Zuckers' toons draw on real-life inspiration

Zuckers' toons draw on real-life inspiration

With Emmy gowns tucked away and the winners' statuettes securely in their place, it is just another mundane week of decked-out parties and movie premieres in Hollywoodland.

But for Jerry and Orrin Zucker (not the writer-director brothers behind films like "Airplane!"), it is the ordinary aspects of everyday life -- not to mention its ironies and minor humiliations -- that serve as the inspiration behind their own Emmy nomination this year for their Web site ItsJerryTime.com, which was recognized in the new category of original entertainment programming created specifically for nontraditional viewing platforms.

The site, which in the spirit of the Harvey Pekars and Larry Davids of the world includes the webisode series "It's Jerry Time," featuring the misadventures of Jerry Zucker in a collage-style animated series, also includes fan blogs and "Shoebox" -- a unique composition of pop culture artifacts from Jerry's apartment.

After nine months, the Zuckers are celebrating the launch of the series' ninth episode today with the latest installment created, like those previously, not in Hollywood or through a network of affiliates, but by two guys with computers, a sense of humor and the Internet.

"I'd been telling Orrin all these stories all these years, and I guess he had had enough," Jerry says of his animated renditions of his life, which Orrin says are "so abstract visually that some people still aren't quite sure they are based on real life."

The creative process consists of Jerry recounting his stories Improv-style into a tape recorder with Orrin then transcribing them and using Adobe After Effects to create the exaggerated cut-and-paste-like animations at his broadcast design studio Ozone Inc. based outside of Boston.

"There have been times when we've cut out scenes so not to divulge any incriminating acts," quips Jerry. "And names were changed to protect the innocent."

While previous episodes have Jerry facing time behind bars and the wrath of his landlord, the latest one, "The Big Time," has Jerry -- or his alter ego, as Orrin likes to think of him -- venturing to New York to break into show business.

"It's the immediacy of being able to get something out to an audience without going through any filters, without having to get approval or anything that would hinder getting our work seen," Orrin says about the Internet platform and the creative freedom it provides.

"The animation tools I use are incredibly complex, and yet they are available off the shelf," he says. "Technology is really there for anybody to create anything if they have the creativity to figure out what that is. The sky is the limit. It's a total revolution."

Jerry remains particularly proud that through it all, the site stays innovative while still remaining G-rated.

"We haven't resorted to any obscenities in order to prove our creative license," he says.

And though the Zuckers lost the Emmy to powerhouse AOL and their global broadcasts of Live 8, Jerry seemed more disappointed that he didn't get to recite his acceptance speech thanking his mom and dad while AOL thanked the likes of Bob Geldof and Bono.

But it seems the duo hasn't totally gone non-Hollywood. Jerry recently obtained Los Angeles representation for future entertainment endeavors.

"We wanted to see what other opportunities there are," Orrin says. "We think there's a possibility that the show could develop into a TV series."
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