Hong Kong-born, New York-based animator Saiman Chow was asked by American cable channel Adult Swim to create a series of 15-second idents for its show Rick and Morty to be used as promos. “The brief was very open, it was just to interpret the show and the characters however I saw fit. Besides some standard federal regulations, nothing was off limits,” explains Saiman.
The project was delivered as five separate idents and the animator has since stitched together them together into a minute and a half of vibrant colour, trippy character mutations and surreal sound effects. Despite the chaos, Saiman says there is a loose narrative to the shorts: “I don’t want to spell everything out but the narrative is simple and direct: death, reborn, return, revenge. The story will only make sense if you watch them in sequence,” he explains.
“Like many Americans, I’m very much affected by the recent election and my feelings are certainly manifested in these works. My intention is not a political one, after all, it is for a network with audiences that have many different political points of views. But rather, I see the opportunity to use the platform to try to untangle some of my own frustration. Again, the intention is very self-serving and I don’t expect anyone to care or notice, but if you sip through all the wacky visuals, you can uncover the subtle references.”
Rick and Morty already has an established identity in a “rich and fantastic world”, so Saiman’s task was to create a point of difference with his work. “I decided my approach would have a little or nothing to do with the show besides referencing the main characters and the general sci-fi theme. Setting up these parameters helped me to find solutions that might not be expected and ultimately allow me to insert my own voice,” Saiman says. “In addition, I wanted each ID to be unique and a standalone as well as all five being able to work well together and form a loose narrative.”
Saiman works intuitively, which involves revisiting ideas, fussing over tiny details and eliminating things as he goes. “The most challenging part of the project is frankly myself. I can be a mess, I have ADD, so time management is the constant challenge throughout my career. Except for a few hiccups, I’m quite pleased the things turned out as smooth as they did,” he admits.
As well as creating work for Adult Swim, Saiman’s impressive client list also includes The New Yorker, The New York Times, Nike, Sonos and Rayban.