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AN INTERVIEW WITH HOMESTAR RUNNER CREATORS, THE CHAPMAN  BROTHERS (FROM 2001)

NOTE: This is a fun little email interview I did with Matt and Mike Chapman who created Homestar Runner back in early 2001. I've left it in it's original format, typos and all, from the creators. It's nice to see that Homestar is still going strong after all these years. retroCRUSH sure knows how to pick a winner!

If you've been reading this site for any amount of time, you know I've made it no secret that I think Homestar Runner is one of the coolest and funniest sites on the net.  Forget that it's a Flash cartoon, HSR is as wild, crazy, and originally entertaining as any animation out there, in ANY form of media.  So I was naturally thrilled when the creators of this fine work of art, Mike and Matt Chapman let me pick their brains about what makes HSR tick, and some of the behind the scenes magic that goes in to making this great toon. 


Though the site first appeared in Jan 2000, when was Homestar runner actually created?

Homestar was created in the summer of 1996. that was when the 'Homestar runner enters the strongest man in the world contest' was made. he didn't see much playing time until late 1999.



 

What was the inspiration for Strong Bad?  You a big Mexican wrestling fan?

Mike: yes, mil mascaras and mr. wrestling 2 were some of my favorites growing up, but mainly he is inspired by the 'tag team wrestling' arcade/nintendo game.

Where the hell did you find that CBS Rotating SPECIAL logo sound effect?

Mike: we searched and searched and searched on the internet. we never were able to find a video clip or image of the visuals. we had to do that from memory, but we did find the sound. i think it was from some old news intro or something before it was used for specials.

Homestar Runner seems so innocent and perfectly original, but what are some of your influences?

Mike: old sierra computer games (king's quest, space quest, etc.), video games in general, elementary school, mudhoney, bad special effects, you can't do that on television, bad wrestlers (s.d. "special delivery" jones, rene goulet, tony garea, salvatore bellomo)

Matt: Bloom County, 3rd Grade, NES, Peanuts comics, Brian Pieslak

Matt does some amazing voice work.  Has he ever considered doing it for non HSR animation?

Matt:  Thanks, man. I have been trying to do additional voice work on the side. I did voices for Preschool Protocops and some voices for webtoons and radio commercials for this pizza chain from our home town. If things with Homestar never amount to anything, maybe I can fall back on that.

Mike: he's done voices for some other web cartoons. one called 'pre-school protocops' and the voices for the characters on mellowmushroom.com

What was the influence for the Everybody theme song?  It almost reminds me of something Shonen Knife would have done.

Mike: we had the music done and were going to leave it at that, but as i was listening to it, i started singing the 'everybody, everybody' part. so we recorded it and sped up our voices.

Matt: With both that and the Homestar Runner theme song I was thinking of the english-language version of the Gamera theme song. You know, "Gamera is really neat, Gamera is turtle meat" and all that. Japanese kids are awesome.

Your songs are actually pretty damn catchy.  It's hard to believe it's just the two of you doing it.  Ever get musical assistance?

Mike: not too much. other than the frampton and fatboy slim songs that are on there. oh, and the 'poot slap' song from the luau. that was from a booty rap band we were in called 3-dee. and missy does the words for marzipan's songs.

Matt: I've got a friend doing some mandolin and ocarina tracks for an upcoming toon.



Did Homestar runner ever exist on paper first, or was he a pure Flash creation?

Mike: paper first, 'homestar runner enters the strongest man in the world contest.' but, he didn't really come into his own until he got a voice and such. originally he was just nice and innocent, now he's pretty much just stupid.

Matt: Check out the museum. He was even on super nintendo before he was in flash.


Bod, an early  Homestar Runner influence
 

Pop culture plays a pretty strong role in your comics.  What are some of your favorite things of yesteryear?

Matt: the Apple IIe, making terrible text games in BASIC, Bod, You Can't Do That On Television

Mike:  obviously outdated video games are a big influence. school lunches. there is one particular episode of the 3 stooges (uncivil warriors) and the old batman show(the joker goes to school) that we memorized about 10 years ago and to this day quote them.

Seems that HSR is just ripe for TV...been approached by anyone yet?

Mike: we met with cartoon network a year and a half ago. the site was only a couple months old and i think we only had 2 toons. they were nice but said no thanks. since then, the site and the characters have developed so much. it might be worth another shot. we are working on outputting some of the cartoons to video and at that point we might put together a little package to send to networks and such.

Who ties HSR's shoes?

Matt: Shhhh! He'll hear you.

Mike: homestar's shoes have no laces, but if they did he would be able to tie them i'm sure.

Is there a limit you would sell out HSR?  Would you go the action figure, happy meal toy route?

Mike: action figures would be great. or figurines. like smurfs. lots of them in different poses. breakfast cereal is the ultimate goal.

Matt: I wouldn't call making action figures of your characters selling out. I thought that was the sign that you'd made it.

What if a studio called tomorrow and offered a flat fee to do a HSR movie with little or no input from you and dramatically changed the vision.  Would you go through with it?  How much WOULD you be willing to compromise?

Mike: thats a tough one. it all depends on how much money. if it made it so we never had to work again, then obviously we'd do it. its not as if homestar is all we've got. we can make up other funny stuff too.


Have you ever thought of teaming HSR up with Davey and Goliath?  Who would
be your ideal HSR crossover?


Mike: there was a british cartoon called 'bod' that they used to play on nickelodeon in the early 80's. it had a great little theme song and was slightly creepy.

Matt: I would love to have the whole gang appear in one of the classic Rudolph stop-motion Christmas specials. The one with the New Year Baby and the Abominable Snowman. And Strong Sad is a perfect match to hang out with Charlie Brown.

Ever had a HSR idea that you scrapped after saying, "What the hell were we thinking?"

Matt: Yeah, most of 'em. That's how they get funny, though.

Mike: of course. we have lots of half-baked ideas in various stages. some might get revamped, others will wither and die. a lot of things in the "what the hell were we thinking" category are in the museum.

How good is the merchandise sales going?  I saw a girl with a HSR baby T at a wrestling show.   It's sure great that you have no advertising on the site.

Matt: Ask our dad. He'll write you up a giant report on it.

Mike: we sell a few shirts a day. not enough to live off of or anything, but enough to justify making more shirts. we're working on felt pennants and temporary tattoos right now. we might make a small run of marzipan shirts for the ladies and maybe a pom pom shirt.

Any plans to add a cartoon in the bottom right rear film canister in "Kick The Can"?  It frustrates me that's the only one that doesn't have a toon in it!

Matt: Shhhh! He'll hear you.

Mike: that was just an accident. i'll put one on there just for you.

HSR is a perfect realization of what Flash can be on the web.  What flash sites impress the hell out of you?

Mike: i don't really look at a whole lot of other sites, but from what i've seen...the gorillaz site is pretty awesome.

Matt:  I'm really terrible with keeping up with what's out there. We don't want to be flash guys, that's just the easiest way to do Homestar. But nosepilot is pretty much amazing. And James Hutchison's work on Protocops is damn near broadcast quality. Oh, and that Mario Twins thing is hilarious. I swear I watch it once a day at least.

Any non HSR related projects you're working on?

Mike: working in the art dept. of a movie (all the real girls) that my friend David is making. also finishing up that mellowmushroom.com site.

-Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com