Don’t know the names Mike Luciano and Phil Matarese? You’re about to. While working at a small advertising agency in New York, Luciano and Matarese — now 28 and 26 years old, respectively — spitballed ideas for animations depicting the everyday lives of pigeons after watching one outside their office window. They produced a few shorts in their spare time that were so well received by the New York Television Festival, Mark and Jay Duplass paid them a visit. One minor trip to Sundance 2015 later, Animals. was featured in The New York Times, profiled in the Los Angeles Times and bought by HBO for a two-season deal.
Like The Venture Bros., Archer, Rick and Morty and other not-for-Saturday-morning programs, Animals. is meant to be watched and enjoyed by a late night adult populace wanting a little more kick in its cartoons. To accomplish this, Luciano and Matarese completed most of the first season of Animals. before HBO or anyone else even knew it existed — thanks in large part to the Duplass brothers, who serve as executive producers. Many thought it was a strange way to make television, but as Luciano and Matarese told Uproxx, it’s the best way to do it.
You two met at a New York ad agency…
…and now you’re making Animals. for HBO. Did your copywriting or graphic design training inform your work on the show?
Phil: I did it all on the side. My parents got me this $50 Wacom tablet, and I was still using it up until eight months ago. The web series and the first few animated episodes were all drawn on that thing. But yeah, I was a copywriter at the agency and eventually I became a creative director of sorts. Mike and I eventually directed some things with them as well, but yeah… This was just a side thing. I was doing a little web comic at the time and when I met Mike, we came up with this rough idea that just seemed to really fit.
Mike: I was a video editor. I came into the fold from that world, and working at the agency was the first time I really had a full-time job that was just video editing. Me and Phil’s sensibilities, as we started making the series, were a natural fit for each other. We both had an eye for making video shorts, and the technical skills we honed on our own have come into play throughout making the entire half-hour series…
Phil: …even the social skills we learned at the ad agency. It was a small business, and we sort of extrapolated a lot of the same management methods into our work environment for Animals. We try to, I don’t know… We’re nice to people, I guess. We work really hard, and everyone on our show works really hard, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a toxic environment to make people bust their asses. You can have everyone happy and friendly. That’s one thing that we really got from our Animals. crew when we blew up after Sundance. Everyone is really friendly with each other. We’d go do karaoke, bowling and all that sort of shit together.