What is your name and your current occupation?
Ashley J. Long, talented weirdo
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I’m lucky that I can report most of my jobs have been kind to me. My very first job was designing rubber stamps. I’ve also been a teaching assistant for an arts program, and a visitor services liaison at an art museum. That last one was probably the worst. Patrons would come up to the desk and complain about the strangest stuff, like how they didn’t care for the architecture of the building, or what type of trees were planted out front. Stuff I had no say in and definitely couldn’t change.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I was with Fox’s American Dad for almost 7yrs and seem to be one of few people who actually LOVED it! I didn’t mind the limited palette of expression, and Roger was always good fun. I had several opportunities to dress him in crazy clothes that I actually own myself –watch for platform boots!
How did you become interested in animation?
I’ve always been drawing, and was interested in cartoons pretty early on. For my 10th birthday, my parents sent me to a Disney Studios camp in Florida where we got to go behind the scenes at the studio and painted a cell. It was that day I decided I wanted to be an animator, even though I didn’t really understand what that meant.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m originally from the midwest, an area of Illinois known as the Quad Cities. We have Riverboat gambling and fried cheese! I moved out to LA in 2005, anxious to get a studio job. I spent months hunting and nobody would take a chance on a kid fresh out of school. Finally, I met a friend of a Fox producer at my ex-boyfriend’s grandparents’ neighbor’s x-mas party, and suddenly I had an interview! It’s true what they say about “who you know”.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Due to the ever-dreaded budget cuts, I’m between full time studio jobs right now. Obviously I spend quite a bit of time trying to find the next gig (calling, emailing, having HR say “uh, who are you?”, calling and emailing someone else, etc.), but when I need to relax, I work on my three dimensional creations. I make masks and costumes, build puppets, and hand sew my own line of plush toys called The Wumplings. I’ve also been doing some freelance illustration work for various clients.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like doing my mask and puppet work because there’s a lot of problem solving involved, and there are no limits. I can build as big or as gaudy as I want! I like to incorporate interactive elements where I can; moving parts, things that light up.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Clearly, being “between jobs” sucks, but even when I’m freelancing what I hate the most is being home all the time. I miss having an office to go to! Few folks would describe me as a people person, but I really do enjoy having a vibe of productivity and comradery around me when I work. My cats are my co-workers right now and they just sleep all the time.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I’ve been using ToonBoom SB Pro and Photoshop for a lot of my illustration freelance, studio tests, and for putting together my web portfolios.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Despite the fact that the “who you know” principle got me my longest running job, I still sort of resent the idea. I was raised in the midwest, where hard work is rewarded and loyalty is valued. The industry doesn’t always operate by such direct principles. A broad social network is as important as technical skill, if not more so, frankly. I’m trying to embrace it, but sometimes it just feels dirty!
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
No animation greatness, but definitely geek greatness! I had the chance to meet Patrick Stewart (PICARD!) when he came in to record for AmDad years ago. He was very nice, and only mildly creeped out when I asked him to autograph a character design of Bullock in a pink bathrobe.
Describe a tough situation you had in life. I didn’t have an easy time in middle/ high school. My small, rural school was no place for people who saw the world differently. I wish the late 90′s had had half the anti-bullying campaigns that are out there today! My best friend and I got everything from the standard taunting and name calling to being hit with hockey sticks in gym class and having our hands superglued to our lockers. Teachers did nothing. My “favorite” memory is of the time a girl stuck gum in my hair, and I went to the home ec room to ask for peanut butter to help get it out. The teacher refused to give me any, and told me “You probably did something to deserve it.” Seriously.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?Yes! On August 14, I’ll be appearing on TLC’s new competition show Craft Wars. I’ll be going against two other artists/ crafters to compete in challenges themed around Halloween –my favorite holiday! I’m really excited to see it air. I’ll be seeing the episode for the first time right along with everyone else.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I grew up with a house full of pets, both exotic and domestic. To name a few of the more unusual: sea horses, ducks, peacocks, sugar gliders, geckos, and an octopus. Yes, I’m for real, and No, I don’t recommend an octopus, no matter what the guy at the pet store tells you. I also volunteer at the La Brea tar Pits, cleaning fossils.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? Unfortunately, there are a lot of schools out there offering animation degrees that are not honest with their students about the realities of the industry. Students are allowed to coast by with mediocre (and sometimes just plain BAD) work, and graduate thinking they’re going to be successful just because they have a degree. If you feel your instructors give lazy critique, seek the opinion of professionals. Research what studios are putting out and be honest with yourself as to whether you’re really producing work at that level. I’m glad I have my BFA in Animation, but I was fully aware that my school just wanted my money. I sought independent studies and internships, which helped push me to a new level. Be proactive, and be ballsy!