Meet 'Weasel Town's' Nathan Hamill and Eric Filipkowski
Nathan Hamill and Eric Filipkowski have taken their love of silly characters and created Weasel Town. It’s a new web series on the Shut Up! Cartoons YouTube network. It follows the adventures of Dipster (voiced by Derek Waters), a mustard-colored cat who thinks he’s smarter than he really is. He’s joined by his buddy Haunches (voiced by Jason Ritter), a pint-sized sensible blue pup. Together they’re always weaseling out of things, hence the title of the show. ScreenCrave recently interviewed the two creators about Weasel Town and its humble beginnings.
When did you get the idea to make a web series like this?
Nathan Hamill: Eric and I had been planning on doing a cartoon strip for a few years which he would write and I would draw. We knew we had the same comedic taste based on our love for Chris Elliott. We were approached by Carolyn Bates, Weasel Town‘s producer, to pitch to Barry Blumberg and Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla at SMOSH. They were looking for original content to start up their YouTube channel, Shut Up! Cartoons. Apparently, we didn’t screw up our presentation too badly. And here we are…
Eric Filipkowski: Also our producer [Carolyn Bates] has extensive animation experience and guided us along our way. From the start, Shut Up! Cartoons really believed in us and our idea and they backed us 100 percent.
Why did you title your show Weasel Town, yet have no weasels in it?
Eric Filipkowski: We came up with the name Weasel Town because the main character, Dipster, is always weaseling out of things. Naturally, the title will beg the question, why no weasels? But we are comfortable with that. Like Nathan said, we’re both huge fans of Chris Elliott, and his show Get a Life. Often on that show, things would happen that wouldn’t really make sense. Another example of this, is Dipster frequently dies at the end of an episode and comes back next week like it never happened.
How did you get Jason Ritter involved?
Eric Filipkowski: I know him through Derek Waters, but I believe Jason [Ritter] is friends with Nathan from high school, right?
Nathan Hamill: Yeah, Jason’s an old friend from high school. And he’s always reminded me of a little sensible blue dog. So when the show was coming together, I naturally thought of him. It was the part he was born to play baby! Also, there might have been some blackmail involved.
Approximately how long does it take to make each Weasel Town episode?
Eric Filipkowski: It is hard to say actually how much time is involved in the creation of a single Weasel Town episode. The schedule is such that we are usually working on two or three [episodes] simultaneously, at different stages of production. At first, I just thought I would write the 10 episodes and basically be done with it. That didn’t take very long for me, but I soon found out I had a lot more jobs to do. I ended up having to direct the voice actors, rewriting scripts, dealing with notes, editing sound, etc.
Nathan Hamill: Yeah, it’s hard to say exactly. Some episodes had us adding gags right up until delivery time and some we finished with nary a hiccup. Episodes had to be produced pretty quickly though. I know we started on the 10 episodes in February and were done in June. In between is sort of a blur. Xeth Feinberg, who animated the show, really worked his ass off to get things done on time and accommodate changes and additions. He’s a one man animation studio.
What’s the most difficult part of producing an episode of the show?
Eric Filipkowski: The hardest part of the production process for me was just figuring out how to write for a cartoon. It’s very different than writing for the stage or short films, which was the bulk of my previous experience. It was a learning process that went on right up until the final episode. I tend to be overly verbose, which will kill you in animation. Because nothing is worse than looking at a character just standing there, delivering lines of dialogue. Xeth was a big help in this, because he has so much experience. He was able to guide us as to what would work and what wouldn’t.
Nathan Hamill: For me, one of the hardest things was getting the episodes to be the right length and figuring out what needed to be cut. The rest was easy.
Did you pitch this cartoon to anyone else besides Shut Up! Cartoons?
Nathan Hamill: They were the first ones we pitched to. They knew there was interest from literally every other entertainment corporation and didn’t want to risk missing out. So they signed us on the spot and presented us with keys to the city.
Funny! So Nathan, which of the toys that you’ve designed will be making an appearance on the web series? Can you say?
Nathan Hamill: There might’ve been an existing vinyl character that I snuck into the background. But if I tell you, where’s the fun in that? Keep your eyes peeled. There’s definitely a few toys sprinkled throughout.
Where do you draw inspiration from for Weasel Town? I’ve noticed that it’s very colorful. It gives me a psychedelic vibe.
Nathan Hamill: Both Eric and I have a fondness for stupid characters that think they’re much smarter than they are like Homer Simpson, Chris Peterson and to a certain extent, even Ralph Kramden. Dipster, our character, definitely has a lot in common with those guys. In regards to the look, my biggest influences are Carl Barks, Preston Blair, Frank Kozik, John Kricfalusi, classic Nintendo and Touma. There’s countless other movies, comics and shows that have molded my sensibilities too but those are the first that come to mind.
What are some of your favorite cartoons?
Eric Filipkowski: Some of my favorite shows treat death like this – Get a Life, South Park, and the nightly news.
Nathan Hamill: For me it’s The Simpsons, Beavis and Butthead, The Ren & Stimpy Show, Beany and Cecil, and DuckTales.
Nathan, I read somewhere that you signed away the movie rights for one of the toys you designed – Boris – is that true? Is Michael Bay really doing that?
Nathan Hamill: You’ve done your research. Well, I really can’t say too much about that right now. Benicio del Toro dropped out of the project and things have sort of stalled on it. But I’m currently working on turning it into an off Broadway show. And a theme park….also Off-Broadway.
Good luck with that! I imagine there will be lots of traffic… One last thing for you. Are you going to focus more on Weasel Town and less on designing toys from now on?
Nathan Hamill: There’s room for both to be sure. Even if, for example, Weasel Town were to become an Off-Broadway show, toys will still have my undying love and devotion.
That’s nice to hear. Alright, this is the last, last one. Do you guys plan on producing any more cartoons?
Nathan Hamill: We’ll see. Right now Eric and I are talking about the future of Weasel Town and what we’d like to do with the series if there’s interest in producing more.
Watch new episodes of Weasel Town every Wednesday on the Shut Up! Cartoons YouTube channel. Check out the trailer below:
Photos: Courtesy of Nathan Hamill and Eric Filipkowski
(This interview was originally published at ScreenCrave on August 16th, 2012.)