What is your name and your current occupation?
Andrew Farago, Cartoon Art Museum Curator, author and cartoonist
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Nothing too far into the “crazy” category. My father’s a general contractor, and I worked with him every summer growing up. I’ve probably put in a lot more time roofing than most people in animation. Other than that, I’ve been a temporary office worker, library assistant, dishwasher… I wish I’d spent some time as a gravedigger or daredevil stuntman so that I could give a more interesting answer for this one.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’ve worked on a lot of great animation exhibitions, including a retrospective of 40 years of Saturday morning cartoons, an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sleeping Beauty, the Totoro Forest Project (works inspired by Hayao Miyazaki) and a show spotlighting the art of Mary Blair. The Mary Blair exhibition led to a huge retrospective of her work in Tokyo. Studio Ghibli purchased a large collection of her artwork following that exhibition, and that’s touring Japan right now…and our exhibition in California helped get that all started. As far as personal projects go, my first book, The Looney Tunes Treasury, was published by Running Press last year, and I’m very pleased with how it turned out. A lot of research and a lot of care went into the book, and I’m thrilled that I had the opportunity to do some work featuring some of my all-time favorite cartoon characters. I’m planning another animation-related book right now, and expect that to be another fun project.
How did you become interested in animation?
I watched tons of cartoons as a kid, and woke up early every Saturday morning so that I could watch a full five hours of cartoons before lunchtime. Add in all of the weekday programming before and after school, and I couldn’t begin to guess how many hours I spent watching animation while I was growing up. A lot of it was probably really awful, too, since the 1980s wasn’t exactly the golden age of animation, but I saw enough of the classics to keep me hooked. Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck were my favorites as a kid, and they still are today.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I grew up in Ohio, went to college in Colorado, and eventually moved to San Francisco. Once I was here, I started volunteering at the Cartoon Art Museum admissions desk, and from there I gradually worked my way up to my current position. In addition to putting together animation exhibitions and events for the Cartoon Art Museum, I’ve written for Animation World Network, which has allowed me to meet some very cool people, I’ve written The Looney Tunes Treasury (which I’ll plug at any given opportunity), and I got to curate an animation exhibition for the Ottawa International Animation Festival last year. I’ve made a lot of friends in the business, at Fox, at Studio Ghibli, at Pixar, at Disney, at Nickelodeon, at Warner Bros., at Laika, at WildBrain, at ASIFA, at Cartoon Network…and it’s been a blast.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Depends on the week. Some weeks are mostly correspondence, talking with artists and lenders about current and upcoming exhibitions, usually with a lot of paperwork. Other weeks are tied up installing new exhibitions, or preparing for a fundraising event, or writing a grant, or teaching a kids’ cartooning class, or handling some completely unexpected work-related issue. It’s hard to plan too far ahead in the non-profit sector, since there are so many variables that can affect your workday.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
That’s probably a toss-up between meeting artists and installing new exhibitions. It’s always fun talking with cartoonists, especially when I’m a fan, so going to conventions and organizing events and exhibitions with artists is usually a lot of fun. I enjoy the work that’s involved in putting new exhibitions on the wall, since it’s the payoff of several months’ worth of hard work, and there’s something very satisfying about turning an empty room into a completed museum exhibition.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I already mentioned the paperwork, but in addition to that, the constant fundraising that goes along with this job is pretty exhausting. If someone would just donate a million dollars to the Cartoon Art Museum, I could relax and put a lot more of my focus on exhibitions. What we’re able to accomplish on such a tight budget is really impressive, if I say so myself.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
See above. Even animators at major studios have budgetary complaints, so I guess that’s not something unique to non-profits.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Just a Mac, and lots of low-tech tools, really.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’ve been very fortunate, and have met a lot of great animators over the years. Pixar’s UP is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I’ve gotten to spend time with all of the principal creators behind that film. I met Gene Deitch at a booksigning several years ago and have had occasional correspondence with him. I got to see a Simpsons live table read at Fox Studios in Los Angeles. I met Bill Melendez at a Cartoon Art Museum fundraiser. The biggest deal of all, and everyone seems to agree with this, is that my wife and I got to have tea with Hayao Miyazaki in his personal studio in Tokyo. Through our work on the aforementioned Mary Blair exhibition and helping out with the Totoro Forest Project, which raised money for conservation efforts in Japan. And that was following a trip to the Studio Ghibli Museum and a visit to their animation studio, which was just a phenomenal experience.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Working for a non-profit over the past decade has been one tough situation after another, really. Our budget fluctuates a lot depending on the economy and grants and a number of variables, so I’ve become a very adaptable person in this line of work.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I draw at least a few comic short stories a year, mostly for anthologies with my friends in the Couscous Collective , a group of Bay Area cartoonist friends. I’ve just started work on my second book featuring a popular animated property, and hope to be able to announce more about that soon. My hobbies all dovetail pretty neatly into my job, so it’s hard to tell when I’m working and when I’m having fun.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Probably nothing too out of the ordinary for someone who’s into comics and animation. My wife and I bought a home last year, though, so I’ve been doing a lot of repairs and renovations, if that counts.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? Always carry a sketchbook and a pencil, always. You never know when inspiration’s going to strike, and you should be drawing all the time, anyway, if you’re planning to go into animation. Chuck Jones (who may have been paraphrasing someone else) said that every artist has 10,000 bad drawings in them, and the sooner you get those out of your system, the sooner you can move on to the good ones.
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