What is your name and your current occupation? The 3 of us (Alex Leighton, Ryan Cooper and Tim Evans) run our own independent animation studio in Auckland, New Zealand. We call ourselves MukpuddyÂ )Â and our current occupation is cartoon makers!Â We try our best to blog reallyÂ regularlyÂ and let people know what we’re up to and currently working on…
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation? Nothing to crazy really Alex was a dj at a metal/rock bar, Ryan worked at a video rental store and Tim traded human organs on the black market!
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of? Well each new project we do is the one we’re usually most proud of, so with that in mind only 2 weeks ago we competed in a 48 hour film competition. It’s kind of a big deal down here in New Zealand and an annual event where teams of film makers compete all over the country on one weekend to make a short film in just 48 hours. On Friday night we’re given our randomly drawn genre (this year we got ‘Quest Movie”), a random prop, line of dialog and character each team has to put in their film. It was one hell of a weekend but we made it to the finish line with 5 minutes to spare and made a cool little film we’re really stoked with. Now we just have to wait and see what the judges think. While we’re waiting for the final verdict we put together a trailer for the short…We also made a bunch of shorts last year for a local kids show, they basically loved our work and told us to make whatever we wanted… given that type of creative freedom is something pretty special and as a result we feel this is some of our best work to date and hope to use these characters in something else…
How did you become interested in animation? All 3 of us were obsessed with anything to do with animation and cartoons growing up. Comics, toys, video games, tv and.. movies all played their part in pushing us towards our interest in animation.
Â Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business? We’re from New Zealand and met on our animation course, where we discovered our mutual love of pretty much everything. We started coming up with ideas for everything from comics and animated skits to actual short films, none of which really saw the light of day but when we left our course we knew we wanted to just keep making our own stuff so set up in Tims basement and tried to start our own company not knowing one single thing about business. 9 years later we’re still alive and kicking!
Â What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?Â
It’s hard to say, so often every day is different for us. There’s always new projects coming in and more often than not something we’ve never done before. At the moment we’re story boarding 2 shorts and designing some packaging for a candy company, which is kinda fun since we’ve never really done packaging design before.Â Our more “bread and butter” job over the last 4-5 years has been making a cartoon for the most popular and longest running kids variety show here in New Zealand. We basically took their presenters and made a cartoon around the ‘made up’ adventures they got up to as kids. Throw in a few crazy creatures (namely one in particular that vomits magical slime) and some stupidÂ villainsÂ and we actually has something kids really responded to. It was our first real gig for tv and one that’s been both really bloody hard to work on and really rewarding. We basically learnt everything we know about making cartoons from the crazy tight deadlines we had making these early on. Â More recently we’ve actually been trying to put clips up online from us working on stuff, just to give people a bit more of a “behind the scenes” look…
What part of your job do you like best? Why?Â
Well the very best part of our job is that the 3 of us get to work together on our own stuff a lot of the time. Some times we’ll just be joking around, come up with an idea for a skit and decide to animate it and a week or so later it’s a complete cartoon! So basically we just get to be dickheads all day long… Â Any job where you get to have fun with characters from Star Wars and Dr Who is ok in our books.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?Â
Working with dumb clients! So often our industry is dictated and run by uncreative, out-of-touch, morons who think they know better than us… the artist. And that can be really frustrating!
Â What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?Â
Apart from the above, it’s been pretty tricky to wrap our heads around the actual business side of running a business, all the stuff us artists hate doing, taxes etc…
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?Â
Well we all use pc’s and the software we mostly use is Flash, After Effects and Photoshop. Ryan also plays Angry Birds on his ipod a lot when he’s on the toilet, dunno if that counts or not!
Â In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
We have done a few trips to The States now, pitching to the studios in LA, going to Comic Con etc, and have been lucky enough to not only meet a lot of our peers working on the shows we love, people like Steve Lambe, Jorge Gutierrez, Chris Battle, Martin Hsu, Eric Pringle amoungst a tonne of others. We’ve also been lucky enough to meet a few of the artists that have really influenced us. Getting to meet Craig McCracken was pretty amazing as was getting to chat with Chris Sanders and having dinner with Eric Goldberg was also a very surreal moment… he even did us aÂ personalizedÂ drawing of the Genie from Aladdin… SCREAM! (see attached photo… we cab try get you a bigger version of this if you want dude)
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
We’ve actually had things pretty sweet with not to many “mis-steps” or wrong turns, looking back we’re actually pretty lucky. The toughest times we’ve had is just trying to make a living as an artist, it’s hard any where in the world, but is surprisingly hard here in New Zealand. Unless you work for Weta there isn’t a lot of opportunities down here, so it’s been a hard struggle for us at times, the people making all the creative decisions down here in tv and in other related industries don’t seem to see the value in what we can bring to the table, so it can be really frustrating but we’ve been doing this so long and still having fun, it seems nothing canÂ stifleÂ our passion for making cartoons and getting our own stories out there!
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of? In betweenÂ paying gigs we like to try and work on our own projects, most often they’re shorts skits we’ve come up while joking around the studio. We actually have a cork board covered in post its of gags we’ll hopefully turn into skits or shorts one day.Â We’re also always coming up with ideas for shows that we’re pitching around to local New Zealand studios and over seas.Â As far as hobbies outside of work, they usually involve more drawing and creating. Alex does a lot of paintingÂ and has had artwork in a number of galleries around Â the globe, Tim paintsÂ and makes video games outside ofÂ MukpuddyÂ as well as hording old newspapers and in between being a busy dad, Ryan coaches a group of Fillipino school girls in the fine art of crocheting!
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?Â
“Never give up” Seems to be the best advice we can give, if you have a true passion for animation and making cartoons you’ll go far! Never stop drawing, never stop watching cartoons… the old ones, the new ones and the ugly ones! Pick proper inspirations, don’t just watch ‘Family Guy’ and think that’s how you make cartoons, watch everything by the guys who made this medium what it is today… Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Walt Disney etc..Also try and get an online presence, start a blog, a deviant or facebook page, etc and regularly check the blogs from all the artists working on all the cool shows around the world. Also don’t be scared to leave comments, any artist anywhere in the world is always stoked to get some positive feedback and they might even check out your work and respond!