Brother & Sister is back! (And a brain dump about it)

I'm bringing one of my oldest animated series back!

Brother and Sister was an accidental animated series that I made back when I was in Middle School (I say accidental because I never meant for it to become a series, I thought it might be a one off short at the time. But I also though this of the Fudda series, and Genius Cop... actually, GunDan might be the only "series" I ever purposely conceived and started). The first episode of Brother and Sister (which I'll sometimes refer to as BS from this point on), which is embarrassingly still on YouTube (the quality really hasn't held up over the years, haha), was released on March 11th, 2007. I ended up releasing 13 episodes before putting the series on hiatus while I worked on some other projects. Then I also quit animating forever at one point there, but you know how that worked out for me.

I had never meant to completely drop the series the way I did, and I kept writing episodes and cleaning up character models for years after that. I still have the list of episodes that were supposed to go into production next back in 2007!

As enough time passed, I started sneaking BS easter eggs into other projects (most notably GunDan, which has multiple BS easter eggs, probably because it was going to be my first attempt at a series since Brother and Sister). I had multiple BS scripts I wanted to animate, but most of them were (and are still) long (maybe 8-25 minutes for most of them) and were simply outside of my scope. Then, I had a moment after finishing Funny School Things Redux that gave me just enough time to finish a short animation, and I wanted to do a Brother and Sister one, so I whipped up a short BS script. It ended up being too complex, so I whipped up a second BS script (more on the tabled first script later), and this was released as "The New Brother & Sister: Short 1" in August 2012, with the idea that I would start making more Brother and Sister animations, but now with "The New" prefix to distinguish them from the old ones (the animation was now being done in Flash, as opposed to Ulead GIF Animator where I had done the old episodes, and it had been a couple years so I felt like the series needed to be rebooted). I had added the "short" suffix to make it clear that these were not the "full length" episodes (again, most of my other BS scripts, of which there are dozens, are more like 8-25 minutes in length).

Less than a year later, another idea for a really short Brother and Sister animation hit me, and I whipped out "The New Brother & Sister: Short 2" (which I'm particularly proud of). Shortly after, I got together a really good draft of a 22-minute Brother and Sister episode, and I made up my mind that it was time to make it.

My senior year was coming up in school, and I was going to have to make a senior thesis. I was a Film major, but the program was pretty open, and I started to consider making the 22-minute BS episode as my thesis. Shortly after, a similarly long live action script hit me, and I got pretty excited about that one as well. I powered through that script too, and on the first day of class in my senior year, I had two 20+ page scripts in my backpack: one animated, one live action. I knew that animating a 22-minute piece was going to be a crazy challenge, and I decided that I should make another short BS animation just to time myself on how quickly I could produce it, and then use that data to see if I could scale up and reasonably produce a 22-minute piece in my final year. I took a random thought I had about fruit punch a day or two prior and whipped up another short BS script called simply Punch.

So I brought these scripts to class and had a discussion with my classmates and teacher about which might become my thesis. And at that time, my close friend and fellow senior Film major Hubert Wang (he voices himself in the 2nd New Brother and Sister short) voiced his opinion. I knew from the start that he would argue for me to make the live action piece, being that we were in a Film program and I was a Film major, but his argument was actually stronger than that. He brought up the fact that this live action film was going to require lots of crew members and equipment that I had relatively easy access to because we were in a film program. The animation could be made at any time, even after graduating, but it was going to be much harder to get access to the same pool of talent and equipment once I graduated if I wanted to then try making the live action piece.

His argument was sound, and I set aside the Brother and Sister piece and got to work on "The Last Summer" instead, which consumed the next year of my life. Probably more, actually. (Funnily enough, the final film is only 14 minutes long, which isn't nearly the 20+ minutes I was aiming for. But editing is a fickle beast...).

Eventually, I graduated and finished up work on "The Last Summer." In the latter half of 2015, my thoughts slowly switched back to the Brother and Sister episode... but then I also felt a sense of obligation to finish the Fudda series, which was another one that I had set down "just for a moment" to get Funny School Things 2 done, and then failed to pick back up. It had an uncompleted arc and I was really bothered that it wasn't done (GunDan bothers me too, of course, but that's another story that I might get into one day). The 22-minute Brother and Sister was relatively stand-alone, so it wasn't bugging me as much.

So, I got Funna and Slap out of the way. NOW it was time to return to the 22-minute Brother and Sister episode. Except, I was now a freelancer, and the amount of work I was getting was really ramping up... Thus, I didn't see how I could possibly make the 22-minute piece. I gave it some thought, and decided to at least work on the little BS Punch short that I had written to tide me over, and maybe still collect data about myself so I could figure out how long it might take me to produce the long episode.

A little bit of the way into making the Punch short, I thought of a plan! One of the big issues with the longer episode was that it contained so many new locations, characters, and objects, that I would spend weeks just creating all the new assets. BUT, if I continued working on shorts, particularly ones set in the various locations that the full episode would use, and with characters the full episode would require, then I could slowly be forced to create those assets in small chunks at a time. With enough shorts made, I could have most of the assets for the long Brother and Sister episode made! This method would take longer, sure, but it would have the added benefit of producing a series of shorter animations along the way (and letting me work out the style and characters better). Even if I failed to get to the full episode, I might still have something to show for all the work with the shorts!

I got to work. Or, rather, I continued work on the Punch short with renewed vigor. The Punch short was already fulfilling my new goal, as it would require me to create a background I needed for the full episode, and allow me to figure out the new James voiceactor (the one I had used for the first two shorts had since dropped out). It was also the first one I was actually animating in HD (the previous two had been animated at lower resolutions and scaled up).

And then, freelance work started pouring in harder than ever, and there were too many good opportunities to pass up.

Basically, fast forward a year or two, and I still wasn't done with the tiny Punch short that was purposely written to be a quickie. It made me realize that making the full episode just wasn't feasible at this time, and that if I was ever going to make it, it was going to be released in smaller chunks as I slowly got around to animating 3-5 minute segments of it. At the same time, I realized that the only hope for Brother and Sister right now was the "shorts." And looking back, those shorts weren't even any different in length from my original Brother and Sister episodes. AND, I also really hated the name "The NEW Brother & Sister" because putting NEW in front of something sucks. What if I rebooted the series again? Then it becomes New new? No no no, I couldn't have that. Everyone made fun of Nintendo for the NEW 3DS being an update of the previous model with a ridiculous name, and I realized I was trapped in the same position. I debated other names, but the Brother and Sister title is still really stuck in my head, and I couldn't think of a way to adjust it without doing something dumb like "the new." I therefore decided to just start calling the show "Brother & Sister" once again. The original series was so old that it wasn't like people were going to confuse them. I DID change the "and" to an ampersand, also, so that is the one distinction between the originals and the current ones.

I resolved to sort of "reboot", or rather rewrap, the original two shorts I had made within the context of the new series with the new title. I wanted to have a new punchy little theme song and credits sequence that would apply to the new series. I was inspired by Matt Wilson, of Cartoon Drive-Thru on YouTube, and his series like Deadly Space Action. (Coincidentally, his old flash series Bonus Stage was quite an inspiration to me when I was young and learning to animate, and his somewhat triangular character Phil is likely why a decent chunk of my characters looked the way they did for a period of time *cough*GunDan*cough*.) I've always loved his intro sequences, so I even got him to write me a Brother & Sister theme song. Mad props to him for that! I've always wanted a sweet theme song for one of my animations.

Anyway, let me wrap things up. First up, I'll be re-releasing the two older Brother and Sister shorts, now wrapped as Episodes 1 and 2, with re-mixed audio and just general clean up (the show will now be presented in 16:9 at Ultra High Def 2160p, so that's at least some improvement on the originals, which were of varying aspect ratios and never beyond 1080p). Soon, I'll be releasing Episode 3, which is the Punch short that I wrote on a whim to test how quickly I could make a short. Turns out, not fast at all. And eventually, there'll be an Episode 4 as well, which is one I'm particularly proud of. Episodes 1 and 3 are kinda meh in my opinion, and both were made just because they were the only Brother and Sister ideas I had that were short and simple enough to be made at the time.

Will there be more episodes than that? I sure hope so. I now have a good many shorter BS scripts that I can make if I find the time. Two scripts are contending to be Episode 5 at the moment. One is the originally intended Episode 5, but it's a bit tied up due to voiceactors. The other contender is actually the script I had originally written to be the first "New" Brother and Sister Short, but I had deemed it to be too complex at the time. It has since been rewritten and simplified. I prefer the "original Episode 5" script, but this alternative one already has all the voicework completed and is therefore more achievable at the moment. We'll see what decision I end up making, as freelance work is at a peak again for the next month and a half, so I won't have to make a decision for at least that long.

I'm not giving up on that full episode yet, of course! But I am focusing on smaller shorts for the foreseeable future, though each one of those is ultimately helping create assets toward the longer episode, so I'm moving forward on projects no matter what.

Well, that's enough blabbering on about this series. I still have a lot more to say about it, actually, but if I do that, it will be in another blog post another day. I hope you all enjoy the first 3 (and eventually 4) Brother & Sister episodes.



-Alex Zajicek