The show stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, and is produced by Andrew Singer and Jonathan Krisel for Broadway Video Television and IFC Original Productions. It debuted on the Independent Film Channel (IFC) on January 21, 2011.
Anthropomorphic animals in Portlandia
Series 2, episode 5
In episode 5 of season 2 ("Cops Redesign"), one sketch has a couple discussing a newspaper article about a packaging-free grocery store that has opened nearby. They figure that the store must be exploring this policy to help the environment, but then wonder "what about the rats?".
The scene cuts to a stop-motion animation of three hipster rats who, having also found out about the store, are celebrating in anticipation of an easy food raid. They use a mobile phone to call the store manager, and quiz him about whether or not the store lays rat bait, and if there are any holes in the walls of the store.
Later that night, the three rats are in an air vent in the grocery store. They start to formulate a sensible plan, but Fred can't be bothered waiting, kicks open the vent, and leaps down to the floor. The lights go on and Carrie and John watch as the store clerk uses a broom to sweep Fred out into the street. They decide to just go home.
Outside, a skateboard-riding gangster mouse mocks Fred: "You just can't control yourselves, huh? Typical rats."
Series 3, episode 6
Episode 6 of series 3 ("Off The Grid") opens with a televised press release, announcing that Oregon has banned all plastic bags. An environmental activist gleefully informs everyone that "our waterways and beaches are clean".
The scene cuts to a stop-motion underwater world where a fish is watching the announcement on television. The fish turns and swims over rocks, heading towards an underwater castle. The fish passes several crabs in yellow hardhats, who are operating heavy construction equipment, and gets everyone's attention by yelling out, "Hey! Everyone! They banned all plastic bags!"
One of the crabs looks at the blueprint he is holding (titled "Plastic Bag Castle"), tears it up, and throws the pieces up into the water as he gripes "There goes my bag castle. Bullshiiiiiiiiit-tuh".
Series 3, episode 7
In episode 7 of series 3 ("The Temp"), the rats from series 2 make another appearance. Fred has been stealing scones from the counter of the local bookstore, and discovered that one of the Staff Favourites on display is Robert Sullivan's Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants.
Offending by some of Sullivan's observations about rats, the rats decide to write a retaliatory book entitled People - The Sounds and Screams of the City's Most Idiotic Inhabitants. Their book begins by describing humans as "idiots and fools and so dumb". The rats write that people carry "every disease", and criticise them for "(pooping) in water for no reason" and incessantly screaming. At that point the rats just include whatever mean-spirited fiction they can come up with, claiming that when humans close their eyes, their eyes travel around inside their bodies, and that at age thirty their arms fall off and they replace them with tree branches.
Later, Fred phones the publisher to whom they sent their book. The publisher retrieves the tiny, ratty-looking manuscript, and tells them "we're going to pass on this one" before hanging up. The rats decide to publish the book themselves, and sneak their only copy onto a display rack in the book store. A small child picks up the book, and the rats decide to celebrate with a scone.
Series 3, episode 10
In episode 10 of series 3 ("No-Fo-O-Fo-Bridge"), the rats appear again. In this epsiode, Carrie and Fred Rat search for a less gentrified neighbourhood to call home, whilst John interviews prospective new roommates.
Series 7, episode 4
In episode 7 of series 4 ("Separation Anxiety") the rats sit in a trash can and talk about squirrels.
Behind the scenes
The stop-motion animations on Portlandia were created by Bent Image Lab, a production company located in Portland, Oregon, who specialise in commercials, music videos, short films, and visual effects for feature films.
The rats were voiced by (and named after) Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, and John Levenstein. Recording of the rats was done at REX Production & Post. The stop-motion work produced about eight seconds of footage each day.
- "Cops Redesign" on avclub.com. Dated February 3, 2012. Retrieved March 28, 2013
- Portlandia "Zero Rats" on the vimeo channel of Bent Image Labs. Retrieved March 28, 2013
- "Off The Grid" on avclub.com. Dated January 25, 2013. Retrieved March 28, 2013
- "The Temp" review on avclub.com. Dated February 1, 2013. Retrieved March 28, 2013
- "No-Fo-O-Fo-Bridge" review on avclub.com. Dated February 22, 2013. Retrieved March 28, 2013
- Portlandia "Zero Rats" Behind the Scenes on the vimeo channel of Bent Image Lab. Retrieved March 28, 2013
- Portlandia "Zero Rats" on the vimeo channel of Bent Image Lab
- Portlandia "Zero Rats" Behind the Scenes on the vimeo channel of Bent Image Lab
- "Banned Bags - Portlandia Animation" on YouTube
- Portlandia "Dolphin" BTS on the vimeo channel of Bent Image Lab
- "Portlandia - Rats" ("The Temp") on YouTube
- Portlandia Rats 2 Behind the Scenes on the vimeo channel of Bent Image Lab
- Portlandia Dolphin "Directors Cut" on the vimeo channel of Bent Image Lab
- Portlandia Rats "Move" on the vimeo channel of Bent Image Lab
- Portlandia Rats "Squirrel" on the vimeo channel of Bent Image Lab
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