Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why I Love "The Wish Fish Family" and You Hate It

I don’t lead an exciting life. In fact, my life is ridiculously dull. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy bringing cartoon characters to life. I can make stuff actually happen to them. I can fill them with all the love, hate, anger and sadness I feel on a daily basis. I can break their hearts and blow their heads off. Anything I want to happen to them I’m able to make come trueas long as I’m not feeling too lazy. But of all my characters I have grown most fondly of the cast of The Wish Fish Family, the most controversial and politically incorrect cartoon I’ve ever created.

The Wish Fish Family spawned from a character I created in 2003 for the cartoon “Spike and Johny”. He was simply a fish that granted wishes. He had a small role in the awful cartoon and I wanted to see more of him. The Wish Fish was perfect for a quick and simple cartoon, which are the type I prefer to do because I am so lazy. I decided to give him his own sitcom, but instead of it being cheesy and lame it’d be completely offensive and the total opposite of the shows I grew up watching. I gave The Wish Fish the name Harold and made him a total bigot. I thought it would be funny to see a fish spewing racist crap out of his mouth. I didn’t even take into consideration whether or not it would actually offend anyone. I just made it for me and my friends. But years after its creation, The Wish Fish Family ended up causing more controversy than I had ever anticipated.

I entered The Wish Fish Family into a college film festival, again, not thinking of it offending anybody. I was friends with the people running the festival and they were in a hurry to put their reel together. They decided to put The Wish Fish Family in the lineup without having time to really review it. I thought it was cool and didn’t realize what a bad idea it was until I was sitting in the theater waiting for it to be screened. But when it finally hit me I knew it was a huge mistake. People were disgusted and in total shock as I had expected. The theater was filled with students’ parents and it was completely the wrong audience. Even if people thought it was funny they were too afraid to laugh. Although the situation was funny to me, at the same time it sucked that no one really got it. There wasn’t even a moment I was ashamed of the cartoon. In fact, The Wish Fish Family is one of the very few works that I am proud of. When I was presented an award for best web site and had to get up in front of everyone I decided to defend my work instead of apologizing. I still don’t regret this decision. If I could do it all over again I would have gone much further than saying that I enjoy offending people. But the truth is I don’t enjoy offending people. I enjoy making people laugh. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that day. I got several complaints and made most of my classmates hate me. The administration was looking further into the cartoon to see if it had some kind of hidden message they weren’t getting. But the truth is there wasn’t a message; it was just a cartoon about a racist fish that was screened in the festival by accident. The mystery has finally been revealed!

So you may be asking yourself, “Why did you make a cartoon about a racist fish in the first place?” The answer, as I briefly stated before, is because I think it is funny. After the incident I was referred to as South Park but without a message. Although I love South Park and wish I could be as genius as they are, I am not. I don’t put a message in everything, and to be sincere, I just think racism and stereotypes are funny if done properly. A lot of people would consider me a racist because I created such a bigoted character, but for the record I do not consider myself racist. I don’t seriously hate anyone because they are different than me, even if I joke about it. I hate everyone equally. I believe everyone should be open to mockery so I make fun of everything, including myself. That is the only message The Wish Fish Family has if any at all. Learn to laugh at yourself and there will be no reason for hate at all.

After I did the first episode of The Wish Fish Family in 2006, the next year I decided to do another episode revolving around my favorite character, Duck Bill. It turned out to be one of my favorite cartoons, if not the favorite, that I’ve ever done. The characters began to feel more real to me after the second episode. Their personalities started to go beyond the stereotypes. Harold was a selfish bigot who enjoyed making others miserable, especially his gay son who wants nothing more than his father’s love. Helen was a traditional house-wife with no say in anything terrible that her husband does and loves the family unconditionally. Perhaps it doesn’t sound all that original but it is realistic, as I later realized it was somewhat a reflection of my family life growing up. I first realized this when I showed the cartoon to my dad and he remarked, “That wasn’t about me was it?” That is when it clicked. Yes, it kind of was about him. Since then I have purposely put bits of myself into Junior’s character; but removing the homosexual factor, of course.

The writing in The Wish Fish Family is far from perfect. In fact, I will be the first to say it is pure crapit fits the animation perfectly! If you want to judge me on my writing ability none of the cartoons I have animated show what I’m fully capable of. Why? Because I’m just not that good at drawing or animating. I limit myself in my cartoons, which is something I hope to get away from one day. But this is why works like The Wish Fish Family have flourished in the FARToons universe. In some cases the limitations work and in others they don’t. I think The Wish Fish Family is one instance in which it does.

Surprisingly, almost all the feedback I’ve gotten on The Wish Fish Family has been positive. It depends on where people are viewing it, but mostly young viewers take a liking to the offensive escapades. If people could actually find the cartoons I think they’d grow in popularity. Unfortunately, the time has come to move on from The Wish Fish Family and leave its legacy behind. Episode six will more than likely be the final installment of the online series. But maybejust maybeone day an alien civilization will stumble upon The Wish Fish Family and actually understand why the idea of a racist fish is funny.

-- December 16, 2010

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