A Studio That’s Animated in More Ways Than One
Posted May 10, 2018 10:47 p.m. EDT
LOS ANGELES — Cartoons, comics, characters, repeat. Every nook of the Titmouse animation studio in Hollywood is filled with relics of pop-culture history and creations too obscure to name.
There are articulated action figures exploding off desks; plush loaves of bread stuffed into bookshelves; a smiling, shark-shaped guitar; and some equally friendly fungus-themed ornaments mounted like family portraits. With offices filled with artists in headphones, silently bobbing their heads; white boards crammed with inside jokes, sketches and work notes; and a 10-foot-tall sculpture of a guitar-toting Bigfoot in sunglasses guarding the parking lot, this is no average workplace, even by Hollywood standards.
The artifacts collected here may strike a chord if you watch late-night cartoons. The imprint of Chris Prynoski, president and owner of the company, is everywhere here. He and his wife, Shannon Prynoski, vice president and co-owner, moved here from New York and in 2000 founded Titmouse, a small startup.
The firm grew to a full-service production company well known in the cartoon world, with three offices and more than 500 employees. Titmouse has 12 series in production, including pilots, films, commercials and web promos, and work that has appeared on Netflix, Nickelodeon, Disney and others. It is probably best known for the cult hits “Metalocalypse” and “The Venture Bros.” — and for its out-there founder, Chris Prynoski, 46, with his trademark lumberjack beard, glasses and low-slung cap.
You will find his lair past a pair of arcade-era consoles — Asteroids and Pac-Man — and around a sweeping hallway covered by a black-and-white Travis Millard mural of a doglike creature eerily reminiscent of Yoshitomo Nara’s “Your Dog” sculpture.
Inside his office, you will see animation cels from “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” a 1980s animated show that achieved cult status, an original comic book page from “Dune,” a signed watercolor of singer George Clinton by Overton Loyd and a thrift store painting of Elvis in various stages in his career.
Prynoski’s own career began at MTV as a storyboard artist for “Beavis and Butt-Head.” Seeking more creative control, he and his wife struck out on their own with Titmouse, named for the bird and originally a purveyor of silk-screened T-shirts.
“It’s crazy,” says Prynoski, marveling at the growth and transformation as he walks through the office where you can see a photo of Roddy McDowall, shot between takes of “Planet of the Apes,” in costume but without a mask, and a 3-D painting of Bigfoot eating a taco. “I bought that one online because I love Bigfoot,” he said. “What’s cool about that is you can actually look at it in 3-D glasses.” Among the ephemera, there’s a Louisville Slugger baseball bat by his desk. More on that later.
Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Prynoski.
Q: There’s a lot of stuff that isn’t hung up.
A: I’m getting around to it. There’s Jorge Gutiérrez, who painted this image of Mr. T. He’s the director of the film “The Book of Life.” I’m a fan of Mr. T., so this will get hung up pretty soon.
Q: Do your art interests influence your collecting choices?
A: A lot of it is friends and people we’ve worked with or has to do with animation production art. It’s all reflective of interests. There’s the “Venture Bros.” statue up there. Or this one here. One of my instructors at school was the storyboard artist of “Frosty the Snowman” (the 1969 animated special), so he drew this weird Frosty art for me, Don Duga.
Q: Tell me about your favorite pieces.
A: The picture of Roddy McDowall: I’m a “Planet of the Apes” fan. I like any kind of weird ape-man creature type stuff. And the Elvis one, we do a white elephant gift exchange around the holidays. You can open a gift under the tree or steal something that’s been opened. And then you either have to get a new gift under the tree or steal it. Some can only be stolen three times and I was the last guy to steal that one.
Q: And the comic page?
A: The page is from the “Dune” comic, the David Lynch film adaptation of the novel. That’s an original page by Bill Sienkiewicz, who’s a comic artist.
Q: What about the baseball bat?
A: We do a smashing party every year where we have this cage and we smash TVs, toilets and stuff. I’ll probably hang that up at some point.