What is your name and your current occupation?
Jono Howard, writer and story editor.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Ummm…working in a mall record store?
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I am most proud of working on “Ed, Edd n’ Eddy” with Danny Antonucci and “The Very Good Adventures Of Yam Roll In Happy Kingdom” with Jon Izen.
How did you become interested in animation?
As a writer, my goal was always to write features. Getting work on features is very hard. I found it easier to break in working in animation. It’s easier to get your foot in the door.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I live and work in Vancouver. I got into the animation business through a friend, Jimmy Hayward, who had just co-founded an animation company called Digital Alchemy. I did free work for them. Eventually, Jimmy got hired by Mainframe Entertainment to animate on “Reboot!”. He smuggled me a copy of the show bible and I wrote a spec script. Then, he took the script to one of the Producers who promptly threw it in his office trash can without reading it. Later, Jimmy snuck into the Producer’s office, took the script out of the trash, and gave it to the Story Editor, Lane Raichert. Lane liked it and I got hired for my first job. Thanks, Lane and thanks, Jimmy. Jimmy co-directed “Horton Hears A Who” awhile back…
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Wake up. Drive to downtown office. Write. Drive home in the afternoon. I don’t write much at night anymore. Sometimes.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
There are two things I like in this business: writing for good shows and writing my own stuff. Getting a job on a good show is the best thing ever. A good show has funny designs, characters of depth, and is based on a novel concept. It’s helmed and staffed by knowledgable people who are dedicated to originality, creativity, and envelope-pushing. This is what I look for in a cartoon show! Aside from working on a good show, I like working on my own stuff because I believe it embodies the traits of a good show. At least, that is always my aim.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Most of what I do as a freelance writer is write on shows that I think are crap or…mostly crap. Sad, but true. I write strictly for the paycheck. This is what I like the least. I do the best I can with whatever I am given, but it is often a losing battle. If the people at the top of the ladder don’t understand what it takes to make a good cartoon, it’s not going to happen. The animation business is bursting at the seams with mediocrities. True visionaries are hard to come by.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Mostly, a keyboard. Sometimes a pen and paper. My chosen writing software is Screenwriter, although I have my issues with it.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The most difficult part for me is dealing with certain broadcasters, producers, and production people who don’t understand how to make a proper cartoon. (Yes, it’s time for a rant.) Recently, I have come head to head, on many different projects in the last year or two, with one of the biggest problems facing cartoons today: script length and its result on pacing. Everyone these days is hung up on 11 minute episodes. Fine. Whatever. But, what’s the best script length for an 11 minute ep? IMO…13 pages. Even that might be too long. Why? Because animation is NOT a writers medium. It is an artist’s medium. Figure it out industry people. Storyboard artists need to have wiggle room to add in character bits and gags, which is the stuff people love. When the script clocks in at 20 pages what gets cut? Character and gags, that’s what. All that’s left is story. To make matters worse, it’s usually a 30 minute story getting shoe-horned into 11 minutes. So the show has to be paced at breakneck speed from beginning to end with no pauses or rests. The entire storyboarding process is ruined. And everytime I complain about it, I get the same excuse from executives, “Oh kids these days are used to the fast paced editing because of video games. Kids can follow it. Kids love it! We love a fast paced show!” Bullshit. Don’t let them try to fool you. This is nothing short of negligence towards our children. There are several cartoon shows that my children are not allowed to watch because of the seizure-inducing pacing. Go watch a classic cartoon movie or tv show from thirty years ago (or more) and see how they’re paced. Now watch a modern movie or tv show. Then tell yourself that modern pacing is “better”. It’s sheer negligence on the part of producers and broadcasters. Kids love it…yeah, kids love sugar too, but we don’t feed them sugar all day long, do we?
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’m not interested in fawning over people. There’s lots of undiscovered animation greatness out there. Look for it.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I decided to have children.
Any side projects you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I collect vinyl records and I’m working on a kids eBook app with Global Mechanic.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I have been studying the Immortal Path with a Taoist Master for almost 20 years.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Work hard at crafting your own particular voice and vision. The rest is all perseverance and determination.