Scott ‘Diggs’ Underwood On His Time Storyboarding For Ed, Edd n Eddy
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Anyone who remembers classic shows from Cartoon Network must remember Ed, Edd n Eddy. It ran for a decade and still remains in the leaderboard as one of Cartoon Network’s longest-running shows.
Scott Underwood is one of many artists that worked on the show from the very beginning. He’s also been around the block in animation, comics, and even toy design. His work is some of the best out there and he was kind enough to share some behind-the-scenes info about his life and his time working on the Eds we all know & love.
Can you share a little about your background, when you started drawing, and what caused you to chase art as a career?
I definitely have been drawing since I can remember.
While my siblings enjoyed baseball, I enjoyed sitting in my basement drawing comics.
I knew I wanted to pursue art as a career as that’s what I enjoyed most; I thought I would go on to become a comic strip artist.
What’s the story of how you landed at AKA Studios working on Ed, Edd n Eddy?
I didn’t know anything about aka’s existence until such time that I finished my stint at film school and was looking for a job.
One of the instructors at the school suggested I drop my portfolio off at aka cartoon, which was just down the street. So I did.
Based on my portfolio, I did then get chosen to do a storyboard test, which thankfully was good enough to land a gig!
It was my first job in animation, and it lasted over a decade.
When you worked on season 1 what was the energy like there, especially on a brand new show made for kids?
The energy on Season 1 was frantic and exciting.
There was a slew of artists new to cartoon making, and we were all learning and inventing as we went.
We were given a lot of freedom so being creative was abundant. Of course, nobody knew what the future of the show would be.
How much collaboration was there between writers and storyboard artists? Were artists adding in scenes or adjusting dialog for jokes, or getting feedback from the writers during the creative process?
Ed, Edd n’ Eddy was really collaborative as a whole, so there was certainly back and forth between the writers and the board artists.
The writers would create an outline, perhaps only a couple of pages, on which the storyboard was based. It was a jumping off point.
The storyboarders were responsible for interpreting that in the best way (always with the intent of making it better), so there was always scenes and jokes being added.
During the storyboard stage, the artists would put in whatever placeholder dialogue they thought worked best, which was finalized after the storyboard stage was done. Discussing throughout with the writers was common.
Since you all worked in Canada there was a bit of distance between you and Cartoon Network HQ. Were there any issues or hiccups caused by not working directly in Cartoon Network Studios?
I think the fact that we weren’t in the Cartoon Network HQ was in every way an asset to the production.
We weren’t beholden to whatever their method of production was, we just got to do our own thing.
Certainly this helped Ed, Edd n’ Eddy differentiate itself from other Cartoon Network shows produced concurrently.
It was an ‘aka cartoon’ first, and then a Cartoon Network show, so to speak.
What do you feel were some of the biggest improvements you gained from working on EEnE from beginning to end?
It’s hard to nail down the plethora of improvements that my work went through during the stint.
My stuff on season one is so different than my work on ‘Big Picture Show’ – – Crafting of a gag, storytelling, writing, just plain ol’ drawing… ten years of practice has gotta pay off somehow!
Regarding storyboarding in general: how important is practicing from life?
Drawing from life is certainly important.
Gestural practice certainly informs drawing when doing thumbnails for storyboarding and the like, where the quicker the better (whilst still remaining legible in some way).
Drawing from cartoons is equally important though, picking up the tricks and stuff from the masters.
The kind of practice that improved my skills the most, was the continuous variety. Truth be told, I still don’t draw as much from life as I reasonably should, but I’m always drawing nonetheless.
Another general storyboard question, what should someone put into a storyboard portfolio to showcase their work? And how much time should a board artist put towards practicing actually drawing vs. directing a scene vs. storytelling?
Well, storyboard samples would be a good start. Both of the rough variety, and cleaned up versions.
Stuff that shows a grasp of sequential storytelling, and of character.
It’s hard to measure what time-frames are best utilized in that way, though I’d say directing a scene and storytelling are one and the same. They depend on each other wholly.
At the end of the day, the mechanics of the storyboard are probably more important than the quality of the drawings, BUT if the drawings are stinky it’ll be certainly hard to tell a story as the focus will be “what the heck am I looking at?”
Plus, good drawings help tell the story – expressions describe emotions and motivations which are integral to the plot. It’s all one thing.
So what are some of your biggest artistic inspirations that you had as a kid and even today?
As a kid, I was absorbed into Looney Tunes and Woody Woodpecker for sure. I’d watch them on the TV as much as possible.
I’d also get every VHS compilation of public domain cartoons I could (they were the cheapest after all) and subsequently got into the early Fleischer stuff, Betty Boop and the like.
I also liked comic strips a lot. Garfield, Hägar the Horrible, Calvin and Hobbes, Pogo…
Today those same things still inspire me, but the pool of inspiration has expanded to include all sorts of artists, designers, anime etc. be they current or from the past… Masaaki Yuasa, Milt Gross, Marlo Meekins…
I know it’s been a while but I have to ask: do you have a favorite episode of EEnE?
Very hard to pinpoint. I have a lot of love for ‘Take This Ed and Shove It’.
There was actually a version storyboarded that was a little more depressing than what aired. I don’t think much if anything remains of it…
Can you share any details on what you’re up to now and any links where people can find your work?
Currently I am doing a lot more development than I have done before, with some established properties and also on my own IP’s – exploring comics again and even some live action stuff….but NDA’s abound.
I’ve been doing some toy design as well, which I find really fun.