In the hilarious animated short, "Understand THIS! A Buddy and Romeo Short," the two male protagonists bemoan what you have to do to win a girl's heart these days. Of course, their romantic woes couldn't have anything to do with their dating techniques. Who could possibly resist a guy who takes his mom along on a first date, offers you a lift on his bicycle, or orders the chicken tenders from the children's menu? No, it couldn't be anything Buddy and Romeo are doing wrong!
Creator Nathan J. DiPerri says "Understand THIS!" centers on two characters he has been drawing in his comic strip, Mates and Dates, for the past three years. And at least a few of Buddy and Romeo's adventures emerged from DiPerri's own experiences on the dating scene with his best friend ("A pathetic chapter of our lives which we've come to refer to as 'The Quarter-Life Crisis of 2009,'" DiPerri said).
We recently caught up with Nathan to talk about his creative career, as well as "Understand THIS!," which was one of three finalists for the first-ever Short Shorts Animation Contest. To view "Understand THIS!" and the nine other finalist and semi-finalist animations, click here.
GoComics: What inspired you to create this animated short? How did you come up with the idea?
I've been pursuing comic strip syndication for 16 years. In 2014, during a particularly discouraging creative period, my wife encouraged me to try doing a strip about the futile attempts to find love that my friend and I had experienced in our bachelor days. The resulting comic strip, Mates and Dates, has been in daily self-syndication since 2015. "Understand THIS!" was designed as an animated introduction to Buddy and Romeo through a "flashback" montage sequence of some of their most pathetic moments from the comic strip.
GoComics: Who are your biggest creative influences?
In comics: Bill Watterson, Charles Schulz, Carl Barks, Richard Thompson, and Paul Madonna; in illustration: Norman Rockwell, Peter de Seve, Drew Struzan, and Jarrett J. Krosoczka; in animation: Disney's "Nine Old Men," Glen Keane, and Andreas Deja.
GoComics: What is your all-time favorite animated feature?
For purely sentimental reasons, DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp (Disney, 1990). DuckTales was my favorite TV show when I was little, so I was obsessed with anything involving Scrooge McDuck. I think Sleeping Beauty (Disney, 1959) has the most thrilling climactic sequence in cinema though. From a quality stand point, Pinocchio (Disney, 1940) is unparalleled.
GoComics: What is the most challenging part of the animation process for you?
Starting! The X-sheets and thumbnails can be daunting, but without that foundation, issues will present themselves in animation that could have been resolved in the planning stages. I have a similar experience with painting. I enjoy the layering process, but the underpainting is always stressful.
GoComics: What do you envision yourself doing in five years?
I was an illustration major, so we were given a rich background in fine art, design, art history, and character/staging. I loved animation as a child, but shelved the idea of becoming an animator when I was in middle school, so I've never had any training in it. Only in the last four or five years have I started teaching myself more about the history and process of traditional hand-drawn animation. Ten years ago, I told stories exclusively in the succinct formats of editorial illustration and comic strips. For the past five years, I've explored long-form narrative, writing and directing high school theater productions and year-long comic strip "season" arcs. As I rediscover my inner child, my target audience is getting younger, and my narrative lengths are finding their happy medium. The next five years will be devoted to animation, children's books, and, of course, comics.
GoComics: How did you learn about the Short Shorts contest? Why did you decide to participate (besides the $25,000 grand prize)?
I feel like I found out about the contest by accident. I don't use social media very often, but I happened to see a passing tweet about it from GoComics in May. After 16 years of pursuing syndication, comic strips are my first visual language, but I've always loved animation and wanted to be an animator as a child. I read an article about how this contest was a first step in GoComics' efforts to diversify their business with the eventual launch of an animation platform. I hoped that if my short could exemplify all of the judging criteria - especially "Potential for Serialization" - then perhaps I could be contracted to produce additional episodes of Buddy and Romeo animation for GoComics.