Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s edition of No Such Thing As Reviews! Otherwise known as Noisy Supermarkets Technically Aren’t Reasonable. I’m Ryan Atkinson and every week here on No Such Thing As Reviews, we’ll be reviewing a plethora of pop culture and wonderful things! Independent comic books, T.V., movies and more! The reviews will consist of a brief overview of what we will be reviewing, a summary of the content (spoiler alert!!), my personal thoughts on the content including a rating out of 5 and whenever possible we will include an interview with the creators!
So last week we had taken a smalllllllll step away from comic books and instead we reviewed a comic strip. Not much of a difference, really..
But THIS week? Sheesh. It’s way, way, WAY different!
So since this isn’t a finished product this week’s review will be laid out a little bit differently than normal. Do I like the idea or do I think the idea is ridiculous? Would I back the project? And so on!
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Kickstarter, 9 times out of ten if you want your project to succeed, you should have a pitch video. Not all who are successful have them and not all who have them are successful but it for sure helps. The layout of Kickstarter pages puts this pitch video right at the top of the page. Directly to the right of that lists the creators funding goal, the funds raised so far and the deadline. Below the video is where the description of the project is and below the funding information is where the “perks” or “rewards” are listed. These are what the creators offer in return for people’s donations.
To start, I 100% do not think this project is ridiculous. I didn’t even have to read the description to be interested in it, the video did all that for me.
Prone Grove is an animated show. A cartoon. But it’s not JUST a cartoon. It looks like a FRIGGING GOOD cartoon.
It is set in the present day but there’s a big twist on it. Imagine a fantasy world, set years and years and years and a whole bunch of years ago. Orcs, elves and all manor of mythical medieval creatures are the common folk of the land. Now imagine they stuck around and are the common folk today.
The story centers around an Orc named Keygore and his friends Bloar The Gelatinous Cube, Ruinel The Dark Elf, Zooey The Zombie, Ronnie The Human and Hunter The Demon.
Keygore is that reality’s form of a geek. Lime many of us he plays battle based board games and collects all types of things. And like many of us, even though we are mostly wrong, he believes he was supposed to be born back in the days of knights and swords and great battles and that he would do well.
As mentioned, Keygore collects many things, one of those things is ancient artifacts. One day he stumbles across an artifact that gives him the chance to go back to the era he so longs for. Which he does and it backfires worse than my old Honda four-wheeler (Sarah and Cody know what I’m talking about), BADLY.
He has to gather up his friends to form a group to defeat the evils he unleashes and we follow them through these shenanigans in the series.
So like I said, I for sure like this project. As I’m sure a lot of you do, I still frequently watch cartoons. And I’m not talking just anime. I watch straight up cartoons like mad. Right now my binge watched cartoon of choice is re-watching through old episodes of the 90s Spider-Man series. So good..
So, anyway! As I was saying, this show seems to be something that should have already been made YEARS ago, like the story and the artwork are so great it should already be on T.V. We only get a little snippet of the voice acting in the Kickstarter video and it seems really smooth. I always pay attention to the V.O. work in shows because it’s something that I hope to have the privilege to do some day.
The artwork is amazing as well, it’s in 2-D animation which is great, it almost looks like Disney, Family Guy, Gravity Falls and Archer all made some sweet sweet love and Prone Grove’s art style is what became of it.
As of writing this article they still have 22 days left in their Kickstarter campaign with $1000 pledged so far. Their funding goal is $35,000 to get their project funded. With a product like what they are offering it should be a breeze for them to make it but all the same they need YOUR help! So click here <– to head on over to their Kickstarter page to make a pledge to help get them closer to their goal! You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and their website by following these links!
I had the pleasure of speaking with Curtis Rioux himself about his project and his process and you can find that interview below!
What got you started on this project?
“As an artist and writer, I’ve always had a side project on the go, often one in each medium haha, it was a way of keeping my creative juices flowing after a long day at the studio. When I left the video game industry in early 2014 I decided to pursue one of these projects. I went into freelance animation for Web/TV/Netflix to be able to avoid the contractual limitations of working in a studio and began focusing on one of my geeky, action packed animated concepts that eventually became Prone Grove!”
What was your favourite cartoon growing up and what is your favourite now?
“Growing up I was inspired by both cartoons and games. My favorite animated show then would have to be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The concept is, obviously, so strange and appealing, and also it had fantastic action and comedy for kids. It was because of shows like TMNT that I began drawing in the first place; and its because of the brilliant shows that I love today that I am inspired to create projects like Prone Grove. Fantastic series like Gravity Falls, Steven Universe, Bee and Puppycat, Rick and Morty. The list goes on, and many of them – like Prone Grove – started as a small pilot concept on the web. Their success stories are inspirational to me.”
What are the three most important things that you’ve done to get yourself where you are today?
” I lead my career in the direction of my goals. I have always used my career as a learning experience to push me forward. When I realized that Prone Grove has the potential that it does, I adjusted my career path and I went from video games back into animation to polish my skills. When I felt my background design was lacking I pushed for work in that field, when I felt my writing needed improvement I researched it, read as many books as possible and pursued work in that field. I have become an asset to any team I work in, just by having the ulterior motive of bettering myself for the benefit of my personal project.
Achieving a goal requires work, so I work my ass off. Great things come to those who get out there and earn them! I dont kill myself with work, of course – I balance it with things such as a weekly game night, and spending evenings with my son. But I have what some consider a sickening work ethic. Prone Grove has consumed almost 2 years of my life, Writing, designing, world building, art and animation, all done in the after hours of my paying work. All of this time and effort has come together in a single, simple, tight and cohesive pitch; And I take great pride in that.
I let people inspire me. I have noticed in my career that, to some, being inspired by others is faux pas, a cheesy thing that is lame to do. I am openly inspired by others. When I am having a slow day, when I hit the wall, I will go and watch Glen Keane talk about animation, I’ll watch Will Smith talk about the work he put in to further his career, I’ll watch Neil DeGrasse Tyson talk about space. It doesnt even have to be relevant to my specific goals, just seeing someone who is passionate, someone who is successful discuss what they love is moving to me. It makes me want to achieve my own goals. Never be intimidated by someones achievements, comparison is the thief of joy, just know that you can do it as well. (See what I meant about cheesy? Haha, but I love it.) ”
What were you like in school?
“Like many college students, my first year was rocky. Straight out of highschool, new experiences, lots of parties etc. However amongst all of that I was still focused on my work. Always trying to better myself and impress my professors, be it with my art or writing or acting. But it was when my son was born that my work really took off. I decided in that moment that I wanted to succeed not only for myself but for him. My art and animation improved significantly, I started working two retail jobs outside of school. I had planted the seed that grew into my work ethic today. All of this extra effort culminated in my first career gig – I started working as an artist and animator in the video game industry a full month before I graduated college, and by maintaining my work ethic I’ve been in a successful career ever since.
What made you decide to use Kickstarter for funding?
“For almost 2 years my close, industry professional friends and I have worked on Prone Grove. I have written scripts for a full 10 episode mini-series. Together we polished the first episode into a gem that we are all very excited and proud of. After all of this work and dedication, Crowdfunding will allow us to keep Prone Groves Pilot episode independently produced, and let us release it for free on the web for everyones enjoyment. I want to be able to keep all of the amazing people that have been helping me thus far and pay them properly for the work required to finalize this episode, togther with a small team of people I trust I believe Prone Grove will be the best it can possibly be.”
If you could only give only one piece of advice to aspiring creators, what would it be?
“If you want to create something, in any medium, you’ve already taken the right step. I can advise you to do your research, work on improving yourself, your art, your writing, your acting through study and application and all of this would be great advice. But there is one thing that not many people will tell you – Take care of yourself. Work in this career can be grueling. People in the general public often don’t understand how the long hours and the creative drain on the mind can be just as tiring as manual labor. You need to take care of yourself and your body – get 6 hours of sleep minimum, eat decent foods, keep up with your hygiene/dress in nice clothes, step away from your computer from time to time, stretch and go for a short walk. The work will always be there when you get back and if you do these small, simple things your mental state will improve, and you will be able to enjoy the fruit of your labor.”
Who was your hero growing up? Have they influenced in how you create at all?
“Of course, we are asked this in school several times as children, when I was really young I would have said Leonardo from TMNT, as I got older I would say people I know personally, an older artist friend of mine, my father, my cousin who introduced me to video games and who I thought the world of. I think in hind sight my hero was an amalgamation of all these people – someone who was kind, a leader, someone talented and artistic and open to learning and sharing alike. I like to think that I have adopted those traits as I’ve grown older, and that they have all lead to my passion for creating. Also John Lasseter cuz that dude and his career are the bomb, haha. ”
Besides Prone Grove, are you working on any other projects at the moment?
“In my entire artistic life I have always had multiple personal projects that I jump to and from. Many of them I believe have a lot of potential to be great, even to this day. But since the production of Prone Grove began they have all taken a back seat. It can be hard at times, especially on low inspiration days, but the focus has allowed me to take Prone Grove from a budding idea to what it is today. I do, however, still actively work as an animator on paying gigs, most recently an upcoming Netflix series called Kulipari: Army of Frogs, which I am particularly excited about being involved in. So I do get creative satisfaction from that source as well!”
Who is your intended audience?
“The show has evolved to a point where the comedy (visual and vocal), and the action/adventure are fun and broad enough that cartoon lovers of all ages will enjoy it! That being said, my core demographic will be Geeks ages 13 and up. Prone Grove has a strong basis in geek culture, a lot of its humor stems from table-top gaming references, but in a way that if you are not part of the niche community you will still appreciate comedy. If you like shows like The Guild, VGHS, Gravity Falls, Steven Universe and even Dragon Ball Z, then Prone Grove will be worth your time!”
What is your favourite snack food?
Do you ever suffer from writers block? If so how do you overcome it?
“I think anyone who writes experiences this from time to time. As an example, while writing the first season of Prone Grove I felt that one of my episodes was particularly lack-luster, no matter how I re-worked the components it just didnt feel right. I ended up getting over this hurdle by putting the episode aside completely and starting from scratch. Over the next few days I dug into my brain for inspiration from my real life and remembered a place that my friends and I used to go to play when we were children, an abandoned train tunnel that was bored through a mountain side. No spoilers, but this was enough of a spark to ignite the concept that became one of my favorite episodes. I guess the advice is, take your time, it will pass – and meanwhile try to inspire yourself with what you know, life experiences, even a small aspect of one, can be enough to bring back the creative flow.”
If you weren’t doing animation, what other job could you see yourself doing and enjoying?
“Music. I have been a guitarist and vocalist for 15 years, I wrote a couple of albums when I was younger and really loved playing live. For the past few years it has all fallen to the wayside – I play for fun as often as I can, but if my days were free I can see myself writing another album.”
For our readers who don’t yet know, Tara Audibert (from No Such Thing As Grown Ups) just so happens to have taught animation AND was in fact one of your teachers. What was Tara like as a teacher and how has she helped you on your quest of being an animator? (No pressure or anything.. 🙂 )
“Haha No pressure at all! I was part of Tara’s very first class when she began teaching, she was coming directly from the industry and at times she was tough on us, but in the best way. She not only taught us a great deal about art and animation, but also prepared us for working in the industry. At one point, when I had forgotten an assignment at home, and she “Fired” me. Making an open statement in front of the class that if this were to happen in the industry that I would no longer have a job. It was harsh, but in hind sight was an excellent tactic for teaching and learning. What she didn’t expect was for me to go and complete a second version of my project by the time the rest of the class was done presenting; and confidently present it to her and everyone else. I think I earned a bit of respect that day.”
What inspires you to create?
“I love to write, I love to draw and I love to entertain. The combination of these elements leads me to create. Its easy to think that an artistic career doesn’t compare to the heroics of a firefighter or a police officer, or the wonderment of space travel or scientific discoveries. But at the end of the day, when people need to relax and wind down – they pick up a book, they play a board game, they watch a film or a cartoon. Entertainment is key to society; and I love being able to entertain people. The best thing about it is I gain a ton of personal satisfaction from it. Seeing the reactions, hearing people laugh at the comedy, or cry at the weight of something I have created. It makes those hours of writing and animating worth while.”
Other than Prone Grove, what project are you most proud to have been a part of?
“I wrote, directed and animated a short film entitled “Novembers loss” in 2012 for the Movember video awards. Although it has aged a bit, I am still very proud of it. I spent the entire month of November creating it, with very little sleep. Not only did I learn a lot about producing your own animated content, it was also my first time writing and animating real emotion. I wanted to challenge myself, to put myself in the shoes of a man who is sick and dealing with the prospect of losing himself and his family. It was a pretty rough month but I am proud of the results. It can be found on my YouTube channel if anyone is interested in viewing it.”
What has been the biggest challenge in creating Prone Grove? And how have you/how are you overcome(ing) it?
“Again I feel the need to go a bit deeper than probably expected – So to be honest, the most difficult part of independently creating a project a large as an animated series, like Prone Grove, is that there is no guarantee for success. From time to time, over the past almost 2 years, it pops into my head, “What if this isn’t successful”. What if I have spent the last 2 years of my life pursuing something that doesn’t go anywhere. On the surface this is a worrisome concept; but I overcome it in multiple ways. Firstly, I need to trust myself, I am to this day supremely confident in this project, I believe it has a ton of potential and I know that with the proper funding I can create something action packed and funny and something I am extremely proud of. Secondly, If this project somehow isn’t successful, I have grown exponentially as an artist, writer, animator and a person through this process, and my next project is only going to top it because of that. Stay confident, stay positive and as Disney once said: Keep moving forward. ”
When did you know that creating was the path for you?
“I have, admittedly, never been one of those overly gifted, naturally talented artists. (You know, the ones that hammer out incredible work when they are 16 years old and you could just strangle them? Those ones) Of course, I had enough talent and passion to get me going – but my real strength was in developing my Skills. There is a difference between Talent and Skill that not many people realize. Talent develops naturally, from the way you’re taught, and raised, the things you are exposed to. Skill is only developed through hours and hours of work. I always knew with my talent for art and writing that I loved those things. But it wasn’t until I began developing those into skills, spending endless hours happily working on animations and scripts, that I realized creating things was the path I wanted to take in my life.”
Do you have any pre-creating rituals? If so what are they?
“When it comes to work, I usually just sit down and go straight into drawing. I will work my way into loosening up for the day. However, when it comes to creating something original I always have to write first. At a young age I got tired of staring, terrified of that blank white page, asking what should I draw? When you write something, when you start creating a world and characters and scenarios for them to be in, you will never ask “what should I draw” again, if anything you will have too much to draw!
Is there something that you really wanted to include in Prone Grove but had to cut from the show?
“When it comes to writing an episode, the first pass always contains great stuff. I had a ton of gags, cutaways, one liners, some action shots, original story content. A lot of it that I really loved. The first pass script of the Pilot episode of Prone Grove and the current script are not only two completely different episodes, in many ways they are completely different shows. In the beginning it was really difficult for me to let these things go – and for a long time it stunted the growth of the show. Eventually I realized that being able to let go for the benefit of the show is a good thing – and the final script for the Pilot episode is so much better because of it. Its extremely funny and has lots of action and geeky humor as well, I cant wait for you all to see it.”
This final question might gain you some backers but it also might scare some away. Star Trek or Star Wars and why? ‘Both’ is not an acceptable answer 🙂
“I’m a geek, I’ve had this discussion before of course! Haha, and I always got past it by saying Star Trek on Television, Star Wars in film, they are two different monsters – and they are both amazing and lovable. If I were forced to pick one, I would have to say Star Wars. I will forever be a Trekkie, but just for instance when you watch the trailer for the new Star Wars film, the emotional rise you get from it, that can’t be matched.
Thanks NSTAGU! You are all amazing and until we chat again, Keep Rolling!!
I’d like to send a big thanks to Curtis for speaking with me. I wish him the best with his Kickstarter campaign and I can’t wait to see the finished product.
If you are a creator and would like to see your work reviewed by us you can email me directly at email@example.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!
And thank you all for reading! If anyone has any suggestions for next week’s alternate acronym (N.S.T.A.R.) please comment your suggestion below 🙂
I’ve been Ryan Atkinson and I’ll see you next week!
And remember.. There’s No Such Thing As Reviews!