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Building “The Loud House”: An Interview With Creator Chris Savino

By: Marjorie Galas

Chris Savino has never lost the desire to create a comic strip.  At the tender age of four, he spent hours gathering swatches of leather an older sister amassed from her job that he used as drawing pads, mimic the comics he saw in the Sunday morning papers.  During his senior year of high school he shifted gears, looking for other creative avenues to explore.

“I watched cartoons and knew people made them,” said Savino.  “But coming from a big family in Michigan, college seemed like a pipe dream.  I didn’t think a career in (animation) was an option for me.”

He did make it to college, and his earliest jobs in the animation field include layout artist on “The Ren & Stimpy Show” and character/prop designer on “Hey Arnold!”  Throughout his career Savino rose the ranks working on high profile animation series, eventually becoming supervising director, producer and writer on “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Powderpuff Girls” and executive producer and director on “Kick Buttowski.”  Savoring every experience and creative challenge, Savino never lost the yearning to pay homage to the disappearing printed comics.  After 25 years in the field, Savino shifted his career focus by joining Nickelodeon overseeing development of new projects. Soon into his new career a colleague encouraged him to submit concepts to the network’s first annual Animated Shorts Program, which promotes a selected short to pilot status.  Having worked on human-based cartoons, he was excited to explore some extreme physical humor accepted in animal based cartoons.  Savino’s pitched featured a boy rabbit surrounded by 25 siblings.  After it was suggested the characters be humans, Savino realized his upbringing in a house full of ten siblings offered the perfect marriage of story inspiration and his childhood love for classic cartoon creation.

Savino erased the bunny ears and nose, made some slight modifications and created 11 year-old Lincoln, a boy stuck in the middle of five older and five younger sisters.  He based the story for his short animation around the difficulties he had growing up with ten sisters, reflecting on the challenge he would sometimes have when going on a date.  Before getting to the door his older sisters would blockade him and critique his outfit.  Modifying the situation to something universally understandable, Savino’s short focused on Lincoln trying to get to the bathroom.  Each sister, named after someone or something special in Savino’s life, is introduced as they interrupt his much needed goal.  Recognizing the cacophony that arises from ten yelling children, he realized he had a great last name for his animated family, and “The Loud House” was born.

The short was the first series to be greenlit out of the global shorts program.   Creating stories that resonated with a broad audience while mining the humor of the large family was a primary concern to Savino.  His writer’s room bridges individuals who come from live action comedy as well as animation.    The top notch writing team help place Lincoln in situations that are digestable to a broad audience, while outlining the unique personalities of each character.  The humor for the audience comes from the relatable moments that transpire as Lincoln tries to achieve his goal, such as the constant obstacles that are thrown at Lincoln as he innocently tries to reach the living room couch to watch the conclusion of his favorite TV show – the storyline in the May 3rd premiere episode of “The Loud House.”

“I wanted to make sure the heart in this show is absolutely believable and is real and comes from an authentic place,” said Savino.  “We’re using universal themes that people know, but in Lincoln’s case, they are multiplied by ten, so it’s more amplified.”

The animation style of “The Loud House” allowed Savino to merge his love of comics with his animation design knowledge.  While hand drawing the cells would be his ideal choice to replicate the cartoon style, he knew the challenge of working on eleven unique characters would be an overwhelming burden for animators, particularly on a television schedule.  Seeking to duplicate the line qualities in a comic strip and maintain this aesthetic throughout character builds and rigging, Savino used an animation software called Harmony.  Harmony presents a more fluid finish to the characters when the images are rigged for movement.   The palette mimics the limited colors used in the printing process of 1970s comics; the time period of Savino’s early inspirations.  Floors, walls and other environments are a single color, referencing the half-tone color scheme of classic comic strips.  And, like the “Peanuts”, each character’s wardrobe has a signature color.   Interestingly, as Savino aimed to evoke a feeling of familiarity to the comic strips, early feedback he received was that he created a style that was “fresh and new.”

“It was an amazing process to witness that the more I tried to make people think they had seen the style somewhere before, the more people thought was something new,” said Savino.

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