Harry Partridge is the writer, artist, animator, composer, voice actor and just about everything else behind Happy Harry Toons. If the “Happy Harry” brand doesn’t quite ring a bell, I’d bet you’d know his work — perhaps The American Akira (Coming 2011), Hal, The Misinterpretive Porn Star, or maybe a little thing called Saturday Morning Watchmen the kids seem to be into. I wanted to talk with him after first being blown away by American Akira and quickly devouring everything else on his YouTube page — and here it is! I ask him about his techniques, styles, influences, and, well, I couldn’t resist asking one question about having Andy Partridge from XTC as a dad.
Part the First
KS: At this moment in time, what is your favorite song?
Harry Partridge: “Where Are You Baby?” by the cheesetastic Betty Boo. The verses are so bad they’re good and the chorus is so good that I actually end up feeling bad. The video also looks like a skit from Mystery Science Theater 3000.
KS: What’s your favorite band that you don’t think a lot of people would have heard of?
Harry Partridge: My sister Holly’s all-girl group the Shebeats.
KS: What, if anything, is on any particular wall (your choice) in your domicile?
Harry Partridge: I actually have a lot of goofy stuff on the wall facing me, to name a few – a homemade Trey Parker poster for inspirational purposes, a foam mask of the Thing (from the Fantastic Four) and a calendar for the Finnish heavy metal act Lordi which is still inexplicably on November 2007.
KS: Did you get into Lordi via Eurovision 2006 (Like I did!) or were you ahead of the curve on that one?
Harry Partridge: I was well into them before (though admittedly mostly because of the costumes) I was dating a Finlander at the time they won so there was much celebration that night.
KS: What’s the strangest thing you own?
Harry Partridge: Though it isn’t strictly mine, we have a ball of human skin back home somewhere.
KS: Of the things you’ve done, what’s your all-time favorite (however you want to interpret that, be it artistic works, actions, whatever)?
Harry Partridge: Probably not chickening out and just telling her.
KS: Who’s your favorite visual artist (excluding yourself)?
Harry Partridge: There’s really too many to pick a fave. Katsuhiro Otomo, Jack Kirby, Alex Ross, Bruce Timm, Richard Williams, George Lucas, Brad Bird, Genndy Tartakovsky, Sam Raimi… Aaargh, I can’t pick just one.
KS: What are the five most recent films you’ve seen?
Harry Partridge: Star Trek (2009), Happy-Go-Lucky, American Movie, The Goonies (again) and Dragonball: Evolution (wow).
KS: What’re your top three movies?
Harry Partridge: It changes around a lot but Mystery Men (Kinka Usher) and Meantime (Mike Leigh) are about as different as two movies can be but I love them both equally. I guess I have to mention Star Wars IV because I wouldn’t be doing this stuff if it wasn’t for Lucas.
KS: Do you own any original artwork, and if so, whose?
Harry Partridge: A few pieces by the brilliant commercial illustrator Mark Thomas but not much else.
KS: What is your favorite game?
Harry Partridge: The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. It’s looking ropey now but it’s still amazing.
KS: If you could say one thing to David Byrne, what would it be?
Harry Partridge: Cool babies! Nah, I’m not too familiar with the Talking Heads back catalogue or his solo stuff, I’d probably just excuse myself.
KS: What is the most boring thing you’ve ever experienced?
Harry Partridge: Dragonball: Evolution. (Just wow.)
KS: If you could name a child anything in the world, what would it be?
Harry Partridge: Voltron.
KS: What is reality?
Harry Partridge: Oh Matt, I make cartoons… don’t ask me that.
Part the Second
KS: How’s your new big project coming along?
Harry Partridge: I’m starting to panic.
KS: How do you do your animation? Your motion is very smooth for Flash; it often looks like digitally colored cel animation.
Harry Partridge: It’s still just Flash, but I draw it frame by frame so it’s pretty much digital cel animation except drawn straight in to the computer.
KS: Were you surprised that Saturday Morning Watchmen turned out to be as big a hit as it was (including a Wikipedia page and articles in the media), even after the popularity of The American Akira?
Harry Partridge: I was surprised. There’s no shame in admitting that if you produce a parody or piece of satire that ties in to something popular at the right time that it can become crazy popular on the Internet (even if it isn’t that good). Though I had planned on exploiting that fact, I wouldn’t have gone ahead with it unless it was something I REALLY wanted to do and do to the best possible standard that I could. I really put my all into it.
KS: Who are your biggest influences on animation?
Harry Partridge: Take my list of favourite visual artists their works and add a load of music (Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, Sparks, Devo) comedians (Monty Python, Trey Parker, Armando Iannucci) and silly American shows from my childhood ( Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and that makes the core of my influences. I really don’t look at that much animation; it’s the medium I work in and I love it, but it’s a means to an end for me – to tell a dumb joke usually.
KS: Are there any other British animators you’re particularly fond of?
Harry Partridge: The last British thing that really did it for me was an animated sketch show called Monkey Dust, but that utilised many different artists and styles. Other than that, not really, no.
KS: How collaborative is the process of making your cartoons?
Harry Partridge: Other than on the very rare occasions I’ve used additional voice actors it’s always a solo effort. I am working with a musician now for the first time ever but it’s on an interactive game.
KS: If you were to collaborate with someone, who would you like to (given the choice of anyone, no matter how feasible)?
Harry Partridge: I’d love to do something with Trey Parker or under his direction, anything. I’ve been asked to do music videos before but it’s not something I’d consider unless it was music I loved. If Ron and Russell Mael asked me, however, I’d probably say yes.
KS: If you were given a television show, like on [adult swim], would you be more interested in doing a sketch show, or a show with a single premise?
Harry Partridge: Probably the latter.
KS: For a single-premise show, do you have any ideas you’d like to do, or would it just be the form that interests you?
Harry Partridge: Most of my ideas are too gross for TV. I had an idea for a sort of surreal chat show from a parallel dimension but I guess that’s closer to sketch than anything. I’m happy with the Internet for now.
KS: Unrelated to your work, but curiosity gets the better of me: Do you ever listen to XTC’s records, or is it a situation where they’re too familiar to you, hearing your dad on the albums?
Harry Partridge: Not at all, I would call myself a fan but I wasn’t exposed to as much of it growing up as you might have thought. I’ve had to go on discover a lot of it on my own. Drums and Wires, Skylarking and Nonsuch are my faves, but it’s all pretty damn good really.
KS: You’ve expressed interest in doing live action work — do you have any projects in the works?
Harry Partridge: I have ideas and scripts and I’ve done a few bits and pieces but the thought scares me. That probably means I should go ahead do it.
KS: Given that you do the writing, animation, music and voicing for your cartoons, do you have a favorite task?
Harry Partridge: Sound, both in terms of voicing and scoring is always the most “fun”, it’s far quicker to turn out the soundtrack to a film than the visuals (for me at least) so I can be that much more impulsive and try stuff out. But the biggest joy is seeing it all come together.
KS: Do you have anything else you’d like to mention?
Harry Partridge: Please don’t see Dragonball.
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