’s library consisted of over 1000 half-hours, and much of its revenue came from selling the older shows overseas.  (Each time Sunbow was sold in the ‘90s and ‘00s, those thousand half-hours were part of the press release.  The library was the company’s greatest asset, even if many of the shows were ho-hum.  Networks all over the world need to fill timeslots, and even moderately compelling content will get a shake somewhere.)  So, yes, My Little Pony or Transformers might air in Chile or Venezuela even though there was no current Hasbro toy line to support it and those shows were twenty years old.  Sunbow also had distribution rights to a few shows it hadn’t fully developed, like The Mask.  (The Jim Carrey-ish one, not MASK, the Kenner one.)

Since no artwork was produced by anyone in the NY office, there was no chance for the interns to contribute in that way.  I hadn’t expected to be asked to storyboard or design props when I got the internship – I was a stupid sophomore who couldn’t draw too well — but I had a vague notion that if someone in the art department was shorthanded, an intern might be asked to clean up a sketch or finish the details on a drawing of a brick wall, even if only a single time on a single piece of paper.  But again, art for Salty’s Lighthouse and Brothers Flub was handled at Sunbow West in Los Angeles.  (A few freelance storyboard artists were spread out, though – I recall a higher up told me later than one was in Australia, another was in Canada, and when Ben Edlund had been working on The Tick, he storyboarded the earliest episodes at the New York office – in the intern’s room, in fact.)  So I did nothing creative.  It was gopher work, but I have no complaints.

Sunbow West was a strange abstraction.  Everything I knew about animation production, how a show is made – scripts, character designs, prop designs, backgrounds, storyboards – was done out of sight in some office I could not imagine.  My three bosses in the Production department were on the phone with LA every day, and we received mail from LA every morning.  But at Sunbow East, in this somewhat starched environment where shows were made (but not), my only connection to the raw art production was the fax machine in the back room.  It was connected to a black telephone, the kind with ten auto-dial buttons.  One was marked “Sunbow West,” and a few times that summer someone asked me to fax a bit of paperwork there.  Other numbers included the President of the company at her home, someone on maternity leave, and maybe even a studio in Korea, which now that I think about it, was probably AKOM.

Who did Tim fax and what did he scribble on that piece of paper?  Tune in next time to find out!

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