20 questions with The Muppet Matrix creators

So here’s the “interview” I promised earlier today:

  1. What was the course/curriculum that spawned The Muppet Matrix project?
  2. Initially, we were to take “Intro to 3d Modeling” but Chris and I were going in with quite a bit of background with the software. We thought we may walk away with a more formal introduction but after the first hour of lab, we had actually completed the official final project for the entire
    quarter.

  3. What grade did you receive on the project?
  4. 100% for the project itself and boatloads of extra credit. We did the math and realized that with all the extra credit we recieved, we actually didn’t even need to show up for the final exam and would have still walked away with a 98% in the class.

  5. What software tools did you use to render, edit and compile/export the video?
  6. The entirety of the 3d models were all built in 3ds Max v8.0. It had a lot of new features we really needed to streamline production since our timeframe was limited to two months. For splitting the reference video and getting frame counts we used Adobe Premier. The final rendered clips were then all compiled and edited in Sony Screenblast by Donnie. There were tons of honorable mentions for the supporting software that we used, but the majority of the workload was with those three.

  7. What source material (Muppet DVDs, Google Image search, plush toys) did you use to help you build the Muppet models?
  8. Actually, that was the hardest part….research. Although the Muppets are well published, it was practically impossible to find good reference to work from. After a few days of searching, I finally stumbled upon a website that sold muppet toys. http://muppetfigs.free.fr/html/figs.htm All of their pictures worked out perfectly for building the models in the end.

  9. How many total hours of work did it take to produce the video?
  10. We roughly estimate 1000 man hours between the three of us. The majority of our days were spent waking at 8 and then working until 3 am. Time was completely against us. Had my boss not been so gracious as to look the other way while I was at work, we probably never would have finished, and I’d be out of a job…

  11. Which elements took the longest/shortest?
  12. We worked linearly through the project in reference to the original trailer. When we got to the point where there’s a sequence of two to three frame clips we were completely on fire. I think I burnt out the setup on those all in just a couple days and Chris had them rendered shortly thereafter. Of course, when we got to the Piggy wall run scene, everything just came to a grinding halt. The number of elements in that scene was just ridiculous. Her animation took a full day, the setup of all the particles in the scene took another. Tweaking the final result then adding the swat pig and his animation in the background added a half day on top of that. I thought we’d never get through that scene. On top of all of that, Chris kept having issues with the render. Overall, that 2 – 3 second clip cost us a week of production.

  13. How do you know one another?
  14. Prior to our first quarter in class, we were all strangers to each other. Thanks to the design of the classes, we’ve become close friends and hang out together on a regular basis. This whole project brought us even closer together to the point that we’re starting our own 3d animation and Video Production company.

  15. Whose idea was it to share the video online?
  16. Ha, well, we knew going into this that as soon as it was submitted to class we were going to upload the video to the web. Being the net friendly folk that we are, we decided to pirate our own video by uploading before we had even submitted it to class.

  17. What has the website traffic been like?
  18. Sickening… The first week was exciting. We rounded out Saturday with about 300 hits and toppled that the following Monday with over 1000. Little did we know that the web had yet to find our clip. All that week we averaged around 600 to 800, but yesterday the poo hit the fan. We got ravaged with 15,000 hits within a 24 hour period. After that, we were certain the website was going down but managed to pull through. The next day, at 10 am, we were already at 10,000. So far, we’re at 20,000 for today and it’s only 5 pm… Crazy!

  19. Are you happy that more people are seeing the video because ofsites like YouTube (http://youtube.com/) and mentions on blogs?
  20. Absolutely! The more people that see it, the merrier. Exposure was our main concern when uploading and the web tracker has shown the traffic coming in from all over the world. We’re just hoping for that phone call from Pixar / Dreamworks / MGM, offering us a job… (please?)

  21. Are you going to try and make money off the video, either from ads on the website, a revenue-sharing video service like Revver (http://revver.com/) or t-shirts from Café Press?
  22. No, not at all. We did this as a class project and have maintained that mentality throughout. Although the Fair Use act shields us because it’s a spoof, if we were take even a dime for it we’d end up in a heap of trouble. We’re just happy that everyone can see it for free.

  23. How many interviews/requests have you gotten since The Muppet Matrix has been online?
  24. So far we’ve recieved 3 interview requests. G4’s Attack of the Show emailed us, requesting a live interview via phone but once their legal department looked into the matter, they decided they didn’t have the authority to air the clip.

  25. Have you had any job offers because of the video?
  26. Well, a few individuals have aproached us about having custom cg work done, but the cost is usually too high for the average person. We may have a job within the next 6 months to create a short intro for a fan-created TRON movie script. However, anyone out there that would like to hire our services is more than welcome to contact us!

  27. Why the Muppets? Why not some other pop-culture reference such as South Park or the Thundercats?
  28. Good question… Originally we brainstormed on what to do and the Muppets were introduced right off the bat. I’ve always been a big fan and Chris agreed. Of course, being the geeks that we are, The Matrix came up shortly thereafter. We thought that since it hadn’t been done, we had to be the ones to do it. Seems that it worked out for the best!

  29. Was there any thought given to the legal ramifications, aside from a cease & desist, of the video prior to posting it?
  30. Yeah, we sweated the idea for about 20 seconds. Had we gotten a cease and desist, we would have sent resumes back to them with that stapled to it.

  31. Are you concerned about Disney (copyright holder of The Muppets) or Warner Brother (copyright holder of The Matrix) asking you to take the video down?
  32. Not really… Since it is technically a spoof, the First Amendment gives us a pretty big shield to hide behind. Although we’re definately not lawyers, most everything we’ve researched has led us to the conclusion that most large companies like WB and Disney either blush that we’ve taken their work and accentuated it, or are knocked down by the court for taking on “Joe Blow average citizen”.

  33. Did you consider dubbing Muppet-voiced dialogue in the place of actual Matrix dialogue?
  34. We did actually, but at the time didn’t know of a good voice actor to do it. We’ve since been contacted by a professional that is offering to do it for free because he liked the video so much.

  35. Does the final production match your initial creative vision?
  36. It actually exceeded it. Ideas always start out simple then compound into ever more intricate possibilites. This one turned into a mushroom cloud of possibility and the end result blew even us away.

  37. Are you working on any other movie mash-ups or Muppet projects?
  38. We considered it but thought to leave well enough alone. “Leave em wanting more” was kind of the motto and we plan to keep it that way. Tons of people have asked if we’re doing the whole movie but what makes the trailer so great is that you get the whole movie in under 4 minutes.

  39. What’s next for you guys?
  40. Hollywood I hope! Actually, we’ve got a massive project in preproduction already. We’re currently working on the script, fleshing out the characters, and planning all the computer needs in advance. Once we get the main concept down, one of our friends will begin creating the concept art and we’ll begin modeling again, shortly thereafter. Keep an eye out for us. We’re shooting for the stars!

Thanks to Donnie, Chris & Derek for taking the time to answer my questions!

2 thoughts on “20 questions with The Muppet Matrix creators

  1. Andre says:

    Amazing!!!

    I’d love to see a whole movie based on the Muppets and the Matrix. I think that’d be a hell of a movie!!!

    Well done guys!!!

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