Already fans of the highly acclaimed anime show, FLCL, animator Lindsay Berkebile and Art Director Doug Cummings were excited when Adult Swim approached them to create a bumper for the new season. “Adult Swim and I have a solid working history,” Berkebile told us, “so when they approached me about creating a bumper for the new season of FLCL, my team and I were thrilled. Doug and I are huge FLCL fans ourselves. One scene that’s etched in my mind is Doug’s favorite character, Canti, flying up surrounded by crows. I wanted to pay homage to that iconic sequence.

“First, I created an animatic and got it approved. Then, we dove into fabrication. The cityscape was mainly crafted from painted foam core, wire, and some wood. Canti was a mix of a Canti toy we found, 3D printed airbrushed pieces, and wire. Doug added two rigging points on the front and back. He also crafted around 25 birds using 3D printed bodies with black flocking, velvet paper wings on wire, and some paper crows and Canti paper silhouette replacements. We shot them on a downshooter to composite them over our animation, creating a fuller scene, a better silhouette of Canti before he becomes ‘real,’ and better control over the [AS] logo.”

Berkebile also explained how they acomplished one of our favorite aspects of the short piece, the way Canti’s head emits light—without using CG. “It’s worth noting that everything you see on screen is practical–no CG, 2D animation, or VFX (except for comping things together and the camera shakes). Canti’s glowing face involved shining a light on a reflective paper inside his faceplate in a second pass set up in Dragonframe, then comping it in post.

“The explosions,” she went on, “were a mix of flashlights on set with a star filter on the lens and colored acrylic replacement pieces shot on a downshooter (with a flashlight shining on the acrylic), later comped in VFX. Huge shoutout to our VFX artist for skillfully painting out all the bird’s wire rigging!!”

Although the finished product looks polished and tight, Berkebile let us know there were hurdles to overcome all along the way. “Honestly, pulling off this 15-second piece was a massive challenge from start to finish! I had a feeling I’d regret it as an animator when I created the animatic with all those birds flying around. Achieving a smooth, beautiful flying animation with Canti, made from toy and wire parts, while the camera was on the move, was painstakingly slow. There were times I had to take breaks, wander around the house, and give myself pep talks like, ‘It’ll all be worth it.’”

Another challenge for the team was location. “We shot this in my old studio before we upgraded to our bigger space, so dealing with such a massive set and a lengthy Moco track required some serious engineering finesse from (D.P.) Jake Hauswirth and me. To be completely real, since my team and I have worked together extensively and had numerous meetings leading up to the shoot, there weren’t many unexpected hiccups or challenges while shooting. It was a pretty smooth process, and even though the VFX part took a while and was tedious, my VFX artist mentioned it was refreshing to have every single piece he needed to bring my vision to life.”

We can tell. Well done Team!