toonhole

Chris Allison & Crew ( Toonhole ) Interview

Clean, gorgeous art – with dirty, filthy content… Toonhole stands as one of the most professionally done “rude” comics. Rude is not the only thing Toonhole does, however. The comics range from marriage, art, death, mimes, and even the medical world. With crisp animated shorts slotted in-between every handful of updates, this team proves that standing out is not an amateur game.


How did you get started working together?
I went to school with Ryan, Mike, and John at Cal State Fullerton, so we’ve known each other since around 2003.  We were all in the animation program and had similar senses of humor.  We became pretty good friends and spent countless hours in the animation room together, creating bad jokes and worse animation.  We spent so much time together, it’s a miracle we haven’t seen each other nude yet.

How long have you been working on Toonhole?
Well, we had the idea to start the site while still in college, but it wasn’t until we got out of college that we put it together.  Our site launched in 2010.  In reality, I think it was just that Mike finally pulled all of us up by the bootstraps and learned to code by himself.  He’s seriously a wizard.

Have you had any issues working as a collaboration?
Well, everyone kinda does their own content, and we use each other to get feedback.  We don’t have conflicts, but everyone challenges each other to be better artists.  I can foresee a lot more collaborations in the future when we branch beyond films that are a couple minutes long.  Maybe then we’ll have issues as to who draws a funnier scrotum.

Have you guys ever gotten flack for the content of the comics, and if so how do you deal with it?
We sure have!  A guy named Santos ( http://webcomicoverlook.com/2011/03/21/the-webcomic-overlook-159-toonhole/ ) wrote us a pretty scathing review.  We don’t really deal with the people who don’t like our comics much, because it’s not our audience and they’re entitled to their opinions.  John, however, took one of Santos lines as a challenge:

“You heard that one eh? Well, there’s one about Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Invisible Man… oh, wait. Toonhole hasn’t done that one.”

So John ended up doing these:
http://www.toonhole.com/2011/09/wonder-woman/
http://www.toonhole.com/2011/10/invisible-man/
http://www.toonhole.com/2011/10/hall-of-justice/

 The comic updates every Mon-Wed-Fri have you ever had a hard time keeping up-to-date? Do you keep a buffer?
We definitely keep a buffer.  I’m actually formatting some future comics between answering these questions.  It’s tough because we have day jobs, AND we try to crank out one animation a month for the fans.  We even had a film buffer for a while, but that’s kinda dried up.  I don’t think we’re even sure how we’re gonna deal with it.  I hope it’s a funny way.

While looking to find exposure when the comic first started in January 2010, what helped you create such a large audience?
We hit up two sources: our friends for word of mouth, and content aggregators.  Our friends have been pretty strong supporters from the start, which is the best feeling ever.  I really just want to make stuff for my friends to laugh at.  And then sites like Reddit, Stumbleupon, and others have been pretty good to us.  Some of our content has been posted there, and we’ve had pretty good audience reactions.  Just anywhere you can get your content out there, do it!

What is the process behind creating a Toonhole comic?
We first start by drawing thumbnails.  These are usually panels that are 1″x2″, with REALLY rough drawings to show the idea.  Then when we have meetings, we sit around and share our “thumbs”.  Gauging everyone’s laughter will tell you which ideas are funny ones and which ones get pity-zoned on your mother’s fridge.

Then you take your good thumbs and pencil them.  I personally use bristol board or illustration board for my comics.  I ink with either a dip pen (Hunts 107 nibs, Doc Martins ink) or Micron pens when I need to work super quick.  I’ve been experimenting by coloring with watercolors, but a majority of my comics are digitally colored in Photoshop.

After they’re done, and this is the most important part, you crack open a beer and bask in the glory of finished comics.

Who were the biggest influences to your styles and your jokes?
Tex Avery, Mel Brooks, Sergio Aragones, Coen Brothers, Robert Rodriguez, Rodney Dangerfield, and all my friends who are hilarious.

Every once in a while there is a new animation, how long do these take to complete?
That’s really a sliding scale.  My longest production was “Bar Flies” ( http://www.toonhole.com/2011/10/bar-flies-lou-the-frog/) which took about 7 months to complete because I redid my pipeline. Moses: The College Years, next month’s film, was the shortest to complete.  Ryan and I collaborated on it, and finished it in two months.  Keep in mind, we don’t work on these things full time, and juggle doing comics at the same time too.

What goes into creating these animations?
We all have animation day jobs at various studios, so we’ve kinda co-opted their pipelines, but streamlined them so that we can finish everything ourselves.

Our ideas are first storyboarded, where you draw out each shot and the action to happen within it.  And we build a rough soundtrack to that.  Then we usually divide the animatic (timed-out storyboards to sound) into animation sequences, and animate them in Flash.  Backgrounds are separated and painted in Photoshop.  The animation and backgrounds are then composited with After Effects, and the final soundtrack is produced to the final picture.

Wow, after typing all that out, it sounds easy.  I swear, it isn’t.

Do you have any plans for creating any longer animations?
Good god, yes.  Someday I hope to do Toonhole full time.  I’d love to do series and longer format movies for our audience.  Maybe someday our audience will monetarily reward us and make that dream possible.

Is there a Toonhole book in the works or anything along those lines?
We’re still figuring out how to best market our content, but we’d love to have merchandise in the very near future.  We’ll have some prints and stuff at the upcoming Long Beach Comic Convention, Oct. 29th (Booth #743)!

Is Long Beach Comic Con the first con you have attended for the comic?
We went to APE last year, but couldn’t get a table this year.  So this is just about our second comic convention that we’re going to.  We’re gonna be the new kids.  I hope some folks come up and introduce themselves.

Where can people go to learn more about Toonhole and the creators?
You can dig through our trash, get embarrassing stories from our mothers, or just visit www.toonhole.com for more.  Also, I’m eager to interact with fans and can be emailed at chris@toonhole.com  I’d love to hear what folks have to think, good or bad; or even just to interact with folks would be fun.

Hope you guys learned something, or at least enjoyed yourself, but you probably lost a couple brain cells.  For that, I have to apologize.

I wanna thank you, Brian, for the opportunity you’ve given us on Ink Outbreak, and thank you for creating such an awesome hub for cool content.

And lastly, I wanna thank the reader.  There’s no punchline if there’s no audience.

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