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Cartoon studio is gem in the rough

Paul M. Anderson

GLENDALE -- Challenging.

That’s the word that most comes to mind when the artists at Glendale’s

Rough Draft Studio talk about working on Fox TV’s “Futurama” cartoon.

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Rewarding.

That’s the word that almost immediately follows.

“It’s fun, but very challenging,” said Rich Moore, who supervises the

cartoon’s directors at Rough Draft Studio on Brand Boulevard.

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What makes it so challenging is imagining New York City a thousand

years in the future, Moore said. Moore, one of the original directors for

“The Simpsons,” said it was easy to imagine goings-on in Springfield

where Homer and the gang live.

“When the Simpsons go to a softball game, you know how a pitcher

throws a ball and what happens when someone hits it,” Moore said.

But what would baseball be like in the 30th century? When Fry, Leela

and Bender go to a baseball game on “Futurama,” the national pastime

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becomes a bizarre combination of pinball and baseball.

“You have to reinvent it all. And then, how do you make it clear

enough so that the audience gets what’s going on?” Moore said.

Another challenge was realizing creator Matt Groening’s vision to

marry the latest computer-generated images to old-fashioned animation,

Moore said. It’s like making a three dimensional image look at home in a

two-dimensional world.

“It’s tough because we are making stuff that’s close to feature

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quality animation on a weekly basis, so when you’re in the middle of

trying to produce it, it’s daunting, but when you see the finished thing

it’s all worth it,” Moore said.

“Futurama” is the high-water mark so far for Rough Draft Studios,

which got started in Burbank and moved to Glendale four years ago, said

Producer Claudia Katz.

Rough Draft still has ties to Burbank. Futurama’s post-production

editing is done in the city, Katz said.

The studio got started in 1991.

“It literally started in Gregg Vanzo’s garage,” Katz said. “Then we

moved to a space in Burbank where we were for a couple of years.”

Rough Draft produced animation for television commercials in the

beginning. Then the young studio got its first big break doing “The Maxx”

cartoon for MTV, Katz said.

The studio grew quickly when “Futurama” landed at Rough Draft.

“We’ve gone from 15 people to about 115 people,” Katz said.

Groening and his crew of producers are thrilled with Rough Draft’s

performance, said Bill Morrison who reviews character and scene designs

for “Futurama.”

“They design the characters, backgrounds, props and vehicles and other

stuff and then they send it over here where we make our notes before they

do the final animation,” Morrison said. “But most of the time what they

do is fabulous so we normally just say, ‘Wow. Great.’ ”

Rough Draft’s future may include feature films, Katz said.

“Rather than take on a lot of TV shows, we’re going to try and do a

feature,” Katz said. “That way we can keep more of the production in

Glendale than we can with the TV show.”


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