Stephen Kroninger
Chris Rock: Bad Phone Sex
art mock up used for character placement reference by the animators

  I designed this short animation for Chris Rock about ten years ago. I also co-directed it with animator Howie Hoffman. Someone recently posted it to Youtube so I thought I'd post about it here. It originally aired on HBO's The Chris Rock Show.
DISCLAIMER: It's Chris Rock and it's called BAD PHONE SEX. You get the picture. If you are offended by explicit language I would recommend that you NOT press the play button. As they say on tv, "viewer discretion is advised."

Someone came to HBO and proposed creating an animation spot for the Chris Rock Show "in the style of Stephen Kroninger." A friend of mine was a producer on the show and at that meeting. She said, " I know Stephen Kroninger. Why don't we get him?" And so they did. We had two weeks and a crew of four to complete the piece. It's cut-outs, after effects and photoshop.The work was done at Broadway Video in the old Brill Building.

  The original audio piece clocked in at 3:10. It was edited down to just under two minutes. Howard Hoffman then took a copy of the new script and outlined his directorial choices line by line.
The next step was transferring Howard's rough sketches to a storyboard (drawn by John Dilworth).

 The three images above were presented to the producers in order to to give them a general sense of how the piece would look. The Chris Rock heads were snipped from magazines.
 Two things I didn't want in this animation were (1) to work with magazine or publicity photos of Chris Rock and (2) to have the heads "talk" by cutting the face in two between the lips and having the heads bobbing up and down to simulate speech. Thankfully, Chris was open to the idea and we had a photo session with him. In the first part we showed him the storyboard frame by frame and he mimicked each expression in the drawings. Here are some of them.

 Same with his hands. These hands remind me of a conversation I once had with Terry Gilliam. He was demonstrating to me his own various hand poses for the Monty Python animations. Seems obscure but it was quite a lesson from the master for me. I drew on that for our photo session on this project.

 Each head pose was cut out and matched up to its corresponding frame on the storyboard.

In the second part of the photo session, for the lip-sync, Chris mouthed the standard animation letter configurations. The mouths were then cut-out digitally. It added some extra labor for the animators but I think it works beautifully.
Chris was extrememly generous with his time and great to work with. He was also very soft-spoken in contrast to his stage persona. He was also generous with his praise after we completed the project.

 Next we shot the video for Chris's one line of live-action dialog. He's holding a phone I made. I created the animation frames for the cat that precedes this line in photoshop on my home computer.
elements were cut-out and assigned an envelope

envelopes were consigned to a folder corresponding to their shots.
a selection of cut-out elements.
body parts and towel

 I came up with the exploding head for the ending during production. The original ending was sort of complicated and confusing (storyboard frames above). Chris was originally to turn into a Dick and Jane picture book painting, then turn into a doctor and then slam down the reciever. To me it seemed that would have stopped the momentum of the piece in its tracks. My thought was that as we watched Chris's tension and frustration accelerating there wasn't much left for him to do but explode. We kept the doctor line and image but moved it forward. We were going to take out the doctor bit altogether but the producers said, "No, no you have to keep it in. Chris gets a laugh every time he curses." I created the frames for the explosion in photoshop on my home computer.

BAD PHONE SEX is currently available as an extra on the Chris Rock standup performance dvd BRING THE PAIN.

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