NYCC 2016: Adult Swim’s DREAM CORP LLC

Have you made your appointment with Dream Corp LLC yet? The mind-bending new series from creator Daniel Stessen is currently admitting new patients every Sunday night at 11:45pm on Adult Swim. Starring Jon Gries (Napoleon Dynamite), Stephen Merchant (“The Office”, “Hello Ladies”), Nick Rutherford (Balls Out, “Drunk History”) and a host of guest stars, the series follows a strip mall clinic that uses advanced technology to invade its patients dreams in order to solve their real life problems. At New York Comic Con this year, the Adult Swim panel was treated to the first two episodes of Dream Corp which blend live action sci-fi and trippy rotoscope animation.

Accompanying the new series to NYCC was creator Stessen with stars Gries, Rutherford and Merchant (who also serves as an executive producer on the show). I sat down with them to talk about this new addition to the Adult Swim lineup.

How did you develop Dream Corp?

Daniel Stessen: I had the concept, been developing it for a while, and created this world and kind of came over to Steve for a little guidance as to how to make it more palatable to a larger audience. Being that he has some–

Stephen Merchant and Daniel Stessen

Stephen Merchant: I think he’s being immodest–or he’s being too modest, I should say, that’s not right. Too modest. I was there as just a friend of Danny’s…to do a voice for this robot [T.E.R.R.Y] that’s in the show and inevitably whenever there’s anything creative going on, I like to start meddling, and just offering thoughts. And we started talking more and more. And it was just for me, it was something I would have done as a friend anyway…but I just thought, you know, let’s try to screw these guys for some money. (Both laugh)

Stessen: And the robot, we love the robot, he was built by Jim Henson Studios…That was one of the more validating moments of my last ten years on Earth, just getting that call that they were on board to build Terry the robot.

Merchant: There’s a really strong visual sense to the whole thing, again largely down to Danny. He’s just got an incredible visual imagination. And so you see that both in the real world–where you see this kind of twisted, eccentric sort of laboratory– and then also when you enter that dream world. And that’s done with the rotoscope animation. When you go on the set, it’s you know, it’s bits of cardboard and people with fake cardboard wings and cardboard jaws and things. All of which is going to eventually going to be animated but which only [Danny] can really see. So a lot of people I think are just stood there and like ‘you want me to what? I’m drowning in spaghetti now?’ And he’s like ‘Trust me.’ So it’s sort of extraordinary, an extraordinary kind of vibe there. Wouldn’t you say people were confused [on set]?

Stessen: It’s just, when people would walk on when we were shooting the dream world stuff, people would walk into an empty room and I would just be like ‘this is going to feel super weird, just trust me, it going to look real cool.’

Can you speak about your characters?

Nick Rutherford and Jon Gries

Nick Rutherford: I play patient 88–
Jon Gries: Nick!
Rutherford: Yeah, Nick as well, who comes to the office to work on erectile dysfunction and pretty quickly realizes that the office itself is kind of dysfunctional.
Gries: What happens is that he has to work for us because he can’t pay for his procedure
Rutherford: Yeah I can’t pay for the procedure and you think that it’s a confidence issue and I don’t have a job so you say–
Gries: A job?
Rutherford: Why don’t you work here? And I’m like this is a terrible place, but I kind of go along with the flow.
Gries: So he’s really the eyes of the audience. Because obviously he’s come into this place that is so–well from some perspectives, would be ridiculous and crazy. It’s not from my perspective.
Rutherford: It’s your life’s work.
Gries: It’s my life’s work. Dr. Roberts has this vision that this is the most transforming and necessary procedure but he’s lost his funding. So now he’s working out of a strip mall because he believes and he knows that it’s working. He knows that he’s changing people’s lives. There’s a little problem here and there but–
(Both laugh)
Rutherford: There’s a lot of problems.
Gries: There’s a couple of bugs that get worked out of the system. But it could be because the system’s really old and we haven’t had the money to update it.
Rutherford: And I think Nick, Patient 88, comes into it and kind of sees a family forming. Because everybody trusts and loves each other. Like there’s, Stephanie Allen plays Joey, his protégé–
Gries: My intern for nine years. No pay!
Rutherford: (laughs) Yeah, Nine year intern. Who loves him and obviously thinks he’s the most brilliant guy ever and he just does not give her the time of day. And Mark Proksch plays kind of the navigator of sorts, I don’t know if you know his work–
Gries: He’s amazing. And he doesn’t ever leave the building. For fifteen years he doesn’t leave the building.
Rutherford: So he’s incredible. And then [Ahmed Bharoocha] plays kind of the nurse and he’s just this big stoner who doesn’t even really care. So Everybody relies on each other in a nice way. So the meat of the story is us working together and growing together and me being thrown into this world. And it being very dangerous, but also fun. And then bringing in these amazing guest stars and throwing them into that.
Gries: He gets attacked by June Squibb at one point. She stabs him.
Rutherford: Yeah she stabs me in the neck with a a screw driver. I’m kind of like the Kenny, I get hurt a lot. (both laugh)

Have you ever had a weird celebrity dream like with [episode one guest star] Dave Coulier?

Rutherford: Yeah that was really surreal.
Gries: I did, I had a weird celebrity dream. I was very nervous, I was about to do a movie years ago and I dreamt that I was in a barbershop. And I was sitting and the man sitting in the next chair was Fred Astaire.
Rutherford: Really?
Gries: True story. And he looks at me and he goes, “Are you worried about something?” And I said “I’m just a little uncomfortable” And he said “Have fun. Just have fun.” I swear to god! And that was like two days before I started shooting Fright Night Part 2.
Rutherford: Have fun out there.

What was it like working with the rotoscope animation?

Dream Corp LLC/Adult Swim

Rutherford: It’s really fun because everything is so grand. You know it’s like now you’re falling off of a hot air balloon, or now you’re running away from your bullies in high school. So you’re playing these large characters, so you just kind of jump into it. Like, I remember thinking when I was very young and being an actor, how it must be really hard to shoot like Jurassic Park when you’re in front of a green screen and then they’re like “and THAT’S a velociraptor” and you’re like “ahhh!” I didn’t feel that at all during the production that that those scenes were difficult thing to do. Because they’re just so silly and fun and you’re wearing kind of a half costume so they can animate it later. Like I’m dressed up like Legolas–
Gries: And literally it was sometimes it was pieces of cardboard, you have cardboard on you almost like a really bad–
Rutherford: Like a play
Gries: Like a kid’s play. But you know it’s all for reference and they’re gonna draw on top of it. And the thing is, knowing how beautiful the animation is also gives you the impetus that when you’re in it, you understand what it’s going to look like, so it helps, it augments. Whatever decision or choice you’re going to make, you can go further with it because you just have that confidence behind that animation. It’s almost like ‘pay no attention to me, it wont be the real me, it will be a better me.’

Stessen: The inspiration came from working with his name’s Michael Garza [of Artbelly Productions] out of Austin, Texas. He worked on A Scanner Darkly, and then a couple other guys on the crew are Scanner Darkly. And one of the woman who was an animator on Waking Life. Which I’m a huge fan of. I saw Waking Life a while back and watched it over and over and over again. Huge inspiration. And we made a short film together that did well in festivals and kind of, we started developing that style in trying to evolve it and I think we’re pushing it forward a little bit and figuring out that we can build things out of cardboard. And make a dragon face. Because all he has to do is draw what’s there. Not that’s all he has to do–his job is to draw what’s there. So we could draw you [all] here and now you’re on a volcano, you know what I mean? So it gives us a lot of flexibility and the fact that with where we are, with little funds, we could do a ton.

What can viewers expect for the rest of the series?

Gries: Surprise after surprise after surprise. I’m not kidding you, it’s different every time!
Rutherford: Yeah it really is. I mean there’s this kind of thread of these different guest stars coming in and getting their therapy as our relationship progresses and as the interrelationships between Joey and Ahmed and…Randy–Randy’s arm gets cut off (laughs)–
Gries: There are things that happen, there’s a continuity within the core group and yet at the same time it’s absolutely ridiculous what happens–but it still stays, it still answers that continuity. And yet the people that come, the patients that come, their stories individually are so different from week to week that it just gives us a whole other area to run through.
Rutherford: yeah There’s like a couples therapy–a gay couple comes in to get like couples therapy. June squibb comes in to quit smoking but then finds out that really just she just wants to have sex.
Gries: And have a baby–and she’s never had sex in her life.
Rutherford: So Roberts appeases that in the dream world–
Gries: You know he says, it’s been a while!

Dream Corp LLC is on tonight and every Sunday on Adult Swim at 11:45pm, with the premiere episode currently streaming at AdultSwim.com

For photos from Adult Swim and many more NYCC panels, make sure to check out our Facebook page!

 

Blu-ray Review “Walt Disney Animation Studios Shorts Collection”

Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Run Time: 79 minutes

Shorts: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

We all know that everyone buying this Blu-ray would be mostly for “Frozen Fever”, one of Disney’s biggest hits ever. Honestly, it is an amazing short and we have easily watched it ten times already. The new song is easily one of the best song Disney has ever created. Other than “Frozen Fever”, this Blu-ray contains two never before released on video shorts including “Tick Tock Tale”, and “Lorenzo”. “Paperman” is one of my favorite shorts…probably ever, same goes for “Tangled Ever After”, which is full of laughs and “Feast”, which definitely gets a smile on your face. I can easily watch this shorts over and over.

Official Premise: From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes an extraordinary new collection of award-winning and beloved short films featuring Disney’s Frozen Fever, starring Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Sven and Kristoff, and the Oscar®-nominated Lorenzo (Best Animated Short, 2004). The Short Films Collection includes contemporary shorts starring classic characters, such as the groundbreaking 2013 Mickey Mouse cartoon, Get A Horse! And the holiday treat Prep & Landing: Operation: Secret Santa, as well as celebrated Oscar winners Paperman (2012) and Feast (2014). Enjoy them together for the first time in this must-own collection with all-new extras including an inside look at the Disney Animation shorts, featuring introductions and interviews with the acclaimed filmmakers themselves.

Here are the complete list of the short films included: “Frozen Fever” (2015), originally premiered with “Cinderella”; “Feast” (2014), originally premiered with “Big Hero 6”. “Get A Horse!” (2013), originally premiered with “Frozen”; “Paperman” (2012), originally premiered with “Wreck it Ralph”; “Tangled Ever After” (2012), originally premiered with “Beauty and the Beast 3D”; “The Ballad of Nessie” (2011), originally premiered with “Winnie the Pooh”; “Tick Tock Tale (2010)”, previously unreleased; “Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa” (2010), originally premiered on ABC TV; “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater” (2007), originally premiered with “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”; “The Little Matchgirl” (2006), originally premiered with “The Little Mermaid Platinum Edition DVD”; Lorenzo (2004), originally premiered with “Raising Helen”; and lastly “John Henry” (2000), originally premiered in “Disney’s American Legends”.

Disney delivered a great release with a combo pack including a Blu-ray + DVD and digital HD copy. The 1080p transfer is flawless as expected from Disney. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is also amazing especially with Paperman’s score and Frozen Fever’s song. There are a few bonus features for nothing great. There are intros from the filmmakers before each short but they are like 30 seconds each and don’t give much info at all. There is also an interview with “Big Hero 6” star T.J. Miller. Lastly there is a final short film, “Runaway Brain” starring Mickey Mouse…but it is only available online using the Disney Movies Anywhere app or website.

Blu-ray Review “Persona 4: The Animation, Collection 2”

Directed by: Seiji Kishi
Distributed by: Sentai Filmworks
Rated: Unrated
Release Date: January 15, 2013
Run Time: 365 minutes

Part 2: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

“Persona 4: The Animation” is based on the “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4” video game (one of my favorites).  This collection of episodes concludes the 26 episodes developed for this show. The beginning of this animation series introduced the show and got into the heart of the story but these episodes are where the shit just crazy leading up to the intense finale. This is the type of show that I feel that I revisit and and tune in to the Midnight Channel very often. Here is our review of Collection 1.  Thanks to Sentai for not delaying to long and releasing Collection 2 so quickly. Though I have to admit though, I hope that they continue the “Persona” series in anime format since I absolutely love this franchise.

Official Synopsis: The mystery of the murders seems to have been solved, but the riddle of the Velvet Room and the lethal Midnight Channel is an enigma that Yu and the other students who form the Investigation Team still have to crack. And that’s to say nothing of the question of how their powers of Persona work in the first place, and how the fictional Teddie can exist in the real world. As conundrums wrap in conundrums, and the school year burns inexorably towards a blistering summer, the team must prepare for the most deadly challenge yet while still pretending to lead normal high school lives. But that won’t be easy under the evil eye of their new homeroom teacher. And when Detective Shirogane reenters the game with new information about irregularities in the police investigation and clues that may lead to an entirely different conclusion; both team and detective find themselves playing the role of prey once more! The body count is on the rise, the Shadows attack and new Persona are about to ascend as the Midnight Channel launches the ultimate cancellation program in the grand finale of PERSONA4!

The Blu-ray presentation on par with the Collection 1. The animation looks just as vibrant and sharp with  each 1080p transfer on the episodes. The audio track works good as well with its DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and does a good job of delivering the scale of this fantastic finale. Like in Collection 1, there is no original Japanese language track.  There is just English dub available, not the fault of Sentai though. Unfortunately unlike the episodes, there is not much in special features department.  Basically the only extra is the clean opening and closing animation sequences. Still a good feature but not enough to leave you satisfied. Lastly, there are trailers for other recent/upcoming Sentai titles.

Blu-ray Review “Persona 4: The Animation, Collection 1”

Directed by: Seiji Kishi
Distributed by: Sentai Filmworks
Rated: Unrated
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Run Time: 300 minutes

Episodes: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

After spending countless hours playing my PlayStation 2 copy of “Persona 4”. I knew that I was dying for more “Persona”. When I heard there was an Anime of the show being released in the US and dubbed, I was all over that. This show is everything I could have wanted and more it really captures the essence of the franchise. All I can ask is…where is part 2? You got that Sentai?

When Yu Narukami moves to the country town and looking for the peace and quiet change that is not available from being in the big city. When he start’s realizing that his uncle’s job as a police detective begins to spill over into his own life. He is finding that the murders that are occurring across town are somehow linked to Yu’s own experiences. Together with a new group of friends, Yu must plunge into a bizarre alternate reality where he gains unique abilities that will either help him solve the riddle of the mystery killer, or lead him to his doom.

The Blu-ray presentation is top-notch. The animation looks beautiful and crisp with its 1080p transfers. The audio track is also decent even though it is only DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. It still manages to deliver the goods. The main issue with the audio is that there is no original Japanese language track (not the fault of Sentai though), which is sure to upset many fans (not me though).

The special features included on this set are slim but worth checking out for sure. I should first point out that the Japanese edition of this collection included commentaries that are not found on this release. There is an episode 1 director’s cut and on-air versions included. There are also clean opening and closing animation sequences. Lastly, there are trailers for other great Sentai titles.

Chris Butler & Sam Fell talk about directing “ParaNorman” and working with stop-motion animation

Chris Butler & Sam Fell are the co-directors of Laika Animation’s latest stop-motion animation film “ParaNorman”.  The film is the first stop-motion film to utilize a 3D color printer to create replacement faces for its puppets and breaks all the boundaries which past stop-motion films have faced.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with the directors about working in the horror genre and blending it with stop-motion animation.

Mike Gencarelli: I am a big stop-motion fan but I see a trend with “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, Coraline” and “ParaNorman” all tend to have creepy aspects, why and do you you feel this aspect relates to stop motion?
Chris Butler: I think is the tradition of the medium. If you trace it back to its early days, in the 1890’s the very first efforts in stop-motion were creepy. “The Dancing Skeleton” was one of the first back in 1897. I think what it comes down to is they feature inanimate objects moving on their own accord, which in itself is something like black magic going on there. If you look at the pioneers of this medium, there was a certain creepiness to them. There has always been that slightly unsettling side of it. I believe it is entirely to do with it being real objects moving. When Tim Burton comes along and re-invents with with “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, he is playing on that and having fun with that slightly dark sense of humor. I don’t think it should be the limitation of the medium by any means. “ParaNorman” is kind of spooky but I think there shouldn’t be any real limits to the kind of stories you can tell with stop-motion.

MG: This is the first stop-motion film to utilize a 3D color printer to create replacement faces for its puppets, tell us about about that decision?
Sam Fell: Obviously these things aren’t designed for stop-motion animation. You are always taking a chance. We wanted to do something different on this film. They got a color printer in the studio and we did some experiments with it initially with the character Neil, who is covered in  freckles. When we saw it on the tested it big screen it just looked so promising. It was one of those spine-tingling moments, when you see something you’ve never seen before. We didn’t know if it was going to work on all the characters or if it would literally last over a two year production. We took a risk and went for it but it really turned out so well. When you see how the light fall on those faces or comes through them. I think the characters look less like dolls and are even more tangible and believable.

MG: I read that Norman alone has about 8,000 faces, how does that compare from other stop-motion films?
SF: I think with the numbers of faces, it has increased exponentially. I think Norman had a possible 1.5 million expressions at hand. We would never even use all of them since I don’t even think the human face can use that many expression. But that was at our finger tips. So pretty much whatever we wanted to do with this character we were able to do. It was really freeing because in the past stop-motion has had it limitations. There was replacement heads as far back as “The Nightmare Before Christmas” but they had to be hand-sculpted, so they were limited. Pretty much every limitation has been blown up on this movie. The boundaries in place of previous stop-motion movies, we broke them all. That was how we felt going into this. We thought let’s push this as far as we can and see what we can achieve. Everything we tried to do…it worked.

MG: The film is animated for a younger audience but is quite scary for some kids, how can you reflect?
SF: I think we wanted to make a family movie more than a kids movie. Something aimed at the teens or actually “tweens”. It is about an 11 year old boy and reflects their lives on screen. We wanted laughs, as well as scares and in a way it is like designing a roller coaster ride. We actually think that kids like scares. It is firstly entertaining and it also adds in a dramatic story. The hero, in this case a kid, has real challenges. You take them through it and show the darkness can be defeated. I think it makes for a great ride. We didn’t want to wimp out on the scares. We may loose the toddlers or the preschoolers but that is the risk you take. It is very hard to make a film for everybody…without being bland.
CB: We were specifically referencing an era of movie making that I think was a little braver. The movie that I grew up watching like “The Goonies” and “Ghostbusters”. They weren’t afraid to have scares and show an imperfect world. But they did it with humor and style. I miss those movies and I feel that they are also sorely missed by many people. So it was nice to play in that era again. Even though it was a contemporary movie, it was very much referenced by the films of the 80’s.

MG: I loved the Easter eggs for horror fans like the hockey mask and ringtone, any other hidden gems?
CB: The movie is so dripped with references that I don’t even known where to start. It is not just stuff that was in the script. I wrote in the bar in touch is called the Bargento, in reference to the old Italian movies. The name of Neil’s dead dog is Bub, which is the name of the tamed zombie in “Day of the Dead”. Most of the characters surnames are either horror movie directors or writers, even if they do not appear in the movie. On top of that we have a whole crew of movie fanatics, who were responsible for making the props and locations. They stick all kinds of stuff in there as well. It is difficult to even pin-point how much there is actually in there. Sam’s name even ended up on the old tramps underpants [laughs].
SF: I didn’t ask for that by the way [laughs].

Book Review “The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation”

Author: Ken A. Priebe
Paperback: 329 pages
Publisher: Course Technology PTR
Release Date: June 17, 2010

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I have always been a huge fan of stop-motion animation, since I saw the film “The Nightmare Before Christmas” back in 1993. Since then there has been many more films like “Coraline” that have be made in this fantastic field. I also grew up watching Rankin/Bass specials like “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” and “The Year Without Santa Clause”. Click here to read our interview with Arthur Rankin Jr. I just have always been fascinated with animation in general. Be sure to check out the amazing foreword from stop-action legend Henry Selick (“The Nightmare Before Christmas” & “Coraline”).

This book provides a very in-depth look at the art and techniques of stop-motion animation. The obvious aim for this book is more of a teaching tool, then casually viewing but nonetheless it is very informative as well as education. It is also not only to new learners but also helps experienced stop-motion artists explore different methods and new advanced technology used by major film studios today. 2012 actually brings a swarm of stop-motion films including “Pirates! Band of Misfits” and Paranorman” hitting theaters.

Other aspects covered in this book contains the basic principles of animation, focus on status including information on camera rigs, effects, and shooting stop-motion in stereoscopic 3D. There is even focus on puppet design and computer models for stop-motion productions. I personally really enjoyed the thorough history of early feature-length stop-motion films. Overall this book will have something for all different types of artists who are still supporting this format and are behind its revival in today’s history.  The book overall is also very conversational and easy to read, which makes me recommend this book very highly for all people in the animation field.