Archer has come a long way, and not just in terms of plotline spy agency to Miami to Los Angeles to Danger Island! No one knows this more than art director Chad Hurd, who talked to Variety about how the animation of Archer has evolved over the past nine seasons.
"When we started it was really just eight of us in this house in East Atlanta," Hurd revealed. "The house style was limited animation [and] everything was drawn in Adobe Illustrator. We storyboarded everything to be very, very user friendly, but the animation was a little stiffer."
The combination of the stylized world of Archer—creator Adam Reed was very set on a Mad Men vibe—and the physicality that comes with working at a spy agency created a unique challenge. Originally, models wearing suits were used as references for characters like Archer, Cyril and Ray, but as the series took on a less serialized approach with Archer: Vice and Archer: Dreamland, the animators had to stretch their imaginations and their talents.
"We’re doing things completely differently, so they all have their own new designs, and they’re much more elaborate in that they require new drawings—there are no reuses," Hurd said. "I think creatively it’s opened a lot of doors."
As for the action sequences, executive producer Matt Thompson divulged a little behind-the-scenes secret of how those thrilling set pieces come to life:
"Any time we do fluid action — punching, kicking, fighting — we change our animation style a little bit," said Thompson. "Hopefully nobody notices too much, but we change programs. Usually when Archer and Lana are talking to each other, we’re doing that animation in After Effects, but when we’re doing kicking or punching, we switch over to Harmony to make sure it looks a little bit smoother."
To read more about Archer’s animation style evolution, including how it’s impacted Archer: Danger Island, read Hurd’s complete interview at Variety.