How Animation Vet Brought Expertise to ‘Rick & Morty’, Bojack Horseman and Original YouTube Series

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

Caroline Foley, a versatile writer and artist, is most notable in the animation space working as a set designer, animator, story editor and more on multiple projects for over 15 years. 

Caroline’s most recent projects include working as story editor for the Youtube series Toca Life Stories and Blippi Wonders. As story editor for Toca Life Stories, she was responsible for hiring the writing team for all 40 episodes and developing the main characters. One episode, in particular, has garnered over 11 million views to date. Caroline also noted and revised over 40 episodes of Blippi Wonders and wrote over a dozen. 

She has also served as story artist for Bojack Horseman and animator on Rick & Morty. Working on Bojack Horseman, Caroline helped figure out how Bojack would move around throughout the series. As the only full-time stateside animator for Rick and Morty seasons 1-3, Caroline had the responsibility of animating new scenes when the script had changes in the post-production phase or when animation needed an important retake from the partner studio, like Rick’s suicide attempt from season 2 episode 3, a scene that took almost 2 weeks to complete. 

Caroline has also developed and produced pilots for Apple, Amazon and Cartoon Network, integrating her unique style and showcasing her capabilities with 2-d pipelines, stop-motion animation and more. One show in particular that she co-created is Toasty Tales, which started with Caroline’s storyboard and is now on Amazon. She also creates comics outside of the television and film space and is the owner of her own company Tiny Lion where she produces independent projects. 

PH: Hi there Caroline! I'd love to learn a bit more about your professional background — how did you become involved with animation?

Caroline Foley: When I was 13, I saw a little featurette that was released on The Disney Channel about the making of The Lion King. It was cool to see behind the scenes and the animation process, but right at the end, they interviewed a woman, Ellen Woodbury. She was the lead animator for Zazu the Bird, and up until that point in the featurette, all the animators had been men. I think this was really the moment for me, that spark that lit up inside and said, “I can do this!? Wow!” But I didn’t know that was exactly what I wanted to do career-wise at that point in my life. I also liked to play music (French Horn), sculpt with clay, and even did some photography. I wanted to try every artistic medium I could get my hands on because the one thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to do something art related. So I went to a 4-year community college to try some stuff out. But there weren't any animation courses, and I realized that nothing scratched that itch for me like animation. There was something about the combination of storytelling, drawing, and movement that captivated me in a way that no other discipline could. So I decided to apply to CalArts, and I got into the Experimental Animation program! It was a life-changing moment for me. Going to CalArts introduced me to a lot of like-minded creatives who became my friends and essentially helped open the door for me for my first in-house studio job. Getting that first foot in the door is always the hardest, and from that point on, more and more doors started to open for me.

PH: Can you talk about some of your previous work -  Bojack Horseman and Rick & Morty - and what those experiences were like individually?  

Caroline Foley: So I actually did a few different things on both of those shows. On Bojack, I was an animator for the pilot before it was sold to Netflix, so I was helping figure out how Bojack would move and how the textures would move with him. I had no idea it was going to be such a huge hit, I was just having fun animating a talking horse! Later, that pilot was split up, and two separate episodes were made from it (episodes 1 and 2). I came back for season 2 as a story artist. One of my favorite episodes to board on that season was Brand New Couch because it required such a wide range of performances. The episode starts with little Bojack awkwardly trying to watch TV while his parents argue in the background, which was a little emotional to board at times. Then later in the episode I had to draw adult Bojack contorting himself into a series of wild poses as he struggles to say the line “What are you doing here?” which was a lot of fun. The two scenes required vastly different approaches because one was more about building atmosphere, and the other was about how silly we can make Bojack look. It was an incredibly fun challenge to be a part of those two very different sequences. On Rick and Morty, I was mostly an animator, but I did help out with some designs in season three. Character design is a rather technical job because it’s mostly drawing turns of the characters, but I think the producer, Mike Mendel, wanted to make sure I came back for that third season because they had a very cool morphing sequence planned and didn’t want me to go to a different studio at that time.

I was happy to be back on season 3 so early on. I came on early in season 1 as the only stateside animator. We were working with a partner studio in Canada called Bardel, and they handled most of the animation, but I took over all of the specialty sequences, new shots (since we had some 11th-hour script revisions in post), and of course, some retakes. I had never used Toon Boom Harmony before, and I had one weekend to learn it in-house before jumping in and animating 2 Rick and Morty commercials for Adult Swim. It was trial by fire, but I made it through and was glad to have another program under my belt. Animating on Rick and Morty was a high watermark in my career. I got to animate the Goodbye Moonmen sequence, Rick’s suicide attempt, and a bunch of wild stuff in the season 3 Jerry Wormhole sequence. Rick’s suicide attempt was particularly difficult because it was so technical and emotional. I had to show up every day for three weeks and get in the mindset of this depressed man at the end of his ropes. It puts you in a weird space to have to animate something like that every day, but it’s something I’m particularly proud of and definitely had a big impact on the audience. My other two favorite sequences were the Goodbye Moonmen song from season two and the Jerry Wormhole sequence from season three. I relished working on shots like that because they are so unique and allowed me to show off a bit. I had been dreaming of animating a sequence like that ever since I saw the episode of The Simpsons, where Homer eats a hot chili pepper and has a psychedelic experience with a coyote. I think I went out on a high note there. I’m not sure I’ll animate anything as cool as those two sequences again. 

PH: In your opinion, how has your work and skillset evolved? 

Caroline Foley: I love to challenge myself and tend to get a little bored or burnt out if I do the same thing over and over, so switching between disciplines helps me stay fresh. And lucky for me, there’s a lot of overlap between the different animation crafts, and each one helps me understand the other a little more. For example, doing lots of expressive animation helped me be a better board artist with strong character posing, and doing lots of boarding helped me become a better visual writer. Everything in animation is connected. Right now, I’m more focused on directing, and I rely on all of my past experiences with all the different animation crafts in order to make better, educated and stronger decisions for the different projects I’m on.

PH: Can you talk about your most recent projects, including the Youtube series Toca Life Stories and Blippi Wonders? How did those come about? 

Caroline Foley: So I was working as a writer at Cartoon Network on the micro shorts program back around 2018 when a producer from Toca Boca reached out to me. He had seen my Toasty Tales pilot and was hoping I would team up with the company to help them start up an animation studio in Sweden so they could make Toca Life Stories. I was excited about the opportunity, but I was also going to get married in 6 months and didn’t feel like the timing was right, so I offered my services as a writer, which thankfully ended up working out. My wife and I actually wrote eight scripts for them, and they chose two to animate into actual episodes. We didn’t hear from them again until sometime in 2019, when they showed us the episodes and let us know they were going to be working with Spin Master and wanted to make 40 more! So they asked me to hire two more writers, and the rest is history there. For Blippi Wonders, I had just secured my agent, Jenna Boyd, and she introduced me to one of the executives over at Moonbug. They really liked my visual approach to writing and wanted to have me write some episodes for the second season. They really liked my work because they had me back for season 3 and 4 as the Story Editor (basically the lead writer/supervising writer) for a pickup of more than 50 episodes. It’s been super cool to write for such popular kids shows; my little nieces and nephews all have the cutest questions about Blippi, haha. I feel like a celebrity for kids.

PH: How were you able to leverage your experience working on Bojack and Rick & Morty for these projects? 

Caroline Foley: I think I can credit a few things here. First, Bojack and RAM gave me a lot of experience. I was on those shows on and off for about 5-6 years, which is about ⅓ of my career so far. That’s a lot of experience, specifically experience in visual storytelling. When writing for animation, you have to be a little more visual with your scripts, and since I was already a visual thinker, that skill just came out naturally in my script writing. And third, I think people are just huge fans of the show and wanted to get to know me more and the experiences I had. Everyone wins!

PH: What is your creative process like? How does your approach to writing differ from your approach to designing? 

Caroline Foley: So I see the two as very related, and I have even held a few workshops and lectures about how animation development is as much writing as it is design. I tend to start any new personal project or pitch with a character design or two (more of a doodle) and then use the structure of writing to help refine things more and get into the meat of the story and what I actually want to say with the characters I’ve designed. Character design is very shape-based, and there is something called shape language where different shapes will automatically give off certain feelings; generally, circles are warm and inviting, while squares are closed off and can be foreboding. A shape like a top can express lots of movement, while a shape like a pear is usually slower. Knowing shape language is important for translating characters from a written page into a design, as is how to use that shape language to surprise the audience and can add a lot of comedy. When I’m developing something, I like to go back and forth, doing a bit of designing, then writing, then letting the writing influence the design, and so on until it all feels right.

PH: Can you talk about some of your favorite animation software and tools?

Caroline Foley: Right now, I’m using Toon Boom Harmony and Storyboard Pro a lot, but I have been interested in trying out TV Paint since it’s more like traditional animation. I learned how to animate with pencil and paper, so those tools feel the most natural for me, but digital programs are so much faster that I haven’t actually animated with pencil and paper in almost 14 years. If I just have a little animation test I need to do, I’ll use Storyboard Pro, but if I’m actually putting together something substantial, I might go ahead and use Harmony. I’m also a big fan of exporting frames from Storyboard Pro and then finishing them in Photoshop with nice brushes, then bringing those stills into either Harmony or just Premier to edit them together. I’m sure there’s a better way, but for now, this process is working.

PH: As an animator, what are some of the challenges you often face, and how do you navigate those? 

Caroline Foley: I think my biggest challenge is animating technical stuff. I remember I was on a little project really early on, and I had to animate a Transformer parody character transforming into a jukebox. It was only 3 seconds, but it took me forever! I only really animate for myself now, but if I were going to animate for another show, it would have to be for something fun and a lot more organic, where I could go off-model and not have to rely on digital puppets. I also really dislike learning new digital programs. I would love to learn Blender, but I just want to get to the fun part of knowing how to use the program. 

PH: How did your company Tiny Lion come about? Can you tell us more about it? 

Caroline Foley: So back in 2020, there was a big rush of people from live-action trying to get into animation because Covid had pretty much shut that industry down at the time. I had a lot of people from small live-action production houses reaching out to me asking for consulting services on their animation pitches, so I thought I might as well start up an LLC and make this all legit. Right as I was going through the process of getting my LLC set up, a director from Rick and Morty, who I had worked with previously, reached out and wanted to work together on a little proof of concept for Apple. The timing was perfect, and I put together a small team of animators and was able to act as the production house to get this little project done for a really big client. I hit it out of the park without even having to advertise and have since worked with a number of exciting clients.   

PH: How do you envision animation (and animation tools) evolving and continuing to change in the near future? 

Caroline Foley: I think what will change the most is how audiences consume content and how that influences how animated shows are made and who has the power to make those shows. We are seeing it happening right now, and I think it’s just going to continue to favor moving in that direction. I think we will have more and more independent shows made by small independent studios, and those shows will be short format content on places like TikTok, Instagram, and of course, YouTube (which is already a juggernaut of independent animation in its own right). It really feels like bigger shows are taking a back seat to shorter, more accessible and niche content, and I think that trend is going to continue in a big way.

PH: Are there any other projects on the horizon that you can discuss? 

Caroline Foley: Right now, I’m super excited about two projects I have in the works through my production company, Tiny Lion Animation! The first one is a short called Tim Town which is based on a comic I put out a few years ago. It’s all loosely based on my experiences while living on food stamps in skid row from 2008/09 and is what I like to call a lighthearted dark comedy. We are also in production on Golly’s Cat Crafts, a short format series for the preschool bridge audience that features two cats named Golly and Yipe and uses a follow-along approach to making crafts. There’s no release date for these yet as everything is independently funded, which means everything moves at a much slower pace, but those two projects should be coming out sometime later this year. Follow Tiny Lion on Instagram: TinyLionAnimation and Twitter: TinyLionAnim for updates!  

ProductionHUB ProductionHUB Logo

Related Blog Posts
One Piece Production Designer Tessa Verfuss Brings Manga to Life
One Piece Production Designer Tessa Verfuss Brings Manga to Life
In our latest interview, we had the pleasure of talking with editor of One Piece, Tessa Verfuss. As editor, Tessa focused on controlling the pacing throughout her episodes, delivering an editor's cut that is very tight and fast-paced from the beginning and then working with the director and producers to find the story beats that need space to breathe. That shift in pace really helped to punctuate dramatic moments amongst the faster action and witty banter between the characters. She also worked with the composing team to ensure the music accurately fit the story and emotions of the characters.
Published on Monday, September 25, 2023
DP Chat: Marcus Friedlander on the Cinematography of That’s A Wrap
DP Chat: Marcus Friedlander on the Cinematography of That’s A Wrap
Published on Wednesday, September 20, 2023
In Review: Sennheiser Evolution Wireless Digital Portable Handheld Mic Set
In Review: Sennheiser Evolution Wireless Digital Portable Handheld Mic Set
It’s always fun to start off with a few questions for our ProductionHUB readers. So I ask…when you are doing a live production what do you need or want in a mic? Is it how good it sounds? Or maybe it’s reliability? How about the initial cost versus performance? These are all common questions to answer because all of those things matter to production professionals don’t they? That brings me to the topic at hand — we had the opportunity to put the Evolution Wireless Digital Portable Handheld Mic Set from Sennheiser to the test, and the results were exactly what you would expect (spoiler alert: it’s great)
Published on Monday, September 18, 2023


There are no comments on this blog post.

You must be logged in to leave a comment.