When you watch an animated series, one wonders what goes into the production; how do you make these characters on screen animate or interact with one another, even hearing their voices is interesting with you thinking ‘How does one voice this character?’ I have watched many animated productions over the years on both television and in movies, but animated series on the internet are quite interesting.
They can take a lot of time to get completed but they are enjoyable, offer quality action and story, and characters you can never forget. Chris, known as Kirbopher, is the creator of the animated series ‘T.O.M.E.’ in addition to working on numerous other projects. Today, I am honored to have an interview with him and have him answer a number of questions I have about his series and more.
This interview answers a lot of questions, such as past voice acting roles Chris was involved in, his work on the T.O.M.E series and more. I hope you all enjoy this interview!
RK: Can you introduce yourself?
Chris: Hi! I’m Chris Niosi; lotta folks know me online as Kirbopher. I’m an independent creator, animation artist, writer, voice actor and way too many other things because I overload myself on a constant basis! How’re you?
RK: I’m great! It is an honor to speak with you, as I love much of the work you do online, so thank you for having this interview with me! My first question would be what was your first introduction to animation and art?
Chris: I’ve been drawing since I came outta the womb, but the first time I coincidentally became aware of the ‘process’ of animation was an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures called, funnily enough, “Animaniacs”, in which they show the process of a cartoon being made. Today I can watch that episode and be like “this is my life now.”
RK: Tiny Toons and Animaniacs are some of my favorite cartoons growing up, with one of the reasons being how smooth their animation was. I know there are two versions of T.O.M.E. Can you explain the origins behind the first version of the series you released? What was it like making your own original series?
Chris: Super-duper short version: My best friend Mike Luckas moved away for a couple years, we kept in touch over a message board on a site called “TvTome”, met all our first internet friends there, proceeded to draw characters based on their usernames, I wrote up a story for them inspired by the likes of .hack// and Mega Man Battle Network, then later I picked up a copy of Flash, learned how to make movies in it and decided to dive headfirst into making my own show…thus, TvTome Adventures was born! It was surreal, fun and cool to do it for the years I worked on it! Over 70+ episodes and a “movie”.
RK: When you started production on the newest version of T.O.M.E., what was some key inspirations and goals for the project. Specifically, what were some things you wanted to change or improve from the first series?
Chris: Everything. In fact, I probably used TTA a little TOO much as a ‘blueprint’ for the story outline that eventually became the 2011 TOME series’ story. I wanted to make it something fun, relatable and accessible for new audiences far more than appealing to the small and niche fan-base of the show’s predecessor. Biggest change I’m very happy that came across was that all five of the main characters had an important purpose and an arc of development.
RK: Having a template to work with in growing your project in new ways is very important, so you having TvTome as a ‘base’ for the 2011 TOME series is, I feel, a very smart decision. I love the characters you created with T.O.M.E. They are memorable and have great interactions with one another. Can you talk about the writing process for the dialog for the series?
Chris: I’m an animator and visual-artist more than anything, but I adore writing more than any other part of the creative process. It’s really as black-and-white as I would imagine how ‘realistically’ the conversation would go between these people regarding the subject they were on and whatever came out was what ended up in the script. We’d adjust things over time, but I’m very proud of the dialogue in the show.
RK: I can tell your passion for writing through the dialog in the show, as it is really well written at various points. Voice acting is also very important in an animated series, so what were some guidelines, goals and the overall process of working with the different voice actors?
Chris: I was very lucky to have the cast I had on this show. All great people to work with who I adore the performances of. Some actors I’d let perform on their own, but most of the major characters I directed myself, occasionally with directing assistance by our script supervisor Liz Losey or Deven Mack, the voice of Rockoon.
RK: You voice a character in the series (Kirbopher), so can you explain the process of writing his character?
Chris: He was the trickiest and funnest challenge of all for the show, both in terms of writing and performing.
SPOILER TERRITORY AHEAD: I tried to write AND perform Kirbopher and Zetto in a way that was subtly like they could pass for being separate people…and at the same time believably be the SAME person, which of course they turned out to be! Season 2 was even trickier because by that time, it was decided by the Season 1 finale that we’d let the audience KNOW Kirb and Zetto were the same person, so I had to blur the line even further. I’m very proud of how it turned out in the end.
RK: Thank you for answering that question! Both characters (Kirb and Zetto) were so well acted and voiced, I always wondered you pulled off voicing both characters. Alpha is a very interesting character, as he grows a lot throughout the series. Can you explain the process of developing his character as the series progressed?
Chris: Looking back, TOME is a story about trust. Alpha and Kirb/Zetto are polar opposites of that theme. While Kirb/Zetto were distrustful and that became a massive problem for him when things spiralled out of control, on the other end of the spectrum, Alpha was TOO trusting and naive, so he was manipulated by the virus. Season 1 was MUCH more of his arc in terms of growing as a person and becoming more confident, trusting in the RIGHT people and doing the right thing. Season 2 was more about Kirb/Zetto’s development, and it was only until they both trusted each other 100% that they managed to bond together and save the day.
RK: The show is very interesting in the sense that you had various ‘arcs’ throughout it’s 16 episode run. Can you explain the process of structuring the story?
Chris: A lot of the specifics came out during the scripting process itself, but I had a general layout of what I wanted to happen with ALL of the major characters from the first outline. I wanted to make sure first and foremost that Alpha, Flamey, Nylocke, Gamecrazed and Kirb had major arcs and important involvement with the main plot all the way through. Secondarily came the likes of Kizuna, Neomutant, eventually the Netkings and the happy, wonderful accident that was Rockoon.
RK: It was smart you had that general layout for the overall story; it ensured that your goals for the characters were achieved with little issue during the writing process. Some of my favorite characters in the series were Nylocke and Rockcoon. Can you explain the process of writing those characters personalities for the show?
Chris: Both characters who were, interestingly enough, VERY polarizing to audiences after Episode 01 premiered! I wanted Nylocke to be a beacon of heroism and goodness to the entire ‘world’ of the show, but eventual delve into the real player behind the dragon-man, showing his weakness, his vulnerability and his flaws to round him out as a very lovable character.
Plus, he’s funny as hell because Martin Billany is such an amazing performer. Rockoon was only intended to be a one-episode goofball character for some quick entertainment…and it is ONLY because of Deven Mack (and Ed Bosco who voiced Doubling/Skeight) that we expanded his character arc into what it is today. All major credit goes to Mack for helping to shape Rocky into the rangeful and sensitive little scamp he was past that initial appearance. I’m incredibly proud of both Nylocke and Rockoon.
RK: How do you feel about the fan reaction to the series? Many loved the show and really enjoyed it.
Chris: I haven’t had the time to read any, but I supremely appreciate any and all fan creations! I’m so honored by ANYONE being so invested in my creations to wanna draw art, write their own stories, make plushies, compose/remix music and most of all create their own characters! I wanted this to be a show where the audience could really feel like they were a part of it.
RK: Outside of the ‘T.O.M.E’ series, you have your own YouTube Channel. Can you explain what you do on the channel?
Chris: Twice a week I do “Kirblogs” where I talk about various subjects! This year I tried doing a lot of themed months like “Animepril” and “Voiceoctover”. I’m currently just kicking off my second “Pokécember”! I’m also getting more into doing art streams, which I really enjoy!
RK: I enjoy watching your YouTube content, very insightful on a lot of different topics. I learned you did voice acting through one of your Kirblogs a while back. Can you share some thoughts about some memories of voicing in productions like the Pokemon Anime?
Chris: Back when I lived in New York, I met the at-the-time voice director for Pokémon at a convention and he gave me my first audition. I booked the part of “Khoury” during the Diamond & Pearl series’ third season, which was a fantastic first voice acting job, because I’m still proud of that performance, I loved my character and I STILL adore Pokémon to this day! Crazy full circle is now all these years later I got to work on Pokémon Generations out here in Los Angeles as a triple-threat of characters I never got to audition for in the TV series! Crazy how life works out.
RK: It must be amazing being able to voice characters in a franchise you greatly enjoy. Love the work you did with the characters you voiced in Generations! Recently, it was announced that you will be writing the English Dub for the anime OVA ‘World War Blue’. Congratulations on writing the English Dub for that series! What are you most exciting about for that project?
Chris: I’m most excited to see everyone’s cringey reactions to how many ridiculous (and obscure) video game references I managed to work into the script. If you check out the show’s English dub, see how many references you can pick out.
RK: I remember my first introduction to ‘World War Blue’ being something I enjoyed, so can’t wait to watch the English Dubbed penned by you. Do you want to talk about any upcoming plans or projects you may have in the works?
Chris: Sadly I can’t, but I have big plans for 2017. I can say at the bare minimum I have a LOT of major projects coming out I’m involved in as a lead voice actor! A fantastic video game called “YIIK: A Postmodern RPG”, two new anime series where I’m a lead character and even an original cartoon series I’m voicing SEVERAL characters in!
RK: I understand, but I am really looking forward to ‘YIIK’, so happy to hear you are voicing a major character in the game! When watching T.O.M.E, I really enjoyed the fight scenes, they are really well animated and were packed with action. What was it like coming up with the concept for the different fights and how did you & your team animated them?
Chris: Most of the time, I’d actually start ‘laying them out’ so-to-speak over text, THEN do a storyboard/animatic. Fight choreography is a ton of fun. I’ve also had the assistance for a couple shots of animation by the amazing TwistedGrimTV on Episodes 09, 10 and 15.
RK: Can you talk about main inspiration behind the series soundtrack? It really matches the different fight scenes and events that happen within the show.
Chris: FAR too many inspirations to list, but I love 16-bit SNES-style music, which my lead composer Weston “Kajetokun” Durant does a ton of. Not to mention, his tunes are SO catchy and memorable and fit the show and its characters so well. I’m also honored to’ve worked with so many incredible guest musicians and vocalists throughout the series; they’re all talented beyond words.
RK: My final question would be any final thoughts you want to share for this interview? It was an honor speaking with you. I really love your work and it was wonderful being able to talk with you today.
Chris: Any and all aspiring creators out there: don’t wait!! Draw, write, improve, learn, struggle, CREATE! Work your ass off, get your stuff out there, take lots of critique and reach the next level of Super Saiyan or SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
You can find Chris on his official YouTube Channel, where his various Kirblogs, the entire T.O.M.E. series and more are hosted. In addition, he has a twitter account you can follow as well for future updates on projects. T.O.M.E. has an official Facebook page as well.