Flashforward 2006 Seattle - 28 Feb 2006 (censored)

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Censored content This version of the article has been censored. To view the uncensored version, see Flashforward 2006 Seattle - 28 Feb 2006.

Flashforward 2006 Seattle Logo

From the Flashforward web site:

Take a step back in time as Mike and Matt Chapman show how they still use Flash® 5 to make the weekly cartoons featured on HomestarRunner.com. Learn the secrets and not-so-secrets of making a 3-5 minute cartoon every week. Hear about their six years on the web, watch some of their stuff, and learn how they've managed to make a living doing something they like.

The Brothers Chaps appeared at Flashforward 2006, a conference for Flash designers and developers, on February 28, 2006, in Seattle, Washington. They conducted a session called "How and Why Homestar Runner Cartoons Get Made" in Room 6B from 3:45 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. HRWiki user and sysop Thunderbird L17 was generously given a media pass from the people at Flashforward to cover the event on behalf of the wiki.


[edit] The Presentation

[edit] Introductions - 3:45 p.m.

The presentation
The presentation was hosted by Mike and Matt Chapman. While booting up their laptop, one could glimpse "3726 unread emails" on Matt's user profile. After setting up and introducing themselves, they announced that they had each brought a Nintendo DS, and had started a PictoChat which they would carry on intermittently throughout the presentation. Before long two members of the audience had joined the conversation. Matt then showed what he had been working on during the keynote address: A humorous sketch of Mike and two gorillas. After explaining that they were Flash animators for their website, homestarrunner.com, they showed a sample of their work: virus.

[edit] Early History - 3:50 p.m.

First they began with the site history, showing the early progression of the site.

  • Stills from the Original Book, and related the history of making the book during the Olympics of August 1996.
  • A clip from the next thing they had made, the toon Super NES using Mario Paint on the SNES system.
  • A clip of a toon they made to teach themselves Flash: Marshmallow's Last Stand. They froze this clip and pointed out various animation problems, such as the jagged edges and inconsistent colors.
  • A clip from the beginning of The Luau; from 2001. Mike commented on stealing the lens flare idea from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, and pointed out the bottom edge of the cube of tofu disappearing early.
  • In late 2001, they started the Strong Bad Emails, along with the original intention of replying to every email in character, and animating a select email each week. That plan was quickly abandoned, but they did decide to start making a Strong Bad Email weekly around January 2002. They then showed a favorite clip of theirs, the love song from montage. They generally consider early 2002 being the point where their animation reached a "style plateau".

[edit] Samples of Styles - 3:55 p.m.

They went on to relate how the website is kept creatively interesting, through various animation styles. They showed stills from the different styles, namely:

Because they are self-employed and thus don't answer to a boss, creatively they are able to do really whatever they want, such as a "bad heavy metal song"; they can do it and call it Homestar Runner.

[edit] More History, The Store, and Related Topics - 4:00 p.m.

They then returned to their history of the website, starting in 2001.

  • In 2001, they began selling T-shirts.
  • In August of 2003, Matt quit his job at EarthLink, and began working on the site full time. Earlier Matt had gone on the EarthLink website, and found a page that still featured many of his images he had made for the company, such as a calculator and a wad of money.

They also mentioned the Store, and how they sell products such as CDs, DVDs, Figurines and T-shirts. They try to keep the store a separate entity, without ramming it down visitors' throats. They recalled, with distaste, sites that would play an ad to buy some crap, and another ad after that would link you directly to the store. Their method of building their business ended up building a fan base first out of their own pocket, and then introducing merchandise, which they admit isn't traditionally a good business model. They mentioned that they now live in different houses, with wives, instead of in their parents' basement, as some may believe. They showed a still from the 2004 Pulse Interview; which was them pixelated wearing fake mustaches, posing as the Videlectrix programmers. They also mentioned that they still do all of their animation in Flash 5, and began relating the process of creating a cartoon.

[edit] Pre-animation Process - 4:05 p.m.

After being momentarily distracted by the continuing Nintendo DS chatroom, they began relating the process of creating a cartoon ("which will just *** you off even more that this is what we do for a living"). When they first started creating weekly cartoons they both still had full time jobs, and therefore created the entire cartoons sometimes after watching the Falcons game in its entirety at 2:00 pm Sunday afternoon. Nowadays a typical four minute cartoon takes the entire week, with animation taking place during the last three or four days.

  • Mondays or Tuesdays they begin looking through submitted Strong Bad emails; it sometimes takes four or five hours to find a usable email. They also showcased 5 different groups of emails that would most likely not be answered:
  • They then demonstrated their brainstorming process using two small foam balls. Matt lay on the floor and threw a half-size basketball up in the air, suggesting, "So Strong Bad's going to be in like a box, a cardboard box. That The Cheat peed in." Mike agreed with him throughout this ("Okay, okay, I like it"), then threw his foam baseball at him. They also mentioned that they have been in their office for around two years, and vacuumed it for the first time three weeks ago, so lying on the floor is much nicer now.
  • In addition to brainstorming, they also wander around their neighborhood (and the depressing adult diaper and hearing aid stores found in the strip mall their offices are in) searching for inspiration.
  • After they have an idea of what the cartoon will be about, they usually write separately. After their writing is done they will compare their scripts, and merge them using the best ideas. According to Mike, his writing is usually better. They once again referred to their continuing Nintendo DS conversation, saying that one person said they were giving "too much info".
  • Next is recording the sound, which is done using a fairly soundproof sound room and an audio mobile USB pre-amp with an XLR mic running into it. It used to be Matt just sitting at the computer holding an old Super H film microphone or something, never a system mic. This resulted in numerous background noises, such as Matt's hand moving around, the hum of the computer fan, or Mike doing dishes in the background. In the later days Matt draped a blanket over his head and the mic to minimize background noises.

[edit] Animation Process - 4:10 p.m.

  • Matt mentioned a little intro cartoon that they made for "the Festival"; Mike corrected that it was a convention (festivals are more fun). They showed a still of the end of the intro toon, and explained Easter eggs, and how they are the extent of the action script that they use. According to Matt: "So we made a little intro, so anyways we're gonna put on the site, uh, later on this week..." The intro never appeared on the website, but instead was included on the Everything Else, Volume 2 DVD. Then they began to demonstrate the animation process, by adding what they described as an Easter egg to the end of the finished toon (on the released DVD version it is simply an extension of the original toon).
    • The scene is Homestar Runner and Strong Bad crouched down behind a podium labeled "Podium Excellens". Homestar says to Strong Bad "Strong Bad, I think the elevator's broke."
  • Matt Chapman's Desktop
    They began by recording the line using the old method of Matt wearing a blanket over his head, and speaking Homestar's line into the mic. Matt also pointed out his laptop's background, which is a screenshot of the Deltaur from Space Quest I, another 1980s era video game.
  • After revealing that he doesn't label any of his Flash layers, Mike demonstrated lip-syncing the toon. Mike first mixes up Homestar and Strong Bad, then clarifies that Homestar's head is 3 frames, which gives three different facial expressions to work with. Mike would layer the sound down first, then click on various points of the audio. In Flash 5, this plays a microsecond of the audio, which gives them an indication of what mouth layer to cut and paste into that point. This is one of the reasons they continue to use Flash 5. At least MX 04 does not play a short sound from the point in the audio. They did challenge anybody to make Flash 8 look and act exactly like Flash 5, and they would gladly switch over. Lip-syncing the entire scene only took a few minutes to complete.
  • They also talked about the design of the characters, and how they are easy to animate. Although they didn't originally design their characters with animating in Flash in mind, they lucked out that many of their characters don't have arms or legs, and none of their characters are overly complex. That's just how they generally draw and design.
  • They also talked about the technical aspects of their animation. They have always animated at 12 frames per second, in a 550 x 400 window, because both of those options were the Flash 5 defaults.
  • They also demonstrated "doinking", by making Homestar flinch at certain stresses of the sentence.
  • They demonstrated Strong Bad's Mask design, and how they can easily turn his head just by moving the mask and having it cut off at the edge of his head.
  • They also briefly explained that they storyboard their toons, then opened the floor to audience questions.

[edit] Graphics and the Wiki - 4:20 p.m.

[edit] Who does all the voices?

MATT: I doos all the voices. Except for Marzipan, the girl character, which is Mike's wife Melissa.
MIKE: Today's our second wedding anniversary, and I'm here.
MATT: She's at home, and pregnant. {sarcastically} Husband of the year...
MIKE: I did remember to send her flowers.
  • After that first question, Mike went on to talk about something he meant to cover earlier, their drawing. They draw everything in Flash, using drawing tools and a Wacom tablet. Mike first learned with Adobe Illustrator, and by the time Flash 5 came out Mike was comfortable using program drawing tools. They generally try to always break the lines apart, which doesn't leave a rounded edge and allows you to vary the line width. Mike began to demonstrate his artistic skills by drawing something in Flash 5.
  • Mike carried on talking about early Flash animations, and how everything looked like it was drawn in Flash, with gradients everywhere, line tools running into each other, and for that reason they shied away from drawing stuff in Flash, either by tracing in bitmap or scanning it in. Nowadays they are comfortable enough with drawing things in Flash without it looking like it's drawn in Flash. At this point Matt identifies Mike's drawing as a piece of toast.
  • They were again sidetracked by the continuing PictoChat conversation, pointing out a drawing of Mike saying "harrump" that somebody drew on the DS.
  • Mike went on to clarify the process of making a new toon, that while Matt records the voices he will generally draw any new graphics that are needed for that email or cartoon. Once Matt is done recording, Mike is generally done with the graphics, they split up the scenes, work towards the middle, and finish up by 5 am Sunday night.

[edit] What part of creating a toon is the most fun? - Green Shirt

  • Matt explains that early writing is always hard, sometimes throwing a baseball against a wall for hours on end with no good ideas. Then usually a walk around the "creepy depressing shopping mall" their offices are at and seeing a guy at the adult diaper store gives them inspiration of what should happen in the toon. That initial flood of creativity is generally the most fun part of the animation process. He also mentions that not speaking for sometimes 18 hours straight with headphones on as they animate things such as the text and Strong Bad's head in a Strong Bad Email gets redundant at times, but they still enjoy it somewhat. He reiterates that the initial sparks of writing ideas are always the most fun. Sometimes in the last three hours of animating a cartoon, they will come up with something else and completely rewrite it.
  • Matt also explains that there isn't a whole lot of quality control. They watch the toon a couple times, tweak small parts and cut out others, and then put it right up on the website. Generally they finish the day they should be uploading the toon.
  • At this point Mike chips in that he enjoys drawing toast more, as he puts the finishing touches on his toast graphic. Matt comments on the toast, that it looks a bit thin, like Pepperidge Farm toast. Mike mentions that sometimes he'll spend hours just tweaking graphics, likening it to "peeling dried glue off the nub of a thing of glue", describing it as "very therapeutic". Mike mentions that "no one would ever be able to see this", and Matt suggests "Somebody... I don't know, maybe you should look at the..."

[edit] The Homestar Runner Wiki

  • MATT: That's another thing, is that when we're animating, um, we have another resource that we have absolutely nothing to do with, something that's totally fan driven, it's awesome, the Homestar Runner Wiki, uh, that appeared, one day, and it's so exhaustive, it's wonderful. Mike and I, like we don't—we never figured out what the hell a shared library is or how to use it and so we will go, uh, you know "this one has Strong Bad sitting on a couch," so we have be like, "all right, which one has him on a couch," and we'd have to go back and figure it out, but now we have the Homestar Wiki and we just go on and write "couch" or "orange couch" and it brings up like five emails that have Strong Bad on the couch. {audience laughter} And so, it's pretty great. It's very, very, uh, it's extremely all-inclusive and sometimes scary. There are pictures of friends that we had never seen on there and they're like, {imitates wiki user voice} "Oh, and this is their best friend!" {slight pause, now with a questioning tone} How, did you—are these people in our house taking pictures of our friends?

[edit] Music and Video - 4:25 p.m.

At this point, Mike takes stock of the time, and mentions another factor that adds to the time needed to create an email, the music.

  • Almost every cartoon has one piece of original music, which is usually done in either Audition or GarageBand, often with their Casio keyboard.
  • At this point Mike finishes drawing his piece of toast, mentioning that this is usually at four in the morning when Mike finishes his graphic.
  • Matt mentions that they also have puppet versions of some of their characters, which they sometimes do small skits or musical things with. They generally try to keep the videos short, put them into a tiny window, and compress them using a newer version of Flash. They try to keep their files at around one megabyte, which helps to keep their bandwidth costs consistent. They also demonstrated their compressed video files, by showing a clip of death metal: "the half hour death metal dungeon hour".
  • Mike mentioned that Matt is an award winning stop motion claymation animator, from a 1987 international media festival in 7th grade. Matt clarified that they may have been stretching on it being international; that one kid maybe having an aunt from Canada was as international as it got.
  • Matt also mentioned that doing stuff like the death metal hour, putting on dumb heavy metal wigs and speaking in Swedish accents, helps them branch out.
  • They also mentioned the DVDs, how they came from fan demand of people wanting to watch them on a larger screen or over at a friend's house, and not limited to a computer. They use Flash AM's SWF to AVI to convert to the DVD, without having to worry about any formatting. Then they extrapolate the frame rate to twenty-nine or whatever the video standard is, and hand it over to Ryan Sterritt to finish up with the DVD magic.
  • Mike mentions that they made the decision to hire their friend Ryan, make him learn the Flash-to-broadcast conversion, having somebody in house who can do all stuff keeps them from having to go to somebody outside and being charged an arm and a leg.

[edit] Games - 4:30 p.m.

TBC's sample 20X6 level
  • Mike also began talking about the games on the site, in particular Stinkoman 20X6. He described how he used to just get a Flash book, find a sample of a Flash game, and just change the graphics, which resulted in really crappy Flash-based games.
  • Eventually they were contacted by Jonathan Howe from Boston via email, who said, "Hey, I noticed that your games suck. I like your website, and I would like to make your games better". After showing them some samples, they decided to collaborate with him on TROGDOR!, and subsequently several other games.
  • They talked in detail about Stinkoman 20X6, which is a Mega Man type game based on the character of Stinkoman. They wanted to have a lot of input in the game without having to stand over Jonathan's shoulder, and finally got him to make a level editor for them using Flash. They demonstrated this by creating the pictured level.
  • Demonstrated choosing character.
  • Made ground and platform.
  • Added Chorch (at Mike's suggestion).
  • Added Stobat, the large bone-throwing chicken.
  • Added ladder (also at Mike's suggestion).
  • As Matt booted up the level, Mike explained that they made most of the graphics for the games pixely in Photoshop, then imported them into Flash, as there wasn't a way to create pixely graphics in Flash that they knew of.
  • Matt then proceeded to demonstrate the game by playing the level, easily defeating the Chorch (which was stuck in place) and Stobat, and exploring to the edge of the map.
MIKE: What's up that ladder?
MATT: I dunno Mike, let's find out.
  • They explained that for the early games they would have to send them back and forth, with Jonathan changing things with his action script magic, their critiquing it, Jonathan changing more things, etc. Matt also mentioned that with Jonathan's object library with all the level elements, his action script, and his XML files, it's way more technical than what they know.
  • At this point Mike added that the orange stretch bracelets that come with the admission package to Flashforward smell really funny, and almost knocked him out. After that, they invited the audience to ask any more questions.

[edit] More Questions & Answers - 4:35 p.m.

[edit] Did you do the 3D menus on the DVDs yourself?

  • The answer is a strong no. They were contacted by some people who work for a company called "UV Phactory" in New York, who sent them a short sample of something they did with Homestar and Strong Bad in 3D. The Brothers Chaps decided to hire them for the DVD menus, and sent them a Flash animation of what they wanted to happen.

[edit] Can you play the cartoon you made for the Flashforward conference?

  • They agreed, and after some technical difficulties, showed the Flashforward toon.
  • After the toon, they explained that the PowerPoint slides shown in the toon was based on Mike's old job at Decision Quest (which sounds like a magical place, but really isn't), as he made pie charts and graphs, and tried to make them fun. Matt related an anecdote where Mike had to make a chart based on Lady Justice with the scales. Mike had one side of the scales hold words like "Justice: Good thing. Family"; and the other side with things like "Evil, breaking the law, etc". Apparently a lawyer really used this visual aid in his case.

[edit] Where do you see yourself in five years?

  • They mentioned that they would like to return to Seattle eventually, or see the Grand Canyon. Five years ago they would never have guessed they would be doing Homestar Runner for a living, and they explained that they don't usually look too far ahead into the future. Matt offered the insight that "Having no plan and low expectations always makes the future look brighter". They don't usually look further ahead than the following Monday, with the exception of the games which take several months of preparation; and Homestar Runner's 10th anniversary, which was coming up in around 6 months from then, in August of 2006.
  • Matt also mentioned that while doing Homestar Runner, they have met many cool people from the Flash and entertainment industries. He noted that they had received an email from somebody asking if they wanted to direct a commercial of some kind. He wasn't sure if it was a car lot or something, but remarked that a local car lot would be even better. Matt has been to film school, and they both grew up making dumb movies, so they had other ideas they might explore one day. Mike clarified that they might still be doing Homestar with other stuff mixed in in the future.

[edit] A question about the Podcasts. - Red Toque

  • Mike explained that a few weeks earlier, they began a feature called Podstar Runner, putting five or six Strong Bad Emails up for download to your video iPod. He mentioned that Apple linked to them, and they even went to number one download at one point. However, in making the download available for the iPod, the files become way bigger, from 1 megabyte to upwards of 10 megabytes. The day before the event, they had taken down the backlog of downloads and only make them available one at a time in order to keep their bandwidths cost steady while they figure out if there is an alternative to the high bandwidth cost.
  • Matt added that being on the iPod store seems like good exposure in terms of getting new fans, but they have to first see if those people are buying T-shirts or not, and if they can justify paying that much for bandwidth. Matt was also surprised that they managed to beat The Onion and The Ricky Gervais Show, which he never thought they would do, and which was pretty awesome. They asked offhand if anyone had any bright ideas or free bandwidth to throw their way. An audience member called out asking if they would be around afterwards, to which they replied that they would if free bandwidth would be around.
  • Mike related a funny story related to bandwidth. In January of 2003, the site actually shut down due to bandwidth issues. For three years previous, they had been on Yahoo! shared hosting for $30 a month, and supposedly never went over their 20 gigabyte bandwidth limit. Eventually they realized they were doing several terabytes of transfer, and still just being charged $30 a month. As it turned out, some people at Yahoo were fans and were just letting it slide. After their site went down, some fans contacted them and offered them bandwidth services. They shopped around, and realized these people were offering around $1 less per gigabyte of transfer than anywhere else.

[edit] Who are the bandwidth providers?

  • They're called Sagonet, and they're based out of Tampa Bay, Florida. They're a small outfit, but they can be called at 3:00 in the morning on Sunday with a problem, and they will fix it. The company bought an old Havertys furniture store [ed. actually an old Roberds Furniture Store] down there, painted it green, and put a data center inside. Matt remarked that this setup goes along perfectly with The Brothers Chaps' working in a depressing shopping center.

[edit] Why do people love your site and characters so much? - Rainbow Toque

  • Mike explained that was a hard question to answer. They mentioned several possible reasons: It's funny stuff, good quality, free, without ads, and without affiliations to other things. Matt added that they've always just tried to do what they think is funny, and what their friends think is funny. They often ask if Craig thinks it's funny, and if he does they put it on there. As it turns out, it seems the fans are all like Craig.
  • There were times they would consider trying to please the fans more consciously, and they would always back off from that, since concentrating on fan demand can mess it up. They mentioned that they often get emails from the younger fans when they make the Old-Timey cartoons, not to make them anymore. They mentally respond with "well, Craig likes them".
  • They mentioned that they were at a local Seattle diner the other day, and on the ceiling of the booth next to them they noticed a spiral pinwheel of Trogdor's beefy arms printed out and glued to the ceiling. Matt suggested offhand that they should have gone to a tattoo parlor and gotten tattoos of spiral Trogdor beefy arms.
  • Matt also mentioned that they have a fanstuff section of the website where they put up things people send to them. They originally assumed the flow of fanstuff would taper off, but they still get things from fans, which is really cool.
  • Mike changed the subject to what isn't fun: having to animate the text and Strong Bad's head wiggling around at the start of the Strong Bad Email. It's all done in movie clips, which means they have to individually go into each one. The "bane of their existence" is sitting there for four hours at 3:00 in the morning on Sunday, making Strong Bad's head shake around.
  • Matt mentioned that they actually talked to Jonathan Howe about making Flash look at and talk to a wave form, so that when his voice peaked his head would move up so that they could totally automate that part of the email and cut straight to the regular part of the animation. He didn't have any luck thus far, but Matt mentioned that would be one of their suggestions for the next Flash version. Mike mentioned sarcastically that they should look into Flex or Apollo, then realized that not many people knew what those things were. He also mentioned that he knew he was out of his league, but he didn't know just how far out of his league until the Keynote address.

[edit] What's your favorite cartoon?

  • Mike mentioned that his favorite toon was kids' book, which was fun for them to make their own kids' book, and then draw all over it. A lot of the toons he likes are the ones that were fun to make; he also mentioned he liked the death metal stop animation movie, just because they were able to make a death metal song.
  • Matt mentioned that his favorite toon was personal favorites, since it starts to look as though it's going to be a clip show, until Strong Bad begins making up emails that didn't happen. It created all this confusion with people emailing them about where these shown emails are, and Matt mentioned that he loved the confusion it caused. Mike chipped in that by asking "where is the email where they get drunk on soy sauce", you're missing the joke.

[edit] Can you entertain the audience with a conversation between the characters?

  • Matt replied with a conversation between Homestar and Strong Bad:
HOMESTAR RUNNER: Strong Bad, what are we doing in this room?
STRONG BAD: I don't know, I'm not in this room. I'm in the lounge with all these... women.
HOMESTAR RUNNER: Ummm, I need, where is the cream soda anyways around here? I need some cream soda, and some other stuff.
STRONG BAD: Yeah, well I need, um... Somewhere to get my laptop working again. You guys, does anybody know that Mike right now, we didn't even tell people this. Underneath Mike's laptop, he's got the door to his RAM opened up, and a piece of notebook paper folded up to push it into the slot, because it wouldn't work? That's the only reason Mike's crappy laptop is working, and you think I'm bad with the electronics.
  • Mike explains that the day before his computer stopped working, and he was freaking out that he wouldn't have his laptop for the presentation. He eventually realized if he held the RAM, pushing it in as he booted up, it would work. So he crammed a folded up 8x10 piece of paper in there, and it works. He explained that was the kind of stuff that went on with them, and also surmised that he would keep it like that for like three months before he would get it fixed.

[edit] Do you have any new characters coming on the horizon?

  • Mike answered that for main characters, no. Any new characters that are created such as Trogdor and Teen Girl Squad are created spur of the moment for that instance. The main core is made up of 12 main characters, and will not likely be added to. Their conscious decision was to make offshoot type things, instead of making it like Pokémon, where there's a zillion characters. Two of the main characters, The Poopsmith and Homsar, were not originally main characters, but rose to become main characters early on, and they will likely never add to that.

[edit] Do you find any international people coming to the site? - Yellow Hat

  • There are mainly English speaking fans, Australia, Canada, the UK, and Scandinavia because a large majority there speak English.
  • Matt mentioned that there is a SWF that somebody made which allows subtitles to easily be added to Flash. He mentioned that they have considered using this for Spanish or Korean translations, though Mike remarked he didn't remember a discussion.
  • Matt also mentioned they were blown away the first time they got an email or an order from "across the pond", they were amazed they had even heard of them.

[edit] Do you have a favorite character to write or record for?

  • Matt replied that he likes good old Homestar Runner (as he stroked the Puppet Homestar), as his voice is easily done consistently. He mentioned that Bubs's voice is hard to keep consistent and quite right, how he will often record five or six takes for Bubs's line, and then pick the best one, despite Mike telling him they all sound the same.
  • Mike replied that he also likes Homestar for animating. He's easy to animate, since he only has three animation symbols, and this in turn makes it easier to make him expressive. Mike also has sympathy for Homestar, since the website used to be about him, but he's become sort of the underdog to Strong Bad, and is trying to get his website back any way he can.

[edit] What has kept you from getting a big staff?

  • They explained that the staff is basically four people. The two of them who makes the cartoon, their video guy Ryan who does the DVDs and video encoding, and their sister who runs the store. Their biggest reason for keeping the company small is because they don't want a big staff. A few years ago they might have hired an animator, since animating for eight hours straight at a time was becoming tedious. But they decided against it, and now hiring an animator would just be weird.
  • Matt noted that one of the reasons they've been able to do the site for a living is because they've kept it small, and reiterated his advice of "expectations, keep 'em down. Ankle level." The more people you bring in, business type people, they feel it gets bloated and you lose something from the site.

[edit] How did you create the toys?

  • Again, it fell into their laps from a fan who emailed them. He had mocked up little PVC figurines of the characters, and had all the contacts in China. He flew them up to his studio in New York, showed them the figurines, some factory did pretty much all the work, and all they did was say "hey, looks great". The same thing happened with The Cheat plush doll. According to Mike, it would never have happened if they had set out to make toys. Matt offered the advice to "wait until everything falls into your lap".
  • At this point, their laptop timed out and went to screensaver, which displayed the Strong Bad Screensaver for a second, until they bumped the laptop.

[edit] How many Easter egg toons are there, that are not linked to from anywhere on the site?

  • Mike clarified what the person was referring to: Sbemail 100 fakeout. He explained that going to /sbemail100.html was a fakeout, and would instead take you to a short toon. Since the H*R.com update is usually on Monday, they put this toon up on the site instead, for those that would look in the url before it was linked. They released the 100th email the next day. That was the only time they've made a toon that you have to get to from outside the toons; to say, "stop looking, stop goofing around, and when it's done it'll be done."
  • Matt commented that he's always wanted to do a crazy marketing campaign like the one they did for Halo 2 and the one for A.I., where there would be a network of 1000 websites, secret links, and they'd call your mobile phone, and finally he'd end up coming to your house and giving you a cookie cake.
  • After taking stock of how much time they had left (three minutes), they opened the floor to more questions.

[edit] Was the CD you released your personal choice, or fan demand?

  • Mike explained that Strong Bad Sings and Other Type Hits was their own choice, they had several bits and pieces of songs, and they wanted full, fleshed out versions of many of them. Y-O-U, who were fans of Homestar Runner, had emailed them, said that they had just moved to Atlanta, digged their work, and wanted to do something with them. Mike went out and saw their band, met them, and decided to collaborate with them. The collaboration worked well; in addition to being good musicians, they had good ideas, and the Chaps went along with most of them. They also commented that they have since built up another collection of Songs, would like to make another CD of full versions, and it was good to know that fans still wanted them.

[edit] How does Craig get compensated?

  • Matt explained that Craig Zobel is a shareholder; he was the one that helped Mike write the Original Book. They describe him as a "billionaire gadabout", and whenever he's in town they put him to work.

[edit] How did you come up with the name "Homestar Runner"?

  • The name Homestar Runner came from their friend Jamey, who is not very sports savvy. There was a local commercial for Winn-Dixie grocery stores, and Mark Lemke, who was a second basemen for the Atlanta Braves at that time, endorsed the commercial. They would play a clip of Lemke doing something, and the announcer would say something like "Mark Lemke, all star second baseman for the Braves, and you can be a second baseman for savings, at Winn-Dixie". It sounded like an old-timey announcer, so their friend Jamey would make fun of that terrible ad, and say "Mark Lemke, home star runner for the braves!". Matt mentioned they liked the name "The Homestar Runner", and sort of 'filed that away'. Incidentally, Jamey doesn't get compensated since he's in a rock band, and gets "all kinds of action".

[edit] When was the moment you knew it was time to quit the day job and do Homestar full time?

  • Mike explained that at the time he had been doing freelance work, so it was really only Matt who had to quit his job. Their dad was running everything, and was doing all of the t-shirt sales, and had been hinting for at least six months prior that if they got two or three freelance jobs every few months, they would be able to live off of the sales. Matt described quitting his job as a sort of "leap off a cliff", not knowing if they would be able to do it full time. A little while later they started selling hooded sweatshirts, college got back in session, and sales ramped up to a point where they felt safe.
  • Matt mused that he wouldn't mind going back to being a "starving artist for Homestar Runner", eating cold pizza, and all that, just for EarthLink.

[edit] Ending - 5:00 p.m.

They asked the crowd if there were any more questions, thanked the audience, and ended right on time.

[edit] After the presentation

Taken in the lobby during the autograph session
An autograph to Thunderbird

After the presentation had ended, they signed autographs for around 15 minutes up at the stage, usually spending a few minutes with each fan. By 5:15, the next speaker was ready to go on, so they packed up their equipment and went out to the lobby. The remaining fans followed them out, and they finished signing autographs and meeting fans out there.

[edit] Fun Facts

[edit] Trivia

  • The Brothers Chaps were originally also going to appear at the next Flashforward event, in September 2006 in Austin. In early April however, they informed the officials that due to prior commitments they would be unable to attend.

[edit] See Also

[edit] External Links

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