What is your name and your current occupation?
Todd Myers (L. Todd Myers on IMDB) Just completed work designing characters for a special, animated Christmas episode of Eureka on SyFy for Curious Pictures. I’m currently designing characters for two other projects at Curious.
Not counting working with Bill Cosby on the Captain Kangaroo Show (that was eye opening and crazy), I’d say I’ve had the usual. As a kid during the mid-70’s I worked for Jim Kovacs who wasone of the first nationally known comic book dealers. He was the guy who cornered the market on Howard the Duck #1. Everyone remembers that, right? I later worked in a record shop after being turned down by Burger Chef. Burger Chef! Burger Chef wouldn’t have me.
Starting a studio with Gav Gnatovich and producing 3 pilots for Cartoon Network in (of all places) Cleveland, OH. Working with “Mr.” Tom Warburton for 5 seasons of Codename: Kids Next Door. Contributing to the development of Dragons vs Robots. Doing boards on Venture Bros. And even though it was canceled after just 10 episodes (BTW, that’s a record), being assistant director and working with Christy Karacas on Robotomy was a gas. Christy will probably tell you otherwise.
How did you become interested in animation?
I’ve always been more interested in comic strips than animation. Growing up, I wanted to do a strip. I liked the idea of one guy sitting in a room (unless he’s Al Capp or Jim Davis) and touching millions on a daily basis. I loved Charles Schultz, Milton Caniff, E. C. Segar, and George Herriman. I enjoyed seeing the movement in my head more than having it presented to me. I couldn’t stop studying lines and inking techniques. I’m still like that.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Canton, Ohio. Hank Williams died in the back of a Cadillac trying to get to Canton in the middle of a snow storm — I was simply born there. I’m still trying to determine what the cosmic irony is with that. After the Bill Cosby thing, I moved to Minneapolis to try to get a job with an ad agency but was introduced to a commercial animation studio by a cartoonist I’d found in the Yellow Pages. They put me to work doing cereal commercials. I got the gig because I could ink thick to thin lines on cel with an Osmiroid fountain pen. Today, I’d have to figure out another way to get my foot in the door.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
A typical day is long. When Gav and I had the studio in Cleveland, my days were usually 7am – 7pm. Plus weekends. Gav was usually in there by 4:30am.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Animation is a tangled strand of problems that need to be sorted and solved — solving those problems in a creative way and with a solid team can be… amusing. It’s a different road every time. Also, being around the talent in a studio on a daily basis is mind-boggling. It’s also incredibly humbling. My favorite part of working on Robotomy was overseeing the sound mixes and designing the sound effects. Sound makes animation a cartoon. I love working in recording studios.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Shrinking budgets for obvious reasons. Also, the perception by some that “drawing is easy” really annoys me. I’m not one of those guys who takes his sketchbook on the train and draws for fun because, honestly, drawing is one of the most painful things I’ve ever done. It’s an emotional thing. Drawing has never been easy for me.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The networking. At my core I’m a loner in a very team oriented business that requires constant — yet subtle — visibility and self-promotion. I’ve had to get over my shyness because one cannot rely solely on their work speaking for them. I used to think that was all it took. Being well-liked and playing nice is almost as important as doing great work because people often forget (or don’t care) what you’ve accomplished professionally — but they do remember you.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I have a Cintiq at home, so… Photoshop, Flash… sometimes Sketchbook Pro. I do miss paper, cels, and staring into an animation disk. Shooting 35mm film was truly working without a net.
Below is a link to some of my early commercial animation. Reminds me of 4th grade school pictures. In fact, I think I was in forth grade when I did this stuff. The History of Safety was the first thing I attempted start to finish.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Joey Molland from Badfinger used to hang out in the studio when I was in Minneapolis. He was pretty cool. Met Chuck Jones. Gav and I were thanked in the credits of Pete Docter’s student film. I’ve always wondered if that could get me in the door at Pixar. I remember picking Pete up at his parents’ house on weekends so that he could help me paint cels during numerous deadline crunches. Pete was great. I found a wallet stuffed with several thousand in cash in the parking lot of Paisley Park right after a meeting for a Prince video. The wallet was literally in the middle of the lot — you couldn’t miss it. It looked like a Dagwood sandwich. I assumed it was a test and Prince was watching me on a monitor from some faraway purple little room. I returned the wallet to the front desk and they didn’t even thank me. They acted disappointed. Actually, no, they acted like jerks. I should have scooped that thing up from the asphalt and run like hell.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Compared to most, I’ve been very lucky and very blessed. Sometimes I have to remind myself, but I’ve learned something from all the bumps in the road (see Prince story above).
I’m working on two screenplays that have absolutely nothing to do with animation, super-heroes, or science fiction. I hear it’s the new wave.
I played guitar in a couple of hillbilly-swing bands when I was in Cleveland (I’m 50% hillbilly on my mother’s side). I quit because one of the Cartoon Network pilots became too heavy to schedule around. My decision probably had more to do with my terrible stage fright, but I have to say… I loved wearing the cowboy outfit.
There are so fewer animation studios now than when I entered the business — it’s not easy. The mid-west used to be full of thriving commercial studios — not so much now. Be prepared to move to LA or NYC. I’ve seen internships work. Talent gets you so far, but it really boils down to hard work and people skills. Check your ego. If you get an internship, figure out a way to make yourself invaluable to the studio. Make it tough for them to say goodbye to you at the end of your run. Be ready to sit, focus, and work for 10+ hours straight. That’s difficult to do every day for weeks at a time.