What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Rob Boutilier, and in a previous life I was creator and co-director of ‘Kid vs Kat’ on Disny XD… I currently spend my time watching episodes of ‘The View’ while doing freelance storyboard work.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I washed dishes in a lobster restaurant back in Nova Scotia. A co-worker used to drink copious amounts of wine from the walk-in cooler, and nobody knew how drunk he was until he pulled a scalding hot casserole from the oven with his bare hands.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’m proudest of ‘Kid vs Kat’, as it was an incredible experience to direct something of my own creation, even if I wish I could go back and do some things differently. I probably had the most fun storyboarding on ‘Pucca’, directing on ‘Aaagh! It’s the Mr. Hell Show’, and I learned a lot by continually screwing up on ‘Ed, Edd n Eddy’.
How did you become interested in animation?
When I was young, all I wanted to be was the next Charles Schulz. I wanted to have a daily comic published in newspapers around the world and never even thought of entering animation until I was in college. I knew I wanted to draw for a living and at the time I thought animation would be an interesting thing to do for a few years… 15 years later I’m glad I made the choice that I did.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Boutilier’s Point, Nova Scotia, and moved to Vancouver, British Columbia to study animation at Vancouver Film School. I was fortunate to be hired as an animator directly out of school, but at an unfortunate time as animation work in Vancouver was hitting a bad slump. I switched to storyboarding and started on ‘Ed, Edd n Eddy’ soon afterward.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Now that I’m doing freelance storyboard work, my day is a lot more relaxed than when I was directing. A typical day involves me getting to my desk around 8 am and drawing until my wife comes home around 5pm. If I feel I haven’t drawn enough panels in that time, I’ll put in a few more hours later in the evening. My schedule will vary, depending on whether I’m ahead or behind.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I’m able to work at home, which means I can literally roll out of bed and go to work, pants or no pants.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
If it’s a long contract, the lack of social interaction while working at home can really get to you – and I’ve discovered that the Oprah Winfrey Network is a poor substitute for it.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The politics of the business and the accompanying egos, on both the studio and broadcaster sides of it. I won’t go into any more details than that.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I made the switch to digital storyboarding in the last couple of years, so I use a cintiq 12WX for that. It’s small enough to fit on top of my traditional animation disc, so I can still at my desk and pretend I haven’t embraced technology. I’ve been primarily using Sketchbook, but I’d like to take Storyboard Pro out for a test drive soon. I also enjoy slopping digital paint around in Art Rage when I can.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I guess everybody would have a different opinion on who an animation great would be, but for me it would include Marv Newland, of ‘Bambi meets Godzilla’ fame. His films take full advantage of animation as a medium, with a style unmistakably his own. Have you seen his last film, ‘POSTALOLIO’? All of the drawings were hand painted onto postcards, so that every frame of animation went through the international post before it was shot on film. Such a great idea! I’ve been fortunate enough to bump into Marv at various stages of my career, and every encounter leaves me wanting to do more creatively.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
This is more of a tough career situation: during the second season of ‘Ed Edd n Eddy’ I had reached a point where I was second-guessing everything, and I literally came to a standstill with the realization that I no longer enjoyed drawing. I didn’t know what to do except take some time off from the series to regroup. I ended up finishing the second season, but it wasn’t long into the third that I came to the sad conclusion that it wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy drawing – it was that I didn’t enjoy drawing those characters. Not the most positive time when I look back on it, but I can’t deny that I learned a lot more about animation and storyboarding on that series than I ever did at school.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I’m working on a couple of series pitches with KvK season two story-editor, Dale Schott, and I have another on my own. Only time will tell if anything becomes of them, but I’m debating turning one of them into a web comic.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Both my thumbs are double jointed (discovered when an older brother tried to bend them back to torture me), and I can move my right arm so it looks like it’s bent backward at the elbow. Both talents are good distractions at a boring production meeting.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Speaking as someone working in television, I think it’s important that artists educate themselves about the business side of animation. Not to be too cynical about it, but for as much as broadcasters and studios need artists for the content that makes them money, not a lot of things are built in the artist’s favor. I’ve seen a lot of fresh-faced students become discouraged by the average production schedule that’s more concerned about quantity than quality. The more you educate yourself about the business side of animation, the better you’ll be able to navigate through it, protect yourself from it, and also make things work in your favor. And THAT is why I’m not a motivational speaker.