Villa Maria College Animation student Bridget McCleary '17 and Animation faculty members Lee Terwilliger '14 and Valery Amborski '14 each had their work selected and featured in a fan-drawn episode of Bob's Burgers, which airs on FOX.
Bob's Burgers is a quirky, animated sitcom centered around the humorous mishaps of a family-owned burger joint. Currently running its eighth season on FOX, the show has been nominated for an Emmy consistently for the past six years. It was recently awarded for Outstanding Animated Program at the 2017 Creative Arts Emmys, after its first win in 2014.
McCleary, Terwilliger and Amborski submitted their work to an online competition run by the show in early March of 2017. Along with thousands of other fan artists who participated in the contest, they had to wait until the season eight premiere of the show, in October, to see whose work had been selected for inclusion.
"It was a testament to a couple of things - first of all, their general skills that they're gaining in the program, but also their willingness and passion to do something outside of class that wasn't for a grade, that willingness to go above and beyond and that it was good enough to get on national television," said Sarah Hanson, associate professor at Villa Maria and director of the Animation program, of the fact that her students had their work featured.
When the contest had been announced on Twitter in the beginning of March, submissions were accepted for a period of less than two weeks. Participants had the option of either submitting their own character designs, background designs, or to re-animate the main title for the show's opening sequence. While Amborski submitted a 3-D rendered background of the inside of the restaurant, McCleary and Terwilliger both opted to animate their own versions of the opening credits.
Out of thousands of submissions, only 62 artists made the final selection and would have their work featured in the "fanimated" premiere.
Lee Terwilliger, a 2014 graduate of Villa's Animation program and now faculty member, said that while there was no formal announcement of what artwork had been selected for the episode, a behind-the-scenes video was released by FOX on Sept. 29, two days before the premiere would be aired. It showed a glimpse of how the series' producers made the episode and their process in selecting the final artists. Sure enough, Terwilliger spotted snippets of their work.
In the afternoon on Oct. 1, a trailer was uploaded on the "Bob's Burgers" Facebook page, releasing the opening credits of the episode and giving fans and viewers a first look at whose artwork had made it through the final vetting process. Both McCleary and Terwilliger's opening credit sequences had been included.
Finally, when the full episode entitled "Brunchsquatch" was released, the team saw that the 3-D rendered background Amborski had created had been selected to be used as the backdrop for several scenes over the course of the episode.
"It was very exciting to see not only mine, but Val and Bridget's work as well," said Terwilliger. "The idea that millions of people were all watching something that we had all worked so hard to contribute to is very satisfying and a little humbling."
20th Century Fox recently announced that it will create a feature film based on Bob's Burgers, which is said to debut in July of 2020.
To learn more about Villa Maria's Animation Program and where your creative talent might take you, visit https://www.villa.edu/academics/academic-programs/animation/.