When all was said and done, Lyman (now Clambake’s creative director) and Adams had worked on nearly the entire run of Dr. Katz — a groundbreaking cartoon without whose edgy visual and comedic sensibility Adult Swim might never have existed. “I dealt with talent, the audio element, producing,” says Lyman. “I still sorta work that way. I handle most of the visual aspects of the production.”
Adams sniggers. “Heh-heh. You said ‘ass.’ ”
Asses on the line
About 15 years into Adams and Lyman’s tenure there, TSP was bought by Scholastic, the educational publisher and production company known for such kiddie fare as Captain Underpants and Clifford the Big Red Dog. Adams dreamed up Assy McGee and shopped it to Adult Swim, whose Matt Harrigan helped, er, flesh out the character.
Adams had Scholastic’s blessing. At first. Until, that is, they saw the show. Lyman still chuckles at the thought. “Carl goes out and creates this show called Assy McGee at Scholastic, and they go, ‘Well, great, that’s cool.’ Until six episodes in.”
“Until [the episode where] the kid shoots the priest’s eye out,” adds Adams.
Certainly, clerical assault with a firearm is not material a children’s educational publisher can feel comfortable with. “Scholastic really didn’t know what the show was until they started seeing it,” says Adams. “It sort of flipped them out. Understandably.”
Soon, making Assy McGee became more trouble than it was worth. “Here we are, a production company, and we’re getting notes from our lawyers saying, ‘No, you can’t do this, can’t do that, can’t do this,’ ” says Adams. “Shooting or blood or religion — pretty much everything you see in the first six episodes kinda made them cringe.”
(At the family movie review site commonsensemedia.org, one critic suggested that Assy McGee, while clearly “for very mature teens and adults only,” might be fodder for family discussion. “Families can discuss comedy. What makes a cartoon funny? Is this show funny? Why or why not? What boundaries is it pushing?”)
Luckily, Scholastic was sympathetic to Adams’s dream of writing cartoon shorts about a blow-snorting set of ass cheeks who solves hooker homicides. So they ceased production, but handed him the rights to the show. “I had a good relationship with Turner [Broadcasting, which owns Adult Swim], so I looked to André and said, ‘Let’s maybe do this for ourselves.’ ”
Clambake Animation was born. But things were touch-and-go at first. “We didn’t technically have a signed contract [for more episodes from Adult Swim],” says managing director Carrie Snyder (Tom’s sister), who came aboard to handle Clambake’s business operations after working for years at Lotus Development. “Like any start-up, it’s a little bit nail-biting until you have that first deal.”
“A year ago, it was kind of tense and exciting,” says Adams. “We had to get a contract signed, get a schedule out, get a space, set up an LLC, get to know each other as partners, hire people, get all this equipment going.”
Who knew a TV show about a trigger-happy tushy could be so complicated?
Once the order came down for 14 new episodes, Clambake hired a cadre of crackerjack artists and animators, but “most of them hadn’t done television shows,” says Adams. With six Assy McGee episodes having already aired, it was imperative to maintain the same look and feel for the new season. All those challenges were met, and “a year later we’re delivering episodes seamlessly.”