AN INTERVIEW WITH… LAURA KERGER AKA “ARTISTGAMERGAL”
Through my exploits with the internet and its ever growing connection with one another and the increasing popularity of Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc. With the powers of the internet, Blogging is no longer a fad but a potential career choice and opens many doors to make relationships and connections to many people around the world. In my search to talk to the Fans about their Nintendo inspired projects, including videos, videogames and other products of their creation, I have came up trumps today when I had the privilege to talk to Laura Kerger about her AGG Toons Series and her new original series Chroma Black.
Mike – Thank you for joining me for this Interview Laura. It is a pleasure to talk to you and to be able talk about your fantastic animated series of Nintendo Parodies.
Laura – Thanks for reaching out Mike!
Mike – So Laura, What inspired you to create the web series of Nintendo parodies?
Laura – I wouldn’t say it was an inspiration as much as it was a chain of events. The very first video game parody I ever worked on was “Zelda – Link and the Pig” back in 2009. It was based on a short comic I wrote in the back of a friend’s yearbook in junior high about The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I had just finished my first year of Art College in my animation program and was looking for a small project to practice with over the summer.
I really wanted to collaborate with others at the time too, so I reached out to several other emerging animators to try and do a team project. I ended up working with a small team of voice actors and other animators to do a video game parody collaboration video on YouTube, where everyone was assigned a super short segment of animation. The head of the team had seen a work in progress video of Link and the Pig and decided to assign me the short Zelda segment “Life with Navi”. Since the segment was so short, I was able to finish it before Link and the Pig and also decided to release it on my own YouTube channel.
The next summer in 2010, I finally finished up Link and the Pig and released it both on YouTube and Newgrounds (a popular website for animators) and it got a lot more attention than any other video I had submitted in the past four years to either site. This lead me to getting invitations from several other big collaborations (such as another Zelda segment in Nin10Doh 64) as well as sponsorship from Machinima, who at the time was looking to recruit animators to create video game parodies for their various channels on YouTube.
I hadn’t really planned on making any more video game parodies, but once Machinima was offering to sponsor a series of them I jumped on board. I had only done small commissions with my art and animation before, so I thought this was a great opportunity to get a lot of paid experience in animation. So it really was working with Machinima that lead me to make so many video game parodies.
Mike – Are you the sole animator or do you have a team working with you?
Laura – I am the only one who works on the animation aspect of my videos; however I’ve worked with voice actors online for many years now as well as writers for script ideas. I didn’t get any help with the art side of things until “Mario’s Reward” in 2011. Then I started working with a close friend on my animations. He would color all the character art of the animation and has played that role ever since. I have also worked with digital composers for custom music in my animations as well. Recently, I have expanded my team even further and now have a background artist I’m working with for future animations. So it’s always growing!
Mike – Are you a fan of Nintendo or of Gaming in general?
Laura – A fan of Nintendo is an understatement! I own every major Nintendo console and play them all regularly. I still buy old cartridges at mom and pop game shops pretty frequently and spend a lot of my free time playing video games with my friends. I do own a PS1 and PS2 as well as an Xbox 360, but I don’t own nearly as many games for those systems.
Since I live I the greater Seattle area, I’ve been to Nintendo headquarters several times growing up and would always get goosebumps every time I saw the giant Mario statue there. I’ve even been on the news for being the first in line to purchase a Wii at a local video game store! I could go on and on, but basically, I’m a total Nintendo Nerd.
Mike – What was your first Nintendo experience?
Laura – It’s really hard to pin-point my first experience being as Nintendo games were in my household before I was even born, so they’ve just always been there. My mom loved the NES and SNES so she would pick up games for me and my sister to play with her pretty frequently, so it was embedded in me at a very young age. We have several antique books and guides on video games because of my mother as well as the first issue of Nintendo Power. My mom was a regular on the Nintendo help line back when that was still around. My sister out grew it, but I just never did.
Mike – What type of console do you prefer, Home Console or Handheld?
Laura – I’ve had wonderful experiences on both, but it all started on consoles for me, so I have a little more of an emotional attachment to console games in general and my collection on console is much larger than handheld. A lot of the games I played on handheld were really just extensions of titles that were originally on console, so I always thought of the console as the main avenue of my games.
Mike – Where do you get your ideas from to create such rich comical material?
Laura – Most of the ideas came from playing the games and joking about them with my friends. We would be playing a game and find ourselves critically over analyzing them like: “don’t you think it’s weird how Link just walks into peoples’ houses and just breaks pots and no one seems to mind?” for example. Then we would take that idea and turn it into an animation.
Mike – In your AGG Toons series, you have brought to new light to memorable Nintendo characters such as Mario, Yoshi, Link and even the Pikmin. Your work shows no boundaries and that everything is accessible. Could we expect for example, a Metroid skit or a Starfox parody in the near future?
Laura – Most of the video game parodies I made were based on games that I was playing or more often re-playing at the time. I don’t really target specific games for popularity or make videos based on fan demand since it is hard to work on something you are just not inspired to make. I also don’t like to make parodies of games I’m not super familiar with or haven’t really played much. So it’s really all about what I’m feeling like working on or was inspired by at the time. The reason why so many of my videos are related to Zelda is simply because that is my personal favorite video game series.
Mike – Your Latest video is a crossover between Majora’s Mask and Sailor Moon where you have Young Link putting on the Fierce Diety Mask and transforming. How did you come up with the idea for that and are you pleased with the final result?
Laura – The remake of Majora’s Mask for 3DS came out early this year and I started watching the re-mastered Sailor Moon DVDs around the same time. A friend and I were joking about the similarities of the two over text message after having watched it the night before and we realized how many parallels there were between the two and the idea for the animation was born! I jumped on it pretty quickly since I hadn’t been active on my YouTube channel for some time and was looking for a short but sweet animation to make between major projects. I was also learning some new animation software at the time and thought this could be a great chance to try out some new tools without a lot of production time.
I was pretty happy with the result and felt the quality was a lot better than my older animations in part because of the new tools I was using. Although I always find something to criticize about my work once it’s finished, so I’m always left feeling like I could have done something better… but I guess that’s part of striving to always improve!
Mike – Where did you learn to produce such amazing works of animated art? Is it through programs such as Adobe Photoshop or something even more sophisticated?
Laura – Tons and tons of practice. Many people think learning animation means learning software, but software has very little to do with it. The software is just a tool; much like a pencil- just learning how to use it won’t make you draw pretty pictures. That comes from countless hours of practice. 2D animation (specifically frame by frame animation like I do) is all about learning to draw and learning the principles of animation, which are not contingent on what software you use. In this industry, you have to learn new software constantly, but it is the skills you build when using the tools that really impact your work and carry over.
I’ve been drawing my whole life, but practicing animation since I was 15. Back then, I used things as crude as MS Paint and Movie Maker just to make my moving pictures! I got a lot of training in college courses and have a bachelor’s degree in animation, so that certainly helped me learn much faster than I did on my own, but it really is all about practice, practice, and more practice! A lot of people think that if you can create art it means you have this magical thing called “talent” that you were born with, but that is a myth and frankly an insult! That’s because it implies that the artist did nothing to earn the skills that they most assuredly spent countless hours perfecting to get to that point. Talent is a myth!
As far as specific software I use, I use a multitude of software for different parts of the process. Photoshop does have animation tools and some people do use it for that purpose, but I wouldn’t recommend it for that. I mainly use Photoshop to paint backgrounds for my animations or draw out concepts. For all my animations before this year, I was mainly using Flash for almost everything, but for all the animations I’ve made this year (including Zelda Sailor Majora’s Moon Mask) I used Toon Boom for my character animation. I also use After Effects to apply any effects like glows or sparkles and Premiere for final editing and rendering. Not to mention all the software for audio editing! It is a lot to learn, but once you get started learning some software, learning more software becomes easier.
Mike – Though your work is animated, brilliantly animated I must say, it is not generally for the eyes of children but more designed for a more mature audience, would you agree?
Laura – I certainly wouldn’t recommend my videos to young children, but I try to keep them tame enough that older children can feel comfortable watching them. I’ve always tried to make animations that appeal to me at whatever current age I am, so nearly all my animations were designed for teens or later, especially since they cover games that came out when the current kids weren’t even alive to play them! Most of the games I chose to parody came out in the N64 era, since I am especially partial to that era so I don’t imagine the kids today being as interested in videos about those old games. They are more for people who played those games as kids and can enjoy some adult humor about them now.
I personally think the stigma that animation has received as solely a form of children’s media is an outdated western concept that will likely change in the coming years. In fact, I am hoping to be a part of that change with the cartoons I produce!
Mike – I hear you are working on your own original series, Chroma Black which, the name itself sparks genuine interest. What is the concept of this new series? Is she a superhero or anti-hero? Is it a drama or comedy? Tell me more about it?
Laura – Thanks for your interest in it! I can’t really give a lot of details about it since I am still currently in the process of developing the series and a lot is in flux at this point, but I would say it is a sci-fi fantasy that takes place in a very unique and expansive world that the characters will explore.
I’m really trying to break as much new ground as possible with the concept so it can be challenging to find familiar terminology to describe it, but I can promise that there will be plenty of action and adventure! There will also be several mysteries in the world that the characters have to unlock in order to solve problems and I’m hoping viewers will be along for that ride and be wondering and formulating their own theories.
I have also been working hard to really flesh out several diverse characters that develop and grow throughout the story and their relationships also grow and change. Covering the spectrum from romance to betrayal, I am working hard to make these characters feel real and relatable for the audience. And I would be lying if I didn’t say video games were a huge inspiration with this series!
Mike – When can we expect a pilot or sneak peak of this new series?
Laura – I am hoping to release the first of a series of animated demos in the next few months. These would be short animation tests that I would conduct to figure out exactly how I want the production to look and would in no way be canon to the story- think of them as experiments and steps in the production’s pipeline. I’m hoping they will at least get people interested and talking about it! That is the same reason why I am being so open about visual development over social media- to get people talking about it before it even comes out!
As for an official preview, that will likely happen sometime next year when things are more ironed out in story and visual development. I am undecided on when or how I would release the pilot as I may pitch it privately to sponsors or I may create the show in seasons and thus have to create several episodes before releasing the first one on a production schedule. In short, it’s all still up in the air!
Mike – Will you be uploading the video to any other or do you have any other video hosting sites?
Laura – The current plan is to deliver the series via my ArtistGamerGal YouTube channel, but that may change depending on other factors (like getting picked up by a sponsor).
Mike– Will you be taking any techniques that you have learnt from your other videos and applying them to your new series Chroma Black?
Laura– Certainly! My work is always a culmination of what I have learned in the past, so I will be applying all the techniques I know to this production to make it the best I can with the small team that I have.
Mike – Do you have a set episode list for your series or is it an open entity that you will keep adding to over time?
Laura – There will be a set episode list and the entire story will have been written from beginning to end before the first episode is released. However, the ending leaves an opening for continuation if we decide to do so.
Mike – Well Laura, thank you so much for participating in this interview and answering all these questions. It has been an absolute pleasure to talk with you today. I am a big fan of your work and have watched all your videos. I wish you well on your endeavors and look forward to seeing your next video.
Laura – Thank you for having me! 😀
If you would like to know more about Laura Kerger’s works and videos including AGG Toons and Chroma Black please feel free to click on the links below.