Scratch and Sniff is a semi-animated web series from Jeff Haas, mixing live action with hand drawn cartoons, ala Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It features on its own website, and Tumblr, as well as on Blip.
Mike shares his home with his cat and dog, the titular ‘Scratch’ and ‘Sniff’. These anthropomorphic animals walk and talk like people with cabin fever and conspire to make Mike’s life hell. Or at least, that’s the idea. The show attempts the classic ‘people who don’t get on but are stuck together’ comedy style with a sensible Mike battling against the surly Scratch and impatient Sniff – but in actual fact the overall lack of filmmaking experience is sorely telling.
Haas created his cat and dog duo as a comic strip in 2009 and now is trying to remake them for the web series world. Each ‘episode’ is a 20 minute or so segment that has been split into 4 seperate 5 minute chunks, but these episodes deal with sparse plotting that struggles to be sustained over 5 minutes alone, never mind a whole 20 minutes collectively. Episode 1 deals with Scratch and Sniff running up a high cable bill, whilst Episode 2 has Sniff accidentally left behind in a park and ‘rescued’ by a passing pretty girl. Unfortunately, no amount of homemade animation trickery is going to disguise the thinness of the plots.
Scratch and Sniff is the Haas show. He is the writer, director, animator and (non-drawn) star. Whilst the detrimental effect of a low-budget can be bypassed when there is an excellence of script and production flair, Scratch and Sniff is lacking in both of these. The sound quality is poor, the acting stilted and amateurish, and the animation isn’t strong enough to be a sole selling point. Indeed, the sparsity of characters is a big negative. Mike, as total straight-man, provides no comedy life at all, and very few other characters ever wander into this little contained world. The show is crying out for more input and richer characters.
The script is both rather predictable and conceptually strange. Scratch and Sniff don’t act or behave like animals at any point, and neither does Mike treat them that way. Instead the nuances are that of flatmates who get on each other’s nerves, but without any ‘cat’ or ‘dog’ characteristics, these pets have no character. They exist to deliver pithy remarks or rather tired zingers. Long-lasting comic strip Garfield plays on not only the innate characteristics of cats and dogs, but turns these into fully fledged characters in their own right. When a character exists purely to deliver punch-lines (as they do in Scratch and Sniff), you have gone wrong in your scripting.
There is plenty of Scratch and Sniff out there and more is being made as we speak but if it carries on in this vein it will probably continue to sail by unnoticed. I think if the show were to survive it would need to bring in some outside help. At the moment the static camera views and lack of comic timing come in part from Haas having to do it all himself. With a camera operator, director, editor, sound engineer (and probably co-writer) then the idea could be teased into something with more gags and more flair. I’m not saying all shows need these things. I am saying that Scratch and Sniff does. Right now it exists purely as the passion of one person, with little appeal to anyone else.
Scratch and Sniff: Episode 101 – 2 - The Cable Bill