September 15, 2018

Sublo and Tangy Mustard #11 - Art Show

I released episode 11 of Sublo and Tangy Mustard, "Art Show," last weekend just before going on a trip to Portland. This episode finds Sublo and Tangy Mustard visiting an art gallery opening at Katy's invitation, since some of her paintings are on display. It continues the thread of her artistic aspirations from episode 3, and brings back some familiar faces from episodes 4 and 8 - Katy's friend Ashley and Sublo's roommate Tito Scaggle.

This episode took me a long time, for reasons I won't get into here. So much for the "one a month" schedule I was hoping for when I started this batch, but I never really expected to maintain that pace. At this point what I planned to do over the span of a year will take closer to two years, but that's what happened with the first batch as well.

As the series goes on I want it to have a sense of continuity. The main plot of each episode should be self-contained so new viewers can follow it, but by watching them in order hopefully a larger story emerges, as we see the characters grow, their relationships evolve and the overall world of the show deepens. Many of my favourite shows are short but sweet, with a finite story told through that hybrid approach. Two examples I always think of are the original UK version of The Office, and the first two seasons of Trailer Park Boys. To me they struck a perfect balance of having satisfying standalone stories while rewarding you for watching chronologically and paying attention. Another of my favourite shows, Clone High, is maybe a more relevant example since it's animated instead of doc-style. In all these shows, everything continues to matter and have consequences from week to week.

The characters are the most important part of Sublo and Tangy Mustard but another big element to me is the specificity of the Toronto setting. Since moving from Toronto to work in LA, I'm perpetually homesick and I've come to resent the way LA infects everything in film and TV. Even if a show isn’t explicitly set here, the city and culture are usually an influence because you can't really close yourself off from your surroundings. And a lot of big cartoons are made in LA, so a lot of big cartoons all kind of feel the same.

There are plenty of shows set in LA or New York where they celebrate what makes those places unique, but not very many in Toronto, or Canada in general. And I always value work that has a strong personal point of view. So I want to make Sublo and Tangy Mustard as accurate and real to my experiences in Toronto as possible. I don't want to prioritize personal details over character and comedy, but if there’s a way to make something funny while also being specific and authentic, I prefer to do that.

An example other people have called out is in episode 4-- Sublo and Tangy Mustard go to a house party in the winter where there’s a pile of coats on the couch, and snow boots litter the front hallway. I set it in winter because that's not the default choice you usually see onscreen, and this little detail reminds me of many actual house parties I attended. Hopefully that kind of personal recollection helps to make the show richer. Bringing up The Office and Trailer Park Boys again, I always loved the regional authenticity in those shows, where the filmmakers never think twice about just portraying their world as it actually is, and you wind up with a lot of neat flavour you might not get with a fictional or more generic setting. And even if you don’t get a reference, you can tell what it means in context and you walk away with a larger cultural knowledge.

...Anyway that's all pretty lofty for a rinky-dink internet cartoon, but it's some of the stuff I think about while making it.

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