Peacock’s first foray into adult animation comedy is In the Know, a stop-motion comedy series created by Zach Woods (The Office), Brandon Gardner (David), and Mike Judge (King of the Hill) featuring animation by Portland’s Shadowmachine (Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio).
Spoofing public radio and modern PC culture in equal parts, the show highlights the hypocritical side that everyone possesses, no matter how well-intentioned they may be in their everyday lives. According to Woods and Gardner, they want In the Know to start “funny, scary, friendly conversations” about our contemporary world.
The formula they’ve come up with wielded tremendous results.
To celebrate In the Know’s recent release, Cartoon Brew caught up with animation director Brian Leif Hansen, who shared some on-set photographs and told us how his team brought the series’ grounded and multi-layered characters to life.
Hansen: Jan Maas animated this series of shots where Lauren and Fabian are giving Barb a hard time for trying to help the unhoused gentleman in the bathroom. As always, it’s important to Zack and Brandon that the characters are not mean; they are just so focused on their own agenda that they kind of forget any civilized manner, especially towards Barb, who, per Zack and Brandon’s direction, is playing a kind of mum character at the radio station. Lauren and Fabian can, therefore, be as obscene as you can imagine because they’re pretty sure that Barb’s love for them is never going to be taken away – Jan took that notion and animated this beautiful series of rapid, slightly insane statements from Lauren.
Jan is using an X-Acto blade to manipulate Lauren’s eyelids and pupils. It seems a little bit gory, but the X-Acto blade is a perfect tool because of its sharp point; it gives a good grip on the eyeball and eyelids. The metal bits you see in the bottom of the frame is a rig that Lauren is sitting on; this makes it possible for the animator to manipulate the puppet up-and-down, forward and backward, very easily and precisely.
Hansen: Porter Young animated this scene where Lauren has taken Gene into the staff kitchen to see his selection of loose-leaf tea. Gene, who has promised a big donation to the radio station, has alternative motives. To get what he wants, he’s playing the flattering card, which works a treat on Lauren, and he is now doing his most to impress this warm, wise, and insightful man while trying to keep his “unprofessional” staff away from his cool new friend.
Porter has done an amazing job portraying the slightly flirty tension between Gene and Lauren while introducing the rest of the cast with a very varied performance, from Chase, a slightly naive frat boy, to Barb, who wants the meeting to go well but is also laser-focused on the check that Gene has promised them. While filming a shot, the animator quite often has to manipulate more than one character at one time, which means that they constantly need to keep track of all the characters and their different emotional states – also, you can see we have removed floor panels in the kitchen so the animator can get as close to the puppet as possible, this means less strain on your back reaching and therefore you can spend more energy on the character performance.
Hansen: Sequoyah Madison animated the bathroom scene from the Thanksgiving episode. They are all in the bathroom because that’s the only place in the office where you can see the Thanksgiving parade. Sequoyah beautifully displays the warm and tender relationship between Barb and Carl – it’s only been a short time since Barb’s husband was murdered, and while we have felt a certain chemistry between them throughout the episodes, they both kept an appropriate distance – this is the first time they touch as Barb helps Carl down from the toilet. All this while animating Sandy, whose manners and way of interacting with other people are on the stranger side of strange.
If you look carefully at the top of the toilet, you can see little holes. They are used to tie down the puppet to the floor or any other service they’re standing on so they don’t fall over. The animator is drilling a hole in the floor for every foot placement. The puppets are also touching each other in this shot, which is something that makes the whole shot much more complicated in the way that when you touch one puppet, the other would also move, and not necessarily in the direction you would like it to. On top of that, keeping the exact position of the hands is extremely labor-intensive.