The team at Adult Swim came to Joseph Wallace with an ask for an ident which could somehow relate to the new Genndy Tartakovsky series, Unicorn Warriors Eternal. “They wanted it to reference the show in some way without being too direct an homage,” he told us. “There was a section of the show set in Victorian London but a steampunk version of this era; this caught my eye. I love Victoriana in general and so I zoned in on that context to inspire my ident. As the piece had to be fifteen seconds long, I needed to create a short and snappy visual narrative which would end with the Adult Swim logo so I came up with this idea of a Victorian gentleman in his drawing room, writing a letter.”
The piece does a terrific job of crafting mood and story in a very short time. This is aided by an initial wide shot of the gentleman’s study, set with charming details and superbly lit with seemingly late day sunlight. “This was quite an intimate job,” Wallace told us, echoing the mood of the piece, “and also quite a fast turnaround so the whole thing was made in my home studio and filmed in my dining room!
“The set is all forced-perspective, so no two angles were the same; the stage is raked, the walls are wonky, the window and shelves all follow different vanishing points, so that was a real challenge to figure out. Luckily I had modelmaker Lara Hoskings to help for a couple of days to figure out the math and build the frame with me.”
Another favorite detail of ours is the rough-hewn look of the carved puppet himself—almost as if it had only recently been whittled by Victorian hands. “The puppet is carved from balsa wood (head, hands, top hat),” Wallace said, “some elements like the ruff are paper and the costume is fabric. The amazing rigger and armature maker Robin Jackson put the armature together for me and also made a rig that I used for animating which screwed into the puppet from below and could rise the puppet up and down, forwards and backwards, pivot etc. It made a huge difference to the animation.
“The biggest challenge was making everything on time,” Wallace continued. “It was a quick turnaround as the show was broadcasting soon and during the process I had to go to Cannes and Annecy festivals. Working in black and white helps as I didn’t have to paint everything lots of different colors; I could focus more on texture and tone.”
You can catch the ident on the Adult Swim TV channel now and it’s also online. Plus, as Wallace mentioned, “It was retweeted by Guillermo Del Toro the other day which was insane and humbling!”
For more on the production, check out the behind-the-scenes pics below: