I was able to visit the production studios for FX’s Archer here in Atlanta, and sit down with creator Adam Reed. When you walk into the studio, you see a number of people working away on their computers on various aspects of the show. Some have background art pulled up, others are actually working on animating movement with our favorite characters.
When we watch the series, everything comes together so seamlessly that we don’t realize the amount of effort that goes into creating just a single episode. This was one of the things I chatted with Adam Reed about – What is the process of putting together an episode actually like? What all goes into it, and how long does it take?
“There’s a lot of overlap. I just finished the script for 2.13 (Season 2, Episode 13), but they’re animating to 2.11 right now. They’re storyboarding 2.12, and doing the initial art direction for 2.13 from the script. So there’s a bunch of overlap. And it’s pretty confusing, at least for me cause I never know which episode we’re talking about.” Reed explains, “It’s like, ‘Oh, you know it’s the racecar one.’ ‘Oh, okay, great, great.'”
So from script to final episode, it’s a 3 week process, but what happens after Reed finishes writing an episode?
“Our art director, Neal Holman, gets the script along with Casey Willis and Jeff Fastner. And they go through and start thinking of it in terms of pictures. Then they sit down with the storyboard guys and go through the script, and then the storyboard guys storyboard it.” Reed explains, “And while they’re doing that, Neal and Jeff are assigning the character illustrators, ‘Here’s the new characters we need.’ And if it’s a totally new person, then somebody hires a model. They bring them in and our costume designer makes clothes for them or buys clothes for them, and they take a bunch of photographs of them to use as references to draw the characters.”
But that’s not all, during this period they’re also recording voices and the background department is also painting backgrounds. Once everything is recorded, the audio is matched to the storyboard images, and then that is sent to FX. FX then watches it and will reply back with suggestions like “Tighten this up” or “Lose this” or “Make this longer.”
And it’s still not over at that stage, once the storyboard, dialog, and audio are locked in, then they start putting the real images in – and then start animating from there. Adam Reed told me that a lot of time, they’ll put the real characters and backgrounds in there – but they’re just stills which get animated afterwards.
“But I don’t know how that works.” Reed laughs.
Magic, I suggest. He smiles, “It might as well be.”
I found the animation process fascinating. As fans, we only see the finished product and not all of the people and talent it takes to create a single episode. It does indeed seem like magic to us.
Take a look at the talented folks behind Archer below! And before you wonder what’s going on with the umbrellas, it’s to help keep glare off their monitors. Turns out you can have too much natural light in an animation studio!
Want more exclusive Archer goodness? There’s more coming your way every Thursday until the end of the season! There’s more to come from my interview and studio visit! Also check out our contest to win a Archer Season 2 poster signed by Adam Reed!
Article/Interview By: Emma Loggins