It is the Monday after an Eagles victory, and the game plan is already going into effect for the coming week.
No, this isn’t about the coaches preparing for the upcoming opponent. Animator Kevin Lofton is starting to conceptualize the next Eagles-themed cartoon.
It’s the 10th season that fans have enjoyed the cartoons which appear on PhiladelphiaEagles.com in the days leading up to the game. Lofton is the artist who creates the cartoons, but there’s no credit at the end to identify who turned the players into superheroes or showed what bedtime at the Manning brothers’ house is like.
Lofton is a Philadelphia native, who grew up in the Cobbs Creek section of the city, and lifelong die-hard Eagles fan. From the time he was young, he displayed a talent for drawing. He would mimic the characters in the Sunday comics and his family members took notice.
“I was always in love with stories and watching cartoons,” Lofton said. “I never had a serious attitude in terms of doing something insightful or meaningful. Combining humor into drawing, that’s always been my thing. I just wanted to make people laugh.”
Lofton graduated from the Philadelphia School for Creative and Performing Arts and figured he needed to go to college for business as a fallback option. After two years at the University of Pittsburgh, Lofton realized that the business route wasn’t going to work for him.
He returned home to Philadelphia and graduated from Temple in 1991 with his Bachelor of Arts degree as an advertising and journalism major. He worked in New York City at a couple of production houses that designed animations before he got his big break with MTV. A friend, Machi Tantillo, brought Lofton on to animate the MTV station IDs, where the logo would morph into different characters or designs. His work with the MTV logo led to a much bigger opportunity - Beavis and Butt-head, the wildly successful cartoon which featured two teenage slackers who got into mischief.
Lofton was hired by MTV Animation in the show’s second season and worked not only on the TV show, but the movie, Beavis and Butt-head Do America, as well. Lofton directed segments where Beavis and Butt -head appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and directed the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ music video for Love Rollercoaster, a song that was featured in the movie.
Since working at MTV, he has worked on television shows for Disney, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and also The Howard Stern Show.
In 2004, Lofton was approached by a childhood friend, John Ruffin, about doing animations for the Eagles. Ruffin worked for the company that hosted the Eagles’ website and the team was open to the idea of the cartoons. During the week leading up to the sixth game of the season, a road game in Cleveland, Lofton created his first animation for the Eagles. It was Brian Dawkins getting amped for the game with his muscles popping out.
The cartoon was a huge success and is still a vital component of the gameday experience. Other teams have tried to acquire Lofton’s services, including the New York Giants. Not even the green of money could get Lofton to use his creative juices for a rival of his hometown team clad in midnight green.
“I couldn’t see doing this for any other team outside of Philadelphia,” Lofton said. “It would have been tough getting my head wrapped around getting pumped up to do something for the Giants.”
The challenge for Lofton during the season is balancing the theme of the cartoon with the mood of the team, which can change on a week-to-week basis. That’s why it’s nearly impossible for Lofton to get ahead on any project. Following a win over the Arizona Cardinals, the Eagles’ fourth in a row, the mood is a positive and festive one which allows Lofton more creative freedom. The next game is against the Detroit Lions. Last season, Lofton used The Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz. This year, Lofton will parody the viral hit by Ylvis, What Does the Fox Say? and instead turned it into, What Does the Lion Say? Center
Lofton spends a total of 60 hours from Tuesday through Thursday to get the cartoon completed. Lofton spends around 48 of the 60 hours on animation using Adobe Flash to build the cartoon. Lofton said it takes about five hours to make a new character. There are multiple layers which have to be created for the movement. It takes a few attempts to get the character to look like the actual person. Add in vocals and the lip sync has to be spot on. It’s a frenetic sprint to be ready by the end of the week.
“When I tell people that I turn this around in a couple of days, they look at me like I’m crazy,” Lofton said. “They’re like, ‘There’s no way in the world that you’re getting this stuff done.’” Oh, but he does. Coming from the television production world, there are so many levels of people who must approve the project before anyone on the outside ever sees it. Lofton relishes the creative process working with the Eagles.
“To be able to create stuff and have it out there in a matter of days for people to react to is the thing that works for me,” Lofton said. “I just feel so fortunate to be able to have this opportunity.” Lofton’s work has been noticed. It has been picked up by local TV stations of the Eagles’ upcoming opponent. The NFL on FOX national pre-game show has even used his cartoons in the past.
“I’m not trying to make bulletin board material or trying to get other team’s fans riled up, but it’s good when they’re noticed outside the city as well,” Lofton said. With the Eagles in position to make the playoff s for the first time in three seasons, Lofton doesn’t feel additional stress to deliver a knockout cartoon. He simply wants the same thing when he was a kid growing up, to entertain fans and make them laugh.
“I know people watch them. I guess I never feel the pressure of trying to respond to that,” he said. “It’s more trying to come up with the idea and just trying to be original in one way or another and, in doing that, making sure that the people who are looking forward to seeing them are happy with the end result.”