What is your name and your current occupation?
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
landscaping, busboy at Nordstrom Cafe, painting signs and numbers on parking garages.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Final Flight of the Osiris, Kung Fu Panda 1 and 2,.
How did you become interested in animation?
When I was little my dad gave me a Super8 camera and got me started making claymation movies. It was so cool because you could create whole worlds that didn’t exist in reality. Needless to say, I had a lot of room for improvement back then and still do today. I think that’s what keeps me going. I’ve loved the adventure of it since I snapped that first frame.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I grew up in California, in the Bay Area, Santa Cruz mountains on the edge of Silicon Valley. Since the early filmmaking days I knew what I wanted to do and just tried to navigate there as best I could, trying to pick jobs that would gain me experience, until I was finally in the right place at the right time and got hired to work on my first real animated feature, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Grab breakfast if I can, check email, 9:30 dailies, meetings, meetings and more meetings, review shots from my team members and animate my own shots during the time between. Every day is truly different and exciting and it’s great to contribute to these movies you really believe in and are seen by audiences worldwide. I can’t imagine any other job being as fun- I genuinely look forward to going to work each day.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Right now it’s contributing in a bigger way to the movie as a whole, working closely with the director. It’s a real privilege and the latest challenge for me, giving good notes on character, acting, animation (and sparing people my stupid ones) at a major animation studio where I’m surrounded by my heroes. I’ve held leadership roles in the past but never quite like this.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
My commute. Traffic in LA is the worst.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Proprietary technology and 12 core HP linux workstations at the studio. At home I work in Maya 2012.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The business is in Los Angeles, which is not a place I’d live by choice. I think over the past decade Hollywood has grown on me though.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’m fortunate to be surrounded by many great talents, Jeffrey Katzenberg of course, James Baxter, Rodolphe Guenoden, Dan Wagner, Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois, Steven Spielberg, Guillermo Del Toro, Jerry Seinfeld, it’s a great privilege to work where I do.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Since the release of Star Wars I’d wanted to work at ILM, and after college I had what I thought was a good interview there, where they told me in they liked my portfolio and would get back to me. It went weeks with no call, so eventually I called the recruiter and she said I was at the top of a “hot list” to fill the next vacant position. When I asked how long I would have to wait they said could be 6 weeks or 6 months. “Or 6 years” is what I thought to myself. It was clear this was their way of letting me down easy. But I’m glad in hindsight that everything happened the way it did because I got a diverse education in lighting, modeling, rigging, painting, story, design, animation from the other places I worked, something I might not have had if I’d entered the industry at a big company where things are much more specialized.
Any side projects or you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I’m working on a wonderful side project of 15 years that’s gathered some real steam lately. I’m very proud of it. Many great artists have contributed to it thus far.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
For me it’s hockey. Another thing I’ve loved and played since childhood. Come to think of it I don’t think I’ve changed all that much since I was 8. Maybe just a little taller.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Be patient. Don’t get put off by the nay-sayers. Just keep plugging ahead, getting better, being critical of your own work. If you are passionate, making progress, getting yourself out there, your time will come because you will accept nothing less. If your work doesn’t look like the animation you love and are inspired by, then figure out why and attack it with a vengence. Leave your ego out of it. Don’t be too excited or depressed about the work you’ve done. Keep your focus on the craft. Make the next scene better, by a LOT, and absorb as much animation information as you can and find ways to apply that to what you do. We can’t all be James Baxters, but we can certainly bring a unique perspective to the table, something nobody’s seen before, and you and only you are the one who can bring it. So when you do, make it the best it can be.