Nick Bachman once animated on Super (2010) and is now our super Supervising Producer on Costume Quest. Coincidence? You decide. To CQ, Nick brings experience in many areas: he previously wrote and storyboard directed several episodes of the awesome DreamWorks/Netflix series Home: Adventures with Tip and Oh, following tenure as a writer/board artist on another great show, Nickelodeon’s Sanjay and Craig. Here, Nick gives us the low-down on his path to animation (it came down to cartoons or horticulture – the classic conundrum), why CQ is his favorite show he’s worked on (✿◠‿◠), and his fluff-daughter who makes it all worthwhile.
Did you have an “A-ha!” moment about animation? What’d you want to be growing up?
My earliest memories of recognizing animation as a profession are seeing little blurbs on TV that showed animators flipping through drawings. I remember thinking, “Drawing the same thing over and over again? That sounds horrible!” I thought I might be in some animal or plant-related line of work, but definitely not in animation.
Where are you from, and did you go to college for animation?
I’m from a small town called Garner, Iowa. It has around 3,000 people and one lonely stoplight. It sounds bumpkinesque, but it was a pretty nice place to grow up. I did lots of fishing, working on cars, looking for frogs and salamanders, and playing in many a punk band. I began my higher education at Iowa State University, with a probable major in Horticulture. I soon discovered that my one weekly Art class was the only thing keeping me going, and transferred to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where I did end up majoring in Animation.
What was your first job in animation?
My first full-time Animation job was at PUNY, a Flash studio in Minneapolis. At small studios, you wear a lot of hats. I animated, did some design and background painting, did sound work, cut animatics, directed a little, and pitched a couple small projects. It was a great way to learn about all facets of the industry. I think working at a small studio is the perfect first job in the industry; it gives you tons of perspective.
Agreed! How was transitioning from animating to being a storyboard artist on Yo Gabba Gabba? Is storyboarding what you like most?
Boarding on Gabba was pretty different from boarding for animation. Since it’s live action, the boards don’t need nearly as many poses, because the human actors provide those poses in real time. Animating is definitely fun, but as much as you put into the scene you’re animating, you might be stuck working on content that you might just not be in love with. With storyboarding, you have more control over the writing, and if you draw enough poses, you can have a lot of control over the animation as well. So if I guess if I had to choose, I prefer storyboarding.
Was Sanjay and Craig the first show you wrote for? How do you like the writing aspect of storyboarding, compared to boarding from a script?
Yes, it was. I love writing the things I board. I wasn’t at all excited about storyboarding from a script until Costume Quest. Since the show is serialized (one big story told over multiple episodes), we went with the method of scripting the shows. But we encouraged the board artists to make any joke changes or story edits that they saw fit, without affecting the overall narrative. I couldn’t be happier with the result: a perfect mix of the writers’ and board artists’ voices, and we never ran into a moment where we had to redo large sections of the board. It’s not uncommon on a board-driven show to get a note like “Act 3 isn’t working,” and a lot of work has to be redone. We never had that on Costume Quest, because the script was already there from the start.
What does being Supervising Producer on Costume Quest entail?
Though Co-EP Bryan Caselli and I boarded the first episode, my primary duty as SP is no longer boarding. Now I work with the Editor to make animatics out of the boards our teams turn in. There’s still a little boarding involved, to address notes or punch up the episodes, but there’s also a lot of non-drawing stuff. Working with the voice actors, sound effects team, and composers (The Blasting Company, which composed for Over the Garden Wall) is a big part of it. I also get to work on retakes when we get animation back, when we need to request fixes and changes for the overseas animation studio to make. There are a lot of responsibilities, but I’m a bit of a control freak and a glutton for punishment, so I enjoy it.
How have you enjoyed working on Costume Quest?
It’s been the best show I’ve worked on. And I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every production I’ve been a part of. I couldn’t ask for a better team.
Love to hear it! What do you like most about CQ? Do you have a favorite character?
The show is very charming. It’s like Peanuts but with monsters. Doesn’t get better than that. I feel like I empathize with our character Reynold the most. He’s a bit of a neurotic kid with an old soul, something I can definitely relate to.
Do you have a favorite project ever, or one that’s been your baby in a special way?
About 15 years ago, I made some funny comics with a very old friend of mine, Mikie Poland, under the pseudonyms “Glenn” and “2ColdShane.” At the time, I was part of a handful of comic art forums where everyone took themselves very, very seriously. So Mikie and I concocted these personas who would create these very crudely drawn comics and arrogantly present them as the next big thing. People were furious. This was before internet trolling got a bad name. It was way too much fun, I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. I’d love to do something more with it someday, hopefully soon.
What are your favorite cartoons?
Home Movies, Mission Hill, Jonny Quest, King of the Hill, Simpsons, Flintstones, Undergrads, Roger Ramjet and Flapjack. Batman: The Animated Series too. Genius. I like a little anime, the old stuff. Lupin, and the old black and white GeGeGe no Kitaro.
Any advice for people who want to work in animation, especially aspiring board artists?
There is no secret, just do it. Just make stuff. And you have to WANT to get better. As you create, you’ll learn from previous projects. Pretty soon, you’re there. If you want to storyboard, start writing and boarding your own shorts. Be observant, and take bits and pieces from people and things you admire. That collection of things you love becomes your own unique voice.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I play old-time music, mostly fiddle and some banjo. I play and collect retro video games – PS2 and older – my favorite being Super Nintendo. I collect jazz records, mostly stuff from 1955-1965. My wife Susan and I also watch a lot of wrestling (NXT! NXT!). We both also spend a lot of time fawning over our fluffy corgi named Butters, an endless source of entertainment. Our pet fire salamander Forrest is less inclined to play with us, but he’s also entertaining in his own quiet way. I grow and train bonsai as well, mostly tropicals. And last year I was able to afford my dream car, a 1986 Porsche 911. I’ve been having a blast messing around with it and driving it through the awesome California canyon roads. I’ve always loved hobbies.
(Butters, sweeter than any real or imitation ice cream cone.)
Important: was Butters named after the South Park character?
Haha, yes she was. My wife chose the name. She said her personality was a fit.
Amazing. Anything to say to future fans of Costume Quest?
I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I still do! It’s got a lot of heart and is loads of fun. ❀
Thank you for the interview Nick, and for helping make Costume Quest as fantastic a show as it is!
– Cooper ❀