Congrats to Andrew Phillips and Howard Fyvie, whose Cloud Life story pitch won the Turner-sponsored Kids’ Animation Pitching Competition at DISCOP last month. Their zany 2D animateds how features an evil corporation ruling over a futuristic digital wonderland and follows a group of interns trying to change its moral compass from within. The competition was part of the first-ever Animation Lounge at DISCOP– Africa’s largest content market. Believe it or not, Andrew and Howard weren’t even at DISCOP to pitch their idea, so how in this world did they manage to win?
Punch Monkey founders Andrew Phillips (LEFT) and Howard Fyvie (RIGHT)
Q: Who did such a great job of selling your show to the panel and what was the feedback like?
Andrew: Talia Sanhewe totally killed it when she pitched the project for us. Nandi Zulu and Talia are old friends of mine, who happen to be TV producers, so they were happy to help represent Cloud Life for us at DISCOP. They are very talented individuals; we would love to work with them again.
Howard: In typical ‘creators’ style, we only heard about DISCOP a few days before the competition closed, so we rushed to apply. I did a pitch video and we sent it off, then we read the fine print and saw you had to be registered first – bummer! Neither of us could make it, so we basically thought: “Maybe there’s a friend of ours going who can pitch on our behalf…” Talia and her team were going with their own projects and agreed to pitch Cloud Life, too – and it won!
Q: How did the two of you meet and when did you know it was time to open a studio together?
Andrew: We’ve been friends for years, but when we both got selected for the Triggerfish Story Lab workshop, we spent a lot more time together. One afternoon, I pitched half an idea to Howard while he was making a grilled cheese sandwich in my kitchen. He laughed and lobbed the other half back to me (idea, not sandwich). We’ve been volleying ideas back and forth ever since –laughing our faces off and accidentally launching an animation development studio.
Q: How did your experience in Triggerfish and Disney’s Story Lab help prepare you for Turner’s pitching competition at DISCOP?
Howard: Triggerfish Story Lab put a flame under our but to actually get up, put our ideas down and turn them into something sellable. Without that, you’ve just got ideas. What we needed to do was actually make those ideas tangible. Essentially, deadlines for events like Story Lab, Annecy and DISCOP are the things we work towards…. Deadlines become the fires under our butts.
Q: Your other two projects also feature little heroes journeying through big worlds for change. Is Born Flea set in the same world The Life Factory made and from which Cloud Life emerged? Are we all living in a simulation?
Andrew: Wow, that’s deep. I’m not sure. But if someone is simulating my life I wish they would delete some of the boring admin and simulate me a hoverboard, a talking pet, and some challenging-but-achievable quests. As for the worlds of those projects, they were pretty discrete in my mind until you made that convincing connection. Now we have to go and rewrite everything.
Q: What were some of your favourite animated shows growing up and what are you enjoying currently?
Andrew: I watched a lot of 80s Disney shows like Duck Tales and The Gummi Bears, but my great love was The Simpsons. My gran used to fill old video tapes with episodes that I would watch and re-watch every time I visited her. In my teenage years, I taped every episode of Futurama and re-watched them until the cassettes were ruined. I don’t watch much TV these days, but what I’ve seen of Gravity Falls and Adventure Time has been super inspiring.
Howard: Pretty much what Andrew said… The Simpsons was a massive hit for me. I just loved the suburban chaos that Bart and Homer caused. Add to that anything Disney.
Q: What does winning this competition mean to you and what advice do you have for other creators looking to set their own worlds in motion?
Andrew: At this early stage of development we’re like that missing-link fish, urged by some primal impulse to crawl out of the water. As you’re slumping up the beach it feels a little awkward, and you start to second-guess yourself: “Maybe I’ve come out too soon! Maybe I should go back in the water… unless anyone thinks I should go on?” That’s why the win is so great; it’s like some kind of authority waving us on, affirming our creative instincts, giving us the confidence to keep going. And maybe when we actually make our show we’ll be able to give some advice. But, for now, all I can say is that it’s better to have a lot of ideas. Don’t get hung up on one pet project. Get a bunch of projects to the point that you can pitch them. You never know which one is going to get attention.
Howard: I’ll add that you need to enter competitions. Look at us: we’re on ASA now being interviewed because we entered Turner’s competition! Unless you’re entering competitions, pitching your work, and constantly moving forward – even in the face of hundreds of rejections –you won’t get anywhere. So enter things! Write your pitch! You can do it! To find out more about Andrew and Howard’s work you can visit Punch Monkey’s website here. And if you’re an awesome illustrator/character designer who’s excited by “Cloud Life”, Andrew and Howard are still looking to lock down partners and invite you to get in touch with your portfolios via their website.