What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Ken Davis, and I’m currently working on storyboards for Transformers: Rescue Bots destined for Hasbro’s Hub network, via Atomic Cartoons.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Way back………waaaaaay back I started in the cartooning biz by answering an ad for “staring artists” to draw on t-shirts in some guy’s basement. Actually drawing in pencil on cotton shirts, where some other young kid would airbrush some colour in. The shirts were then hawked by prostitutes to their john customers. I was 100% naive/oblivious to this sales technique until one day when a young lass came to the door with a handful of money for the “boss”. No, I did not stick around much longer after that.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Been quite a few: assisting Todd McFarlane on some comics stuff, my first solo gig storyboarding on James Bond Jr and having NO CLUE as to what I was doing, working on Ren & Stimpy with Bob Jaques/Kelly Armstrong/John Kriscfalusi . Storyboarding on Jonny Bravo, Freakazoid, Wing Commander Academy, Ned’s Newt, Class of the Titans for Studio B. And being a superhero-nut……..I was once offered AND TURNED DOWN working on the Bruce Timm Superman animated series. ( It ended up being for the best)
How did you become interested in animation?
I suffered a head injury as a child…….isn’t that how it happens for everyone? No, seriously, I was enthralled by Terry Toons’ Mighty Heroes series as a wee lad. Then came Space Ghost, Jonny Quest, Birdman, Disney, Warners…….. and all the rest. Its been hopeless ever since.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
Born and raised in Vancouver, BC,Canada. I started in the biz in 1985 after meeting with the guys who founded Delaney & Friends Productions: Chris Delaney, Steve Rabatich, Chris Bartleman and Ian Freedman.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Aaaaaiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! A mix of abject terror and sobbing. On a usual day it can take me an hour or so to get into gear, and then I’ll work usually to the later evening hours. After 26 years I still sweat this stuff……its not always easy, and not always fun. I can be easily distracted, to my infernal detriment. But I’ll hunker down and get it down.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
When storyboarding I get to determine how things look and happen. I get to make things fun or thrilling ( or boring, if I blow it). That is kind of neat.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Deadlines <shudder> ….or more specifically the threat of looming deadlines.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Two things: inconsistency with frequency of projects, and deadlines. It can be hard to manage those things when you have other life priorities in play, such as family.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I just recently made the transition to fully digital storyboarding. I draw my |boards on a Cintiq 21UX, using Photoshop. I used to draw them on paper, cut& pasting script and the whole nine yards, then eased in tradigital work by drawing on paper and labelling and final work in Photoshop.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Got to experience a ‘board pitch for Ren & Stimpy’s Sven Hoek by John K himself. He’s a maniac. Worked with Joe Gilland in both animation and instructional capacities. Assisted Todd McFarlane well before he brought Spawn to the world, but got to hear his philosophies about comics first-hand.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
In 2002-03 I ventured from BC to another province to join an animation school–and head up a programme there. 2 months in they developed financial troubles, and then closed their doors the following summer. They stopped paying staff their full wages and I had to declare bankruptcy. Ended up losing our home ( which we bought in the midst of this, on the misplaced trust of the school’s financial adviser) and our vehicle. Moved back to rural BC so my wife could take up a job in a Interior town. Week after she started, the owner of the place let her go. And then winter set in. Those were not fun days.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I have long-gestating comic book ideas floating around on my drawing table………some day they will see the light of day. I also shamelessly collect action figures. Just completed a DC Universe Collection roster, and I’m actively collecting G.I.Joes. A die-hard geek and big kid I am.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metalurgy?
I have the uncanny ( some say freaky) ability to sense a nearby Toys R Us store in any place that I have never been before. Seriously. It weirds my family and friends right out.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Never give up. Persistence is the key here. The moment you say ” I can’t”………you are absolutely right. In spite of whatever obstacles life sends your way, develop an obstinate stubbornness. Let any “advice” about how lousy a career choice this is go in one ear and right out the other. Develop your skills relentlessly……obsessively, fanatically. They are your only true asset in the biz.
Aim high, and hit that target. If your loved ones are telling you otherwise, tell them you love them all………and then push them into the closet and lock the door. Let NOTHING keep you from your goal. Don’t buy into the BS about needing an expensive schooling at Cal Arts or where-ever, with discipline you can self-teach. A degree is meaningless ( in my opinion). Be bold, fearless…..try something, see if it works………if it doesn’t try something else. Never give up.