What is your name and your current occupation?
Bill Perkins, Visual Development, Walt Disney Animation Studio. I also currently teach Color Theory at LAAFA, and Color and Lighting at CDA. I also host my own painting workshops that I announce through e-mail and facebook.
I wouldn’t say that my jobs were crazy, kinda normal really, Summer camp on Catalina Island (fun escape,) I had a sign business through high school into college (first entrepreneurial experience,) Chart House restaurant (crazy people, great fun!) Fine Artist (sold my artwork through galleries) Art instructor (drawing and painting various disciplines.)
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Pre-animation, having my work accepted into the Springville museum and national watercolor society shows. Creating a group show at the Monterey Peninsula museum of art featuring mine and three other artist work based on or three month painting trip through France, Italy, and Spain. As far as animation goes, I will never forget the buzz of energy around the studio during Little Mermaid. On Rescuers Down Under, Dan Hansen, Razoul Azadani, and I changed the layout process while embracing new technology, and accomplished more with a smaller team. I am proud of my work as well as the animators and clean-up artists on Aladdin, together we shared the pains that come with growth. Space jam was another massive accomplishment, driven by a small crew of fearless renegades at Space Jam Animation. I was fortunate enough to work with Jim Kamarud and his team at Character Builders. I started my own design studio and he gave me the opportunity and challenge to design a style guide that would communicate the artistic targets and requirement for Disney’s 101 Dalmatians, sequel to a talented crew of artists in Tokyo that would have to stand alone without an art director on site. I was proud of an amazing team of artists at ILM that I was fortunate enough to assemble for Frankenstein. And of corse my family, a project constantly in process.
After working solo as a fine artist for 5 or 6 years, and realizing the success of the group show, where it would have been impossible for any of us to do on our own, I wanted to explore a collaborative art. Animation seemed like it would be interesting in that regard. I had grown up in a neighborhood with some of the older Disney employees but never put the connection together until I was five years out of college. We were also experiencing a recession and some of my galleries were not doing well. I had five years to focus on my own work and personal artistic growth so I knew going into a collaborative art I still had my own artistic identity outside animation. That was and is still very important to me.
I went to school through high school in Glendale California, then went to Art Center College, and moved to the South Bay.
At Disney, the visual development department works on various projects at once, both in and outside of the immediate studio. We are assigned tasks by the art directors on the various shows. For the most part we work on project to project, sometimes we work on multiple projects at once. Other projects could come through WDI, or video games, or books. My work for the features and shorts consists of first concept work (drawings and digital paintings) and sometimes designing individual assets which go into an art packet to offer production a visual target.
A: I really like the potential for growth and invention through necessity in the production process. Although since the concept period of Visual Development is sometimes preproduction the growth comes in learning about the subjects and surroundings the stories and inventing believable worlds specific to the directors point of view. The visual storytelling aspect makes it very different than illustration or fine art, from video games and books as well to some degree. It also helps when you work with talented and inspired artists and I am very lucky in that department.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I never had to go far to do so. When I was small my mother worked at Whites art store in Montrose California. Many of the Disney artists bought supplies there and had shows of their work. I knew who they were when I was young. My father was in advertising and would often hang at the same local haunts in Talouca lake as June Forrey, Mel Blanc and others so when I went in with him I knew who they were but too shy to introduce myself. I was pretty young. I grew up on the same block as Cardin Walker, who ran the studio when Walt passed and Al Talifarro, a fx animator. Marc Davis came to Art Center one time and showed his sketches for the pirates of the Caribbean ride. When I started at Disney, Frank and Ollie would come into work once a week to play music in the studio at lunch, and Herb Ryman would come into the Wednesday night drawing at the WDI sculpture room.
Your sense of color and light is astonishing!
Thanks so much for doing this interview and sharing with us about your amazing career in animation. Your classes and workshops (at LAAFA and also at Associates in Art back in the day) have been among the best I have ever taken. You have been a real inspiration as a teacher and artist.
I am really looking forward to your books on color and design. Please let us know when these will published, as I want to be the first in line to buy them.
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