Chris Nielsen and Bart Batchelor helm the Canadian absurdist adult animation sketch comedy show "World Doctors". The second season of their hit show premiered online this week and in celebration of that I conducted a short animation interview with them
Chris and Bart, can you give a brief bio of yourselves?
We both came from similar backgrounds: divorced parents, party dads, financial struggles,
melting snow for bathwater the usual.
We first met at art school duct taping an NES to Bart’s head, jumping around the cafeteria, while Chris trailed behind with a camera shouting 'Boing! Boing!' if Youtube existed back
then we’d have like a million hits.
Since then, we’ve both graduated from the Emily Carr University Media Arts program in Vancouver, went on to create a series of animated shorts for the Comedy Network The Woodsmen then
promptly spent the next ten years selling our souls in advertising.
What is your background in animation?
In art school, we both actually applied to the animation program and were denied we took the film program instead. Seconds after graduating, in 2005, we created an animated series for television. Lesson learned: don’t listen to anything anybody has to ever say about you ever.
Since then, our careers in advertising and producing our own content has been the major source of training.
How did World Doctors get off the ground?
Back in 2008 we were dinking around with Poser software, and finding fun ways to break it. Our work celebrates subversion so abusing these ready-made character models (Simon and
James, the stock characters from Poser) was exciting. Almost overnight, we’d improvised and
animated a little skit that eventually became the first Archeologists.
Fast forward to 2012, after advertising had ripped away our faith in humanity and forced drinking problems on us, we needed a new outlet. So we got really drunk one night. The next day we found a file called “archeologistsimprov.mov” that we didn’t remember recording… but it made us laugh our asses off.
The resulting shorts ended up being one of our more popular Youtube series and
eventually caught the eye of Nick denBoer a super talented animator for Conan O’Brien who connected us with Josh Bowen, who was producing content for Mondo Media’s Youtube channel.
Using the stock Poser characters was problematic when it came to getting rich off of stupid merchandise like branded cotton swabs. We needed characters they could hold rights to; so James and James became Doctors James and James.
Who are your key collaborators in the series?
Bart’s key collaborator is Chris; Chris’ key collaborator is Bart. They get along OK.
What is the creative process like when you’re working on an episode?
The creative process for World Doctors is always evolving. It’s a grab-bag
of our combined experience and theories: writing and improvisation, rewriting, and re-improvising.
Our quick and flexible production model gives us a lot of room to change things right up to the last
minute as we like to say, ‘we’ll write it in post’.
What was the most gratifying part of creating the show World Doctors?
Quitting our jobs!
Has their been any feedback from people in relation to the similarity of your show title
to the group Doctors without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières?
Surprisingly, not really! James and James’ stupidity is so monumental that it dwarfs any relation to Doctors without Borders. However, World Doctors was not the original title of the show: right up until a day before the first episode was released, the title was actually Borders without Doctors. Lawyers didn’t like that.
Funny enough, our office is actually two floors above the Doctors without Borders streetteam
office we’ve had some fun elevator rides.
Who are the animators on the series? And what software is used?
Until recently it was just Chris and Bart directing/animating the episodes. We’ve just started working with future El Salvadoran pop icon José Betancourt for the latest episodes. Seeing as how the series is animated in the premiere 3D fantasy p*rn software Poser, we appreciate José’s hard work and dedication but sadly he’ll have trouble ever finding work again.
Can you share a storyboard from the series? Do you have a series of drawings showing the visual development of your main characters?
Unfortunately, World Doctors “storyboards” don’t really exist. But we can share this early
character concept for James and James with you:
...thank god we didn’t go with those idiots.
Did you have an intended audience for the show when you first made it… and is that
the audience you captured?
We’re both guys in our early thirties who feel and act like we’re still in our early twenties, so
that was our target: old guys in denial. We’ve surely reached a few of those. But we’ve ended up gaining a following of hilarious teens and twenty-somethings and they’ve been really fun to engage with online.
Why choose to tell this particular type of story?
We wanted the story structure of World Doctors to be a passionate, no holds barred, reflection
of real life - pointless, meandering, and childish.
What demographic are you targeting with the marketing and promotion for the show?
We’re always looking for new ways to promote the show, from answering medical questions with totally inaccurate health advice to promising to personally insult each fan if we hit a certain view count - it’s always changing. We want to keep the promotion as fun as the show itself; otherwise we’d be back in advertising selling some other stupid product.
Because of the sometime graphic nature of your comedy, do you have limitations on the advertisers that Mondo pairs your content with?
Mondo is a great fit for World Doctors because they don’t shy away from graphic imagery. It hasn’t really been an issue that’s come up for us, yet. Maybe we need to push it further? James and James could replace a kid’s heart with a McDonald’s hambuger?
Are you able to discuss how much money you make on average per episode?
Yes! We make absolutely zero dollars. Canadian.
What was the largest challenge you had to overcome to make this series?
We can probably sum that up in one quote: “More Dick Figures, Fuckers!”
Our largest challenge to date was showing up to an already established channel with an
audience hungry for more of their favorite shows - but handing them this really non-traditional
crappy looking 3D animation. We had to work hard to prove ourselves.
What has been the biggest highlight of working on this series?
Coming in to work and being stupid every day. For a job.
What are your future goals for your characters and entertainment careers?
Our largest goal is to explore absurdist, unconventional comedy with a television series.
Failing that, we have enough experience to open a 3D p*rn studio.
And now, for your viewing pleasure, here is episode #1 of season #2 for World Doctors.