What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Chance Raspberry. I’m a character layout artist on The Simpsons, and am currently producing my own animated projects.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
In high school, I was hired by two soccer coaches to design their brochure. They paid me $300, so I worked on it during 3rd period art class. My first full-time job was as a customer service phone rep at Washington Mutual Bank (now Chase.)
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
The industry gigs I’ve worked on have been a great honor, and I’m proud to say I was a part of them all. These include The Simpsons TV series (Seasons 18-22), The Simpsons Movie, Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends (Christmas Special – “A Lost Claus”), Rob Zombie’s: The Haunted World of El Super Beasto, and the second Family Guy trading card series.
How did you become interested in animation?
It all started around age 3 or 4 when my parents began renting video tapes of all the old cartoons they used to watch. This is how I was introduced to Fleischer, Disney, Looney Tunes, Tex Avery, Don Bluth, etc. From there, I started trying to draw stills from the cartoons by pausing the tapes. I did the same thing with comics, books, and art I found anywhere else. When The Simpsons Christmas Special aired in 1989 and Matt Groening came out with his story of how he created and sold the show, it was the first time I realized people got PAID to make cartoons. I was only 8 years old, but my mind was made up. I wanted to be an animator!
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in Memphis, TN, but my family and I moved to North Hollywood, CA when I was 2 years old. I’ve lived in the San Fernando Valley ever since. My break into the animation biz came during college when I began interning for Film Roman Studio (Simpsons, King of the Hill, Garfield, etc.) After spending almost 3 months on The Simpsons character layout test (with help from a few top artists on the staff) I was hired as a probationary layout artist for 2 weeks (meaning if my work wasn’t good/fast enough, they could still let me go.) I, and the other 4 artists they brought in, worked 12 to 18-hour days the entire time…and it paid off! We all got hired full-time.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
The studio opens at 9am. We usually get in around 10. From 10am to 1pm, we work on our scenes, get feedback from our directors, and sometimes even watch partial or full shows/movies for reference. Around 1pm we break for lunch, which lasts an hour…sometimes longer. This past season, while I was working on the episode, “A Midsummer’s Nice Dream”, which guest-starred Cheech and Chong, the crew actually spent its lunch break watching the entire film, “Up In Smoke”. After lunch, we work till 7pm or 8pm, usually with a walk or snack break in there somewhere. Then we call it a day.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The best part of my job is getting paid well to do what I love and working with lots of amazing, talented people that challenge me. As a creator, I thrive on the inspiration I am surrounded by and love feeling motivated to reach that next level of quality. The flexible hours, free coffee, donuts, and sodas don’t hurt either!
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
It’s hard to say what I like least about a job as rewarding as this, but one thing that can be challenging is having little to no control over what you draw and how you draw it. Since The Simpsons is a script-based show that relies on the strength of the writing and boards, everything we get has already been mapped out. This saves a ton of time, though, and you get used to it. It also makes me look forward to working on my own projects outside of work. So in the grand scheme, it’s a good thing.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Having to go along with decisions you disagree with is always pretty difficult. Learning to NOT get married to your work really helps. When you’re freelancing, there’s plenty of obstacles to overcome, too, such as not getting paid for long periods of time, dealing with people that want you to work for free, or simply doing business with people that don’t understand the animation process.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
On The Simpsons, I use a Wacom Cintiq tablet and ToonBoom Pencil Check Pro to animate my scenes. Photoshop, Flash, and After Effects are also great tools of choice for me. Of course, there’s no substitute for an actual sheet of Ingram animation paper and a Col-Erase Blue or Tombow 2B pencil!
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
All my professional jobs (and even some of my personal ones) feel like brushes with greatness. I am very lucky and blessed to have had such great opportunities this early in my life. One of the best stories I can tell is this: When I was 11 years old, I went to a comic book signing at Golden Apple Comics in Hollywood on Melrose Ave. Matt Groening, David Silverman, Wes Archer, and others were signing copies of Bart Simpson #1. When my turn came (the line was huge), Matt asked me if I drew. I said yes and he gave me a pencil and a large PostIt pad and asked me to draw him something. I drew him the alien from the movie, Alien and he said I had some real talent. Later when I was 14, Matt returned to Golden Apple for another signing and this time, I brought him a copy of my original comic book, Bearman. Matt was extremely humble and thanked me for letting him keep the book. Within the next 6 months, I received a very encouraging letter from the desk of Matt Groening, including some tips on how I could improve my work and a lot of great advice and kind words. Years later, after being hired to work on The Simpsons series, I ran into Matt at the first Simpsons Premiere party I ever attended, and got to tell him this story in person. As always, he was super cool, shook my hand, and thanked me for making his day. What a great guy!
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I’ve had people try to get out of paying me for work, or say one thing and then do another. Both are always very tricky and frustrating. However, one difficult thing I went through before I got into animation was my transition from high school to college. Now, I look back on that time with the fondest of memories, but back then, my schedule was the exact opposite of everyone I knew. My girlfriend at the time had just started college herself in Thousand Oaks, so I went from seeing her everyday to once a week if I was lucky. On top of that, I had school during the day and worked at night, so all my friends and family were free when I was busy and busy (or sleeping) when I was free. It was pretty lonely, but all that solitude actually paid off because it got me watching a lot of great cinema I had never seen. So movies kept me company (and broadened my horizons as a filmmaker) until I could change my schedules to allow more time with everyone. Needless to say, it all worked out and just goes to show how even the hard times can pan out for the better.
Any side projects you’re working on you’d like to share details of?
Yes, LOTS!!! My big project at the moment is a pilot for a new animated series. My partner and I call it X TALK, and are aiming to pitch in September 2011. I have a few other pitches I’m developing for animated properties, and when I’m not working on these, I produce my own music and design original apparel. All my work is FOR SALE! The following links will take you to these projects. Please check ’em out and let me know what you think. Thanks!
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? The best advice I can give is this: PART I. WHAT YOU KNOW: NEVER quit and NEVER give up!! Hard work always pays off at some point! Just keep moving forward, practicing, and be PATIENT. Take classes to improve your skills — especially LIFE/FIGURE DRAWING. I recommend The Animation Academy in Burbank, CA, LAAFA.com in Los Angeles, CA, or CSUN in Northridge, CA. All 3 have excellent programs and are very reasonably priced. If you can’t afford classes, take a binder or sketchbook to the mall, zoo, coffee shop, or park and just draw what you see. Poeple, animals, trees, landscapes, ANYTHING to keep your pencil moving. Train your hands, eyes, AND mind! Study the FUNDAMENTALS of traditional art and animation — this will make you an overall better artist even if all you want to do is 3D, and you will be less expendable to studios and jobs! Look at other people’s work and try to draw how they draw. This IS NOT cheating!!! Even if you trace, finding and drawing in the center line and structural breakdown of the shapes and forms will help you to improve. It’s all progress! PART II. WHO YOU KNOW: Having the utmost talent is CRUTIAL, but unfortunately, the skills to create well do not always guarantee you a job. In fact, having a friend or connection who already works at a studio is usually your best bet. Just remember: Knowing the right person gets you in the door and having the talent KEEPS you there! The reason for this is that ALL companies tend to hire from within. Think about it — a studio already has hundreds of talented artists that they KNOW are hard-working and can do what they ask. Therefore, if a job opens up, a director or producer usually knows who they are going to hire already cause he or she is right down the hall. And guess what…if NONE of those artists are available to transfer from their current project (or work both), they will usually recommend a friend or relative they can vouch for. Only after all internal options are exhausted do the studios start looking at portfolios. I know it sounds like a bummer, but knowing this is how the industry works can be very helpful. If you know someone (or know someone who knows someone), ASK THEM FOR HELP (and NEVER be afraid or embarrassed to do this!) It’s the BEST way to get better and get what or where you want!! If you don’t know anyone in the business, look online (AnimationNation.com, AWN.com, ASIFA Animation Archive, CartoonBrew.com, etc.) and ask around. Look up the phone numbers and addresses of any and all animation, movie, and/or video game studios. Call their job hotlines or better yet, their reception desks and speak to someone. Ask questions! Tell them your name on the phone (and get theirs), then drive down there and speak to them in person so they can put a face with your name. Craigslist, Facebook, etc. may even have freelance or indie jobs listed so check it out! It’s all worth while in the end!! PART III. HAVE FUN: As soon as we start taking ourselves and our careers too seriously, we stop doing what cartoons are all about — HAVING FUN!! For me, this is Priority #1! Stay hungry and always give 110%, but keep in mind that whether you land that big job or not, whether you stay employed for years or bounce from hiatus to hiatus, whether you feel your skills are adequate or not…life goes on! RELAX, stay loose, and enjoy your craft! Be honest with yourself, but don’t second-guess your talent. DON’T WAIT till you feel you’ve reached your epitome of skill to apply for jobs. I know many wonderful artists who keep putting off their potential careers because they don’t think they are “good enough yet.” Here’s the secret ladies and gents — a true artist ALWAYS feels that way! The day you stop learning, growing, and striving to improve your skills, the day you feel like you’ve gotten as good as you will ever be, is the day you DIE as an artist. Sounds harsh, right? But isn’t it true?? The true artist is always looking for ways to stay inspired, productive, and grow as a creator. And why?? Because it’s FUN, we love doing it, and when we’re not doing it, things just feel OFF!!! All that said, none of this is “gospel” and everyone’s different. Not feeling or living this way doesn’t mean you’re not (or can’t become) an artist. Find a BALANCE that works for YOU. As long as you remember to have a good time whenever possible, life is good!