Beach breaks into Channel Frederator fold
Local animator now in swing to create Sterile Atomic Fly series for cartoon network
Saturday, Aug 16, 2014 06:00 am
One local animator’s show business aspirations are becoming realized, now that he has been signed up to a prominent animation network.
Riley Beach has just joined forces with the Channel Frederator Network. It’s the latest in a growing line of credits that the 32-year-old Bellerose grad has accumulated on his résumé.
“This is a huge launch pad,” he stated. “It’s a huge door being opened and there’s a ton of work that needs to be done.”
Channel Frederator is the production company behind Adventure Time on the Cartoon Network and Fairly OddParents, which airs on Nickelodeon. It also features other notable series as Bravest Warriors, Simon’s Cat, the FilmCow Channel and the YouTube megahit Charlie the Unicorn. That three-minute video has had over 66 million views.
Raised in St. Albert, Beach graduated from the Radio and Television program at NAIT in 2002.
“I kinda always wanted to be a weatherman or an entertainment reporter, but I didn’t really like it very much,” he admitted. While still immersed in his studies, he discovered the Adobe Suite of computer software, and After Effects, which is an animation program.
“I thought it was pretty cool and fun so I just kept working at it. Eventually, I started building my skills on top of each other until I started getting work doing it. It started out as a hobby but turned into a career.”
Such a career does not happen overnight, he said. Not by a long shot. He started doing part-time animation projects after graduation, but “that didn’t exactly pay the bills.”
Instead, he worked a string of very odd jobs — debt collector, pizza maker, carpet cleaner, plastics factory worker — through his twenties while devoting his creative energies in the evenings to his freelance animation work. His cartoons always had his heart and his dreams.
“Trying to be an animator in Edmonton was really difficult because there isn’t really a lot of demand for what I do. There’s a lot of corporate work and whatnot … but in terms of doing short sketches or an animated series, that’s really not done in Edmonton. It was pretty tough getting work but eventually the work just kept coming and I managed to start making a living off of it.”
He got contract animation work here and there, honing his skills as he went. He also started a YouTube channel called ‘SpicyBackPain’ five years ago, an act of entrepreneurship that satisfied his need for an outlet for his ingenuity. He is the sole creative force behind his work, doing all of the writing, illustrating, voicing and, of course, animation.
“After I was done [work] I would go home, I would animate and make little cartoons, and hope that maybe some day those would take off. And yeah, they did.”
He created and uploaded a series of humorous and “satirical” videos, based on of his own experiences and ruminations. One example is called Xtreme Coffee and Travel Mugz Action Set.
“That was based off of a conversation I had with somebody who was upset because his little boy was playing with a pink tea set. He’s like, ‘I don’t know about this.’ I said, ‘Dude, you’re drinking tea right now!’ ”
The father in the video tries to modify his young boy’s behaviour by offering him a different tea set. It’s the monster truck equivalent of a coffee machine, complete with a stainless steel chassis, chrome detailing and off road “lo pro” mud tires. It doesn’t change much.
“A lot of people ask me about my YouTube channel. ‘Does it make you any money?’ In the last three years, the advertising on my channel has made me $100,” he said, with emphasis.
“There’s not a lot of big money in it. Unless you’re getting tens of millions of views, you’re not going to be able to make a living out of it. The thing is, with the Internet and the visibility of YouTube videos that are popular, it’s basically been like my demo reel, where I’ve been able to do a cartoon and other people who want to pay me to make cartoons or commission work off of me are interested from that. That’s where Kenny vs. Spenny came in.”
He admitted to being a huge fan of the Canadian-made show featuring two friends who are in perpetual competition. Each episode features an absurd and generally offensive or unpleasant contest, the loser of which must perform some humiliating act of the winner’s choice.
Getting that gig was a huge boost to his credibility, he said.
All told, he now has creative credits on that show, Comedy Central’s Atom.TV, Just for Laughs and BiteTV. He recently won an Alberta Motion Picture Industry Award for his work on Tiny Plastic Men, the half-hour Super Channel comedy series featuring a wealth of Edmonton area talents.
He figures that it was Drugs, drugs, drugs! (still found on SpicyBackPain) that brought him and his talent to the attention of Channel Frederator.
“It has a very high number of views. They just contacted me by sending me a message over YouTube, saying, ‘We love your work. It looks really great. We want you to join our network.’”
He recalled a ‘Don’t do drugs’ style public service announcement from the 1980s that featured an actor portraying a drug dealer. As he was talking about how cool drugs are, he turns into a snake. The child in his video watches the PSA and thinks that turning into a snake is awesome, at least until he sees a real drug dealer on the street, that is.
It’s his most popular video with more than 130,000 views. Representatives from Channel Frederator offered him work in the appropriate manner.
This means that he will finally see his Sterile Atomic Fly series come to fruition. It started off as a pilot (also on his YouTube channel) and he recently acquired funding to develop it while Frederator will handle the marketing and distribution.
The story is about a tsetse fly named Damon that was engineered in a lab and implanted with a radioactive bomb that detonates any time it mates with a female. Evil scientists are trying to decimate the fly population and this is their brightest idea. But there’s a fatal flaw.
“The thing is that these guys were created in a laboratory and they have zero social skills. They’re not exactly going to be able to go into the bar world of insects and mate with females. This all winds up being pretty disastrous.”
He added that much of the basis for the fly’s misadventures came from his own life experiences as a teenager and young adult. He describes it as “a coming of age story for a young weapon of mass destruction.”
Beach is thrilled to fulfil his lifelong ambition, something that he doesn’t see stopping just at Frederator and Sterile Atomic Fly.
“I’ve been doodling pictures my whole entire life. I never thought I’d be able to make a living doing animation. That alone is really cool! I’d almost consider that to be an end goal: being paid to make animation.”
“It’s been a long road. It’s been a very, very long road, a very bumpy road and there’s a lot of road ahead of me and everything. I feel like this is a great launch pad for great things in the near future.”