What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I haven’t had too many craaaazy jobs….my first job ever was working in a coffee shop bistro in my home town of Victoria, BC for 3 years. It was there that I saved up the money to go to animation school with. The summer of first year college I worked at a Dog kennel cleaning up dog s*** mostly, and the summer after did renovation work flipping houses. Between 3rd and 4th year though I got to co-direct a music video for a Canadian band called Elliott Brood which was a lot of fun. It turned out OK considering we had about a month and a half to do it in.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Every project I’ve worked on has a special little place in my heart for different reasons. George of the Jungle was the very first show I worked on, and it taught me soooo much not just about animation in flash, but animation in general. Pucca season 2 was really cute and action packed so that was always pretty crazy fun. Seeing how popular My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic got as soon as it started airing was a special treat. We were still working on the episodes as they were coming out, so it was amazing to see how many fans there were and how crazy (in a good way) they were for it. I’ve never worked on anything that popular before. I’ve gotten a couple of marriage proposals from some of the fans who have found my youtube channel so that was a new experience being a bit of a celebrity of sorts. “Roy” a show we animated for Ireland was loads of fun and got me interested in possibly working abroad…which I am currently doing so it was cool that THAT project inspired me to travel and see new places. I never expected that I would get to work on a feature film doing flash animation…but was able to on the Top Cat movie. It was a pretty cool feeling going to the cinema to watch it when it finally came out.
I always liked drawing, but I remember discovering the X-Men Animated series on TV one Saturday morning and becoming really obsessed with it. When I found out it was a comic book I started buying every X-Men title there was and started trying to learn how to draw super heroes from them. My friend and I started making our own X-Men comics (he would write them and I would draw the panels) but I was frustrated at only being able to have still drawings when I really just wanted to see them animated like a cartoon. I also used to play a lot of Street Fighter on my old Super Nintendo and would pause and unpause and pause the special moves so I could watch them frame by frame. Sometimes they would be so fast, but I wanted to see all the drawings to see how they moved. I did the same when Sailor Moon came out in North America…I was obsessed with the magical sparkly transformation sequences and wanted to animate one myself one day. When I found out there were actual schools in Canada that taught you how to animate I was sold…
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born and raised in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I did a month long summer animation course at VanArts in Vancouver to see if Animation was something I had a knack for. After taking the course I knew I wanted to be an animator, so I worked full time for another year to save up money and build a portfolio, and managed to get into Sheridan College in Oakville Ontario in 2003. I got my Bachelors Degree in Animation from there and was hired straight out of school by Studio B (now DHX Media Vancouver) in Vancouver in 2007. I worked for 4 years in Vancouver and just spent the last year in Ireland working for Cartoon Saloon, Monster Entertainment and Jam Media, and now I’m in London England trying to break into the animation scene here, but am doing some freelance in the meantime to pay the rent.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I always start with a delicious cup of coffee and before I open up flash. Then I make a little game plan of what all needs to be accomplished that day…usually I see how many scenes or seconds of animation I need to get through in the week, and I’ll divide that by how many days I have to do it in. When I see that it’s probably impossible to get it all done…I take a nice big sip of that coffee and start with an easy scene to boost my confidence and self esteem. It’s a bad strategy though because then I end up with all my hard scenes at the end of the week…but there’s nothing like animating under pressure to show you what you’re made of. Sometimes the scenes turn out good because I don’t have time to over think them or waste time on facebook…..other times they do look a bit rushed….>_<
I like knowing that I started with something that wasn’t moving, and that I transformed it into a character that’s talking and feeling and moving in a genuine, believable way. I like the idea of being able to create something from nothing and get to be creative on a daily basis.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The deadlines…….there is often way too much work to be done in way too little time. I don’t like having to sacrifice weekends or evenings to get everything done when I should be out enjoying a social life as well. I always want to hand in the best possible quality work I can, but sometimes because things need to be done quickly (especially in TV animation) you have to just start firing out scenes as fast as you can. I’m never proud of anything that I feel too rushed on so I always end up feeling like it’s mechanical animation rather than actual acting.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Flash mostly, but I’ve worked in Toon Boom/ Harmony and TV Paint as well. A lot of times I need to jump into Photoshop, After Effects and Premier Pro as well.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Working contract to contract can get pretty stressful at times. You really need to be on the ball about lining up your next job when you’re wrapping up on a previous one. It can get scary if you have to survive being unemployed and have student loan bills to pay, rent, groceries, etc. When you do have steady work though, it can be hard to balance work time, and free time. Getting enough of each is essential for keeping sane. I hate not having enough time for hobbies as well.
When I did the month long Summer Animation course at Van Arts, our guest animation teacher was Ken Southwarth. Ken was assistant animator to Milt Kahl on Alice in Wonderland but I was more impressed when he mentioned he animated Battle Cat running towards camera and jumping over it….a shot that was reused quite a lot in the old He Man cartoon. I loved He Man and She Ra so for me, meeting someone who worked on it was a real treat.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I remember one job where I had to work so hard that I only slept for 4 hours a night for 5 days in a row, and on the 6th night pulled an all nighter just to have everything handed in on time. I hallucinated in my seat at work on the seventh day since I was working an 8 hour shift at the studio…I thought I was typing to someone on MSN but my eyes were closed. When I opened them I realized I was in Flash and not talking to anyone on MSN…so I thought I was losing my marbles for sure. Since two of those days of 4 hours sleep a night was a weekend, I missed out on a family reunion where I had cousins I hadn’t seen for 15 years. I was really bummed out I had missed them because I was working…and in the end the animation I was churning out wasn’t very good and none of it was worth adding to my showreel……….so it felt like a bit of a wasted effort all around. I vowed after that I would never let my work and private life get that out of balance ever again.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Besides the freelance I’m doing currently to pay the bills, I’m working on a video for a fashion designer here in London as part of a kickstarter-esque campaign she’s come up with. It’s something I’m a bit nervous about since it’s the first time since my student graduation film back in 2007 that I’m doing an entire project on my own, from storyboarding to designs to animation etc. It’s also for the fashion industry which needs to be more fashion oriented rather than TV series cartoon style. Hopefully it turns out well enough to help the designer reach her goal. I’ll post links to it when it’s done, but until then I can’t reveal any details. I’ve also just had an idea for a new film which will be in the same world as my graduate film from school A Peach for the Teach. Hopefully I can find some free time to start thumb nailing it out, but I don’t think I’ll have free time for a little while still.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I have a pretty weird hobby of dressing up my friend’s pug in silly hats I make for him. I’ve created a facebook page all about it too where I can upload all the photos. Maybe I’ll try to use my new “in” with the fashion biz here in London to help me start up a dog clothing line……you never know!
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Don’t be shy but don’t be too pushy and “in your face”. Find the balance of being that cool funny person everyone wants to hire and keep around. You can be a great artist, but if your personality sucks, then no one will wanna work with you. And if you’re too shy, no one will remember you. Don’t work for free……..seriously……