Whether it be your favourite anime, or the beguiling visuals of a good game—artistry is what makes our culture so evocative and awesome. Every day creators and artists are bringing new ideas into being, and breathing life into old ones just as often.
If you’re on this website, you’re likely somewhat familiar with Kirby: cute, pink, inhales things to embody their elemental and physical properties. Currently front and center in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s World of Light mode, you might also be aware that Kirby was the star of an animated series at the turn of the millennium called Kirby: Right Back at Ya!. But what you might not know is that there is a group of illustrators and animators that have been slowly reanimating an entire episode (“Cartoon Buffoon” – Episode #47) as a creative homage, and they’re just about done. We got a chance to chat with Roya Shahidi about process, culture, and what it’s like to act as leadership for the Kirby Reanimated collaboration.
Christian Metaxas: So from what I can see online you’re the face of this thing, but what does that entail aside from general calls for submissions and organization?
Roya Shahidi: It basically means that I am the head honcho. I call for the animators for submission, I choose who gets in, receive all of the scenes, edit them all together. Some of the tweets and messages say “we,” but in actuality it’s all me.
CM: So you’re doing all the compiling and editing totally solo? Has no one volunteered to help you, or is that the type of job where it might be easier for just one person to be in charge of it?
RS: Pretty much, yeah. With these types of projects you can honestly go either way. Though really it can get a little overwhelming at times doing it all solo. Definitely gonna have more people helping if I do another reanimated haha.
CM: Well it’s not like y’all are doing some two-minute sketch, it’s a full fledged episode, it’s kind of a tall order. I was surprised to find that there wasn’t much to find, just little bits of announcements and general documentation. The work seems to be taking place offsite, which makes sense if it’s just you doing all the collection and editing.
RS: A lot of reanimated projects tackle one full episode. And with the social media, that’s basically it. I don’t wanna give away too much about it, since most people are more anticipated for the final product. The only other times I talk about it are on the project Discord and with friends and family.
CM: I guess it can be a little less thrilling for some, when you see how the sausage gets made that is.
RS: Haha, that’s true. I mean… judging from the 10,000 followers on Twitter, and the overwhelming response I get asking when it’s coming out, I’m sure people would like it, but still. You have that slight bit of hesitation whenever you show something you make to the public.
CM: Could you walk me through your day to day process, being the person mainly responsible for the bulk of… well… everything?
RS: Well honestly it’s a case of working on it on and off whenever I have free time. As much as I’d like to spend 24/7 working on it and getting it completed faster, I have a life to live and I don’t want too much of it. The typical process is checking emails, seeing if there are any updates from the animators, receive a completed scene, check off the animator, then adding their scene onto the project timeline and properly crediting them. I’m still waiting on a small handful of animators to complete their scenes. But other than that, all that really needs to be done is compositing everything, completing the Google DOC with everyone’s credit and just making sure everything is in order and that people would like it.
CM: Seems like it’s a bit more of a filing exercise than it is an editing one in some ways, is that a fair assessment?
RS: It’s sort of both in a way. This whole project has unintentionally taught me what it’s like to do animation-related production work. It’s taught me how to gather the right people, how to organize files, some editing tricks to make everything run smoothly—it’s been an uplifting journey for me as a solo head of a big project.
CM: Gotta feel good to be in the home stretch with everything then, especially with one of the more recent updates reading that the project is nearly complete. Have you personally animated many scenes for the episode?
RS: Oh yeah, I animated a lot of short joke scenes that I could finish in an hour or two. In the actual episode, there are scenes where King DDD shows an episode of a show he created and it’s extremely crude and poorly animated. I got to do a few of those scenes and let me tell you, doing intentionally bad animation is so much fun.
CM: Seeing how the episode’s plot is all about them making an anime, it had occurred to me when watching the original show that those scenes might be even more amusing with the reanimate.
RS: One of the scenes I reanimated had shots of the poorly drawn Kabu calling out the Warp Star. In the original, it’s presented as messy storyboard sketches being zoomed in poorly, and I simply recreated it using a combination of Photoshop and After Effects. The parts where I put my own spin to it are towards the end.
When the Warp Star comes out in the original, it’s poorly animated and obviously rushed. I looked over the scene and asked myself: how can I make this look even more rushed and very done-at-the-last-minute? With After Effects and a GIF making tool I made it look like the star was being moved around with the moving tool in Photoshop, as though someone was recording their screen just moving the poorly drawn star with a mouse.
Actually, I even went back to that scene and touched it up a second time. Remember “Unregistered Hypercam 2?” Plenty of younger artists I knew used it to make videos of themselves drawing on MS Paint and it would always leave a watermark of the program name in the top left corner. I went and found a PNG file of that watermark and quickly added it to the scene in the project file, just as an extra layer of intentional cheapness haha.
CM: Quick aside, how do you pronounce “GIF?”
RS: I say it as “gift” without the “t.” Not like the peanut butter.
CM: Good, we’re officially friends. Speaking of which, what do your friends and family think of you devoting all this time to reanimating and editing a cartoon that originally aired nearly two decades ago?
RS: My friends and family are honestly really excited that I’m tackling a project like this. Especially my parents, they couldn’t be more proud of me. They know how big of a deal this is and how it can potentially benefit not only me, but all the other animators involved.
CM: I know there’s a bit of a tradition with the “let’s make an anime” episode sort of deal, but is there a kind of canon for reanimates as well? Like, what’s the Neon Genesis Evangelion of reanimates? If that makes sense.
RS: The “NGE of Reanimates?” Hahaha… well it’s hard to say. As for which one gets referred to the most, that would definitely go to the Mama Luigi Reanimated. That’s the one so many compared mine to when I started working on it. Any time anyone starts a reanimated, at least one or two people will ask “is this just like the Mama Luigi one???”
CM: Are there other reanimate projects that served as inspiration for this one, or ones that you’d recommend checking out?
RS: The first reanimated I ever came across was a Sailor Moon one back in 2014, I believe. It was known as Moon Animate Make Up. A lot of artists I follow had contributed to it and I thought it was really cool. Later on there were a couple of others that tackled shows like the original Dragon Ball and the Mario Bros. Super Show! (Mama Luigi). I think the ones that made me decide to tackle a reanimated myself were Gemanimate (a Steven Universe reanimated) and Phui Jing Ling’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Reanimate. The latter of which came out when my Kirby Reanimated started gaining traction.
But most importantly, it was The Dover Boys ReAnimated by Zeurel that inspired me the most. I was actually able to snag a really short scene (the one with the bootleg Tom and Jerry guys). Seeing the whole thing in full, as well as interacting with the other animators via Discord, really gave me a whole new perspective on how to approach reanimated projects, and other collaborative projects in general. I recommend checking out all of the ones I mentioned.
Also, I highly recommend checking Kevin Fagaragan’s Rhythm Heaven Reanimated, Donkey Kong ReAnimated by ThePhsyGuy, and Moomin Reanimated by Phantom Pheebs. All of them run by contributors of my project and were all inspired to tackle it after mine.
CM: I knew of the Mama Luigi meme but not this particular video, it’s awesome! I’ll have to check all these out later.
RS: Not necessarily a meme per se, it’s just that Mama Luigi got widespread enough that that’s the one people think of when they think of reanimates.
CM: Oh no, not that the reanimate was a meme, just “Mama Luigi” and “spaghetti” and all that nonsense.
RS: Oh that! Yeah those are all OLD ancient memes from like the mid-2000s I believe. I remember when you couldn’t go anywhere on YouTube without coming across YTPs that included those infamous clips.
TFG Note: YTP is an acronym for YouTube Poop, an absurdist meme format that saw considerable popularity in the mid-aughts.
CM: I think the last time I thought about YTP I might have been 15 years old. I’m getting all wistful remembering my forum days, back before all the group chats. That’s so cool how the culture is visibly iterative of itself like that. Are there people from some of these other projects that are now submitting animation to Kirby Reanimated?
RS: Oh there have been plenty of artists I’ve been following for years and admired greatly who took part in this project. It honestly blew me away how many had interest in it. And some of these artists started following me back. It’s like “Aaahhh I’m Not Worthy!” Let’s also not forget about those Zelda CD-I clips either.
CM: Okay so this is really interesting, just talking about how the reanimate projects act as this sort of memetic mosaic, where all these different people come together with unique flair and style and put something awesome together. And we’re sitting here, both of us in our 20s, having a laugh at these internet jokes from over a decade ago, and then you tell me Mama Luigi is the reanimate that blew up.
But now you’re showrunning a reanimate project, working and animating alongside artists that you’ve known since before all this took off. Have they influenced how you’re approaching things, or specifically your own artwork?
RS: It’s definitely inspired me to not give up on my dreams of working in animation. They’ve all given me a high amount of inspiration to put into my craft. Even though I still get nervous doing complicated animations, knowing that they’ll support me and cheer me on no matter what gives me the determination to keep going.
Also, when it comes to people you admire, it’s always best to remember that they’re people just like you and me. They may have higher numbers than you or have better skills, but never let that intimidate you. You’ll never know when the time will come when those same people come to you and say that you inspire them. As long as you stick to being your true self, treat others with kindness and love and never give up on your creative drive or what makes you happy, people no matter how big or small will support you.
CM: So what didn’t you expect from the project? Was there anything that challenged you in ways you didn’t anticipate? Things that you learned from the process, having now gone from someone that watched these reanimates to working with these artists and making your own?
RS: There’s SO much that I never expected when I started. From the overwhelming support its gotten to how much time and effort I realized it’d take to complete this behemoth of a project. I learned a lot about the importance of organizing contacts, deadlines, file locations, and reviewing portfolios. There were plenty of highs and lows throughout the process, one being that my hard drive crashed on me during the middle of production. It was really rough but I was able to salvage as much as I could (thanks Gmail luv you). Life Hack: Always Back Up Your Stuff.
One thing I never anticipated was the mounds of messages asking when the project will be completed. This is my first case of ever receiving “When (X)??” comments on something I was working on. I can never 100% guarantee that it’ll be done as quickly as many would like, but I always try my best. This whole thing has also taught me so much from a production standpoint and it’s given me a much bigger appreciation for people who are the heads of big projects like this, especially solo producers. Major props to you guys!
CM: Anything more you’d like to add?
RS: One thing I will say is that when it comes to reanimated projects, no matter what kind, if you’re an animator or a curator, your real driving force should be your passion. If you don’t have that passion, whatever project you work on won’t really go anywhere. Let everybody around you inspire you, never feel intimidated. Have a strong love for what you create and, believe me, you’ll be going places before you even know it.
The Kirby Reanimated project is nearly done, so if you’re looking to get inspired you can follow along and keep up to date with Shahidi and the gang through their official Twitter account. If you’re looking for some other animation to check out, Brandon Takeda has recently laid out his top five anime picks of 2018 for your viewing pleasure. But if you’re in the mood for more interviews, we sat down with Albert Marin of the RE4HD Project last autumn to talk about remastering the ever-classic Resident Evil 4. For anime, video games, and everything in between, you can always find the good stuff right here at Too Far Gone!