Ugly just got Uglier…

This is not the ugliest kids show I’ve ever seen – but it comes darn close.

Found among the 1,050 look-alike cartoon shows offered at last week’s annual children’s TV market, MIP Junior, was this one: Twisted Whiskers, a co-production of American Greetings, Moonscoop Productions and DQ Entertainment.

The project’s entire pitchbook / powerpoint presentation is online, and you can see for yourself how “wacky, quirky, irreverent and attitudinal” these characters are. (Click thumbnails below to see images from the pitch book). I just can’t get past the eyes. They’re creeping me out, man.

To be fair, the development art — backgrounds and pencil sketches — in this PDF look good. Bill Kopp and Savage Steve Holland (Eek! the Cat) are attached to the show, and have already directed a series of nine 40-second web-shorts that try their best to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear – but why do these characters have to look so goddam creepy:

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  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    Why is there no toilet paper on the dispenser?

  • Isaac

    Everything is painfully maniacal. Somebody give these characters some thorazine.

  • http://www.mukpuddy.blogspot.com mukpuddy

    YIKES! On a side note… Eek The Cat was awesome!!

  • Keith Paynter

    Creepy…

  • captainmurphy

    This is actually toned down from the book series/ greeting card series it is based on, which is entirely about taking cute kitten and puppy photos, and warping the eyes to huge proportions. It is creepier when done with real animals than with slightly anthropomorphized slightly cartooned body models. Its an easy photoshop that gets an easy response from some people when they first see it, enough to sell a few overpriced minibooks.

    I’d greatly margaret keane paintings myself. Or her husbands. Or a knock off of same.

  • Adam

    Mr Mewser will haunt my nightmares forever

  • http://rwentworth.blogspot.com Sir Richard Wentworth

    Ugh.

  • Chris leonido

    I dont know what is scarier, this or just something as wrong as this.

  • Paul K.

    Yeah, these characters remind me of Louis Wain’s infamous schizophrenia-fueled cat paintings.

    Anyway, in that Toilet Kitty vid, you know how the character keeps looking directly at the camera before and after every event– is there a term for that? The “view pandering”, or “stilted hamming it up”; there has to be a phrase to describe that. I’m wondering if there’s a phrase for it, because I really hate it.

    It only works when the character is intending break the fourth wall with an aside because there’s a running gag about the events being a performance or the context for self-reference is previously established.

    For the characters to constantly divide attention between the scene and pausing to make a stupid expression toward the camera is worst direction choice in existence.

    Such a scenario is like the “artists” behind the scenes are halting the pace for the sake of saying “Look at that expression, aren’t we great? No, no, look at it. We don’t care if it’s a watered-down imitation of a tired bit, stop and admire this.”

    It’s excusable in student films, but c’mon…

  • Christopher Cook

    I’d seen the Twisted Whisjers pictures on greeting cards and calendars and such. They’re more baffling than they are either creepy or funny.

  • http://weirdurl.com Zekey

    It amazes me how long this ‘twisted whiskers’ thing has continued.

    Considering it started off when someone decided to take the smudge tool in photoshop and stretch the eyes and mouths of some public domain photos of pets.

    Maybe its a sign of the future.
    I can see it now:

    LENS FLARE THE MOVIE.
    co-starring LASSO TOOL and VECTOR BLOB

  • OM

    …And this is what we get for accepting Ren and Stimpy. Animators who think nausea sells.

  • Lindsay

    You’ve GOT to be kidding me.

    Twisted Whiskers were a slight – and I mean slight – novelty a few years ago when all they were were distorted photos of cats and dogs on greeting cards. But then they started getting books and merchandise and heaven knows what else. Now they’re attempting a TV series?! Blechhh. I agree – far too creepy to be viable. They’re leagues away from being amusing anymore. O_o

  • Phil

    I didn’t realized those cards with the photoshopped pets on theme where so popular.

    The characters on the top picture are horrendous, but I kinda like the green eyed cat in the video.

  • Jason

    I couldn’t believe it when I heard that a series was being made out of those godawful greeting cards. And now I can’t believe the series is as horrendous as I expected. Ewwww!!!

  • wgan

    interesting design, reminds me those distorted cats image on post card, besides the set designs are good and solid, not bad at all, give some ugly animals some space, shall we;)

  • Dave G

    I heard this project had lost its funding. Must be trying to sell it to raise the cash.

  • Jim

    This is shown on Disney Channel Asia. It creeps me to hell.

  • Tooncil

    I think a few of my brain cells gave up and died while watching the ‘Toilet Kitty’ clip.

  • http://hornetinc.com Coffinwood

    LDid you see anything decent at mip this year? What was the vibe? Are people still nervous? Tell us about it.
    Thanks. Love the blog.

  • http://aalong64.blogspot.com Aaron Long

    The actual animation in this was surprisingly expressive for 3D. However, I don’t like the designs, and I HATE the music. Synthesized mickey-mousing rarely works, and it’s especially bad here. It sounds like a tone-deaf kid playing around on a $50 keyboard.

  • Chris Sokalofsky

    Not even counting the student-quality animation and unappealing models and lighting, as mentioned above the characters are just plain creepy. Plus, even for a vignette, the material was just…boring. 1/10

  • Mr. Owl

    It’s so easy to criticize… Someone took a lot of time making this, and your attempts to cut them down makes you come across as arrogant and juvenile. I don’t think it’s that bad at all… And to all you drones who agree with everything said on this site… get a life.. It’s things like this that turn me off from the Brew…
    Get off your high horse.

  • http://www.sweetposer.tk/urbmn/ Cameron A.

    I honestly never thought I’d see Bill Kopp and Savage Steve Holland’s names attached to something like this.

  • Skip in response to $#(%)

    New meaning to the term toilet humor, also the most literal.

  • http://juanmanimation.blogspot.com juanma

    Any chance you guys can REPOST the pitch book.

    it does not seem to work.

    real curious to see how this thing made it, and got thru

  • http://www.dailygrail.com/blog/8389 red pill junkie

    Those pets look doped!

  • aaron

    I’d maybe give this a 1.5 on the creepy meter with a 10 being a John Wayne Gacy clown painting. Really Jerry, you must be getting sensitive in your old age, this stuff is pretty mild. Sort of reminds me of those Felix the cat clocks where the eyes move back and forth.

  • R. Wappin

    You know what? I actually like this…

    It’s so ugly it’s good.

  • Jonah Sidhom

    0:32 to 0:38… the creepiest thing I have ever seen. Did they have to use carnival music?

  • http://www.elliotelliotelliot.com Elliot Cowan

    You guys are nuts.
    This is brilliant.
    I look forward to more.

  • Egan

    These promos were done before the series by a different animation crew. Just sayin’.

  • http://www.sportingnews.com/blog/mjf7583 Michael F.

    Making a series based out of promotional characters…gee, didn’t some networks do this earlier this decade? How did that go?

  • ZigZag

    I worked at Mike Young Productions on several shows, and for some time, when this was in development,. A good friend of mine was the Producer of the entire series. He’s one of the best people I’ve met, and should be in charge of a studio.

    I can say that from what I understand, this was a difficult production as the client (American Greetings) was particularly difficult to work with. But overall, the crew of veterans worked hard trying to make lemonade out of lemons. The pitchbook shows some of the quality work that went into the show.

    That beind said, the business model that MYP (now Moonscoop) employs of sending crap shows through a rushed development process with not enough staff over to an Asian studio with not enough staff will forever produce a crap project. Most of what that studio produces winds up pretty embarrassing (including all of the shows I’ve worked on).

    Don’t get me wrong, most of the people there are wonderful veterans from the industry with a ton of talent, and the work they do states-side is almost always great. But when they ship it overseas and get back a half-assed product, no one sees the great drawings and care that went into the front end of the show. They just see the end result – a result of fatigued directors sitting in the edit bay, reviewing the seventh mediocre-to-horrible retake they got back and saying with a sigh, “…fine. Let’s go home.”

  • http://kitschensyngk.deviantart.com Kitschensyngk

    That cat looks like it wants to claw my furniture to ribbons.

    No, no. Wait a minute.

    That cat looks like it wants to sneak into my bedroom while I’m asleep, carve open my chest with a bread knife and messily devour my entrails…and THEN claw my furniture to ribbons.

  • http://mruttan.ca Jack Ruttan

    Probably was in the development pipeline for a while, and they would lose more money if they dropped it.

  • http://mruttan.ca Jack Ruttan

    Actually, it sort of reminds me of those toon dummies from the Twilight Zone movie version of “It’s a Good Life.”

  • Jonah Sidhom

    Mr. Owl: Talking about how ugly something is makes us arrogant, juvenile drones with no life? That’s a lot of name-calling, and you’re telling us to get off *our* high horses?

    Sorry, but it looks ugly to most of us, no matter how much someone worked on it (you don’t get an A for effort in the real world). It doesn’t make us terrible people for saying that out loud.

  • http://twitter.com/dansicle DN

    Because ugly was in on the internet! Don’t you remember? Quizno’s …and all that…

    Yeah. Boo.

  • Umpity

    I like ALL of the other “twisted whisker shorts” I saw online a lot–except for the one above! Whv on earth did vou choose that one!

    fwiw, i disagree and thought thev were fuckin cool

  • Isaac

    ZigZag, your comment should be added to the post.

  • Charlie Judkins

    “Tiny Head” is the greatest cartoon character of the 21st century.

  • Chris J.

    I’m usually here defending people who are trying to do something a little different – but there is no defense for this. Horrifying.

  • Marv

    Twisted Whiskers was animated in India, not Asia. Unless it had to be re-done in Asia.

  • http://reddiabla.blogspot.com/ Red Diabla

    Charlie Judkins said,

    ““Tiny Head” is the greatest cartoon character of the 21st century.”

    I agree.

    I worked on a couple of the Twisted Whiskers shows, and I’ll tell ya, it was fun. And FUNNY.

    As ZigZag says, the crew on the show was really good. Whether that reflects in the final product apparently remains in the eye of the beholder. But some of the ideas that were thrown around just made me laugh out loud, which is ironically something I rarely do when working on animation these days.

    If they did this series hand-drawn, I think it’d sell, NO PROBLEM. I hope this incarnation of the show makes it to the air just so I can see how the gags translated to 3D.

  • ZigZag

    Just a little ticky-tack note:

    India is in Asia.

  • Peter

    No offense, but you complain that the other shows are cookie-cutter and you complain that this one is different. I’d rather see weird failures than cookie-cutter failures.

  • http://twitter.com/jsidhom Jonah Sidhom

    So Jerry,
    what IS the ugliest kids show you’ve seen?

  • ZigZag

    I have to second Red Diabla’s note.

    I couldn’t help but wonder after looking again at the awesome sketches in the pitch book how the show would turn out if the studio simply spent the budget on a series of Cintiqs with ToonBoom or Flash or whatever, and just let real, traditional animators crank out a wicked, loose, hand-drawn show. I bet the style would have ruled, the animation would have ruled, and the jokes would have been, I dunno, funny.

    Of course, they had a client who had certain parameters they needed met, and I’m sure they’d never sign off on a 2D approach when there’s this shiny new thing called 3D animation that will solve all the world’s problems.

    Call me crazy. Call me old-fashioned. I just like a good cartoon.

  • Morton G

    Zig-Zag’s description of what it was like on “Twisted Whiskers” at Mike Young sounds identical to what it was like in TV animation in the 1980′s at every studio but Filmation, which animated (or re-exposed its stock) in-house.

  • Bill Kopp

    Well, we tried!

  • Dock Miles
  • David Breneman

    Paul K writes: “It only works when the character is intending break the fourth wall with an aside because there’s a running gag about the events being a performance or the context for self-reference is previously established.”

    Two masters of this gag: Oliver Hardy. Jack Benny.

    Extra credit to anyone under 25 who knows who they are.

  • Jonah Sidhom

    Sweet, I’m 18 and know who Oliver Hardy and Jack Benny are.

    Although one of my favorie Laurel and Hardy moments is the film Utopia when Stan Laurel, not Hardy, looks at the camera when someone keeps taking his food off his plate when he looks away.

    But I agree with Paul K, it just doesn’t work here. And they do it in all of (few) the Twisted Whiskers I’ve seen.

  • http://tangoland.com Cynthia

    I worked on the show too, and it was a REALLY nice change from the nursery school-safety-girls rule kinda stuff..I could finally beat up the characters and really throw them around! Tiny Head was charming and weird! In fact some of the funniest stuff I’ve done was on a “Broken Bear” show.

    As far as what you get back when it’s sent out overseas..well, I have to add my two cents that you should at least just enjoy your work, meet really talented people..have fun and make a xerox of your boards before making an exit.

    Some of what I did I put in my portfolio..so you never know what positive stuff will come of each new assignment.

    You take what you can from each experience.

  • Adam

    Hey Mr Owl ,are you part of the Illuminati?

  • http://www.theguysperspective.typepad.com THE GUYS

    Them Eyes are da Bomb baybee!!!!!!!

    Love ‘em!!

  • http://signorestudios.blogspot.com/ Christopher

    Charlie Judkins and Elliot Cowan are right – so right.

    You want ugly? Take a look at any random Ren and Stimpy, Spongebob rip-offs and tell me those aren’t ugly :P

    Having watched several episodes already, once you ignore the freaky eyes and *actually watch the show*, it’s rather brilliant. Hilarious, in fact. The fact that this series does so much to harken back the days of Golden Age Animation shows that the cast and crew are not just selling these cats an’ dogs their own show just to make a quick buck.

    The title cards for each new character and episode, the situation-based comedy, the character-driven storylines, lack of toilet humour and a fun “mix and match” cast – coupled with pantomime (SILENT) comedy – all make up a fine and close-as-possible tribute to the likes of Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, etc who would probably have favoured this show themselves. And I reckon this would work the same manner if this series was made in 2D.

    ….oh, and did I mention how much I adore Tiny Head? It’s SO refreshing to see a nice character for once; a cross between Huckleberry Hound and “Of Mice and Men’s” Lenny =D

    So bravo to everyone who was part of this series, including Mr Kopp himself. True, some things about this show don’t work for everyone, but if you’ve got a problem don’t watch it. What I’ve seen of Twisted Whiskers have nonetheless made me laugh – a lot. A fine example of how cartoons *SHOULD* be made, even in this day of PC-nonsense.

    Mike Young Productions – thank you for scrapping another “Pet Alien” for this ^__^