What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Pinky and the Brain, Animaniacs, The Zeta Project, some of the Disney TV stuff I worked on. And a couple of unknown projects currently in development ( said with a Mona Lisa smile).
What would you say has been your primary job in animation?
Well… I suppose being a Producer and Director.. though time-wise, I spent more years doing boards and character design/animation.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Lets see.. I had a job darkening contour lines and drilling wells on geological maps with a 6B pencil so they would show up well in microfilm so the oil company could shred the original maps. I had a job doing inventory on white mens’ patent leather shoes in a Houston department store.I was a projectionist at an art film series, which involved doing changeovers in Cinemascope as well as running 3 or 4 other kinds of projectors.
How did you become interested in animation?
Forrest Gump, definitely. In college I studied Latin and Greek, other Ivory Tower type things.. painted on the side and did ceramics. But if I look back far enough there were signs. Like the Math book with the drawings in it that I got in trouble for. Or when I drew naked ladies for the boys i fifth grade. Or when I did a cartoon of The Red Pony whistling Yankee Doodle out of his tracheotomy hole. Got in trouble for all those things. In fact, I like to think I get highly paid for what I used to get in trouble for in school.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
We moved all the time. Went to 5 different elementary schools, 2 different Jr Highs and 2 different high Schools in 5 different states. I was always the new kid, and I used to amuse myself by drawing and reading. Painters were early influences for me.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I once heard an advertising agency argue for an hour whether raisins should have wrinkles. They wanted them appealing, but if they were smooth, they looked like purple potatoes. I’ve heard network execs say some gawdawful stupid things. I’ve heard accountants call artists ʺbodiesʺ… as in ʺwe need to get some of these bodies out of hereʺ.. meaning they needed to be laid off and lose their jobs. I noticed that companies leave artists and writers alone until their work begins to turn a profit, and then they can’t wait to fire artists and writers and hire more lawyers, accountants and network programming dweebs. I find it interesting that people like that think that they can leverage humor, insight, imagination, genius, creativity, talent and other such qualities, any one of which they themselves wouldn’t know if it fell on them.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Meetings with network bigwigs and focus testing!
Working creatively with artists and writers and like-minded souls. Making each other laugh. Pushing the envelope. Remembering we are all ants living on a rock in space and we just aren’t all that cosmically important.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I like an empty page. I want more of them. That’s why I drew in my math book… it was empty, to me. I want to create my own universe and then explode it. Give me a fulcrum big enough and somewhere to stand and I’d probably think of something funny to do with it. So what I didn’t like was stuff that has had all spontaneity and surprise leached out of it. I don’t enjoy fascism in any form.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Finding the right group of people to work with. It’s a collaborative medium, and for that to happen requires a bit of fate and magic, among other things.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Computers.. paper.. pencils. Software: Maya, Photoshop, Adobe stuff like Flash & Dreamweaver. Paper: anything. Pencils: I am getting fond of the new Palomino Blackwings.
Other stuff: a Cintiq and a traditional animation desk.
Notebooks.. always. Don’t leave home without em.
PS… The above are tools. Your brain is the important bit.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I was lucky enough to come into the industry at a time when some of the giants of animation were still around and still working. I have met and or worked for/with several: Grim Natwick, Art Babbit, Richard Williams, Duane Crowther, Amby Paliwoda, John Kricfalusi, Stan Walsh, Fred Helmich, Ray Aragon, Corny Cole, Ken Andersen, Ken Mundie, Brian Froud, Marty Murphy… there are many greats, known and obscure.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Had breast cancer twice. Had a bone marrow transplant the first time in 1995. Many people I worked with at Warner Bros. and Disney drove the 30 or so miles out to City of Hope to see me in the hospital, to give blood or platelets. Animation people are in general wonderful… I think of it as a large dysfunctional family. I gave my first Emmy to my doctor at the City of Hope, in memory of my dad who had just died, and in honor of the doctors there, who for some reason don’t receive statues for saving peoples’ lives.
Any side projects you’re working on you’d like to share details of?
I have a couple of animation projects currently under wraps. I also have been seriously painting for quite awhile and have had paintings shown at the Telfair Museum in Savannah, GA as well as in shows in Portland, OR and Fort Wayne, IN. I am also of late writing music and songs.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Keep a sketchbook.
Don’t be intimidated by talent.. but respect it.
Don’t be precious about your work, it most likely isn’t as good as you think.
Try to learn from the greats.
Keep a list of goals in a box and forget it’s there. Look at it after a year and see if you’ve gotten any closer.
Read real books. Educate yourself… schools ain’t gonna do it for you.
Look up words you don’t know in the dictionary.
Don’t use text writing when you write (“u” for “you”, etc.) I don’t care how many people do it, it still makes you look like a moron.
Be informed about the world. Remember that being an artist doesn’t mean you escape from the world but that you have a responsibility to help the world realize itself.
Care about something enough to die for it.
Never give up your ideals.
Oh. And be frugal and save.
This was a great interview !
Liz, I enjoyed reading your interview! You are not only skilled and talented, you are eloquent! I had no idea you were going through those physical challenges back then.
Thank you for sharing!
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