A launch party for its fifth episode debuts at The Speakeasy Feb. 28

Maine’s animated series ‘Temp Tales’ develops cult following

Mon, 02/24/2014 - 2:15pm

    Forget viral videos of bleating goats and squirrels on water skis. Something just for Mainers has slowly emerged from all of the Internet distractions, and it has taken on a cult following.

    The animated short series everyone is sharing lately is called Temp Tales, based on all the temporary jobs one Maine guy has experienced — and it’s touted as one of the funniest things this state has seen since Maine comedian Bob Marley.

    The series, which began in December 2012, is a collaboration between a Maine writer and his wife, who is from Taiwan. They go by the pseudonyms Atom and Hanji O’Chang on YouTube. Atom is a Maine guy, born and raised, who met Hanji while traveling. He had always been a big fan of comics. He produced them throughout high school and college, and wanted to turn his ideas for Temp Tales into a comic, but there was only one problem.

    “I’m not the best at drawing,” he laughed. Hanji, however, is an artist who can draw really well, but she wasn't really into the static nature of comics. When they came back to Maine, she took an animation class at Maine College of Art in Portland. After that, they both decided to make Temp Tales into an animation.

    “It's just the way that we always talked growing up. So, much of it is making fun of our own mannerisms and catch phases.” 

    “It's a work cartoon,” said Atom. “When I came back to Maine, I worked at a factory, at a homeless shelter, as a day laborer and I shoveled snow. That’s what the comic was always supposed to be about.”

    The first episode, titled “Meat Recall” features mild mannered Atom at a Maine telephone call center talking on the phone to a bearded crusty Mainer up in Millinocket called Travis "Skidmark" Kelly.

    “I used to work at Hannaford as a temp a number of times, once during the credit card breach and once during the meat recall, ” said Atom. “We had people calling from all over the U.S., but anytime anyone called from Maine, you definitely knew it.”

    In this animated short, Atom plays the foil to Travis and his cousin Green “Bud” Kelly and this is where most of the humor comes in. While Atom is trying to do his job and answer questions about the Hannaford Supermarket meat recall, Travis is treating the call like they’re long lost buddies, going off on how he and his boys are going snowmobiling that weekend. Travis gets wound right up, excited about his snowmobiling adventures and launches into imitating the sound of the snowmobile itself, before punctuating his gleeful rant with a pure Maine expression —“Drive her MacGuyver” — which in Travis’ thick Maine accent translates to, “Drive ‘ah Macgyvah!”

    Atom is the voice of Travis, Bud and many of the other characters in the series. Midcoast resident Will Neils has provided the voice of a state representative character in Temp Tales as well. So much of what comes out of Bud’s mouth in later Temp Tales episodes can’t even be printed, but anyone who has ever been around working guys in Maine will bust out laughing when they hear the familiar terms. The series is peppered with inside jokes from the foul-mouthed catchphrases to the T-shirts the characters wear to the Maine brands that are featured in the background.

    "I don't really know if people outside of this area really get it,” said Atom. “The people who are into our stuff are like from Maine, New Hampshire and northern New England. We've always tried to keep it authentic based on real stories. There's no one who could say I'm stereotyping people because the people [in the cartoon] who know they're like that are pretty self-deprecating and funny. And we want to keep that spirit alive in the cartoon."

    The series, which has racked up hundreds of thousands of YouTube hits, is about to unveil its fifth episode this week titled ‘Stahmageddon!’ Atom and Hanji thought the best way to launch the episode was to throw a party at Rockland’s The Speakeasy.

    "This is the l way I love doing it,” he said. “I love having parties, but I love meeting new people who like our stuff because we get inspiration from them. So much of our cartoons are inspired by real people and things I've experienced.

    Be ready for the fifth episode to feature a "crazy deer hunting story" said Atom. "We always wanted to do something around deer hunting as a topic and I asked my dad if there were any funny stories he knew of. But all of his stories were kind of horrific. So then this guy from Vinalhaven told me this crazy story, and we put that in,” he said. “We always list the people who give us stories as creative consultants in the end credits.”

    Look for Lincolnvillian Ben Hazen, who voices a couple of characters in the new episode.

    "Ben does some of the best voices I've ever heard. He's just hilarious," Atom said.

    The launch party starts at 8 p.m. at The Speakeasy, with live music from $2 Pistol and Leroy. The event is free to the public. For more information: Midcoast Launch Party. Follow O’Chang Comics on Facebook.

    Kay Stephens can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com