Cartoon Network sends me screeners for their new shows and specials at least once a month, and I generally toss them straight into the trash to save myself the aggravation of watching contemporary TV animation. On a whim though, I decided to check out the latest one they sent for the new series CAMP LAZLO, set to debut July 8.
CAMP LAZLO was created by Joe Murray, whose earlier creation ROCKO’S MODERN LIFE aired on Nickelodeon in the mid-90s. He has spent the past few years pursuing children’s book illustration and other non-industry activities. The show is a graphic delight. The designs are crisp and appealing, and the animation is solid and moves nicely (with the occasional bit of creative action that is very funny, like the camp nurse who only rolls around in her swivel office chair without ever bothering to stand up). The strongest visual element in the show is the excellent art direction by Murray and art director Sue Mondt (POWERPUFF GIRLS), along with their crew of layout artists and bg painters, which includes SAMURAI JACK’s Dan Krall (check out his website to see some of his concept paintings for the show). The backgrounds are thoughtfully composed, and packed with inventive organic shapes and creative color schemes. The painting style uses a heavy textural approach, with a lot of visible “brush” and “colored pencil” effects, which seems perfectly appropriate to the show’s outdoor setting. It also shows that ‘modern’ backgrounds are possible without relying on the hard-edged geometric shapes that are so prevalent in designed animation nowadays.