Friday, February 8, 2013

Hearts & Hammers, Episode 2

Valentine's Day is upon us again.  And for all the lovers loving it up, there are those for whom it is a holiday designed to remind you that, in case you forgot, you are alone.  Well you may be alone, but you're not alone.  Hearts & Hammers is here to remind you of what you're missing out on in the dating scene.  This is the second episode, picking up where the first one left off (much carnage).

See the first episode here!

I wrote about Hearts and Hammers in the old format FLIP, but the embeds are obsolete, so I am reposting the abridged text here:

Back when my social circle was largely singles, we would often regale each other with hilarious stories of terrible humiliations suffered in disasterous relationships. And it wasn't just guys talking - it was just as funny for the ladies. The more tragic the tale, the funnier it seemed to be in the retelling. It was cheaper than therapy and lots more fun.

In the spring of 2000, my agent, Trudy Wurthlyss-Heimer, sent each of her animation clients Flash 4 software. Flash was the new kid on the block, and there was a big push from its creator, Macromedia, to get animators hooked. First one's free, kid!

So I loaded the Flash CD into my tray-loading lime green iMac and watched the wheel spin. As the program revealed itself, I found myself completely lost in a foreign interface. My eyes glazed over and I fell asleep. I woke up an hour later with keyboard marks on my forehead. I closed the file and forgot about Flash for a while. In the ensuing months, it seemed like every new cartoon show on TV was created in Flash. Flash, Flash, Flash. I decided to take another look, to do something simple with it. I came up with Hearts + Hammers.

I had no experience with this software, so the simpler the better. I did not own a stylus pen, so all artwork would be generated by mouse. I immediately discovered that I had very limited drawing control with a mouse, so I would make drawings look deliberately crude. Work with that limitation! I thought about doing an animated New Yorker cartoon; something for adults. It would done in a single scene, where I could re-use a lot of animation.

The end result was something that, in the process of making something different, I learned a lot. I got to have some fun writing. I got to ignore some animation laws, and try something new. I got to work with my friend Trace Turville, who is a really great actress and carries the whole thing with her vocal performances. I also had an outlet for material I could never use in studio animation. Some of the funniest lines in these shorts are from actual quotes.

The Hearts + Hammers shorts ran on Atom Films for years. I've made new ones when I could, mining from the past. They're a little harder to do now that I'm married, the edge had gone off I bit. One thing that's certain: they strike a nerve. People really love them and people really hate them. Some "reviewers" have deemed them "retarded", "misogynistic", and the animation "horrible". But most people get it.

A very good Valentine's Day to you!  Or else!


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