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INTERVIEW: Carnival Cartoons’ Garnet and Jared

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As you might now know, Carnival Cartoons (Jared Deal and Garnet Syberg-Olsen) recently released their first, independently produced, figure - Buzz Carney.  We discussed the future plans and past influences of the guys responsible for The Carneys.

What exactly is Carnival Cartoons and who is involved with this venture?

Garn: Well, Carnival Cartoons is a company that Jared and I formed after we met in 1999/2000 while working at MTV animation in New York City. We have similar tastes when it comes to cartoons, and also similar drawing styles so it seemed like a good fit. We also found that we work really well together so we decided to partner up and form a company so we could start pitching our own show ideas. After the show we were working on at MTV didn’t get a second season…I headed Back to Vancouver where I’m from, and Jared stayed in the Big Apple, but we have continued to work together since then by phone, email, ftp etc. and with the odd trip back and forth. So…in a sense we are a “virtual animation studio”. Right now its exciting times for us, because we’re heading in a whole new direction creatively with the whole vinyl toy production thing. Its pretty cool because we’ve developed a huge library of original animation related content that really lends itself to toys…and it interesting to see the big players in animation are starting to think in the same way…what with the recent purchase of a stake in Kidrobot by WildBrain Animation Studio.

Jared: Yeah, it’s cool though because we don’t actually need a studio space, where we both physically can sit at a computer side by side (although that would be the dream situation). We’ve been able to crank out heaps of work on our own projects, and for other clients working remotely. Ya gotta love the interweb!

Your artwork and humor reminds me a lot of Ren and Stimpy.  Who and what influenced you and your artwork?

Jared: Crap...we have sooo many influences.  There are so many great artists out there now; it seems like every day we discover someone new who just blows us away.  Yeah, you're right one of our biggest would have to be Kricfalusi & well, pretty much any other ex-Spumco artist...Jim Smith, Bill Wray, Katie Rice, Chris Reccardi, Gabe Swarr, Fred Osmond, Stephen DeStephano…the list goes on. Other big influences...Mary Blair, Tim Biskup, Gary Baseman, Gendy, Craig McCracken, Craig Kellman, Tex Avery, Jeff Soto, Dave Cooper, Chris Prynowski, Aaron Augeblick. And some new finds...Nick Cross, Todd Kauffman, Joel Trussell, any one from the Meathaus crew (Zach Baldus, Easo, etc.).  We could go on for days!

Garn: For sure! Jared’s right… its like you find new animation artists all the time that are so good it makes you want to cut off your hands and give up drawing! Blogger is a great way to see stuff you just wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise. It’s so easy for artists to post stuff and give you peek into their world. I also like to look outside of animation for inspiration. There are so many great painters, illustrators, and designers out there that really get me worked up. J. Otto Siebold, Michael Bartalos, Melinda Beck, Ragnar, Calef Brown, Kirsten Ulve, Evan Hecox, Jim Flora, Lane Smith, Rod Filbrandt, The Clayton bros., Jeff Kleinsmith, Gary Taxali, Stuart Davis, M. Sasek…seriously this interview could just turn into a list of influences.

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Are there plans for any of your shows to hit television?

Garn: Well, we’ve come pretty close a few times! Most recently with
Cartoon Network. We had a development deal with them for one of our
show ideas called “Bitz & Pieces”. That show was centered around
these 2 little dudes that were made of bits and pieces of garbage. They live in a radioactive landfill (called Landfillville) where everything is “recomposing” instead of decomposing. It’s kickass funny and full of
all these crazy garbage characters…but after a year and a bit of working with CN we didn’t get the pickup from the network for whatever reason. Too bad…it’s a really great idea! But that’s how it goes…on to
the next one!

Jared: We have a few shows in development now with various studios.
"Flakes", a toon idea we created that features cereal & breakfast
mascots (or "cerealebrities") who live in the sweetest place on earth
(Breakfastown), is in development with an outfit called Studio B
Productions.  We're also currently working independently on an
11-minute short for another one of our properties called "Horse & Buggy".  It’s also a really funny one! The show is about a super hero
horse & his sidekick horsefly who fight crime in a fictitious town
called Heartland.  Everything in Heartland is a little slower paced,
and the biggest crime in town is pie thievery. You can view all of
these shows & artwork as well as a few promos on our website
(www.carnivalcartoons.com) in the "animation" section.

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I saw the Kaiju Beasts teaser image on your site.  Will you be
working with the folks at Kaiju Big Battel to put out an animated
version of the show?

Jared: It's definitely a project we'd like to get back to soon.
Kaiju Big Battel is definitely an inspiration.  The teaser image was
actually a banner we printed up for them to use at one of their
shows in Philly a few years back.  But our idea is independent of them.
It’s still a bun in the oven though, and when we do get back to working
on Kaiju, the characters will all have to be redesigned.  We think
we're gonna kind of work the Super Friends angle which is just
hilarious to us for some unexplainable reason.

Garn: I just like it cuz if I’m not mistaken “kaiju” means “beast”
or “beasts”…so the show is really called “beast beasts”…weird.

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You chose The Carneys as the object of your first toy line.  Why did you go that route?

Jared: Well, although we love all of our shows, "The Carneys" just
seems like the most marketable especially for the outsider art/designer vinyl toys community.  The line appeals to everyone from
carnival lovers, to tattoo nuts, to skate kids, to rockstars, to
presidents. Although in the future we plan to do more animation tie-ins
(commercials /shorts) it is the only property we have that kinda stands
strong even w/o the animation backing it.  It's a toy line we can see
people buying just for the simple fact that the toys are just plain
cool.

Garn: Yeah…I guess we are just huge fans of that old carnival
stuff…we want the Carneys toy line to just be a celebration of the
freaks and geeks that used to be commonplace on the carnival midway.
Yes, we did develop it at first to be an animated series, so all the
characters have a back story, and they relate to each other in some
way. But Jared is right…ultimately the line of toys will stand on its
own, because each character is recognizable as a sort of typical or
iconic sideshow freak.

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Are there any other shows that you have created which you feel might lend themselves to the vinyl toy platform?

Jared: Both "Bitz & Pieces" and "Horse & Buggy" are shows we'd like to see as a toy lines in the future.

Garn: If I had to pick…I would love to see "Bitz & Pieces" go into
production as a toy line next. The way we imagine it…all the figures
would have interchangeable garbage parts that you could mix and match.
Sort of like garbage Mister Potato Head for adults!

Buzz is your first figure.  What has the response been to him so far?

Jared: People are eating him up, which is a pleasant surprise.  As
long as you guys keep buying 'em, we'll keep making 'em!  He's
available now at all of our favorite toy stores, which makes us
happy.  It's so cool to wander in a store and see your toy up on the
shelves right next to a Biskup or Baseman or Camille Rose Garcia.

Garn: Yep, sales are going really well.  To be honest we haven’t
really advertised or pushed the toy too much and we’re moving ‘em
pretty quick.  I think people are digging the fact that we just
said…lets do it…and then we made some toys! Its fun because we’re just
doing it on our own terms.

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Out of all of the characters in The Carneys, why did you choose Buzz as the first to be produced as a toy?

Jared: Again, he seemed like the most marketable.  We're toying
around with different tattoo options for a possible variant.  We even
played around with the idea of a blank version ala Dunny/Munny letting
other artists interpret their ideas for tattoos using buzz as a
canvas.  Maybe we'll do a contest or something. Who knows?

Garn: To us, it seemed like something nobody had done with a toy
yet. Tattoos are super cool, and a pretty damn sweet art form in
themselves. We just thought people would get into a toy with a little
ink, and it would be a cool figure to launch the line.

I wasn’t sure how the figure would stand at first (being a big guy with short legs) but I was pleasantly pleased that he is perfectly balanced.  Was quality control important when producing an independent toy?

Jared: Yes, although the overseas company we were dealing with was
quite fantastic.  For our first toy, things went surprisingly smooth.
We think we just had the right people involved.  Thanks Eric Nocella
& Erick Chatel!  Quality control was a big issue.  There's nothing
worse than getting a toy home outta the box and having it topple
over.  Buzz stands perfectly straight and sturdy, even on those puny
legs.  You can thank our sculptor Mr. Nocella for that.

Garn: Many thanks to the two E’s!

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I know that you have plans for other figures in the line.  Do you have a set schedule of characters yet?

Jared: We are planning to do seven more figures but no schedule is
set in stone.  Next to launch is either gonna be pierce The Human
Pin-Cushion
or Harriet the Horrendously Hairy Housewife.  Stay tooned.

Garn: The next one goes into production when we break even on Buzz!
Haha! No seriously…keep buying ‘em up people! Haha! Thanks for the
press Plastic and Plush…much appreciated!

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Details for purchasing “Buzz Carney the Tattooed Strongman” can be
found at http://carnivalcartoonsblog.blogspot.com. Check out nore work
by Jared & Garnet at www.carnivalcartoons.com. Contact them by
email at garnet@carnivalcartoons.com, or jared@carnivalcartoons.com.

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