SHADOWMACHINE PUTS BIG DOT ON PORTLAND MAP
Watching Saturday morning cartoons on TV is so yesterday. Viewers have gone beyond FX and TBS, as well as the Cartoon Network, Netflix and Amazon. YouTubeRed is where it's at today, says Alex Bulkley of ShadowMachine, a leading animation production studio with an office in Portland.
The online YouTube Red, a streaming service segment of YouTube.com, has given ShadowMachine and its newest show, "Dallas & Robo," a great opportunity, getting set to launch the show about space truckin' on May 30.
ShadowMachine has an impressive track record with the likes of "Robot Chicken" and "BoJack Horseman," and Bulkley expects to enjoy similar success with "Dallas & Robo."
"What we got is the biggest and baddest platform in YouTube Red," says Bulkley, a co-founder/owner of ShadowMachine and executive producer of the new show. "It's similar to what we did with 'BoJack Horseman' on Netflix, where it was the first animated comedy. This is our shot to do the first animated comedy for YouTube Red. It was a big coup, big project, good partnership."
ShadowMachine has partnered with WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), which helped forge the career of John Cena, a co-star in "Dallas & Robo." Says Bulkley: "There's this idea that we'll have as big or bigger an audience than shows we do with Netflix or Amazon. This is a new frontier."
And Portland has been a new frontier for ShadowMachine, as the studio expanded to its location on Northwest 22nd Avenue from its headquarters in Los Angeles. The second studio has been open for about 2 1/2 years, serving as another place to create stop-motion animation. Other than voice-overs and writing, all work on "Dallas & Robo" has taken place at the Portland studio; the company has done work for several shows here.
"What attracted us to Portland was the talent pool. We knew there were some incredible artists here for storyboarding and designing," Bulkley says. "The state of Oregon has been really receptive with its incentives program. It's been very effective in how we compete among other studios.
"And it's a beautiful West Coast city that has an undeniable quality of life, an antidote to New York or Los Angeles, a great place to raise your family and have a career in filmmaking."
Originally from the San Francisco Bay area, Bulkley, his wife and two daughters live in Portland "and we couldn't be happier."
And the company, which Bulkley founded with Corey Campodonico in 1999, couldn't be happier with how "Dallas & Robo" has turned out. It stars Kat Jennings as (the voice-over of) sassy space trucker Dallas and Cena as cowboy hat-wearing Al Robo, as they try to make a few dollars in the seedy world of interplanetary big-rigging while navigating their way through cannibal bikers and rival space truckers.
Other guest voices are from Jane Lynch, Giancarlo Esposito, Taran Killam, Clancy Brown, Nat Faxon, Dana Synder, Bree Williamson and Milana Vayntrub.
"It's such a fun one. I'm really proud of this particular show," Bulkley says. "It's an amazing mashup of genres, as we've got truck driving and race car driving set in this backdrop of outer space."
Jennings and Cena have bonded doing the voice-overs.
"It's truly a buddy comedy, and Kat and John found a chemistry that is undeniable," Bulkley says. "When they first met and started performing, you could tell it's going to be fun and funny. The ensemble cast that came on board is a testament to the really strong writing and very unique baseline concept that people haven't seen — truckers in space, and what happens when the space traffic takes you to outposts like the Old West, where you have bikers, sheriffs and interplanetary shenanigans. It's a wildly creative romp into the more familiar buddy comedy storylines.
"It's an animated comedy with all these really unique components ... that's what makes it exciting for us, getting to make this stuff that the audience has never seen before."
Technically speaking, it's a hybrid 2D/3D animated show, he says, "a new pipeline for us" that YouTube Red embraces — big-format 3D animation combined with 2D cartoon aesthetics.
Meanwhile, "BoJack Horseman" has been given another season on Netflix, while ShadowMachine earlier had passed on production of "Robot Chicken," a mainstay on Cartoon Network, to another company.
ShadowMachine has TV, commercial, film and music video projects. Among the other past and present shows are "Final Space" (TBS), "The Shivering Truth" (Adult Swim), "Highly Gifted" (Snapchat), "Jeff & Some Aliens" (Comedy Central), "Mary Shelley's Frankenhole" (Adult Swim), "Greatest Party Stories Ever" (MTV), "Titan Maximum" (Cartoon Network), "Triptank" (Comedy Central) and "Moral Orel" (Cartoon Network).
"I'm in my mid-40s, and with a lot of what's happening you think about traditional MTV, Comedy Central, FX and TBS, and we do lots of them," Bulkley says. "But you have an audience that is enormous, and the younger millennial is not turning to cable. It's turning to giants like YouTube Red. If you want to put out meaningful content, you turn to YouTube Red. This is a perfect example of a big show on a new format; it's the biggest audience in the world."
For more on Shadow Machine: www.shadowmachine.com.