Tyler, The Creator has an imagination that’s probably unparalleled by most people in this world, so it only makes sense that some of his most intimate confessions are best portrayed in a cartoon.
Having already brought some of his ideas and characters to life on his Adult Swim show, Loiter Squad, the Odd Future ringleader now gets a little personal, teaming up with Fox’s Animation Domination High-Def unit to create a short called “5 Things You Don’t Know About Me.”
When he’s not making music, organizing carnivals, designing clothes, or keeping busy with any of the other many, many projects he’s involved in, Tyler can be found hanging in the offices of Nick Weidenfeld, head of Fox ADHD and executive producer of Loiter Squad.
One particular hangout session yielded an idea for an animated short, after Tyler revealed he wears his chains while brushing his teeth. “[Tyler’s] somebody who will tell you interesting things or just say interesting things and you wanna be recording it,” says Weidenfeld. “We were just talking about shorts and I was like, ‘Oh, let’s go in the booth and just tell me five other things you wouldn’t know about… or let’s just talk about all the other things you wouldn’t know about yourself.”
What resulted is a hilarious list of confessions that made for a perfect backdrop to an animated short. “He just sort of talks like that all the time and no one ever really records it,” says Weidenfeld. “But it also feels like it’s animatable because he’s also giving you very visual things.”
Ten to 15 minutes of Tyler’s riffing was edited down and then animated and brought to life by Henry The Worst, who makes daily animated news GIFs for ADHD, and is Tumblr-famous for his drawings.
“This guy is such an amazing [artist], like all the long legs and all the long arms, it’s a very specific thing that he does,” explains Weidenfeld. “And it’s weird, slightly surreal…kind of like Tyler, I think. And it worked really, really well.”
This short is actually Henry’s first professional experience with animation. And his story is one that’s kind of a dream come true: Henry, 28, originally from New Jersey, had gained a following on Tumblr for his hilarious drawings (like the amazing series, Dap Bros) but had never been sure about how to translate his passion into a career. “I’d kind of given up on it, because I felt like just the way I drew was too weird,” Henry says. “I’d just never expected anyone to offer me a job animating anything.” Henry would do part-time jobs during the day, and draw at night, but never expected to make it a full-time career.
But one day, a GIF he’d made about the The Eric André Show on Cartoon Network (of which he’s a big fan) was spotted by an executive producer of the show. The producer turned out to be Weidenfeld’s brother Daniel. A year later, Henry was living in L.A. and getting paid for his passion.
Your style and aesthetic feels so well-suited to Tyler’s. What have been the biggest influences on your art? Did you go to school for formal training?
Henry: I went to school for art, but I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. I [originally] went to school for business and then one day I was like, “What am I doing here? I don’t like business, I’m terrible at it.” And then I went to art school; I just picked a random art school and went to it. I went to art school for 3D, and after I graduated I just decided I didn’t want to do 3D anymore and I just started drawing and posting onine. So the style just sort of developed on its own…it’s really just a mash-up of everything, of every style that influenced me or had an effect on me as a kid. Like Dr. Seuss, Schoolhouse Rock, and even Jack Kirby. It’s just a mish-mash of all that.
How did you get connected with Tyler? Were you a fan of him or Odd Future before?
H: Actually, yeah, I heard the first album, which I liked, and I really liked his music videos. I thought he had some of the best music videos I’ve seen in a long time, so after that I checked out his second album, Wolf, which I really enjoyed. It was weird, but aside from me enjoying his actual albums and music videos there was no real connection there. I didn’t know him, I still don’t really know him…
Did you meet up with him to discuss the look of the project?
H: I haven’t met him. I sent the work and he got final approval on the [overall] look, and basically he sent Nick [Weidenfeld] a text, and Nick got back to me saying he seemed really excited about it. This was about a couple weeks ago when I was first starting [the animation].
I just was talking with Nick earlier today and he got a text from Tyler after he’d just seen the short, and he texted, “Whoa, that’s so nasty,” which is the highest compliment coming from him.
H: He really said that?
H: Wow, that’s crazy. See, that’s news to me. I had no idea.
Yeah, it happened while I was on the phone.
H: Oh, wow. See, yeah I didn’t even know. It’s a relief.
Were you nervous if he’d like it or not?
HP: I was a bit nervous. I guess my natural emotion is just like, if I put this out and he hates it, the only thing he can do is go on Twitter and say “Henry The Worst is actually the worst artist ever,” and I’d just be like, “Of course…” But I’m really glad he enjoyed it. I mean, I tried not to get my hopes up until everything’s said and done. I don’t like getting my hopes up for anything. Now to know that he really liked it, I’m relieved now.
What was it like to animate Tyler?
H: This was like the first time I’ve ever animated in Flash. I’ve done 3D animation but nothing extensive, just a school project. It was fun to learn. I worked this guy Chris Cornwell; he helped me out, he was the other person who helped me animate and put this together. [With Tyler] you already know he’s a wild character in general, so it’s sort of made it a bit easier to be super expressive and go crazy with the actions and the story. The script itself was already funny, so it made everything a little bit easier.
I thought the way you brought him to life was so on point with how I imagine him moving and acting…it’s like you got right inside his head.
H: Yeah, I think I kind of understand where he comes from a bit, which sounds weird. I watched Loiter Squad, I know he’s loud and brash and all that stuff in public, but I really find him intelligent. If you see his videos, and you listen to his albums, he knows what he’s doing. It was really fun to put this all together. Especially for a person who’s never animated before. Really fun.
Which of Tyler’s “Five Things” did you think was the funniest?
H: [Laughs] I think it changed a lot for me. At first it was the grocery store scene… screaming at the kids when their parents aren’t looking in the grocery store — that part was funny for a while. But for some reason after we animated the racing scene, that became funny because we threw in a goat as the person he’s racing. And then for some reason after we finished the massage, the foot massage scene, that became the funny part to me. Just the idea that he’s embarrassed to get a foot massage. Like out of all the things he does, he’s embarrassed to get a foot massage. And that was just funny to me.
It seems like Tyler shares a lot of the same love for art that you do. Do you think you guys could hang out?
H: Oh, I didn’t know that. Yeah, it’s crazy ‘cause I mean I pretty much wouldn’t even know… I just feel like I’m too told to hang out with a Tyler. I feel like it would just be too manic and the pace would be so wild, I’d be left…I’d just be called old. I don’t think I could deal with that right now. But I understand that part of it in terms of him, like I’m pretty much an introvert and I’m more of an extrovert in my work, and outside, after I’m done with the work, I’m really to myself. I feel comfortable just…being an extrovert with my work. And then I’m just an introvert outside of that.
Growing up were you a big daydreamer? Where did you get your inspiration for a lot of your art prior to this job?
H: Growing up I was…I mean, I couldn’t play basketball, which is terrible for a black kid. Couldn’t rap well, which is another terrible thing for a black kid. So, I spent most of my time watching movies, reading comics, and just drawing. I still have a big group… my social circle was really my cousins, I was really close with my family. All of the things that they love, I grew to love…. from rap music — all kinds of music — to movies, that’s sort of my inspiration for most of these things. Music and film, and lately it’s just that I find humor in mundane activities. So, like most of my drawings in the Tyler short where he’s in the grocery store, that was sort of my favorite part to put together, because it places a big, giant celebrity in a grocery store and for some reason that always makes me chuckle. But then that added interaction of cursing out a child is just..it was great, it was great.
How did you come up with your name of “Henry The Worst”?
H: I figured I can’t let anyone down with a name like that. It’s like, if you don’t like the work, then it’s all right there in the name and you sort of brought it upon yourself. I’m already kicking myself before you kick me, I guess… that’s really what it was. I’m protecting myself because I’m a coward, that’s really all it is.