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FOG! Chats With Director Greg Franklin About Animating Johnny Ryan’s PRISON PIT

Interview conducted by Stefan Blitz

Hailed by The Comics Journal as a “perversely pure, single-minded commitment to vileness” and by VICE magazine as “important”, Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit is an animated adaptation of the acclaimed graphic novel Prison Pit: Book One. The stripped down, boundary-less tale of hulking monster men beating the crap out of each other is now available as an animated series from Los Angeles based studio, 6 Point Harness. FOG! was fortunate enough to chat briefly with series director Greg Franklin about adapting the beloved cult comic series.

FOG!: What attracted you to Prison Pit as a property?

Greg Franklin: When you read the comics, the first thing you notice is just how extremely, offensively violent and puerile they are. It goes WAY too far, in fact so far that it transcends mere vulgarity and achieves a spare, sickening zen-like quality. It’s really art, kind of.

As an animation fan, I would LOVE to see more of this kind of entertainment available to me, but it’s just not there. So we took a chance, reached out to Johnny to see if he had any interest in collaborating with us on a Prison Pit cartoon, and he did. I couldn’t be happier with the results.

Are there challenges in adapting the specific style of an illustrator, in this case, Johnny Ryan, to animation?

There are always challenges in animation, especially when adapting an established art style, but Johnny’s stuff is pretty animation friendly. Prison Pit is stripped down and focused solely on the characters. Johnny didn’t want to bother drawing all the extra stuff that didn’t really interest him. An elaborate world filled with architecture, drapery and details would distract from the vile deeds in the story.

With comics, the reader paces everything; how closely, if at all, do you work with Johnny to make sure the beats of a joke are as originally intended?

Our initial intention was to make as faithful an adaptation as is possible. But as we made certain adjustments, adding color and re-composing shots for widescreen, it became obvious that you can create a much more visceral reaction in animation, so you might as well really go for it or what’s the point?

Thankfully, Johnny agreed and he was really excited to take advantage of the color palette and animation. He’d usually ask for more guts, more blood and more gory chunks, more atmosphere and dimension, and any other details that just aren’t possible in a black and white comic.

You recently provided animation for Cosmos. Is one style of animation more difficult or more rewarding to work on than another?

Working on Cosmos was extremely rewarding, both professionally and personally. I honestly never dreamed I would spend a year working with so many accomplished people on a project so massive and prestigious, addressing how important it is for our society to be more educated and open to the sciences, especially at this crucial point in our species’ existence. It was a truly humbling experience in my life and career.

And what a better way to follow that up than with an purposefully mindless cartoon about monster men disemboweling each other! I love working both ends of the animation spectrum.

Check out the Prison Pit videos below and visit prisonpit.com to buy t-shirts and DVDs to help finance future volumes of the series.

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