Tag Archives: The Tick

I Was a Teenage Sunbow Intern – Pt 10

Title card for Tim Finn's article about interning at Sunbow Productions, art by Ben Edlund

In our last exciting episode ([Part 1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]), Tim described the metal filing cabinets at Sunbow with their thousands of photocopies of Brothers Flub and Salty’s Lighthouse production documents, and their dearth of same for important shows like G.I. Joe.

I combed through the G.I. Joe and Transformers folders and found just a few episode synopses, and lists of episode titles, air dates, and writers’ names.  No artwork.  But I did find two documents that made my brain buzz, the first of which I did not make a copy of – for which I still kick myself.  It was a memo from someone dated 1987 asking if the font size in the end credit crawl of G.I. Joe: The Movie could be increased.  Actually, the photocopy was of the response memo, which included the original question, and the responder said no, the font was as big as it could get.  (I guess making it larger would have meant speeding up the crawl to match the music, either making the scroll too fast or requiring a music edit?)  I was three years from realizing I needed to write a book about G.I. Joe, but in the back of my mind I knew this was the kind of ephemera that I wanted to keep, and that I wanted more of.  And for no good reason I did not keep a copy.  The second document, which I’d like to find space for in Chapter 6 of my book, is from an outside consultant to Sunbow listing the episodes of G.I. Joe that have less fighting and property damage, and are therefore better candidates for selling overseas.  Fascinating stuff!  (If it doesn’t make the book I will certainly post it here.)  G.I. Joe had a reputation for being a “violent” show (an epic topic for another day), and had trouble getting on the air internationally after the initial run.

Although there was no art for the older shows, at least there was some for a more recent show of which I was an avid fan.  One of the higher ups mentioned, perhaps one day when she saw me glued to some Tick storyboard photocopies, that Ben Edlund had storyboarded the first episode entirely himself.  I recall that someone told me that Edlund storyboarded the first few by himself.  This was revelatory, as well as shocking.  My friend Andrew and I had long been fans of The Tick comic.  Old school Tick fans know the frustration of waiting for a new issue.  It had taken writer/artist Ben Edlund seven years to create 12 issues of the black and white series.  (And one issue he didn’t draw!) I don’t say this out of criticism.  The Tick was the funniest comic I had ever read, and after it I have no need for any other super-hero parody (including my own – yikes!)

It was amazing to think that after drawing a small quantity of panels for the comic series, Edlund had then gone on to quadruple that amount for animation storyboard panels!  And his boards here not rough!  They were on-model, and crisply delineated like his comics work.  Photocopying the entire first episode board might have been too obvious, or such an amount of paper could have crossed the bounds of what is reasonable to remove from an office job, so I contented myself with just the first few pages, and two later ones with sharp art.  Which are here for your perusal, and as far as I know never online until now.  (Tell your friends!)

The Tick ep1 storyboard pg title art by Ben EdlundThe Tick ep1 storyboard pg001 art by Ben Edlund The Tick ep1 storyboard pg002 art by Ben Edlund The Tick ep1 storyboard pg003 art by Ben Edlund The Tick ep1 storyboard pg004 art by Ben EdlundThe Tick ep1 storyboard pg005 art by Ben EdlundThe Tick ep1 storyboard pg006 art by Ben EdlundTheTick_ep1_SBpg_note1_BLOGThe Tick ep1 storyboard pg071 art by Ben EdlundTheTick_ep1_SBpg_note2_BLOGThe Tick ep1 storyboard pg085 art by Ben Edlund

But the oversized beige metal filing cabinets were just the tip of the iceberg.

What else did Tim find?  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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