CBTV Student Fest: “Blenderstein!”

The fourth film in Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival is a monstrous achievement–quite literally. Blenderstein! by Zach Bellissimo was produced at New York’s School of Visual Arts. The film draws upon an appreciation of classic horror movies and traditional animation principles, but Zach also adds a personal voice that is completely original. There are many highlights–funny character animation, excellent color, superb staging–and the end product looks as professional as any piece of hand-drawn animation being produced today. No surprise then that Zach was hired straight out of school by the New York arm of Titmouse, which is a sponsor of this year’s student festival.

Zach Bellissimo

Zach (above) provided us with detailed production notes about how he made Blenderstein!:

I had just seen Jake Armstrong’s The Terrible Thing From Alpha 9 at the [School of Visual Art's] Dusty screening one year and I knew I wanted my thesis film to look as good as that. I didn’t start thinking about it until midway in my third year at SVA. I had a couple ideas fluttering around until I realized I should probably pick something with a subject matter that would hold my interest, like classic horror movies.

I had created these characters during my freshman year but hadn’t done anything with. It was for a color theory assignment and I drew a demented monkey scientist (Dr. Frappe) pulling a lever and activating a blender on the head of a gruesome monster (Oogle) while a warty hunchbacked henchman (Boyle) stood by with a sign that read “Evil Milkshakes for Sale”. I thought it was a funny idea and originally wanted to make it into a comic, which never happened.

So I started re-developing these characters for my thesis. My initial idea just had Dr. Frappe, Boyle and Oogle together in a story but I found that it was too one-sided, so after watching some old horror films to get my juices flowing, I realized I should add a victim! Again, I went back into my old sketchbooks and found a girl character that I used to draw in tons of scary situations. Once I redesigned her she became Sydney and everything else fell into place.

The film is called Blenderstein, (STINE, not STEEN) as an homage to Frankenstein, even though none of the characters are actually named Blenderstein. The whole short is actually an homage to classic horror. Actors like Vincent Price, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Peter Lorre were all people I drew blood from to stitch together my final monstrosity. I think characters like Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, and Wolfman are just as iconic as Mickey Mouse or Spongebob. So I strived for the design my characters to be just as recognizable as any of them.

The film took me about 8-1/2 months to finish, from afternoon storyboarding in August to all nighters of clean up in March. I did all the animation, inking and coloring in Flash. The backgrounds were drawn in dark pencil and then colored in Photoshop. I colored the exterior backgrounds and Tara Billinger colored the interior ones, to help lighten my load. Also many talent-budding underclassmen helped me with coloring, as did my good pal Nico Colaleo. I also got constant critique and advice from Michael J. Ruocco and constant reminders to take breaks and live a little from Danny Jackson. You’re going to kill yourself if you do absolutely nothing but work all the time. My film would be nothing without the help of these fine people.

Despite all the grueling hard work, multiple all nighters crammed in a studio with my other SVA peers, scorched by the heat of the Cintiqs…I had the time of my life making this film. Being around my fellow classmates, dealing with the same issues, helping each other, going completely mad together (we were a hot mess especially in the wee hours)…it’s a great experience that I will never forget and hope to relive it only if it produces the same results: a project I’m very proud of and a slew of likeminded people to call my friends.

So I hope everyone who sees my film enjoys it and feels the same way about it as my grandma did. She said, “Oh Zach, I loved your Blenderstein. But keep him locked up; I don’t want him to get me or any of the neighbors! Anyway does your fax machine work? I want to send you a recipe for shrimp cakes.”

Filmmaker Websites
Zach Bellissimo’s Blog and Deviant Art

Cartoon Brew’s second annual Student Animation Festival is made possible through the generous support of Titmouse and JibJab.


  • http://allofmyheroes.blogspot.com/ Jeaux Janovsky

    Great job Zach! Very cool!

  • http://www.youtube.com/2MKcreations Matthew Koh

    Zach, are you going to direct live-action feature films in the future just like Tim Burton?

    Also, It’s a shame that I’ll never get to see Michael J. Ruocco’s film. I like his work so much. Too bad it doesn’t got accepted to this festival, because that film’s not finished yet.

    • Zach Bellissimo

      I think Tim Burton does a good job at making live action movies that would work better as animation, so I’ll just stick with animation.

      Also I cannot disclose any information about Michael J. Ruocco’s film and its where-abouts. Its likely that it will be in the same ballpark as Song of the South.

  • http://jackmunchproductions.blogspot.com/ Malcolm

    I used to watch Zach back when I was on Deviantart. So, I’ve been excited for this since day one and it was well worth the wait. It fills me with joy knowing that all of his hard work and effort has paid off. I’m confident that he is going to go far.

    Great Job, man.

  • http://mukpuddy.blogspot.com Mukpuddy

    Great work Zach… loved it!

  • http://rafatoro.blogspot.com Rafa

    My favourite from the bunch so far! Loved the poses and specially that Basil Monkeybone professor! Congratulations Zach!

  • Justin Irizarry

    Kick Ass Dude!

  • http://www.jwbalsleycomix.com Jwbalsley

    I had been waiting to see this as long as I have known about Zach’s work and it’s amazing! All his hard work really paid off, he’s a very talented and prolific cartoonist and animator! Cheers Zach!

  • http://www.copernicus.ca Murray Bain

    Fantastic film, Zack. Fun personalities, great storytelling, and you can tell you had a blast following your muse. Kudos!

  • Daniel J. Drazen

    Use of “Dies Irae” in the soundtrack — nice touch.

  • http://ralfmaximus.deviantart.com RalfMaximus

    NOW I WANT AN EVIL MILKSHAKE

    Everything’s conveyed without dialogue! Quite an achievement, especially considering some of the emotions involved. At no time is the viewer left wondering what the heck’s going on.

    Also loved the numerous horror tropes scattered around, and the monster… god, Blenderstein himself is wonderfully realized.

    Superb.

  • http://www.forthebirdsblog.blogspot.com Michael J. Ruocco

    I never get tired of watching this. It’s that fun!

    Congrats Zach, you earned it!

  • Cath

    So much talent. Congrats, Zach!

  • Sandra Rivas

    It’s got everything you look for in a cartoon: amazing animation, funny gags, fun characters, pretty much everything!

    I’m pretty sure everyone will love it as much as I do!

    • cbat628

      Dummcomics.com family rolls deep.

  • http://www.cookiephantom.deviantart.com Lauren Ellerbrock

    That was amaaaazing. =D I love classic horror so that was a real treat for me. Nice how the colors of each scene reflected its mood, like going from brown to vibrant red – GENIUS! Your animation skills have inspired me to improve mine.
    Brilliant job!

  • http://jimgrue.com James Sugrue

    HELLZ YA, ZACH!!!

  • Brooke Keesling

    I love the color and sound design! Great work- just posted on my Facebook to share with my friends :)

  • http://www.chrisniosi.com Chris “Kirbopher” Niosi

    “FEH!”

    Honored to be part of a legend in the making. Hope everyone enjoys this masterpiece. B)

  • https://www.facebook.com/pages/Olgys-Doodles/159968937404008 Olgy

    I have to admit, I gagged when I saw where the sock gag came from. Loved the 60′s cult movie feel to it. Great job.

  • Dr. Gonzo

    Still shots were delicious.

  • http://miuniversoloco09.blogspot.com/ Salomon Fenix

    In my opinion the short of Zach Bellissimo is really nice.

  • nigel

    Nice doing zack! Way to be.

    • Zach Bellissimo

      Thanks Nigal!

  • http://mitchellv.me/ Mitchell Vizensky

    Wow Zach that was unbelievable! some of the best character animation i’ve ever seen done in flash. You really got a handle on the line work. Man I’m so jealous. I’ve been watching you on deviant art since I started college four years ago. We graduated the same year and are the same age and you’ve been setting the bar for me the whole way through. Now to see you succeed in such a big way has made me extremely envious but more so, sooooo ready to make my own short film! You rock Zach! Love your style and talent. best of luck in the future, hope to catch up with you some day.

  • Jess Jean

    Oh man, this is just AWESOME! I had seen the very first drawing of the motley crew all the way back on deviantART and the designs have always stuck inside of my head to this very day. Seeing the final result of that work and being able to bring those insane characters to life was just marvelous.

    The animation is smooth, the expressions are completely crazy yet somehow believable, and the music is just like re-living those days of watching late night vintage horror. Zach, no words can describe how well-done this movie is. Bravo to you, and I hope you become more successful as the years go on!

  • http://tomboycomics.blogspot.com Emily

    Beautifully done.

    Congrats!

  • Sandra Rivas

    This film has everything we’ve been dying for in a cartoon for years: crazy animation, funny gags, memorable characters, great colors, and so on!

    This is above fantastic!

  • Jeff

    I have been following Zach’s blog for awhile,and was pretty excited about this,and it was worth the wait.Good Luck in your future.

  • Fernan

    I became a fan of Zach’s work from the first time i laid eyes on his Deviantart and blog, and i have to say this has been quite a treat to watch. Good luck on the future man!

  • http://downindeep13.blogspot.com/ JerRocks2day

    Nice short, Zach! I especially liked the mad monkey scientist and Blenderstein. And nice job with the plot. :)

    BTW, how long have you been drawing?

  • D

    I feel that SVA is one of the best animation schools in North America, Zach’s short validates this. Great character animation and designs, superb use of colour and a fun concept too. Forget live action crap, nickelodeon should commission a show from this guy. So far the best in the contest.

  • Manuelo

    Zacharias Bellisimo, you have a wonderful brain.

    Needless to say it’s beautiful to see the professionalism
    you use to make your creations. Go ahead! Your talent should
    meet no limits!