Q + A: Augenblick Studios
If you're a fan of Comedy Central and Adult Swim, chances are you're a fan of show that was made right here in Dumbo, by Augenblick Studios. This independent animation studio is celebrating twenty years in Dumbo this year, and is the team that's brought you The Jellies (Adult Swim), Losers (Netflix), Ugly Americans (Comedy Central), Superjail! (Adult Swim), Golden Age (Comedy Central), and Wonder Showzen (MTV).
Augenblick Studios is one of the leading animation companies in the world, renowned for their unique brand of adult cartoon comedy. And it's not just TV. Their work been seen in film festivals around the world, and their short film Golden Age was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival and won the grand prize for best film at the Ottawa International Animation Festival.
We sat down with the team–Aaron Augenblick (Producer, Director, Animator) Katie Wendt (Animation Director), Jeremy Jusay (Animation background Supervisor), Devin Clark Animation Director), John Holt (illustrator)–to talk Dumbo, Daria, and what makes them tick.
Aaron, how did you decide to open your own animation studio?
Aaron: Well I’m a city kid- I started at SVA. My thesis film was seen by MTV animation. I started as a PA, just assisting, but then bugged them to move me around so I could absorb all of the information on how animation gets made. After working there for two years, I found a small space in DUMBO, we’ve been in DUMBO for 20 years!
One thing that has always fascinated me of animation is that it’s limitless… When I got into animation I realized if you can draw it you can bring it to life.
You've recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of Augenblick studio's. I'm curious to know if there have been any surprises of the years?
Aaron: Yeah, I'm surprised we are still open!
Aaron, is it true that you worked on the late 90's classic "Daria"?
Aaron: Yes! During my time at MTV animation "Daria" was one of the bigger projects I was a part of.
What are the “highlight” shows of Augenblick studios?
Aaron: Some of the highlight shows would be Shorties, Wonder Showzen, Superjail, and Ugly Americans.
How would you describe a challenging Project?
Aaron: Every project we’ve ever done!
Katie: Challenges come in many forms–there's the classic "fast, cheap or good." You get to pick two but everyone wants all three.
Honestly, the only time something is really challenging is if the people working on a given project are not jelling. If everyone isn’t working towards the same goal, it gets tough. Luckily everyone within the studio is cool with stuff like that. It feels good to be met with a challenge and get to the other side of it.
Animation is like collaborative empathy.
Any secret projects you can share?
Aaron: We actually worked on an animated version of Zoolander–only been seen in England!
Why is animation so impactful?
Aaron: Personally I think it combines all the art forms into one perfect art form. You get storytelling from the writing, you get acting, you get movement, you get sound design and music. It’s alive. You can be affected by these characters.
Devin: One thing that has always fascinated me about animation is that it's limitless. When I got into animation I realized if you can draw it you can bring it to life.
Aaron: Here’s an exercise: name me an art form that can’t be animated.
Katie: An animation is inherently an art form that all of the people making it want to reach out to other people that are making it. It’s like collaborative empathy. It’s such a cool point of ignition for any art form. You really want to reach out to other people with it!
Jeremy: I agree with all of it!
So, after twenty years in this neighborhood–what are your favorite spots in DUMBO?
John: I’m too new to DUMBO but I just really appreciate the walk to the studio right now.
Aaron: I love DUMBO in general- it still has its charm.
Jeremy: My favorite spot is that scary alley behind the Archway.
Katie: I remember during a film shoot someone flipped the no parking sign and wrote on the back “Vortex of hate and despair”!
Aaron: Before we wrap, I just want to point out another thing that has been around for 20 years- Two Trees. Our landlord. They have been great for us. The reason we came to DUMBO at all is that Two Trees was supporting artists with really low rent. They have always been kind to artists and I have no complaints about Two Trees- and that is the rarest thing in the world- in NYC to not have complaints about your landlord.