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Toon Zone Was There: "Yin Yang Yo!" Gives A Peek Inside

If I remember anything at all from that Tuesday morning at Walt Disney Studios, it’s that Steve Marmel, Bob Boyle, and John Fountain “loves [them] some farts.”

I remember a great deal more from the press breakfast and look inside at some of the internal processes of the upcoming Jetix premiere Yin Yang Yo!, but I felt it was necessary (and amusing) to put that at the forefront. It’s amusingly phrased, brief, and gets right down to the nitty-gritty of comedy. How perfect a set of characteristics for these gentlemen who have done just that with shows like The Fairly Oddparents and Johnny Bravo behind them, and seem poised to do so again. The comment up top was a candid response to some good-natured ribbing in between John Fountain explaining all sorts of artistic and philosophical excellence that he thinks Yin Yang Yo! strives for, but once that line popped out I knew I’d be quoting them on it.

Jetix presented us with a chance to watch a special preview of the show, which uses Boyle’s style and Marmel’s humor (and Fountain’s philosophy and farts) in a Flash-animated action comedy show. Basic setup: Master Yo, a grizzled old panda mentor in the art of Woo Foo, has somewhat inadvertantly taken on two bickering rabbit siblings named Yin and Yang as the next Woo Foo champions against the evil Night Master and other villains like Carl the Evil Cockroach Wizard, who lives with his mother and stews jealously over his much more successful brother. So far, of what I’ve seen, it successfully blends the rapid-fire gag approach of Oddparents with a certain amount of fantastical martial-arts action.

Next, at a Q&A with the three artists, they explained some more of the show’s origins and processes. The original creator was Bob Boyle, who made up the pilot all on his own. It tested great, and lo and behold a show was born. Yin Yang Yo!‘s production work is shared between a limited crew located in Burbank and George Elliot Studios in Toronto. A good deal of the work is handled up in Toronto, and these three guys could not stop singing their praises for the Canadian crew. This includes a Canadian cast, which appealed to the creators because they were all talented actors whose voices you’d never heard before; the cast, incidentally, were all extremely primed and excited to do Yin Yang Yo! because most homegrown Canadian animation is aimed at the preschool set and this gave them a chance to break out with something much different. Steve, Bob, and John admit that the show is primarily aimed at kids 6-11 — they often create their stories by starting from a kid-relatable problem and growing from there — but they want their show to be able to interest their parents, their college-age older siblings, their grandparents, and everybody else. As far as I’m concerned, these are the words that any animation fans long to hear: they made the show for themselves, to make themselves laugh, and refused to talk down to the kids.

Finally, we were brought up into the deep bowels of Disney Animation for some insider looks into the editing and tweaking work of the show. Flash animation, I admit, is not my first choice for most shows. John Fountain made sure to clarify between people who use Flash for good and those that use it for evil, and he admitted that one of the draws of Yin Yang Yo! for him was the chance to do things in Flash that people said couldn’t be done (such as large action scenes). Speaking critically for a moment, as I compared the storyboards and animatics I saw with their corresponding Flash footage, I felt that the Flash is still slightly flat. It’s probably an inevitable trade-off; once it’s moving in Flash, I always feel at least somewhat aware of what it can and can’t do. Hopefully later episodes can shake me loose from the awareness. That said, they made some great points in regards to the usefulness of Flash animation from a comedy perspective; unlike other animated shows, if they can think of a good gag late in the process, it can be added with minimal cost and fuss. We were given demonstrations of how they took a somewhat standard robot-transformation scene and punched it up by editing together a dialogue scene into it that originally just stood on its own, or how a sword effect that just had no life to it could be made into something really cool. These were neat demonstrations, and they remind one that in all film, even in animation, editing is such a crucial element to the comprehension of the audience.

Yin Yang Yo! will premiere in a marathon on September 4. The show will have 26 episodes, often being two 11-minute stories put together. Last tidbit of gossip: while it didn’t exist as such at first, the 26-episode run will in fact have a continuous story arc that culminates in the last three episodes. No doubt bearing some farts.

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