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Pied Pipers of Animation
ALAN GOODMAN AND FRED SEIBERT
Alan Goodman can't draw a straight line but knows who can: the animators, technicians, and other creative types that have helped make his company, Fred/Alan Inc., a New York-based haven for the unusual, the unorthodox, and the successful.
With his partner, Fred Seibert, Goodman was responsible for creating MTV's logo and much of its initial on-air style, for revamping Nickelodeon's image from dull kid's station to popular channel for with-it youths, and for developing the innovative logo graphics and personality for Nick at Nite, Nickelodeon's evening service.
Their approach has always been slightly offbeat. When Nickelodeon needed a facelift, they broke a classic rule of station identification: Never lose your logo. "The logo shape is considered inviolable;' says Goodman. Not to Fred/Alan Inc. The team used the color orange as the identifying mark and then animated an ever-changing logo that could be a setting sun one moment and dripping water the next. The audience lapped it up, with hundreds of children sending in their own drawings of how they saw the logo. In addition, the team had a 1950s rock group perform "do-wop" station identifications which were so successful that viewers who could hardly speak were trying to sing the station's call letters.
"Most of children's programming and promos play down to the audience;' observes Goodman. "We try to make the images as unusual for them as they are for us, and also try to see it from their point of view: as kids in an adult world:'
That could also be the credo for the 34-year-old Goodman and his 36-year-old partner, who usually approach a problem as outsiders looking in. It's no wonder, too. Seibert went from a radio station job to Cinemax and from that to the nascent MTV.
His old friend Goodman, a CBS Records publicist, joined him in preparing an advertiser's promo tape for MTV. "I had never worked in television or produced animation before;' recalls Goodman, "so Fred thought I was perfect for it."
Their tape was so successful that the duo went on to design the station's logo. "Usually TV graphics are created by print people and then translated by a technician into a video image;' notes Goodman. "They make it spin, or make it glittery - do something for a 'TV' look. And they all start to look the same. We tried to think about logos in terms of television. Most stations don't even think about promoting their identity. There are 36 cable channels out there and to stand out you have to know what you're about;'
Goodman and Seibert have been so adroit at broadcast philosophy that they have just been called in by MTV to reevaluate and revamp the station's look and on-air promotions, and have also done commercials, a movie trailer, and a Showtime comedy special with Gilbert Gottfried. In addition, a development deal with Showtime for a sitcom is in the works.
"We use cell animation, computer graphics, clay animation-whatever works," remarks Goodman, who adds that many creative directors elsewhere send demo reels they don't know what to do with to Fred/Alan Inc. and its staff of 16. "There's one animator in Canada who created the most violent, brilliant, three-minute cartoon I've ever seen called Loopo the Butcher;' says Goodman. "Everyone who saw it would say, 'I like it, but no one else will. It's not commercial.' And that would be that. We use him. The cartoon is silly, outrageous, and gross but we try to encourage that kind of thinking. We want to look at teievision in a different way. You have to."
wrap • october 1987