Today on Cartoon Brew TV we proudly present The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9! directed by Jake Armstrong. It was created as his thesis film at the School of Visual Arts. If you have a question for Jake, he’ll be participating in the comments section below, and if you’d like to find out more about his work, visit his blog at JakeHatesYou.blogspot.com. He’s also provided us with some notes about the making of the film:
Making this short was really fun, mostly for the research it involved. I got to reconnect with shows like “The Outer Limits” and “The Twilight Zone”, watch weird old soft sci-fi movies like “Forbidden Planet,” and the occasional big-monster-themed Looney Tunes episode. I felt these shows are so over-brimming with crazy style that it felt relatively easy to find things to put in visually. The comic book feel was strongly based on a lot of people, but the big ones that come to mind are Dan James (Ghostshrimp), Rui Tenreiro, Brecht Evens, Thomas Herpich , and Kazimir Strzepek. There are plenty more, but these all heavily influenced my style.
For the look I wanted to start out with an almost nour-ish, very serious soft-science-fiction feel. I chose red as the main color in the opening mainly because I love that stark red color choice in Raoul Servais’ “Sirene.” I was kind of hammering in the idea that this man is a serious bounty hunter, and that this was a very serious story. I think I intended to, for the most part, stay with that feel until the monster gets playful. Then it just turns into my take of the Looney Tunes short, “The Abominable Snow Rabbit,” where the big dumb yeti chases Bugs Bunny around calling him “George.” I wanted to play up the light mood and make the monster as cute as possible, really just to emphasize the large change that happens later when the characters are suddenly hit with reality (at the “splat!”).
To me, the spaceman is kind of boring. He’s basically me in most respects: he kind of looks like me, he’s kind of a grumpy old man. I feel there’s also the side that feels some remorse for what he does. He feels guilt, but pretty much stays the straight and narrow. The monster, I think, is really interesting. He starts off as a big, dumb beast, and then shows more cognition as the story gets more tragic for him. He understands what’s happening, but he just tries to ignore it. I like that the monster is a pretty absurdist character overall.
This short took about 6-8 months to write and figure out most of the design and stylistic choices, and another 8-9 months of drawing and coloring. It was a totally digital process, past the initial boards. I drew it completely using Flash, which was a trying thing since I needed a Cintiq to do anything on it. I was so busy with drawing, that my grandiose plans of writing music for it were kind of put on the shelf. The only bit that’s still there is the sad organ during the credits. Though I feel it would be better with music filling the space, I’m still pretty proud of the way it turned out. The project feels over now, and maybe on the next project (when I don’t’ have a deadline) it can be more complete with music.