Dano Johnson and his crew at Collection Agency Films are using their superpowers for good. Finally, a group of animators who aren’t bent on world domination.
Channel Frederator: Where did you study animation?
Dano Johnson: I studied filmmaking at the University of Texas at Austin, but I didn’t teach myself animation until several years later. I just realized I could make characters come to life in After Effects and a few years later I was starting Collection Agency Films with my business partner Troy Campbell.
CF: Who or what has inspired your work the most?
DJ: Jim Henson and the Muppets are probably the biggest influence on my sense of humor and work. I probably started animating because I wasn’t as good at puppeteering as I’d like to have been.
CF: Were you commissioned to do “Insur-Animals”, or do you think affordable health care is important?
DJ: The ‘Insur-Animals’ came about through our relationship with North Woods Advertising. Collection Agency Films has made a few animated political ads for them and they thought we’d be able to make something fun and attention getting for the HealthCare4Every1 campaign in Connecticut.
They approached Troy and me with the idea of doing a retro-Saturday morning cartoon in which some sort of character represents the oppressive American health care bureacracy, something kids would look at and say, “There has to be a better way!” So writer Don Swaynos and I came up with the concept of the 4 Insur-Animals and the ‘Worst Animal-Headed Superheroes’ were born. We recorded our local actor friends – Shannon McCormick, Curtis Luciani, and Lynn Mikeska – got our illustrator Cameron Petri to draw the characters, and animator Don Smith brought everything to life. I animated the opening sequence with music by Eric Friend and it became a pretty good hit for the campaign.
We definitely agree with the idea behind the ad – that even a kid could see this system is not working and people are falling through ever-widening cracks – so we hope that it may amuse and engage people in the debate about fixing the health care system.
CF: Do you have any cool upcoming projects you can tell us about?
DJ: There are actually 3 more yet-to-be-released Insur-Animals episodes, so expect them to roll out later this year. CAF just finished an animated political ad for Charlie Wheelan, an economics professor running for congress in Chicago, which just premiered at wheelanforcongress.com. I also just completed the screenplay for a sequel to my animated math/sci-fi movie Flatland: The Movie. We’ve heard from a lot of math teachers that really enjoy showing our first movie, so hopefully production will begin later this year.
CF: Have you ever had a stupid health care related nightmare?
DJ: Fortunately, I have not had any health care related nightmares… yet. I’m running my first 10K next month so I’m hoping not to have an allergy-induced asthma attack (but at least I’ll still get the free T-shirt).
Thank you, Dano!
You can watch Dano’s animated PSA, “Insur-Animals”, right here in episode #168 of Channel Frederator!
– Bailee DesRocher