The crowd gathered for animation studio Titmouse’s panel at RTX knew all the hits: The Venture Bros., Metalocalypse, Superjail!, and China, IL. But these were the die-hards, and when Titmouse co-founder Chris Prynoski offered up a tribute to Metalocalypse’s Jon Schnepp, who passed away last month, there was a deeper reverence and recognition.
Titmouse, the studio behind those series and more, has been pumping out its distinct brand of cracked animation for more than a decade. At the RTX panel on Saturday, Prynoski drew live for the audience as showrunner Rob Hoegee discussed the creation of Niko and the Sword of Light for Amazon Studios. During the Q&A portion, someone asked about Titmouse’s Deadpool series test footage, which caused a stir earlier this year.
Prynoski responded by drawing a cartoon Deadpool saying, “Don’t ask questions about me.”
— Tracey Face at #SXSW (@TraceySchulz) August 4, 2018
Prynoski started out in animation working for MTV’s adolescence-shaping cartoons Beavis and Butt-Head and Daria, which eventually led him to a job at Cartoon Network, which eventually led him to focus on Titmouse at his wife and co-founder Shannon’s insistence.
Over the last few years, Titmouse has cozied up to Netflix as the platform tries to fill out its adult animation genre. While it’s worked with DreamWorks Animation on animated Netflix series Turbo FAST and The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants, perhaps its most notable collaboration so far is the Emmy-nominated Big Mouth, a series about the terrors of puberty.
Titmouse’s journey to Big Mouth was a circuitous one. Prynoski directed the movie Nerdland, written by Andy Kevin Walker (Se7en), who is friends with Mark Levin and Jen Flackett, two of Big Mouth’s creators. (Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg are the other co-creators.) Walker suggested working with Titmouse for the animation.
“That show really surprised me,” Prynoski said, “because I was a fan of Nick Kroll’s work but I didn’t know him personally before working on the show. I knew Andrew Goldberg from Family Guy. So I assumed, knowing Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg, that this was going to be a very crude show that was going to have a lot of dick jokes. And I was fine with that. I was like, ‘Hey man, it’s going to be a joke show and we’ll knock it out of the park.’ … The first couple of table reads, I could not believe how much heart there was and how much I cared about the characters.”
Prynoski said Titmouse is working on more “adult” animated content for Netflix, though he couldn’t divulge details. The company also did some recent animation for Father of the Year and is working with Amazon Studios on shows like Little Big Awesome. Asked what he thinks of the wave of “sad” adult cartoons—BoJack Horseman, Rick and Morty—Prynoski said production is starting on a new Netflix adult cartoon series that is going to be “uncharacteristically hopeful.”
And in another reality, Titmouse, which claims roughly 500 to 600 employees, recently teased that it’s doing something animated with William Shatner, though details are still scarce. “We’re gonna make some cartoons with him, is the basic thing,” Prynoski said. “I’m just stoked I’ve been able to hang out with William Shatner. I got to his office and hang out and bullshit about cartoons. It’s a bizarre, surreal experience.”