Tuesday, February 16, 2010...2:52 pm
Behind the scenes: Doctor Knowgood part 1
In the first of this series on the making of Doctor Knowgood – the story of a self-important monkey in a white coat who believes he’s a doctor – we’re looking at character concept and design. How did animator Arnold Zwanenburg come up with the idea for a memorable puppet character?
Tell me about the inspiration for Dr Knowgood and how his character came into being. Did the visual idea for the character come first? Or the situation? Do your story ideas come from the character – or the other way around?
The situation came first. A monkey in a white jacket, that thinks he’s a doctor. The animals believe him and come with their medical problems. Every episode another case. I was quickly convinced the doctor had to be a monkey. Great animals, one moment they’re fleeing each other, the other moment leaping into a tree in an emotional outburst. That contrast would be funny for a doctor. Furthermore I wanted the doctor to have lots of bad qualities.
If you look at the old heroes like Tintin or… Superman, they don’t have any human flaws. Not very realistic, and they make me less involved. At least with Tintin the surrounding characters, such as Professor Zonnebloem (professor Cuthbert Calculus in English), Jansen en Janssen (Thomson and Thompson) and Captain Haddock, show much more human texture… with Captain Haddock swearing all the time – they are the characters that make me laugh.
So for me it was easy to decide that my monkey doctor does not exactly know what he’s doing… is impatient, selfish, and opportunistic.
A big inspiration has been Sigmund, a comic strip about a shrink appearing in the Dutch newspapers (www.sigmund.nl, also in English). It has existed for more than 15 years and still is funny. This psychiatrist is everything but flawless: very selfish and always takes advantage of the situation. But deep within you would still find a good heart. So we would not drop him instantly as just another bad guy.
Another inspiration was the cat Heinz, (also a newspaper comic in The Netherlands). One episode Heinz is aboard a big ship and he strolls into the captain’s cabin, he finds a monkey wearing the captain’s cap. So he respects and obeys whatever the monkey wants (bananas, trouble). That monkey has always stuck with me. Of course the monkey had just escaped, and found that cap – the real captain was being badly sick in bed.
So I seemed to have crossed these two ideas, a bad shrink and a monkey in control. So much for my limited creativity! I just added some physical humor. A shrink mainly talks – a doctor also really has to do something, examine, treat the patient, maybe even operate. I think physical humour is fun to watch and also, compared to talking, much more fun to animate. That’s quite important when you realise I’m going to spend a lot of time with this.
Thanks to Arnold for the first instalment. Next up: Puppet-making.