What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Well, this is my first full time job, actually. During high school and part of college I worked at Del Taco. While in college I also worked at Disneyland as a night shift custodian for a short time.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Well, the main one is with my current job. We made and still maintain a children’s website. It has educational games and lots of fun stuff for young kids to do. I do a lot of animation for the games and for the interface. I also designed and drew a lot of the characters in the games and the different collectibles and prizes you can get on the site.
How did you become interested in animation?
For as long as I can remember I have loved to draw. Ever since I was a kid I have said that I wanted to be an artist when I grow up. I took lots of drawing and art classes in school. When I got to college, I originally thought I may become an illustrator of some sort, or maybe a comic book artist. But then I saw that at the school I was planning on attending, Cal State Fullerton, they had an animation program. This sounded extremely exciting to me, because I have always been a big fan of cartoons and video games. So I went for it, and I never regretted it. Animation was absolutely the best way for me to go.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I have lived in and around Fullerton California my whole life. After graduating Cal State Fullerton I set out to find a job in the animation field, and I found it very difficult. I took a few freelance gigs, but had a tough time finding full time work. About 9 months after I graduated, I got an email from a professor from Cal State Fullerton saying that a former student of his was looking for artists and animators proficient with Flash. I applied to that job and got an interview almost immediately, and they asked me in for an interview the next week, and the day after that I was working there.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Well, I now live in Yorba Linda, but my job is in Glendale, so I have a pretty long drive to get to work. Fortunately I have a Flash artist buddy (Art Munoz, a fellow CSUF alum) that lives nearby, and we carpool. So I get up at 6:15 AM, leave at 7, get there at about 8:30, check my email, then get started on whatever project I left off on the day before. Some days I’ll be animating a character for a game, or I’ll be making a vector version of somebody else’s drawing, or I’ll be animating dialogue, or I’ll be designing a character or a splash screen for a new game. Often I will work with another artist who will do backgrounds for me or make other assets, and often I will work closely with a programmer so that I know how to set up the game and what my limitations are. My carpool buddy and I leave at 5:30 and get home at about 7.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like when I am given a game concept that has a lot of challenge to it in terms of design and animation, and told to do most of it myself. I like that I get a fair amount of freedom to do something creative, and to spend the time to make something that looks good. I get to work with a lot of other very talented artists. The grand majority of what I learned about animation actually came from doing it at this job. I knew the basics when I was hired, but nothing beats lots and lots of practice.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The main drag is the commute. It is inevitable, since most of the Flash animation jobs around here are in LA. I still can’t move up there for several reasons, but I hope to some day soon. Also, sometimes I have to do some jobs that aren’t as fun, like cropping a bunch of images, or putting borders and a few hundred little images. But those aren’t too often.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Right now, just the commute.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Well, I use a pretty decent computer at work, not super fast but plenty fast for my needs. I use Adobe Flash, Illustrator, and Photoshop. When I first started there we were using Wacom tablets, but about a year in they bought a bunch of Cyntiqs, so now I use one of those. I can’t imagine not using a Cyntiq for animation at this point. Being able to draw right on the screen is very helpful.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Absolutely. I worked with Tom Bancroft and Rob Corley, two great former Disney artists. They have both given me extremely valuable direction with my work there as our art directors. I feel I am a much better artist and animator just by having them give me advice on the projects I work on.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Well, as I mentioned earlier, it was pretty tough for me to break into the animation business. I am not a super outgoing person, so I hadn’t made a lot of connections before graduating. It was seeming pretty hopeless for a while and I was starting to lose hope of ever getting a full time animation job. I kept at it though, and after sending hundreds of resumes and demo reels, taking low paying freelance jobs, and making a personal website to show off my stuff, I still got hardly any interviews. Finally when I got that email from a former professor though, I had all the things I needed to send to his former student, and I was hired right away.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
Well, I still like cartoons, video games, and comic books, but I don’t have as much time for them any more. Most of my time outside work is dedicated to my wife and two young boys.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I have complete control over the mobility of my eyebrows. I can make them do the wave, dance around, or whatever.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Don’t give up. It is harder for some people, but if you have the drive and you’re pretty good, there is a job out there for you that you will enjoy.