This week’s special guest is one you’re bound to recognize. He’s a man of few words, tons of imagination and an insatiable appetite for high adventure. His name is Thurop Van Orman and in addition to being a proud, beard-sporting father he’s the creator of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, a former Executive Producer on Adventure Time and is currently working on a brand new project called BLACK FOREST.
Despite being recently recruited by DreamWorks Animation, Van Orman was awesome enough to answer a few questions for us about his work (both past and present) as well as offering some advice on breaking into the field.
Thanks for joining us up here at the clubhouse, Thurop! Care for some cheesie puffs?
Woo! I’ll just eat the ones in-between the couch cushions…
Those are the best ones. Before we get started… what’s your favorite kind of pancake?
Just good old plain fashioned pancakes. Oh wait, are you trying to get me to say Flapjack?
Mayyyybe. Actually, while we’re on the subject, there’s a ton of references to “flapjacks” in Flapjack. Where did your pancake obsession come from?
I… don’t especially have a pancake obsession. Although they are delicious. When I was a teenager I had a dream that my name was “Captain Flapjack.” I had a flying motorcycle that sometimes broke down mid-air. It was freaking rad. And ever since I wanted to do something with that name.
That is pretty freaking rad. So, how did you get started in the animation field?
Wow… uh… the short answer is that after years of being a bum, I bumbled into a job making video games. I fell in love with animation, but wanted to tell stories, so I found Calarts and got in on my second try.
You worked on Gameboy games, right? Any titles we might recognize?
Looney Tunes Cart Racing, Harley Davidson racing, uh, some [other] racing ones… I don’t know. I have never played any of them, but they were fun to make!
I never realized you provided the voice of Flapjack himself. Is voice acting something you always wanted to do or just a perk of your first series?
Yeah, I guess I always wanted to do it. But I was really scared to. In some ways it was easier to get my show picked up than it was to get into voice acting. There is a crazy ton of competition to get into voice acting. I only got the job because I was the boss. *laughs*
Is it true that Paul Reubens was initially supposed to play that role?
Yup. But he didn’t show up on recording day. We called his manager who said that he’d come in the next day, but we didn’t have the booth the next day. So, I just hopped in and recorded it. I guess I secretly kinda wanted to anyways. I freaking love Paul Reubens though.
Moving on, you’re currently working on a stop motion project called Black Forest. Can you fill us in on what that film is about?
Wrestling wild animals… and Pretzels. And love.
You worked with Screen Novelties on many of the stop motion vignettes on Flapjack – are they with you on this project as well?
Not yet. Maybe though!
What inspired to interject so many different styles of animation into the show?
Its fun! Also I like surprises.
With offers from both Cartoon Network and DreamWorks it would seem you’re in a good position to ensure your creative vision. Was this the case with Flapjack as well?
Nah, it was hard. Its still hard to get someone to let me make something I am super excited about. Studios like safe bets and my ideas… well I think they’re safe bets, but they tend to be unconventional.
Editor’s Note: Thurop is currently employed by DreamWorks Animation.
What were some of the lessons you took away from Flapjack that you brought with you on Black Forest?
Oh, there are a lot. But something I am excited for on Black Forest is the unspoken romantic tension between two best friends. Who happen to be opposite sexes…
How has being a father influenced you creatively? Do you and your son, Leif, ever talk about random ideas or silly stories?
I make up a story-a-night for my kids. It keeps me on my toes and is a good chance to try stuff out on them. It’s also a neat way of tricking them into liking the same stuff that I like. *laughs*
Have any other families members found their way into your projects?
Do you have any advice for aspiring creators out there looking to jumpstart their own series of short film?
Yes. Find someone who is doing what you want to do and work for them for free. Don’t harass them, but man, if you can get a free internship or whatever you will learn sooooo much. Plus, you’ll have an “in” to the industry. Also, work your ass off… maybe go to Calarts.
What’s the strangest thing you can remember doing as a kid?
Oh… I probably shouldn’t answer that. Thanks friend, this was fun!