What is your name and your current occupation?
Jono Howard, writer, story editor, and co-creator.
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.
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 quality shows and writing my own stuff. Getting a job on a quality 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 knowledgeable people who are dedicated to originality, creativity, love of the medium, and envelope-pushing. This is what I look for in a cartoon show! Aside from working on a quality cartoon 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?
Truthfully, much of what I do as a freelance writer is write on shows that I think are mediocre… they’re not good, they’re not bad, they just exist. Sad, but true. On such shows, I end up writing strictly for the paycheck. This is what I like the least. I always do the best I can with whatever I am given, but it is often a losing battle. If the key creatives involved don’t have a thorough understanding of what it takes to make a good cartoon and the will and dedication to do it, it’s not going to happen. Much of the time, the animation channels are filled with such mediocre offerings. Truly visionary shows are hard to come by. It can be frustrating from an artistic perspective.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
Mostly, a keyboard. Sometimes a pen and paper. My chosen writing software is Final Draft, although I have used Screenwriter too. As a writer, it’s less about the technology and more about personal inspiration.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The most difficult part for me is creative differences and the arguments that can happen dealing with how to make a proper cartoon. 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 using 11 minute episodes as standard length. But, what’s the best script length for an 11 minute ep? IMO… 13 to 15 pages. Even that can be too long. Why? Because animation is NOT a writers medium. It is an artist’s medium. Cartoon magic happens in the storyboard. Storyboard artists need to have wiggle room to add in character bits and gags, which is the stuff people love. When an 11 minute 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 often 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. I have raised this issue in meetings and often heard the same excuse: “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!” I disagree. It’s like negligence towards 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 the past and see how they’re paced. Now watch a modern movie or TV show. Then tell yourself that modern pacing is “better”.
If you could change the way the business works and is run how would you do it?
I would dissolve the atmosphere of power and control that exists in the boardrooms of industry. It engenders only fear. People don’t dare to give a true opinion and creativity is lost. But, most of all, I would eliminate industry gossip and backtalk. It doesn’t do either party any good. I will eliminate it in myself. Will you do the same?
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 and talent out there. Look for it.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I decided to have children. (parent joke)
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I collect vinyl records and I’m working on a kids book and eBook app with Global Mechanic called “A Sweet Story”.
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. One of the things we do is work on our personal virtue. Whenever we see an opportunity to improve ourself – we do it.
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.