DANNY ANTONUCCI IS NOT A BIG DISNEY FAN. IN FACT, one gets the feeling that if he were in the room where Walt's body is alleged to be frozen, he'd pull the plug. "Disney's more popular than ever now, and it really worries me," he says. "It's scary. I can't even sit through these bloody megamillion productions. But that's me; I just don't fall into that category."
No, he doesn't. He's the guy who does Lupo the Butcher, that ethnic lunatic who cut hi-tops down to size with a swing of his cleaver in a '93 spot for Converse, and he's also the guy who did "The Brothers Grunt" series for MTV-you ever see those weird yellow dudes late at night with the veins?-which makes "Beavis and Butt-head" look like Siskel & Ebert. Antonucci is back with Lupo right now for Houston Effler Herstek & Favat, Boston, in a 15-second number called "Lupo's Nightmare." A giant hi-top is about to halve its way its Lupo, but it's just a dream. As the meat man says, "Oh, you piece a shoe!"
"I definitely maintain a certain attitude, and it's one that I find funny," says Antonucci, 37. "Lupo partly came out of the frustration of working on kid's stuff. I was really outraged the way Disney and others were killing off the market for adult animation."
Antonucci is from Toronto, and he studied animation at Ontario's Sheridan College but lasted only two years-"Once they started pumping in Goofy and Mickey and shit, that was it for me." He spent two years at a Toronto animation house working on "Scooby Doo" and the like, then he headed west and settled in Vancouver for about 12 years at International Rocketship, a commercials animation house. In early '93 he opened his own A.K.A. Cartoon company in town, but it thankfully hasn't mellowed him. He went solo to "do what I want to do, which is be a total buffoon," and if the name of the company sounds a bit pointed, it is. "I got tired of people calling the form animation," he says somewhat testily. "It's also known as a cartoon."
It was at Rocketship that he OD'd on kid's stuff, but he also directed a hip Levi's commercial and some cool IDs for MTV and the Cartoon Network, and it was at Rocketship, too, that he created the original "Lupo the Butcher" cartoon in 1986, a personal work that he describes as "total masturbation." The plot is real basic: Lupo, clearly one of those chronically disillusioned guys who hates just about everything, is hacking out some steaks with his trusty cleaver when he severs his thumb. This initiates a karmic eruption in which his entire body falls apart in blood-spurting sections. But Lupo's foul-mouthed fury keeps him going. As the credits slowly roll, his head, jugulars dangling, continues to hurl imprecations at an unfeeling universe. Lupo did not appear on MTV's "Liquid TV" because Antonucci, who is also the voice of Lupo, refused to let them censor it. Is the grumpy butcher one of those Italian roots explorations, by any chance? "Yeah, it's family induced, I've got a lot of relatives that are like that," says Antonucci. "I have an uncle who would squeeze an orange rind in my eye just for a laugh. There's a lot of him in there. They've all seen it, they all get a kick out of it. They don't see themselves, though."
Course not. Nor would the Rat Pack see themselves in the Brothers Grunt, six horribly jaundiced spiritual siblings in support hose and boxer shorts-Perry, Frank, Tony, Bing, Dean and Sammy-who grew up in a monastery or something and are now searching for the wandering Perry, who is the Chosen One. "The Brothers Grunt," which has done a slow fade on MTV to the point where it's invisible, started as a mere 10-second ID that was simply about "six guys sitting on cans trying to take a dump, squirming and grunting away," explains Antonucci. "The MTV logo drops into the water, and they're relieved. [MTV CD] Abby Terkuhle suggested we make a series out of it. We needed a premise." And then some. They added deftly insinuated music videos, an opening VO plot explanation, but nothing could endear these sickly sickos to the denizens of The Demo.
The show is "truly a love/hate relationship," says Antonucci. "It's not doing that well on MTV, but on the festival circuit it's doing great. A lot of it is pure, blatant slapstick humor with a lot of classic time switching and place switching, all without dialogue." And what about their, like, sallow appearance? "It's just a graphic look," he says. "The veins, the eyes, the skin-it's all about playing with colors. And they're supposed to look constantly constipated. It's really thrown everybody for a loop. A lot of people just don't get it. That's fine. There really isn't that much to get."
While one doubts that Bing and Perry are about to pop up in an Ex-Lax spot-these guys couldn't get an organ donor card in Somalia-Antonucci, now that the Grunts have apparently been laid to rest, is ready for an advertising run. But make no mistake: "I definitely won't be doing Sugar Bear commercials," he says.
Hey, he really knows how to limb: Three frames from the original 'Lupo the Butcher'; Lupo gets blunted in the first Converse spot; and an irregular Grunt from the MTV ID