Spycat turns two!

Spycat 2nd Anniversary

Dear Spycat fans,

Spycat and the Paper Chase is two years old today! Believe it or not, it’s been two years since the Spycat world premiere in Singapore.

But it’s not just Spycat’s birthday today. On a more solemn note, today also marks the official end of active submissions to film festivals. We’ve finally reached a point where Spycat is simply too old to be eligible for most film festivals!

This doesn’t spell the end of the Spycat film festival run, though! We have confirmed screenings lined up till September 2013. And if things go well, Spycat will continue its film festival run till the end of the year (or even further in the future)!

Of course, we’ll always welcome invitations to present Spycat at film festivals and other screening events! If you’re a festival programmer and you’re interested in Spycat , simply write to us to get your hands on a preview screener.

On another note, these two years have allowed us to leave our little mark in film and animation history. Here’s a list of online databases which have Spycat in their records.

Know of any others? Write to us here.

Spycat currently has a distribution deal with German film distributor magnetfilm. We’re sorry to say that we won’t be able to release Spycat publicly on YouTube or Vimeo for the next few years.

But if you’re in Singapore or planning a vacation there soon, do visit the Singapore Art MuseumSpycat plays daily at the Singapore Art Museum till 1 September 2013. Admission is free for Singaporean citizens and permanent reisdents. Details can be found here.

Last but not least, keep a look out for the Spycat film festival run retrospective! It’ll be released after the end of the Spycat film festival run. In the meantime, you can check out the latest version of our press kit here.

Till then, it’s business as usual! Don’t forget to follow our blog or like us on Facebook to keep up-to-date with the remainder of Spycat’s journey.

Thank you very much for your support, Spycat fans!

Best regards,
The Spycat Team (Darren, Chun Hong, Derwin & Yu Xian)

Spycat: Behind the Scenes! Week 4

Welcome to Week 4 of our Spycat retrospective! For our final trip into the Spycat archives, take out your magnifying glass and join us in scrutinising the film for Easter eggs, blink-and-you-miss-its and other oddities of an inane nature.

There are spoilers in this post, so you might want to give this a miss if you haven’t seen Spycat yet. As for the rest of us (or if you simply can’t resist), keep scrolling down!

Spycat’s title sequence was inspired by the classic James Bond gun barrel introduction sequence. You can watch every introduction from Dr. No (1962) to Casino Royale (2006) here.

We’re in Ashley’s bedroom! (1) Ashley named Spycat ‘Oreo’ because his black and white fur reminds her of the world-famous cookie. (2) Some of you might recognise Ashley’s doll as the Grim Reaper from Darren Lim’s first animated short film, Mystery (2009). You can watch Mystery here. (3) A picture of the Titanic hangs on a wall outside Ashley’s bedroom! In Mystery, the same picture stands on a bookcase in Oldman’s living room.

Spycat isn’t really the fat cat that Ashley thinks he is! In reality, Spycat uses a fat-suit to disguise his true identity as a secret agent for F.E.L.I.N.E. (that’s the Federal Espionage League for Inter-National Emergencies). While skydiving down to his secret lair, Spycat tugs on his collar to release the fat-suit. All this happens while Spycat is conveniently obscured behind a large pipe, so as far as explanations go we’ll leave it as that, folks!

Spycat strikes a Terminator pose when he lands in his secret lair.

Honeycat’s not in her office at the moment, so let’s take the opportunity to snoop around! (1) More objects from Mystery make a cameo appearance in Honeycat’s office! This potted plant has undergone a palette swap and grown somewhat since its days in Oldman’s living room. (2) Oldman’s kitchen clock, with a palette swap. It’s slightly after 10.30pm. (3) Honeycat and Oldman have the same candlestick phone. This type of phone was used at the turn of the 20th century. (4) Raccoony, a cartoon character created by Darren Lim and his brother, Derrick Lim, when they were children.

Given the film’s graphic, flat-shaded style, it may come as a surprise to you that both 2D and 3D elements are used in the construction of sets and props! In this example, objects created as flat images in Adobe Photoshop are outlined in yellow, while objects that have been modelled and rendered out from Autodesk Maya are outlined in blue. In general, objects that require stricter conformity to perspective are created in 3D.

Observant viewers would have realised from Captain Chico’s mugshots that Captain Chico doesn’t like cats (1) and is vertically-challenged (2)!

In the film, Captain Chico steals martial arts manuals from somewhere near the Great Wall of China! But without bionic eyes, you can’t possibly make out what the martial arts manuals say.

So here we are with a close-up! The text is written in Chinese seal script, or ‘zhuànshū’ (篆书). The title (1) is the Chinese translation of ‘Spycat’ – ‘Shéntànmāo’ (神探猫). The seal (2) reads ‘2011’, the year that Spycat and the Paper Chase was released.

Captain Chico pillages Paris for posters. But just who is featured on those posters?

Why, it’s BooBoo from Soh Yu Xian’s film, BooBoo the TV Fan (2009)! It seems like BooBoo has gone on to become a circus star! ‘BouBou l’Oiseau’ is French for ‘BooBoo the Bird’. You can watch the film here.

Timbuktu is a town in the West African nation of Mali, where French is the official language and toilet paper isn’t safe from the clutches of Captain Chico! The sign reads ‘Bienvenue à Tombouctou’, which is French for ‘Welcome to Timbuktu’.

Notice the weapon rack in the background? Find the top weapon (1) familiar? Go check out the second-to-last image in Week 2 of our retrospective. Yes, it’s ‘The Sniperist of Gunshooters’! And of course, the Catplunger (2) and Catoculars (3) feature later on in the film.

This Spycat scene transition is a homage to the one used in the 1960s Batman television series. You can see the original transition here.

We’ve watched Spycat and the Paper Chase hundreds of times, but we’re sure that you haven’t! Take a look at what your eyes missed in Spycat’s visit to Tokyo. Do click on the image to view a larger version!
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(1) Gachapon Girl is an animated film created by Tan Kwang Yang, Chua Eng Chee, Nathan Adianta and Tan Hong Jin. They were our schoolmates at the School of Art, Design & Media. You can check out the Gachapon Girl website here. The film is currently showing at Art Garden 2012 at the Singapore Art Museum, which runs from 18 May to 12 August 2012. You can find more details on show times here. Spycat makes a cameo appearance in Gachapon Girl, so keep a lookout for him! (2) ‘Unagi’ (うなぎ) is Japanese for ‘freshwater eel’. (3) ‘Uniglo’ is a parody of ‘Uniqlo’, a Japanese casualwear brand. (4) ‘Udon’ (うどん) is a type of Japanese wheat-flour noodle. (5) Spycat flies over Tokyo in his Catjet. (6) The character ‘To’ (東) means ‘east’ in Japanese. This is also the ‘To’ in ‘Tokyo’ (東京), which translates into ‘eastern capital’ in English. (7) Tokyo Hotel is a parody of German rock band ‘Tokio Hotel’. (8) A character created by Fung Chun Hong, named Akaru (あかる). (9) ‘Yoshida’ is a parody of ‘Toshiba’, a Japanese manufacturer of electronic products. (10) ‘Hachiko’ (ハチ公) was a Japanese dog who is remembered for his unwavering loyalty to his master, even after his master’s death.
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(11) ‘Omuraisu’ (オムライス) is a type of Japanese omelette rice. (12) This duck robot is a character created by Derwin Silamaya Suhali. He is saying ‘Power!’ (パワー!) in Japanese. (13) The purple billboard reads ‘GameStation’, a parody of ‘PlayStation’, a videogame console from Sony Computer Entertainment. (14) This white and green panel features a silhouette of Japan and the characters ‘Nippon’ (日本), which is Japanese for ‘Japan’. (15) ‘Ramen’ (ラーメン) is a Japanese noodle dish. (16) ‘Okonomiyaki’ (お好み焼き) is a Japanese savoury pancake with mixed ingredients. The text in the purple bar is too small to read, but it says ‘They become sweet kisses on your mouth… good day will follow after!’ A phone number is also provided (03-1234-5678). We don’t recommend that you call this number asking for okonomiyaki. (17) ‘Caldee’ is a parody of ‘Calbee’, a Japanese maker of snacks. (18) ‘Donburi’ (丼ぶり) is Japanese for ‘rice bowl dish’. (19) ‘Tonic’ is a parody of ‘Sonic’, the main character from the Sonic the Hedgehog videogame series. (20) Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan.
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(21) ‘Mega’ is a parody of ‘Sega’, a Japanese videogame developer. (22) ‘Okutopashi’ (オクトパシー) is the Japanese title for the James Bond film, Octopussy (1983). (23) ‘Marco’ is a parody of ‘Namco’, a Japanese videogame developer that merged with Bandai to form the Bandai Namco Group. (24) ‘Zone’ is a reference to the levels (zones) in Sonic the Hedgehog games. (25) ‘Virtual’ is a reference to Virtua Fighter, a fighting game series. (26) ‘Chahan’ (チャーハン) is Japanese for ‘fried rice’. (27) ‘Vii’ is a parody of ‘Wii’, a videogame console from Nintendo. (28) ‘Pritz’ is a parody of ‘Pretz’, a Japanese snack from Ezaki Glico. (29) Mochi (餅) is a Japanese glutinous rice cake. (30) ‘Jigusopazuru’ (ジグソーパズル) is Japanese for ‘jigsaw puzzle’.
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(31) ‘Macpan’ is parody of ‘Pac-Man’, an arcade game by Namco. (32) Tokyo Tower, a communications and observation tower. (33) ‘Devilzilla’ is a parody of ‘Godzilla’, a famous Japanese movie monster. (34) ‘Studio Jiggly’ is a parody of ‘Studio Ghibli’, a Japanese animation studio. (35) ‘NED’ is a parody of ‘NEC’, a Japanese IT company. (36) ‘Pony’ is a parody of ‘Sony’, a Japanese electronics and entertainment conglomerate. (37) ‘Tempura’ (天麩羅) is a Japanese dish of deep-fried battered seafood or vegetables. (38) ‘Conga’ is a parody of ‘Honda’, a Japanese manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles. (39) ‘Toycar’ is a parody of ‘Toyota’, a Japanese manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles. (40) ‘Picaro Sweet’ is a parody of ‘Pocari Sweat’, a Japanese sports drink.
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(41) ‘Korokke’ (コロッケ) is a Japanese potato croquette. (42) ‘Karepan’ (カレーパン) is Japanese for ‘curry bread’. (43) ‘Chawanmushi’ (茶碗蒸し) is a Japanese egg custard. (44) ‘Rocky’ is a parody of ‘Pocky’, a Japanese snack from Ezaki Glico.

Captain Chico’s airship is huge and really attention-grabbing! You probably missed the following things in the background… (1) It’s 8am in Tokyo! (2) ‘007 Wa ni-do shinu’ (007は二度死ぬ) is the Japanese title for the James Bond film, You Only Live Twice (1967). (3) Tokyo City Hall.

Some of you have wondered where the Catjet goes to after Spycat infiltrates Captain Chico’s airship. It is not explicitly stated, but our official explanation is that the Catjet was programmed to return to Spycat’s base.

Spycat is surrounded by Dogbots in Captain Chico’s hangar! Attentive viewers would probably have noticed at this point that the Dogbots have power switches (1).

We’ve arrived in Captain Chico’s engine room. Have you ever wondered what the small blue screen displays?

It’s ‘Chiconet’, Captain Chico’s navigational system!

This giant metal claw feeds the engine room furnace with paper that Captain Chico has stolen! The ‘DOG’ logo on the claw is a parody of Caterpillar Inc.’s ‘CAT’ logo.

Captain Chico: I’m using paper as fuel!
Spycat: Wait a minute… that can’t be right!
Let’s take a closer look at Spycat’s Science for Sillies book!

 

It seems like Spycat’s secret identity isn’t quite so secret after all! Captain Chico has been keeping tabs on Spycat through Ashley’s Spacebook (1) profile. We learn that Ashley’s last name is Weston (2), but it seems we’ll never know how Ashley looks like (3)… or do we already have an idea? You might want to check out Version 1 of the Spycat animatic, which can be found in Week 3 of our Spycat retrospective. It’s the only version of the Spycat animatic that shows Ashley in full!

Captain Chico strikes again with his dodgy engineering and quack science! How on earth did he manage to construct a magnet that attracts paper (1)? We may never know.

Why does Captain Chico insist on placing switches in places he can’t reach easily? This stack of cardboard cartons proves to be his downfall. If you’d like to know what used to be in these cartons, well, here they are! We’ve got pears (1), dishwashing liquid (2), someone’s parcel (3) and a sound system (4).

Despite his bad design and poor planning, Captain Chico actually remembered to build an emergency exit (1) out of the engine room! Spycat also chances on a Japanese yakko kite (2) that is instrumental to his escape from the self-destructing airship.

The view over Spycat’s city as he descends from the sky. The sun is rising, and it’s 5 minutes to 7 o’clock!

Was it all a dream? We’ve listened to theories that the events of Spycat and the Paper Chase are the dreams of a bored cat who wants more out of life, or figments of Ashley’s over-active imagination. While we recognise these as valid readings of the film, it was never our intention to be philosophical. As far as we’re concerned, everything in Spycat really happened, so don’t overthink things!

We hope you stayed till the end of the credits! Captain Chico survived the explosion, but we’re not too sure he appreciates the hundreds of paper cuts he now has all over his body! Spycat may have saved the day by stopping Captain Chico’s rampage, but one wonders how much of the world’s paper was destroyed in the process…

That’s the end of our Spycat retrospective!

Before we say goodbye (for now), we would like to take this opportunity to answer two questions that we’ve been asked many, many times over the past year.

Q: Will Spycat ever be released online?

A: We’ve planned a 2-year-long run in the film festival circuit. Since many film festivals don’t accept films that are available for public viewing on the Internet, we can’t put it online just yet. There is also the off chance that Spycat is picked up for commercial distribution, which is yet another reason to keep things off the web.

If our film festival run ends on schedule without any surprises, Spycat will be uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo by July 2013 for all to enjoy.

Q: Will there be a sequel to Spycat?

A: Well, never say never!

We’ve had a very positive and encouraging response from our viewers, especially children! We’re convinced that there’s something special with the Spycat concept and we’re definitely not finished with it yet.

With that said, there are no immediate plans for a sequel.

Now that we’ve graduated and moved on with our professional lives, it is highly unlikely that all four of us will reunite to work on another Spycat film. If Spycat does return, it may not be in the form of another short film, or even with the exact same team. We’re keeping our options open for now.

That doesn’t mean that nothing’s ever been done in the way of a sequel! Check back regularly (or ‘Like’ us on Facebook to get post alerts!), because we’ll be releasing some really interesting stuff about that soon. You haven’t seen the last of Spycat!

Thank you for joining us! Keep following us as we enter Spycat’s second year!

Spycat: Behind the Scenes! Week 3

We’re back with Week 3 of our journey through Spycat history! Go back in time with us as we take a look at Spycat animatics from way back when.

Animatics are basically timed storyboards with little to no animation. They are used to check story flow, estimate the film’s duration and give a glimpse of how the final film might look like.

The Spycat animatic went through many revisions before being finalised. In fact, the film was based on the sixteenth version of the animatic! To give you an idea of how much has changed since the beginning, we’ll be showing you Versions 1, 2 and 9 of the Spycat animatic.

Animatic of Spycat and the Paper Chase (Version 1)

Ashley and Spycat are the only two characters that date back to the original animatic! In Version 1, Spycat’s superior is a mustachioed cat named Bosscat, while the antagonist is one Doctor Dogbane – an evil genius who is assisted by a ragtag bunch of ruffians. Unlike the final film, Version 1’s third act takes place in Spycat’s conveniently-equipped prison cell aboard Doctor Dogbane’s blimp.

 

Animatic of Spycat and the Paper Chase (Version 2)

Eager to beef up the scant story in Version 1, we set about to do some major retooling!

Honeycat replaces Bosscat as Spycat’s superior, as we felt that a female agent would serve as a better foil (and a possible love interest!) to Spycat. The rather bland Doctor Dogbane is reinvented as Captain Chico, while his henchmen are replaced by an army of robots.

The third act was totally revamped in order to have greater hero-villain interaction and plot complexity.  We’re particularly fond of the Post-it note plot device in Version 2!

Unfortunately, our enthusiasm resulted in an animatic that clocks in at almost 9 minutes! An animated film of this length would have been undoable given our deadline, so reducing the film’s duration became a top priority in the animatics that followed.

 

Animatic of Spycat and the Paper Chase (Version 9)

Version 9 lies at the midpoint between Version 2 and the final animatic (Version 16). Here, the animatic begins its conversion into a Leica reel, in which animated or partially-animated shots replace still images.

The story has been trimmed down considerably from Version 2. It was good to see unnecessary scenes go, but we lost a number of gags as well. Version 9 is rather close to the final cut, but you will probably notice some action sequences that are missing from the actual film.

Version 9 also features actual lines from our voice actors, except for Ashley’s parents. Filler music and sound effects are used here too.

 

That’s all we have for you this week, Spycat fans! See you next Wednesday for the final chapter in our Spycat retrospective!

Spycat: Behind the Scenes! Week 2

It’s Week 2 of our Spycat retrospective! If you’ve just joined us, you can play catch-up by checking out the first post in this series, entitled Spycat’s 1st Anniversary.

It’s been tiring sifting through over 144,000 images, videos and documents, but here we are with more to share! This time, we’re exhibiting developmental art for sets and props featured in Spycat and the Paper Chase.

This colour script was created during the storyboarding phase to give us a tangible preview of how the final film would look like. We eventually opted for a brighter and more colourful palette that would appeal to a younger audience. Art by Fung Chun Hong.

Apart from colour scripts, collage was used to create early visualisations for sets. This piece depicts Ashley’s bedroom. Art by Darren Lim.

This collage envisions Spycat’s underground lair to be far more expansive than the one featured in the final film. Art by Darren Lim.

Concept art for a night assault on Captain Chico’s airship. Art by Derwin Silmaya Suhali.

A grittier imagining of Captain Chico’s engine room using warm metallic tones. Art by Darren Lim.

If you’ve seen Spycat and the Paper Chase, you’ll recognise this as Captain Chico’s engine room. In this preliminary illustration, papers are arranged in relatively neat towers and vertical banners flank both sides of the main console. Art by Derwin Silamaya Suhali.

Spycat relies on his Catjet to travel around the world! This preliminary design is somewhat inspired by a handheld vacuum cleaner. Art by Soh Yu Xian.

Here are some quick renditions of the Catjet, with design elements that are inspired by feline features and conventional aircraft. Art by Soh Yu Xian.

An array of silhouette thumbnails for the Catjet. Apart from the cat-inspired designs, there are fish-inspired ones as well which, according to the artist, reference a cat’s love of fish. Go figure! Art by Derwin Silamaya Suhali.

We’re getting close to the final Catjet design! Here, the chosen silhouette thumbnail is fleshed out into something more substantial. Art by Derwin Silamaya Suhali.

Different views of the final Catjet model. Wanna take a ride? Art by Derwin Silamaya Suhali.

Spycat poses with the Catjet! This image is currently featured in NTU ADM’s Academic Year 2012/2013 posters and undergraduate prospectus . For the uninitiated, that’s the School of Art, Design & Media at Nanyang Technological University, where Spycat was created. Art by Derwin Silamaya Suhali.

A mock-up for Captain Chico’s airship which really puts the ‘ship’ in ‘airship’! The pirate ship body and dog’s skull figurehead were ultimately discarded, but design elements like the propeller and glass dome were retained for the final airship model. Art by Darren Lim.

The penultimate design for Captain Chico’s airship features a golden dog’s skull on the envelope. It was finally changed to the current white one which adhered more closely to the film’s art style. Art by Derwin Silamaya Suhali and Soh Yu Xian.

We used size comparison charts such as this one to ensure that props and characters are at fixed proportions to one another. The numbers represent the scale factor to be applied on the Autodesk Maya models. Art by Derwin Silamaya Suhali.

The Catplunger is probably the most important weapon in Spycat’s arsenal. Art by Derwin Silamaya Suhali.

Need a weapon? How about picking up a ‘Remote Jell-Bumb’ or a ‘Practical Imploder’? If these don’t satisfy you, then the epically-named ‘The Sniperist of Gunshooters’ might just be up your alley! Art by Derwin Silamaya Suhali.

These are the two spy gadgets used by Spycat in the film. Say hello to the Catplunger and the Catoculars! Art by Derwin Silamaya Suhali.

We’ll be showing animatics next week! So mark your calendars and stay tuned!

Spycat’s 1st Anniversary!

How time flies! It’s been exactly one year since Spycat and the Paper Chase premiered in Singapore at the FilmGarde Cineplex Iluma, which has since been renamed Filmgarde Bugis+.

In the past year, Spycat has entertained audiences in China, Bangladesh, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Greece, Australia and our home country of Singapore! We look forward to bringing Spycat to more countries and film festivals in the coming year.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the Spycat fans out there, especially those who have supported us since day one. Thank you!

To commemorate this occasion, we’ll be posting never-before-seen images and footage from Spycat‘s preproduction and production stages, starting from today and on the following three Wednesdays (that’s 13 June 2012, 20 June 2012, 27 June 2012 and 4 July 2012).

Without further ado, here’s Week 1’s collection of character designs and model sheets from the Spycat vaults. Enjoy!

If you ever wondered what Spycat would look like wearing blue camouflage pants, wonder no more. Art by Darren Lim.

Different designs and colour schemes for Spycat’s uniform. We were very fond of the Tron-inspired ones at the bottom row, but we decided against them eventually. Art by Soh Yu Xian.

These early character designs are very different from their final versions! Here, Captain Chico is a well-heeled bulldog with an onigiri-shaped head, while Spycat is a scowling gray cat. Art by Soh Yu Xian.

In this early character exploration, Captain Chico’s been imagined as a sea captain that is half-Goldfinger, half-Largo and all evil. Art by Derwin Silamaya Suhali.

Honeycat today is all fashion savvy with her cream trenchcoat and red scarf, but at one point she was supposed to wear a purple and pink variation of Spycat’s costume. And she used to have a facial mole above her lip too! Art by Darren Lim.

Pencil sketches of Honeycat with more human-like proportions. Art by Derwin Silamaya Suhali.

Different designs and colour schemes for Honeycat. We’ve got everything from frilly skirts to slick gloves in a variety of eye-popping colours! Art by Derwin Silamaya Suhali.

Different designs and colour schemes for Honeycat. These designs range from the outdoorsy to the schoolmarmy! Art by Soh Yu Xian.

Colour-coordinated outfits for Honeycat and Spycat, presented in different head-to-body proportions. Art by Fung Chun Hong.

Silhouette thumbnails for the Dogbots. Give yourself a round of applause if you spot a familiar-looking design. Art by Soh Yu Xian.

Drawing insipiration from trucks! Art by Soh Yu Xian.

This model sheet shows a Dogbot design that is pretty close to the one used in the film. Art by Soh Yu Xian.

We never see Ashley from above her waist, so her lower half is all we have to identify her with! This early design has her wearing a nightgown and bunny slippers. Art by Darren Lim.

As Ashley is a minor character, we didn’t want to spend too much time fiddling with cloth simulations for her nightgown. A costume change was in order, and Ashley switched to a pair of pyjamas and koala slippers. This was eventually updated to the striped leggings and bear slippers featured in the film. Art by Darren Lim.

Characters

Spycat

 Spycat is the hero of the film. By day, he is a pet cat named Oreo. By night, he becomes a secret agent who fights crime and saves the world!

Ashley

Ashley is Spycat’s owner. She remains in the dark about her pet’s secret identity and thinks that he does nothing apart from sleeping all night and day.

Honeycat

 Honeycat is Spycat’s fellow agent and superior. She assigns and briefs Spycat on his missions. She never shows it openly, but secretly harbours a soft spot for Spycat.

Captain Chico

 Captain Chico is a crazy chihuahua who has decided to rob the world of every paper product there is! Just what does he intend to do with it?

Catch our premiere on 13th June 2011 at Filmgarde, Iluma.