Our Story - Part 1 - The Early Days, Depression, Anxiety & Animation - The Birth of Twitch Pixel Studios.

@Jsaamanen on Twitter - Jeff Saamanen Co-Founder and CEO- Twitch Pixel Studios Inc. - Vancouver B.C.

The Story of Jeff

I Like Natalie am an 80’s baby, born into a world just starting to scratch the surface of animation as a medium for storytelling, where innovations and powerful storytelling started to form into amazing works the likes of Disney, Don Bluth, Masamune Shirow, Katsuhiro Ôtomo, and the rise of Studio Ghibli.

I was maybe 10 or 12 when I was up late, A vivid memory of the Showcase Logo (Late night TV here in Canada) and flash animated characters swooshing by in a flurry of violence and drama. Back to Back “Double Feature starting now” my eyes and brain took their first steps into a world of adult animation. I had never seen anything like it, and it would change my life forever.

Masamune SHirow's Ghost In The Shell - Anime Masterpiece

That fateful night in my parents basement in our small farming town of Yarrow, I watched Masamune Shirow's original animated masterpiece "Ghost in the Shell". The opening credits, the haunting soundtrack, overlaid on the developing and quite naked android, the nudity, the politics, the fire fights, it ignited me to my core. 

I couldn’t describe it if I tried, I was so young and yet everything about this aligned for me, the storytelling, the visual direction, the art style, a world of animated characters that felt real, grounded, yet set in a fantastical world. I had found my calling, although I didn’t know it at the time.

And if the masterpiece of GITS wasn't enough, following its airing, the credits rolled out, and so began my immediate and second foray into the world of adult animation… Akira.

Akira - Movie Poster

Of course by now it was well past my best time, and just as the commercial break started I was ordered to bed by my mom, and slunk off into my room. A few minutes later after hearing her settled down upstairs for the night, and I had stealthily made my way back to our unfinished downstairs den, my life was changed for a second time in one evening.

It unsettled my young brain, experimentation on people, a bike gang in a neo Tokyo setting, a gory & filthy world with so much character.

At the time I didn't quite follow the story ( heck even as an adult that's a hard sell!) But the visual spectacle it presented my young mind spurred all manner of creativity, along with a bunch of questions about more existential thoughts , that as a kid I couldn't possibly articulate nor was I prepared for. 

Akira came to a close, and I slinked into my bed, exhausted by the overwhelming animations that set my obsessive brain aflame. It was that night I became a storyteller, with a passion for bringing life to worlds through animation. Something that I have stuck to since, and have only grown more passionate & more determined over the years to thrive in.

As I grew up I fell in love with other anime, Dominion Tank Police, Appleseed, Hellsing, Bubblegum Crisis, Ninja Scroll, Cowboy Bebop, Black Magic, there was this whole world of adult animation to inspire me well into my teenage years.

Co-Founder, Artists and @Nerd_Natalie on Twitter - Twitch Pixel Studios

The Story of Natalie

Natalie had grown up in a much different world than I. From the far east coast of Nova Scotia to the west coast vibes of B.C. she had moved all around Canada with her family. Her father, a French Canadian RCMP Officer, was stationed in lots of cities and she had little time to develop friendships until she arrived in B.C.

She had always been an artist from a young age, drawing was her thing, she collected art supplies like a ravenous child on Halloween scoring candy, and practiced mostly by herself in her youth as a way to express her ideas, even if it was just to her faithful sketchbook.

Anime like "Sailor Moon", cartoons like "The Racoons", "Gummy Bears", "My little pony", "She-ra & He-man", all formed her young aspirations as an artist. She fell in love with the anime style and took to it like Spike Spiegel takes to a good box of noodles.

Natalie's inspirations Sailor Moon, The Racoons, Gummybears

For years before she met me, she had amassed a stockpile of art and drawings, sketches and doodles, refining a look and style all her own without even realizing it. It was a place for her to exist without the connections she had a hard time forming. Displaced regularly, her drawings could always move with her.

When her family finally landed in B.C. she was enrolled in school, and this time it was for good. Finally able to make long term friends, nurture new relationships and find herself a group she could identify with, she had a whole new life ahead of her. One that led her to a long term relationship in her senior year. And no it was not me.

She had finally found a group of friends, and within them some close relationships. She even found young love, but it was not destined to be, as she was about to meet someone new, someone who would rip her away from her young lustful love, and begin to build something genuinely powerful.

And then there was Jeff & Nat.

I met Natalie in high school, no joke, 1999 grade ten, we had crossed paths through our friends, and both of us were in “long term” relationships at the time. We had hung out at a few parties, been in a class or two together, but we for the most part disconnected.

Fast forward to graduating year 2001 and we had become close (Starting with a flirtatious Koosh ball down the back of my shirt in class one day, to which I may have flirted back), even though she was taken at the time. It didn’t take long until all manner of high school drama, drunken parties, and some sexual exploration, until we ended up in a whirlwind fling that became something so much more.

REALLY Young Jeff & Nat

Our First Few Years

Those first few years were rough though, finding ourselves as young adults in a world not really built for creatives. We moved out in our hometown, with a tight-knit group of misfits exploring life, suffering life, and exploiting life like a group of 20 something youths tend to do.

Then the great drift, a migration of our family of friends, across the globe for some. It was hard, all those friendships developed over years of high school struggles & growing pains.  We had become an unorthodox family of friends, but as things always do, it changed.

Natalie and I retreated from the world, found ourselves nestled on an Island, the Isle of Vancouver, tucked away in our not so fancy top level suite in the heart of Victoria. We felt alone, without direction, finding comfort in our passion for cartoons, comics, anime, games, but never really feeling like we were growing.

Jeff & Natalie aka @Jsaamanen & @Nerd_Natalie

Stagnated we needed a way out. Even Natalie had become depressed alongside me, and she was normally the one who pulled me up. Things needed to change. But everywhere we went. Everyone we talked to about our ideas, denied us from pursuing our passion, gate keepers who deemed us unworthy on the grounds that we didn't have the finances, or connections, and that only ideas who can garner a global audience are worth pursuing.

So basically we had to either buy our way in, schmooze our way in, or sidestep entirely and do our own thing. The third option seemed like the only route we had. 

At first it was disheartening to know we had to go it alone, that even those closest to us caught up in their own rat races couldn’t or wouldn’t support us, many considering us insane for not “ getting a real job” or “making a career working for someone else” Which just made things exponentially worse.

So with one path before us, and determined to avoid the pitfalls of the daily grind, we started our first true creative venture that aligned our goals and gave us mutual purpose. A project that would change everything for us, and pull us out from under our deflated ambitions.

I won't lie, we needed it. I felt aimless and depressed at the time, overwhelmed with anxiety that I didn't know how to cope with, working dead end kitchen jobs just so I could have a tiny slice of time to write and be creative. 

Natalie struggled to find even a modicum of passion for her art and expression, feeling voiceless and frustrated. She worked on and off, trying to find pockets of inspiration that she just couldn't find, and lost her interest for her once deep felt passion for art.

By 2015, as an unknown couple, in a not so fancy suite, we began creating something together that would become the foundation of our long term goals, and bring us closer together than ever. It was a crucial win for us when I thought up the idea for Worlds Beyond the Grave: The Story of Fate, it saved us individually, and as a couple. 

Worlds beyond the Grave The Story of Fate - graphic Novel by Jeff Saamanen & Natalie Harvey

Worlds Beyond the Grave: The Story of Fate

I wanted something we could both play within, an idea she felt empowered to draw because it was simple and less overwhelming. And in its simplicity I got to be more creative in my story telling, building an expansive universe that Natalie could illustrate with her signature style.

It was a sandbox for us both, a story about a tiny alien named Fate, wrapped up in a deeply personal and complicated intergalactic war, crash landing on earth for temporary refuge, befriending an adorable native; a cat he aptly named Fe.

Fate, Fe & Lissan Graves - Worlds Beyond The Grave The Story of Fate - Graphic novel by Jeff Saamanen & Natalie Harvey

Meant for adults but in Natalie's adorably cute style, we forged a friendship between Fate and Fe, along with all the characters they slowly gathered, all to face down Fates' now disowned family in their tyrannical pursuit for domination over the galaxy.

Worlds beyond the Grave The Story of Fate - graphic Novel by Jeff Saamanen & Natalie Harvey Fate and Fe escape!

Natalie loves cats and we both bonded hard on X-files, so you know.. Aliens. So it was a perfect setting for Natalie to explore her love for art once more, and a world where I could tell my expansive sci-fi story without (well mostly without) limitation.

Together the story grew, her art style grew, becoming more stylized and impactful, and we found a new way to love each other through it. Which is something to this day I still have a hard time describing, something I cherish, because I know we are lucky to have been able to cultivate it. Something everyone seems to yearn for in a partner.

Fe Is injured! Worlds beyond the Grave The Story of Fate - graphic Novel by Jeff Saamanen & Natalie Harvey

64 issues we made, each one stepping deeper into our world and testing our characters. following their escapades throughout the galaxy as Fate tries to repair the damage done by his maniacal family, and help stop their looming reign! We grew with these characters, they became a precious part of our life, our relationship, and they will forever be a proud moment for us.

Angry Fate wants revenge! Worlds beyond the Grave The Story of Fate - graphic Novel by Jeff Saamanen & Natalie Harvey

And then we stopped. 

Through some personal traumas we lost ourselves again, finding it hard to come back to our creative endeavors. We faced the loss of friends and family to tragedies, shed friends who were toxic, and started to rebuild once more from the ground up.

The Daytripper Saga

When life finally gave way for us to resurface for air, I had been pulled through my funk through writing. Solitary and long late nights, all while Nat slept alone in the bed, I obsessed with my relentless INTP brain over a new world, a new story, one that in retrospect was far more than we could chew. 

Something I call The Daytripper Saga.

The Daytripper Saga, Book 1 -  World and Lore.

A sweeping tale of psychedelics, a universe  built within dreams, and a race of caretakers who created it from across the galaxy, unwittingly releasing the darkness that resides in the minds of every being in existence, unleashing it into our reality. 

A rich and powerful story I will be revisiting one day, but at the time it was too much! I came to Natalie with two full binders worth of a script, setting the stage of my epic across three massive chapters, and I think at the time I might have broken her.

The whole story was very personal to me, it had a lot to do with how my life had changed, and the realities that began to set in as I hit true adulthood.

Prologue to Daytripper Saga - Script Pages

Deep and introspective on a grand scale crossing two entire universes, was all a bit much for Natalie to reasonably produce on her own, and I admit, at the time I didn't understand, I kept asking for more and more, and it began to break her love for the creation process. 

And so although not dead, I decided to shelve it, Natalie's love for art  means more to me than telling my story, and so we needed to find another way, one where like Worlds Beyond the Grave, we could tell together. 

And that led us to 4Villains! But that… that's an insane story for next time, as the embers of Twitch Pixel Studios begin to ignite.

4Villains Logo - 4 Villains By Villains

Thanks for reading about our journey so far, those who would like to help create our next chapter, come support by joining our discord community, support on Patreon, or even snag one of our NFT Collectibles, becoming a supporter of our studio and our worlds!

For more find us on:
YouTube: https://bit.ly/TWPS-YT
Twitch: https://bit.ly/TPS-Twitch
Facebook: https://bit.ly/TPS-FB

Twitch Pixel Studios presents - Unicorn Dick: Investigations, NFT Powered, Community Driven Animated Universe!

Where to find Us & our Project:

Unicorn Dick: Investigations NFT Campaign Page

UDA Website: https://www.twitchpixel.com/UDA

Twitch Pixel Studios: https://TwitchPixel.com

Discord: https://discord.gg/dbdQdzFzXb

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TwitchPixelAnim

Instagram: https://instagram.com/TwitchPixel

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/TwitchPixel

Other Articles:

Announcement: Now on Patreon! Building an Inclusive Community around our Animated Universe, Community and NFTs!

Who the heck is Twitch Pixel Studios? An NFT Powered Animation Studio

The Cost of Animation & The Power of NFTs

How we are building an Animated Universe Powered By NFTs & YOU!

Finding use cases for NFTs as an indie animation studio.

Our NFT fueled Animated Series and the Power of fan collaboration through Live Storytime Events

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Twitch Pixel
Twitch Pixel

Twitch Pixel Studios is an indie animation studio, founded by myself and my wife in 2017. We focus on community interaction to drive our stories to the next level!

Twitch Pixel Studios - Animation, Gaming, NFT, Art
Twitch Pixel Studios - Animation, Gaming, NFT, Art

We are an up & coming indie animation studios trying to build a different way to use animation, engaging WITH fans, and growing and animated universe together through NFTs! We will do this through gamification, community events, and an expanded universe of animated shorts filled by fully animated versions of our NFT characters! These shorts will fill out our world and lore around our first main series Unicorn Dick: Investigations. http://TwitchPixel.com/UDA for More information on our NFTs and show.

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