Animation has long been a huge part of modern entertainment, from the classic Disney, Warner Bros. and MGM cartoons of Hollywood’s Golden Age, plus the 1988 Oscar-winning live-action/animated breakthrough WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, on up to today’s popular Pixar-based theatrical releases like BRAVE, PLANES and another acclaimed Academy Award winner, UP. While all those aforementioned successes were made for the silver screen, TV has had its own incredible tradition of animated content going back to shows like THE FLINTSTONES, THE JETSONS and countless Saturday morning favorites like SCOOBY-DOO, many of which were produced by the legendary Hanna-Barbera studios.

It’s a tradition that continues today, most notably through popular kids’ shows like THE FAIRLY ODDPARENTS and SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS, plus edgy adult fare like the long-running series THE SIMPSONS, on up to the works of Seth Macfarlane (FAMILY GUY, AMERICAN DAD, THE CLEVELAND SHOW, etc.) Yet, the emerging world of web series has also had its own innovative share of animated series, including those that display an unsophisticated, yet distinctive brand of humor (such as the series ACE DISCOVERY). The new live action/animated hybrid comedy SCRATCH AND SNIFF is the latest to continue that trend.

The series, which debuted on July 10th of this year, is currently in its first season of 48 episodes (more on that later), with new episodes airing each Wednesday on its official web site, plus its Blip.TV and DailyMotion pages (see links below).

Written, animated and created by and starring Jeff Haas, SCRATCH AND SNIFF follows the life of a guy named Jeff, (played by Haas), a seemingly average fellow who just happens to have some extraordinary pets – a cat named Scratch, and a dog named Sniff (both voiced by Haas). Scratch and Sniff provide hilariously troublesome companionship for their owner, as well as an equally comical running commentary on Jeff’s daily life. (Haas also hopes to release a DVD of the show’s first season sometime next year after it concludes, though it’s still in the planning stages).

In addition, the show’s first season features Brooke Fry as Kate, a young, beautiful college grad who becomes not only a close friend of Jeff, but also as someone who finds herself having to watch his unpredictable animal friends. The show’s second season will also feature a love interest for its human protagonist – Jennifer, Jeff’s new next door neighbor, played by Jami Cullen. (Cullen also appears in the first season as Jeff’s auburn-haired, French speaking co-worker Pam). Shirlene Banks joins the cast in season two as the no-nonsense Samantha, who assumes the roles of both sitter for Scratch and Sniff (she also walks him) – and as Jennifer’s main rival.

Haas, who describes SCRATCH AND SNIFF as a ‘poor man’s Roger Rabbit’, originally based on a web comic strip he wrote several years ago, but given the increasing prominence and popularity of TV shows made for the internet, he decided to adapt his tale of the awkward and often unpredictable relationship between a man and his pets into a web series.

As Haas explains, that format also gave him a chance to transform the comic in many unique ways. “I modified the character designs to work in animation (I gave their eyes pupils so the emotion would read easier). The short length of a weekly web series seemed perfect for the concept and has proven to be quite workable. I decided to make the show a bit edgier than the original comic. The big difference is there is a little PG language in the show that was absent in the comic, but we don’t do anything in the show that you can’t do in a prime time network sitcom,” he says.

Another major difference that makes SCRATCH AND SNIFF unlike many other web series is its sheer output. Perhaps no other comedy or drama on the web, past or present (at least to this writer’s knowledge) has produced the amount of episodic content that SCRATCH AND SNIFF contributes on a weekly basis, with 48 episodes (1 per week) airing throughout the year. The main reason, as Haas says, is simple: “I think it’s important to have a constant supply of new material so that I don’t lose the audience.  There are thousands of shows online, and the Internet moves on pretty quickly and forgets you even faster.”

Given the live action/animation elements of SCRATCH AND SNIFF, the production process, both in front of and behind the camera, wasn’t exactly funny business. “The scripts are much longer than the weekly episodes. They’re written as a 22 minute sitcom with the weekly break points accounted for. (Haas says that each episode runs from 3-5 minutes each). Then I schedule the shoot with the actors involved. Any shots that Scratch or Sniff appear in, I use a foam board “stand-in” to give us a scale reference on set and also give the actors an eye line for the characters so that when animation is added in post, things line up. I can usually shoot a 22 minute script in a day or so, but the animation process takes up to another six weeks to complete,” says Haas.

The animated sequences were drawn utilizing the classic cel techniques used in Hanna-Barbera’s ‘60s era TV series, rather than the current ‘flash’ style used in today’s cartoons. Not only did it benefit the series well stylistically, but it also saved Haas time and money. “Once the live action portion is shot, I record all the voices and then begin work on the animation and final editing. Because of the time involved I have to work about a year in advance. The shows you are seeing for season one were shot from June 2012 – January 2013. I’m still finishing up some animation for season 1, while at the same time I’m in production on season 2.”

Like many web series creators, Haas hopes that his show will be a successful venture – both in viewers and as a sustainable business. Yet, SCRATCH AND SNIFF is a distinctively adult ‘toon, with humor that Haas describes as “part MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000, part THAT ‘70S SHOW with a little Hanna-Barbera thrown in”. Thanks to its almost year-round episodic content, that unique brand of comedy will keep viewers coming back for more. “If I can make one person laugh milk out their nose because of my show, then all of this work will have been worth it,” Haas says.