Mike and Tim Rauch
In honor of May Day we bring you our latest animated short, “Clean Streets.” This animation features two longtime New York City sanitation workers, Angelo Bruno and Eddie Nieves, who worked together for almost 10 years.
This animation came to life with the help of Rauch Bros. Animation. They worked behind the scenes sketching away for months, from initial sketches to building the animation frame by frame. Here you can learn all about their process behind the creation of this sweet animated short, in our quick Q&A:
What is the first step in your process once you get the story?
The first thing we do is listen to the interview several times until we have a strong internal sense of it’s timing, the visual possibilities, and what research we might want to gather.
In the course of making the animation, how many times do you listen to the interview? What are you listening for?
By the time we finish the cartoon, we’ve listened to the story an uncountable number of times. You’re always listening for something different as you go through the process from start to finish. At the outset though, during the story selection process, we’re always listening to evaluate the animation potential inherent in the story.
How do you come up with the design for the characters? What about people you don’t get to meet?
The character designs come from our understanding of the personality of the people in the story, their relationships to one another, and basic principles of appealing and functional animation design. We work with whatever we have to inform our ideas photographs, in-person visits, video, historical research, verbal descriptions, and our own personal reference points and tastes. The character design is also a product of a process between our team and StoryCorps. That tends to start with us working loose, cartooned, and expressive. We’re trying to capture some essential quality of the person. Not necessarily just “what they look like in real life.” Otherwise, it would be a lot easier to just go get a camera.
This story is set in the West Village in New York City. Did you visit the area for inspiration?
We lived in New York City until recently, so we had a very good idea of the setting. However, anybody who knows the city knows that it’s constantly changing and has many faces. So it was important to get a better understanding of the particular time and place, especially as Eddie and Angelo saw it and experienced it. Their perspective was the most valuable thing in forming our ideas of how to depict the setting. We were aiming for a version of New York that was both real and optimistic. That seemed to echo the way Eddie and Angelo see it and live it.
What was it like meeting Angelo and Eddie? What did you learn about their work that surprised you?
Tasty! We all had lunch together at Junior’s in Times Square. We had a great time getting to know them. Even in just a couple hours, you feel you’ve made a new friend and gotten to know them very well.
It was interesting to learn how much their profession has changed since Angelo first began his career. It seems that over time, the job has become more regulated, structured, and less personal. That’s part of what makes Eddie and Angelo so unique. Their eagerness to go beyond the job description people might imagine, and form personal relationships with the people they serve is part of what creates the fabric of a truly special city. The personal relationships that develop on a New York city block are some of the most vibrant, special, and meaningful connections people make.
The Real Angelo Bruno and Eddie Nieves.
StoryCorps: What inspired the recurring bird/pigeon?
We did several difficult StoryCorps shorts last year – heavy subjects, heavy workloads. When we got to Eddie and Angelo’s story, we wanted to let loose and have some fun. The pigeons were a good tool for that. Thankfully, they also helped add some entertainment value and worked with our idea for a simultaneously real and optimistic take on New York City.
Pigeons also happen to be a recurring character in many of our projects, going all the way back to very early comics and animation that Tim was doing as he graduated college. There’s a good chance they’ll keep popping up in our work.
StoryCorps: What artists worked on this animation in addition to you two? What did they bring to the table?
Rafael Rosado did the storyboard, Bill Wray painted the backgrounds, and Brandon Denmark was Tim’s animation assistant. Sal Elvezio helped with character color.
They all have a foundation in solid design and drawing skills, visual storytelling, and share our passion for doing the best work possible within the possibilities allowed by the story, our resources to bring it to the screen, and any other creative limitations of the project
How long did the process take? What was the most fun?
The production of this short ran something like 2-3 months. For us, the fun was finding ways to really introduce some strong personality and cartooning in the design and animation. Eddie and Angelo have personality in spades, so that gave us a great place to start from.
Manhattan’s West Village.
Early Clean Streets Sketches
Watch “Clean Streets” on our site, here