By LILY BYRNE
It’s not often that an artistic endeavor requires a miniature dumpster to be shipped
cross-country, unless it’s Paul Kozlowski’s upcoming television pilot.
Kozlowski, owner of the Ake Gallery, located at 165 Main St. in Cortland, began the short film
series “Duck and Red Octopus” during the coronavirus pandemic with his Los-Angeles based
animator Andy Haskins.
“We’ve done a bunch of different things together, but this felt like it was really funny,” Kozlowski
said Monday. “He sent me a picture of the octopus and I immediately had the voice for it.”
They are now looking to fund a 22-minute pilot to pitch to networks. The art style, claymation, is
the use of stop-motion photography on clay figures. The pilot will be a Christmas special, as
claymation is often associated with the holidays, Haskins said.
“I didn’t know how to do [claymation] four years ago, but the pandemic hit and I was bored, so I
taught myself how to do it,” he said. “I called my friend Paul and talked to him about doing
comedy shorts. Paul looks a little like an octopus, so it was a natural fit that he was the octopus
and I’m the duck.”
The series stars Duck, voiced by Haskins, and Red Octopus, voiced by Kozlowski. The two
animals are hosts of a local news channel’s “feel-good stories” segment, but the opposite of
what is to be expected from hosts of this topic.
“They are two guys who are friends but they undermine each other all the time,” Haskins said.
“They are two has-beens in a world where being relevant seems to be the most important thing.”
Two weeks ago, the series' TikTok account @duckandredoctopus had a clip that reached
nearly half a million views. The account has almost 7,000 followers and 150,000 likes.
“If you do a thing and people like it, you can gain interest,” Kozlowski said. “That's what's great
about the internet. You can put something out there and just keep doing it, and maybe get a
following. Even though I'm in Cortland, you can do it from anywhere.”
The short film series has some special guest stars as voice actors, such as Patton Oswalt.
“This region is becoming recognized as a center for the film industry, with impressive industry
assets that are attracting talent, supported by regional colleges and universities with highly
ranked film and animation programs, as well as creatives who are moving to the area,” said
Linda Dickerson Hartsock, a Syracuse University professor of creative entrepreneurship,
co-creator of Center for the Arts of Homer, and former executive director of the Cortland County
Industrial Development Agency.
Since the TikTok gained attention for the project, Haskins and Kozlowski have meetings
scheduled with companies to discuss the project, Kozlowski said.
“It’s weird how the randomness of the internet works,” Haskins said. “We weren’t doing it for
hits, we were doing it for fun.”
He is creating the sets and props for the pilot in Cortland, while Haskins is animating in Los
Angeles. The two voice-act over Zoom. Kozlowski will also build a prop or set piece, such as a
miniature dumpster, and then mail it to Haskins so the characters can interact with it.
“There’s something about real old-school animation that people really like, as opposed to CGI
animation,” Kozlowski said.
The two also plan a film festival Sept. 22 and 23 in Cortland for anything funny, short, and
animated, Kozlowski said. It received hundreds of submissions.
“This festival, which is bringing incredible global talent with ties to Central New York back to the
area, will be an incredible opportunity to network and learn from the best in the business, as we
also build our reputation as an emerging animation center,” Hartsock said.
“To me, that part of New York has been a comedy Mecca,” Haskins said. “Comedy and
animation draws a distinct audience while also being pretty broad. It seems like it could draw
some interest to your area.”
“I’ve never seen a claymation festival,” Haskins said. “Just not a lot of people do it. It’s kind of a
cool place for artists who are into this thing to gather together and talk to each other, because
it's such a specific interest.”
A panel of judges involved in the field will attend the event - consisting of Spongebob’s Tom
Kenny, comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, Jonathan Katz (voice of title character from Dr. Katz,) and
Adventure Time’s Martin Olsen.
Haskins and Kozlowski are looking for sponsors for the festival, Haskins said.
“Now the tools are there,” Kozlowski said. “Everybody has a phone with an amazing camera,
and editing software is amazing.
To donate to the pilot, Venmo @Duck-and-Red-Octopus