Episode - 13: Mario VS Sonic
Nintendo versus Sega. Hedgehog versus plumber. Mario versus Sonic. It was time for one of the biggest matchups we would ever explore… and I had a mere two weeks to put it all together. I think now would be a good time to really dive into the production process of early Death Battle, especially because it actually got a big change after this match-up!
Let me show you how the sausage was made, so to speak. For each of the first thirteen episodes, I was given two weeks to materialize a complete video from scratch. Well, I did have some buffer time when the season started… one whole week! Which I quickly used up while learning the basics of animation...
WEEK 1: Let’s say it’s Monday, and Vegeta VS Shadow was just posted on YouTube that morning. Bryan was promoting it on social media and relevant websites, and thousands of viewers were debating whether a galaxy-busting alien man could kill a hedgehog with PTSD. No time to celebrate or take a nap, I had to get started on the next episode! I would spend my first day planning out my next two weeks. What do I need to do to complete my research on time? What games, cartoons, comics, tv shows, movies, etc do I need to look at before I start writing the script? Where will I find these? What topics should the script cover? What do we need to show in the battle? Etc, etc.
Once I got my plan in place, it was off to my college campus for class.
Oh yeah, uh, I was kinda in the middle of getting my film degree during all of this. But I’m sure that won't become an issue… right?
The rest of this first week was spent hammering away at research and writing. Remember, I was all on my own for this, so I’d have to dedicate every scrap of time I had to getting this done. Except for Fridays, because that was Clip of the Week day. I had to produce, direct, and edit that show, too. All in one day. What, you thought Death Battle was the only thing I ever did for ScrewAttack?
Anyway, come Thursday, I would have a finished script. This is where Chad would come in. I’d present the script and my argument for the winner, and he’d play devil’s advocate against my pick. “Sonic should win because _____!” “Are you sure? What if Mario does ____ or _____?” “Well, Sonic has ______ which can counter Mario’s ______!” and so on. Nowadays, this debate process is waaaay more intensive with a lot of people involved across multiple conversations, but back then we needed to be quick and efficient. As soon as we reached a conclusion, I’d wrap up the script and we’d record it all that day. We had to, or else my second week would be a nightmare. And it often was.
I’d typically use the first weekend as a sort of buffer period. Basically, if there was anything that needed some extra time or care put into it, this was when I would do it. Sometimes there was some more research to do, like watching all of the 2003 Ninja Turtles show. Other times I’d spend it all gathering footage to use in the edit. And there was usually some college project or paper I had to take care of, but no big deal, right? However, there was one thing I always had to finish before Monday; the battle script.
WEEK 2: This was production week! This whole time period (besides Friday for CotW) was dedicated to editing the episode and animating the battle. So long as class didn’t get in the way, I’d usually finish editing the audio and video in two days, albeit with long hours. My sleep schedule was basically shot, and I relied on Monster energy drinks so much I swear I’m now completely immune to their effects. This left me two days, not including the weekend, to work on the animation. Once the final cut was complete, I’d send it off to Revision3 and get a rare full night’s sleep!
Of course, this was the ideal schedule I’d planned on when Death Battle first started, but it really didn’t work out that way. More often than not, there would be too much research material and asset gathering to get through that I couldn’t properly finish the script until Week Two, which meant I’d have far less time for the edit and animation. In some cases, I’d only have the weekend available to animate the entire battle, less than 48 hours before the episode was supposed to premiere! The Bomberman VS Dig Dug animation was one of these.
For Mario VS Sonic, I was getting a little worried, because its first week just so happened to line up with my class finals! How fun. That was one of the most stressful weeks of my life. Luckily, thanks to the fact that I was already very familiar with Mario and Sonic, I didn’t fall behind and had enough time to put together one of the longest and most explosive animations I’d accomplished so far!
Obviously, early Death Battle was a pretty chaotic affair. Nowadays, research is given several weeks of time, each script gets its own dedicated week at least, and animation gets entire months. And each of these jobs are done by whole teams of different people! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to make excuses for some of the early series weirdness. I’m simply stating the facts of what it was like working on Death Battle and for ScrewAttack back in 2011. And the short answer is… it was getting problematic. By the time we got to Mario VS Sonic, the negative effects were showing. I barely ever slept, my voice was constantly fatigued, my social life had imploded, and my grades were gasping for air. However, because I was so hyped up about Death Battle and how well it was doing, I didn’t really notice any of this... until my GPA suddenly dropped from a 3.8 to a 3.4 Clearly, something needed to give.
And it did! Remember how I said earlier that the production process got a big change after this episode? I got one whole week added to the cycle.
Well. I guess I’d take whatever I could get.
There's so much more to talk about, but I'll wrap this up. Gotta save something for the 60+ blogs I have left on this Road to 100! Tomorrow, I'll take a dive into one of our most bizarre episodes ever... Justin Bieber VS Rebecca Black.
-Ben B. Singer
P.S. Whose side do you stand on; Nintendo and their plumber, or Sega and their blue rat?