When Jacob Fiskel, aka Fish, is denied his dream job as a radio host, he makes it his life-long goal to rile up as many radio hosts as possible. Creator/director Curtis Johnson talks to us about his latest animation series Fish, a comedic interaction between the most unusual characters, his creative process and landing a spot on Amazon Prime.
You’ve merged comedy and animation. Which one of these would you consider yourself more of, an animator or comic?
I consider myself a storyteller who can tap into the comedic or serious tones of a plot regardless of format. The animation space is unique in that the voice-over artist is as important as the animator, so what you write becomes more of the focus. I would consider myself more of a comedic writer. The character animation was done by Juan Mont whose animation IMDB credits include Showtime’s Our Cartoon President.
What drew you to telling your story via animation?
We decided to tell Fish‘s story via animation because we felt that there was an underserved community of adult animation viewers who could better connect to Fish‘s story. With Fish being a middle-aged black American who experiences his share of rejection, many viewers gain access to his landscape as he engages with many different types of people. You learn that his insecurities are no different than anyone else’s. We are different, but all the same. Animation allows us to tell his story, unapologetically.
How did you come up with the plot of Fish? Does your comedy in it just want to have a laugh or explore certain themes?
It was a concept that I consciously created with the initial idea of Fish as an antagonist, and vindictive middle-aged character who seeks revenge on unsuspecting radio show hosts. As the storyline developed and the characters came to life, the idea of Fish as the bad guy changed. I begin to see Fish as someone who people could root for with flaws of course.
Fish is nothing more than a bunch of frames sequenced together. At the end of it all, was it funny, and did it have a purpose! In our comedy, we look to have an underlining goal. It’s not just about connecting the joke but connecting the experience.
Which series and characters are you inspired by?
I am inspired by Bob’s Burgers and all the characters associated with the show. The thing I like most about the writing is that they tell the story anyway. Like what should be difficult to tell, they find a way to tell it anyway. That is inspiring.
Tell us a little more about your creative process, from ideation to the screen.
My creative process is simple. Once the thought is manifested and I convince myself that there is at least a 10% chance that is probable, I document the thought. This usually ends up being the first 1-2 pages of the script. From there I usually present the idea to my partners Trenell Blanks and Bobby Robinson at Dogs Den Films to get a temperature. If it passes the sniff test, then I am able to formulate an outline and move through creating the first script draft. All I can say is that it takes a team to go from script to screen!
Can you share any details of how you pitched to Amazon Prime and got selected?
Our first feature was distributed by a major film distributor, which made it impossible to directly connect to the end-user. We wanted to have better control of this process so we decided to distribute using an independent aggregator. The aggregator has a direct relationship with many platforms (Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, iTunes etc), and for a cost submit your product for distribution. Remember your product must still meet the delivery standards.
What would you tell aspiring animators who want to make their own series?
Cheap stuff works, but the good stuff lasts. Make good stuff.
Fish is scheduled for release on Amazon and iTunes February 5, 2021.