What is your name and your current occupation?
Tony Merrithew, animator, sculptor, visual development artist.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I delivered liquid oxygen to people with breathing problems. I drove a tractor on a tree farm.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I worked as an animator on the first California raisins commercials as well as the Noid.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
From Portland oregon. Got a job by walking into Will Vinton Claymation studios looking for connections to the make up and special effects business.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Show up at 9:00 am, grab a cup of coffee from the kitchen, turn on my heat lamps on to warm up my clay, sketch out the basic form of what I’m about to sculpt and then begin blocking it out. Fire up the ipod with some rockin tunes and sculpt throughout the day.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like the freedom that I have to interpret the designs with my own style. I can usually take a given design and develop it further into a character that everybody is happy with.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The least interesting part is not having enough work to keep busy. I sculpt pretty fast and I like the designs to keep coming so that I can keep up the momentum.
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?
I guess photoshop and digital painting have helped in my field. We can digitally tweak a photo of my progress and wait for feedback allot quicker than I can re-sculpt the form.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Sometimes it’s hard waiting for the director to make his or her way back to the fabrication area. That can mean down time for the crew.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Was able to work with Will Vinton for many years. Also met Chuck Jones when he came to the studio.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of? I’m always working on a sculpting commission of some kind. Just finished up a bronze sculpture for the owners of the Schick razor company.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Can ride a unicycle, wheelie a motorcycle. I can bench press 275 lbs . Not bad for an older guy that weighs 175 lbs.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? Learn to draw and paint digitally. Try your hand at sculpting and if you can do a real short clip of animation on your own time that would be helpful.