As quarantine projects go, making the new intro for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon: Home Edition likely trumps most people’s sourdough loaves and garage make-overs—especially if you’re an animator. For director Lawrence Becker, who has been using felt-cutouts as his trademark style since 2016, it was certainly pretty exciting when the Cartuna team approached him it and said that was the look that had caught their eye for the quarantine version of the acclaimed nighttime show on NBC.
“I wanted to use creative morphing transitions throughout,” Becker said of his proposal for the intro. “So it would flow like one continuous shot, which I’ve used before with felt.” To get started, he gave the Tonight Show team a storyboard and after some edits, made an animatic to show them how it would all come together. “The final part was style frames so they could get an idea of each section of the piece, which I mostly did digitally.”
Once he got the go ahead, the multi-plane was made with adjustable shelving units from Home Depot and Becker decided to use a copy stand rig for camera moves. As production was underway, felt cutouts began to fill Becker’s space, leading him to begin to create a lot of the transitions as he animated. “Creating them all ahead of time in felt would’ve taken up too much space in my studio, and it’s gets crazy enough with all the cutting of felt during the process. It was a mess by the time I was done!” .
In addition to the materials logistics, the other big challenge for Becker was the classic animator’s frenemy: time. “I had to complete this project in under a week, and I did not sleep much at all. I was finishing up a felt music video, then immediately had to focus on this project. After getting the 10 or so style frames approved by Jimmy’s team, I immediately began working and didn’t stop for 2.5 days straight.
“I slept for a day, then they had a few edits, including a completely new scene and changing Jimmy’s pajamas digitally at the beginning. That took me one more sleepless night to complete before finishing on a Monday morning, the day of its premiere! It was a pretty intense week, but that’s how it goes sometimes.”
We’re glad to hear that he took a week off after that to recover. So much for quarantine boredom! You can catch the intro every weeknight at 11:35pm on NBC on the Tonight Show while they do the show from Jimmy’s home. For more behind the scenes, be sure to watch the second half of the video above to see it on split screen with the actual intro, plus answers to some FAQs set to musical styling of friend of the team, @newerstylesound.