Superjail

Superjail

Seemingly the funniest and cartooniest animated projects nowadays are set in jails. There’s the Japanese CG series Usavich, which was written up here last month, and now there’s Superjail, an Adult Swim pilot from last spring which is being turned into a series.

Superjail is one of those rare pieces of animation that reaffirms my faith in mainstream industry animation. (A clip from the pilot episode is posted below; the full series premieres later this year.) At first glance, it’s an unlikely candidate for greatness: it is, after all, a Flash-animated show for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. But Superjail defies all expectations, both for Flash and Adult Swim. Far from the typical Adult Swim fare of characters standing around with their lips flapping, this show takes advantage of the fact that it’s animated, packing every scene with outlandish visual gags, hilarious drawings, frenetic animation, bright colors and enough gratuitous cartoon violence to fill a thousand Popeye shorts.

The premise of the series is simple: Superjail is an ultra-violent prison complex run by a mad Willy Wonka-esque warden determined to “perfect the art of incarceration.” He is aided by a butch guard Alice, an alcoholic accountant Jared, and the punishing robot Jail-bot. Beyond this basic setup, anything goes. It’s a stream-of-conscious free-for-all that’s both exhilaratingly creative and guaranteed to offend. Heidi MacDonald of The Beat blog called the pilot “the most incoherent, violent and irredeemable thing I have ever seen.” Luckily for her, she hasn’t seen the actual show yet. I’ve managed to peep a bit more beyond the pilot and can say that the pilot is only a taste of what’s to come.The actual series is even nuttier and more insane.

Graphically, Superjail achieves a level of cartoon grotesquerie that would make Basil Wolverton blush. There are also hints of Mike Judge, Yellow Submarine, alternative comics, and Wes Archer’s classic short Jac Mac & Rad Boy . The results are grungy and raw; real cartoons by real cartoonists without any of the on-model fussiness and overcautiousness that hinders most of today’s TV animation.

Superjail

Superjail is created by Christy Karacas, Stephen Warbrick and Ben Gruber. Karacas is directing the series and Aaron Augenblick, whose Augenblick Studios is producing the series, serves as the animation director. The stories are written by Karacas, Warbrick, Augenblick and other animators on the show, with the finished scripts penned by John Glaser and John Lee. A host of other fine cartoonists and animators are contributing to the series including Fran Krause, Will Krause, Jesse Schmal and M. Wartella.

The show also puts to rest the fallacy that Adult Swim shows are poorly animated because of their small budgets. The creators of Superjail have not only managed to deliver impressive animation on a standard Adult Swim budget, but they’re producing the series entirely in the US, from pre-production through final animation. New York-based Augenblick Studios is cutting few corners on the production, with little reliance on stock expressions and poses, and plenty of original drawing in every episode. Even the impressively laborious animated pan used in the opening titles is being re-animated for each episode with new backgrounds.

It’s refreshing to see a production that puts its budget back onto the screen and gives audiences quality that they can enjoy. I’ll try to write more about the studio’s production pipeline in the future, but suffice to say, Augenblick is one of the few studios that operates with a “no producers” policy.

Superjail will debut on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim line-up in summer ’08 with an initial order of ten 11-minute episodes. Until then, check out some of the earlier shorts by Christy Karacas and Stephen Warbrick like Barfight and Space War.

A few preview stills from the series. Click on the pics for bigger versions.

Superjail

Superjail

Superjail


  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    Where did I see this already? I saw an episode, loved it, and then I forgot if I saw it on the web or what. Anyway, I can’t wait for the series.

  • http://escapistcartoons.blogspot.com Behonkiss

    I saw the pilot and was blown away- it manages to be completely random in a very entertaining way, and the whole thing gives off the vibe of 90s MTV shows. This should be great.

  • http://educatedmetalhead.blogspot.com/ DanO

    Hell yeah. Aaron Augenblick’s studio has worked very hard for a long time to have a project of their own they can inject their demented creatvity into. I have no doubts the show will be a hit. I wish i could bet some money on it. I also hope that after a successful first season Adult Swim sees fit to increase the budget for the series to match the effort. It’s evident from the product that these guys are putting everything they have into this.

  • http://hannywanny.blogspot.com/ Hannah

    That…WAS AWESOME. I’m definitely going to have to watch it when it premiers. And righto…it’s screaming 90′s MTV, which I like.

  • http://beesbuzz.biz/ fluffy

    I had absolutely no idea this was done in Flash when I first saw it. Of course, now that I know I can see the little Flash cues since I know to look for them, but even then they’ve done a very good job of making it look like a traditional sloppy hand-drawn thing, not a sloppy Flash-drawn thing.

  • http://gagaman.blogspot.com The Gagaman

    Oh man, like Behonkiss put it, this is like something straight out of the early 90′s MTV animation, like Beavis and Butthead in overdrive. That pilot alone had so much crammed into it you have to watch it multiple times to take it all in. Incredible raw animation, I love it.

  • http://www.spitandspite.com Spit & Spite

    I LOVE AUGENBLICK STUDIOS STUFF and would love to do something as (apparently) creatively free flowing as that (I’m trying) and have some suit pay me for it but with that said…

    In all honesty, does anyone else see this and just say…

    “Uhmmm… ok.”

    Or, as was my first reactionary inclination “”WTF???”

    “It’s refreshing to see a production that puts its budget back onto the screen and gives audiences quality that they can enjoy.”

    What?!?!?!

    Seriously, is it the artist hands that you like Amid? is it because it’s anti-mass media? It’s sure as hell not anti-cartoon network. What exactly of this do you like? That they keyed stuff on twos? Instead of the (seemingly) tv average of 6 in flash? I mean, are you arguing this is good because it’s ugly and people put it on TV and there was “no producers”? are you saying it’s good because it makes no sense and shit happens just because and that’s CRAZY (to be uttered in a Christopher Walken voice)? You, who always speak up about beauty and design are reaching for your old gym socks over this?

    I like your opinions Amid and you’re intelligent and well informed but I’m at a loss as to why this excites you so much? How do you reconcile your obvious taste for design and the “look” of this show? Are you friends with the guys? is there no reconciliation? is it just cool because it’s cool?

    hey, if you just like it because you do, sweet. More power to you. I just don’t get why this is the one thing you go apesheeet over. I’m just trying to understand…

    Look, basically, what I’m trying to say is, where the hell are my new Venture Bros. shows Cartoon Network???

  • http://www.sandwichbag.blogspot.com Elliot Cowan

    A slice of fried gold.

  • http://cartoonsnap.blogspot.com Sherm Cohen

    Wow! I couldn’t take my eyes off it! — and not the same old same old. Thanks for posting this…and please give an update when there’s more! Great stuff! Kudos to the creators and crew ^_^

  • http://timrauch.blogspot.com Tim Rauch

    Glad to see you post about SuperJail. This show had some of NY’s best and it shows. Along with all the talent you mentioned, Chris Conforti is another one of the crack-animators on the show. It’s great to see Christy’s high-energy personality comes across in his work: it demands an opinion, good or bad, and this show seems certain to leave no one on the fence.

  • doug holverson

    Looks like it was done in ballpoint by high school kids who aren’t quite old enough to drive….

    Yet, once being that age… with ballpoint pen….

  • amid

    Spit & Spite: I was instantly blown away when I first saw the pilot. It’s entertaining, funny and well-animated, which is more than can be said for 99% of the tv animation being produced today.

    How do you reconcile your obvious taste for design and the “look” of this show?

    There is amazing attention paid to design and craftsmanship in this show. I appreciate great design, regardless of the style or “look” that it’s executed in. It’s for that reason that I can just as easily find beauty in a brutal war-themed painting by Grosz or Otto Dix as in a more classical piece by Ingres or Delacroix.

  • http://robcatview.blogspot.com robcat2075

    The show also puts to rest the fallacy that Adult Swim shows are poorly animated because of their small budgets.

    Yes, now we know they are poorly animated by design.

    Well, it does look like a lot of drawing going on. It’s rather like what we might see in a flip-book, if flip books ran for five minutes.

    I’ll be curious to see if a full episode it compelling to watch.

  • Andrew

    WOAH woah woah woah woah woah.

    Superjail is produced in Flash? I remember talking to my co-workers about it shortly after its television premiere, and we kept using the words “hand-drawn” and “paper”. :O

  • http://www.spitandspite.com Spit & Spite

    Well, I appreciate your response. Perhaps it’s something which I have to give more thought to, personally, design goes hand in hand with style and “look” in my mind. I can’t really separate the two. Maybe I don’t fully understand the difference that you’re referring to…

    Regarding craftsmanship, that’s a bit of stretch. Are we arming a chair? Craftsmanship is really, when it comes to insane content like this, the last bar to judge it against. Creativity and the artist’s voice is what would stand up with a work like this, but please, don’t tell me this is well designed or pretty.

    It’s like quantifying Madagascar as a great film since it had masterful craftsmanship in it’s design and animation. Where’s the craftsmanship in story? In compelling interesting thought provoking content? In creativity? In something new?

    I guess it comes down to my boredom with things of this nature. People speak of pushing the envelope but what envelope is this pushing? I think I’ve reached a point where creativity is what excites me, not renegade artists fighting the man, or a guerilla studio making un appealing “art” and passing it off as edgy. It’s that whole BS Juxtaposition magazine crowd you know?

    The same crowd that calls something art because it’s crude and though it took fifteen minutes to draw, someone had the balls to call it done and sell it for $350 at a Soho gallery. Again, I don’t mean to take issue with Augen, I (truly) enjoy there work and I’m sure I’ll continue to… ah whatever. I have to get back to my job.

    …

    Maybe I’m jealous…

    Nah, It’s ugly.

  • will

    i remember seeing the pilot for this on adult swim a while ago. i cannot WAIT for the series!

  • Pedro Nakama

    I liked it!

  • http://www.joestrike.com Joe Strike

    I’m sorry, but glib nihilism and in-your-face ugliness do very little for me. There’s a BIG difference between Georg Grosz using grotesque imagery to tell the truth about Nazi brutality, and wallowing in it for cheap laffs. I’m also turned off by serial killer/torture porn flicks (or politics – see Abu Ghraib), and this show feels like it’s part of the same esthetic.

    Frankly, I don’t care whether a show is 2D or Flash; the AS shows I enjoy – Venture Bros, Boondocks and Robot Chicken – may be driven by cynical humor, but they all share a humanistic streak and love for their characters even at their most self-deluded – they don’t look at the human race as meat puppets you can bash with a club because it’s fun to watch them bleed.

  • Jenny

    I actually agree with spit and spite: I like the raw look of this and all, but to me, it doesn’t have that oomph of creativity. No offense, but I think Tim and Eric are a lot more insane and actually entertaining than this.

  • http://www.ryankramer.blogspot.com Ryan K

    YES!! This looks great. Barfight was awesome too. Its still crazy that this is going to get airtime and Korgoth isn’t.

  • David

    This looks like a lot of fun.
    I found the entire pilot on myspaceTV, in case people want to see it all:
    http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&VideoID=12238942
    The sound quality is a little weird, and makes David Wain sound like a chipmunk. Regardless, you can see they have a great time making this show.

  • http://timrauch.blogspot.com Tim Rauch

    Spit&Spite: not to begrudge you your personal taste or anything, but this does not look like it took “15 minutes” to draw, it looks like it took extraordinary effort to maintain a high level of creativity to execute madness frame by frame. You also say you are looking for “the artist’s voice”, well, nothing could be more consistent than Karacas and Warbrick’s efforts from Space War to Bar Fight to SuperJail. They have a voice, and it’s not high-minded and it’s not particularly conceptual but it is FUN. Even in his “fine art”, this is what Karacas does: chaos, madness, spontaneity. Is it a bit juvenile? Yes, and that’s where the fun is. Is it hard to see how he can maintain that in a convincing way throughout a TV series instead of one-off short films? Yes, and it’s gonna be fun to see him try.

  • http://siskavard.blogspot.com Corey

    Nice, very nice, concept, execution & final product!

  • http://www.daganm.blogspot.com Dagan

    Aaron and his gang have been doing some of the finest TV work around for years now. :) It’s always nice to see them getting some publicity.

    The show looks wonderfully off-beat, to say the least… Looks crazy-fun! With that Augenblick craftsmanship added-in to the equation, this show looks like it’ll be a real treat. Can’t wait to see!

    Cool stuff, Amid. Thanks for posting this! :)

  • http://thad-k.blogspot.com Thad Komorowski

    Spit & Spite is absolutely right. This is an eyesore on all levels in the tradition of all ‘adult’ cartoons.

  • endekks

    While I am happy that this show will get air-time, I am also upset that Korgoth is not. I found the animation quality to be quite good, and the humour was a bit more “palatable” with its violence as it was more a parody than just crazy – as SJ most certainly is.

  • rachel

    Maybe I’m missing something, but I’ve never been a fan of this particular type of aesthetic. I’m not saying the quality is bad or that there’s no creativity in the process of producing something like this, but I guess I personally prefer to watch things that aren’t such an assault on the senses.

    My issue is that the story, pacing & visual “gags,” so to speak, seem like a lot of fun (the thing with the soft-serve ice cream is especially hilarious) and I love its frenetic energy, but I can’t imagine ever watching the show at length because the visual style is just so off-putting to me on every level.

    And can the style really be called THAT fresh & creative, considering the number of people that equated it to late-90′s MTV (which is what I immediately thought as well)? It’s like Beavis & Butthead on a bad acid trip or something.

  • http://www.autodaddy.blogspot.com tom

    That was…great! Honestly, I was going to blow it off completely but that Heidi MacDonald quote convinced me. I knew that anything she hated that much had to be packed with diamonds, and I was right. Thanks!

  • http://zekeyspaceylizard.blogspot.com Zekey

    I’d like to see more “Korgoth of Barbaria” and more “Drinky the Crow”
    But Superjail will satisfy just fine.

    Augdenblick studios seem to be unafraid to do things in flash most studios wouldnt dare do. So good for them.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Much like a few comments made here, this is probably not going to be a show for everyone. After reading on the teenage ballpoint remark, I had to be reminded of having known people who did that sort of their when they were that age. A friend of my older brother’s used to draw some pretty zany stuff that I saw got published in a junior high school’s yearbook. Rather a shame he dropped out of high school before being able to pursue his art further than that. I was slightly that way too as I think we all went through that period when the idea of anarchy seemed rather pleasant than horrible.

    I was also reminded of those works like “Jac Mac & Rad Boy Go”, and the kind of stuff that showed up in the early 90′s thanks to venues like MTV or the “Sick & Twisted” festivals. I’ve been a bit familiar with Augenblick Studio’s work, and find it impressive what they could do with Flash that hasn’t really been thought about elsewhere, and yet they come up with some frenetic and bizarre works that rival 2D altogether.

  • http://stupidmahan.livejournal.com/ Sasha

    I’m finding it hard to believe this was done in Flash, are you sure about that, Amid?

    I really liked it too but I can’t imagine how they can keep the quality up.

    I am also really ticked about Korgoth. I want that show harder than anything else I’ve wanted that only lasts 15 minutes.

  • Adam

    I liked it!! Looks like a good show.

  • Anne D Bernstein

    It might look like 90s MTV because Augenblick, Karacas, and Warbick all worked there. As I did. In fact, the short BAR FIGHT was produced with money from a short-lived program where MTV gave money to employees to finish their own independent projects. Those were the days.

  • http://gr8ball.blogspot.com Chrissy Fellmeth

    I got to intern at augenblick for an extremely short period of time, but from what I saw and worked on the show looked out of control amazing. I have to hand it to all the artists who work on the show, it looks fantastic and I wish I could have gotten to work on it more… Congrats to everyone at augenblick on their show that will prove to be a hit on adult swim!

  • Steve Gattuso

    It feels like someone decided to animate certain elements of RAW at its graphic height in the 80′s. I can understand the desire to tear out the walls and go nuts, but sometimes that doesn’t result in work that’s really all that different than a child abusing a sibling or a small animal.

    If what you’re after is the strange and silly, may I humbly suggest “Chowder,” instead?

  • http://fluidtoons.com Brett W. Thompson

    I loooove Superjail!!! :)

    We had the pleasure of showing “Space War” and “Bar Fight” at Animation Attack, part of the Atlanta Underground Film Festival. We actually showed “Bar Fight” in a bar (the East Side Lounge) and people were noisily excited, it was awesome.

    Everything I’ve seen Christy do has been amazing!

    Thanks for posting about Superjail!! :)

  • http://teatime-cady.blogspot.com Kelly

    OH BOY!! XD

    I actually saw this more than six months ago while I was working at Studio B…the entire team was laughing non-stop! It got pulled from Youtube, and never heard from it again.

    I’m so happy this series is making a comeback…now all I have to do is cross my fingers and hope against hope that ONE day, it will be aired in Canada.

  • http://www.Jamalotolorin.blogspot.com Jamal Otolorin

    I agree with Joe Strike. Television, in general has been on a downward spiral to (lets try to be offensive “shock” humor). The more blood and guts the better. An Era that perhaps MTV had a hand in spearheading. But I don’t blame anybody for watching it. I thoroughly enjoyed the Liquid Television days.

    Its nice to be entertained by a new expression. Even though I may not particularly love it. One thing I do love is FREEDOM. And having FREEDOM means having “OPTIONS”. If my choices where limited to animation that looked like GARFIELD the movie, or MADAGASCAR all the time, I’d go NUTS. Those films have their place. But they are not the authority on what QUALITY is. I may watch Garfield with the kiddies, and SuperJail with the lady at night, sipping on Chateau Lafite, Well not really but you get my point. After all depends on how the sun is shinning that day.

    I am happy that Talented Artists and Animators in New York have work. And When I say Talented I mean it. Some of the people that are working on these so called “crappy Adultswim shows” are some of the best in the business.

    If you only knew what goes on behind the scenes. And the level in which these Artists are able to produce. Artists such as Dawud Anyabwile, Dan Sousa, or Rich Ferguson Hull and I’m sure, a host of many others.

    So to the creative team behind SUPERJAIL. CONGRATS!!! You guys are getting GREAT work out of FLASH!

    If you don’t like it. Exercise your freedom and watch ALVIN and the CHIMPMUNKS instead.

    Oh yeah sorry sasha KORGOTH is DEAD may he R.I.P.

  • http://www.andyupdates.blogspot.com/ Andy Suriano

    This is AMAZING. It’s an actual cartoon. Go figure. I want to work on it! Amazing. I said it again. And I think it DOES go way beyond “gross-out” humor. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything cheap about pushing our expectations–and then pushing them further. A lot of the gags that I thought would stop where I would “expect” them to, didn’t. Referencing some great stuff; and utilizing animation in all its limitlessness. Imagine that.

  • http://garydoodles.blogspot.com/ Gary Doodles

    I love bunnies….and Flash….and SUPERJAIL!!
    Cant wait for the debut.
    A for Augenblick!

  • http://www.lippy.com Lippy

    I like the Art-Brut style. Reminds me of what I imagine a teenaged Gary Panter might have produced if given the access to an animation studio. I’ll be watching the first few episodes for sure.

  • red pill junkie

    I find the style of this cartoon “ugly”, too. But I’m thinking that it is some kind of political statement. Some of the gags are to me very political when scraping all the nuttiness aside, and I applaud them for that.

    And the timing of this series is impeccable, since the US has reached the extraordinary landmark, of having 1 in 100 of its citizens behind bars!

    All in all, it looks like something that came out of the Heavy Metal magazine; and I mean that as a compliment :-)

  • http://www.shamoozal.com Frank

    The pilot was out of control, and it looks like the series will be too. I’ve heard these guys are busting their humps making this thing look as awsome as it can be, and it’s showing. It’s purposefully ugly and dirty, and it knows it. It’s also entertaining as hell as opposed to just being insulting like some AS stuff.

    I can’t wait to watch it!

  • James Harvey

    Awesome, love Superjail. So glad they decided to make a series!

  • http://www.foxhack.net/ Dave Silva

    … Was I the only one that was reminded of Robot Jones?

    Not a bad thing, mind you.

  • tom

    “Some of the gags are to me very political when scraping all the nuttiness aside, and I applaud them for that.”

    You may be reading something more into this than was intended.

  • http://www.ridingthehermes.com Ed

    I want more! MORE! Where can I see the rest of the episode?

  • vzk

    Is it me or is Magnus Carlsson involved in the character design?

  • joecab

    I can’t wait for this one, too. It was the best of the new pilots Cartoon Network showed a number of months ago. It’s just crazy and violent with enough sense to everything that makes no sense to pull it off together. The warden’s the best. And what is up with those twins?

    And I love that distinctive Augenblick flow of movement. Does he use more frames than usual to achieve it?

  • MattSullivan

    Not that i think it will be a bad cartoon, but the style just doesn’t speak to me. It seems to be part of the whole, “uglification” of American cartoons, where designs get squigglier, solid drawing doesn’t seem as important…perhaps its a style to match the subject matter. i don’t know *shrug*

    Spose I’ll have to watch it first before I make any real opinion.

  • http://www.shortoftheweek.com Jason Sondhi

    I hadn’t watched Adult Swim in a while when I channel-surfed to SuperJail and was blown away. Extremely cool. I don’t like many of the Adult Swim originals of late but will follow this one. The super-prison setting, and comic ultra-violence reminded me of the anime OVA “Dead Leaves”. Which likewise will knock your socks off.

  • jessica ferber

    so good.

  • Syrup Pucky Dropx

    This really reminded me of stuff from the Mike Diana zine Boiled Angel. Mike Diana was jailed for his grotesque and violent artwork and had to stay within 500 feet of any minors after being released. Look him up and i’m sure you’ll agree.

  • Kazen

    i looked this show up cuz Violent J (of ICP) was supposedly a drawn character so i had 2 check it out. regardless, this show is funny as fuck. Randomness, violence, ICP? this was an instant hit for me

  • http://bvxsdbgfj,ghkjgj berto

    oh yeah

  • dave

    Too bad the writing and voice work don’t even come close to matching the quality of the art and animation. Then we’d have a true gem on our hands here.

  • DAN

    lol…..THE BEST AND MOST INSANE CARTOON ON TV.

  • Kim

    Super Jail immediately brought to mind some of the classic Heavy Metal Magazine stuff I remember looking at as a little kid in my parents bathroom. (early 70′s) Obviously I was just a kid so I can’t remember anything other than some killer images but I swear super jail looks like it came right off those pages!

  • http://gamesonplaystation3.com GamesOnPS3

    I’m so happy this cartoon was made.

  • Patrick

    The drawing style reminds me of the late Will “Wild Bill” Elder, who worked on many comic books, and the great satire of everything, MAD Magazine, when it satirized the comic books its founder, Bill Gaines, made his money off of.

  • Ruben

    I just came across the wiki-page of the Misfits, where I read something about an underground artist called Mike Diana using a track name of them for a comic he released in the 90′s called Angelfuck and went to jail because of obscenity

    Well.. Superjail totally copied his style or Diana must be involved with this cartoon