Loony tunes

The twisted minds at DNA Animation take their sick humor national

Last year, the company added a fourth member and "den mother"--Debbie Dunning, who, as a college student, saw John Davis speak on the use of computers in animation at a convention. When Dunning--who was studying character animation at Sheridan College near Toronto and calls legendary cartoon wiseasses Tex Avery and Bob Clampett primary influences--spoke to Davis afterward, she instantly sensed a kindred spirit. "It was destiny that I was going to end up there," she says.

Lately the company has begun forging a national profile. It has contributed a Howard Stern parody, "Ratman and Frisky," about a king of all media who's a bipedal rat in sunglasses, to a Showtime cable special--"Basic Values: Sex, Shock, and Censorship." They've also designed the opening, closing, and intermission sequences for "Attack of the 5' 2" Women," a two-part comedy special that starred Julie Brown as, respectively, Lorena Bobbitt and Tonya Harding; the DNA sequences portrayed the two women racing madly around a cityscape wreaking havoc like Thelma and Louise. "Na-Na and Lil' Puss Puss" airs regularly on Comedy Central's "Small Doses," a comedy anthology program. And the company recently contracted to animate a new Saturday morning children's series, "AJ's Time Travelers," that will air on Fox beginning December 3.

DNA is also, for reasons only they could possibly understand, developing "Weird Beard the Pirate" as an interactive CD-ROM game. "It'll have some of the violence and blood toned down, but it'll still be pretty wacky," says Davis.

Surrounded by his fellow mischief-makers, Davis makes a halfhearted stab at explaining their style of humor and concedes that sometimes it goes over the top.

"Something like 'Weird Beard' works best in small doses," he says. "It's so gory and strange that if you watched all the parts sequentially, uninterrupted, you'd just feel terrible. But I guess it does have a certain kind of sick integrity. I mean, at the end, after all the horrible stuff the stupid young hero has gone through at the hands of these pirates, they just beat the shit out of him and then he's dead."

There's an uncharacteristically reflective pause in the office as everyone considers this.

Then the DNA crew laughs long and hard and loud, like bad-taste buccaneers after a pirate's toast.

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