What is your name and current occupation?
Bradley C. Rader, Emmy© Award winning animation director, animation storyboard artist, character designer, comic book artist, gay erotic cartoonist.
What are some of the craziest job’s you had before getting in to animation?
I worked as a maid at the Hilton Hotel, in downtown Anchorage, Alaska for 2 summers in a row (1980, 1981), summer being tourist season in Alaska. It was my favorite non-artistic job. I was on the move all day, so I was in the best shape I’d been since High School. I was required to clean 17 rooms a day (plus “spring cleaning” a couple rooms a week), and I got it down to a science. I made it a form of moving meditation, domestic Tai Chi, executing my repetitive tasks with the fewest, most economical movements.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
TODD McFARLANE’S SPAWN.
I directed the final episode of the final season (season 3), for which I won a Primetime Emmy©. The producer, Frank Paur, nominated the entire third season in the “Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming More Than One Hour)” category, so all 6 directors, including myself, were awarded an Emmy©.
THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS (season 1), ALF (season 1), ALFTAILS (season 1), BATMAN (season 1), STRIPPERELLA.
The through-line for all of these series is the director, Kevin Altieri. We were so “on the same page” that he was able to give me minimal direction and set me loose. I was able to delude myself that I was the director, even though I was a mere storyboard artist. These projects were more pleasure than work. I was the American Myazaki in my own mind.
CAPTAIN SIMIAN AND THE SPACE MONKEYS, ROSWELL CONSPIRACIES: ALIENS MYTHS AND LEGENDS.
I directed these series for Joe Pearson’s Epoch Ink Studios. Working at Epoch Ink was almost like being part of a family.
Joe gave me my first shot at directing on Captain Simian based on our long friendship and work relationship (going back to the mid-80’s), starting with “THE LITTLES”. I think the series came out pretty well, considering the low budgets.
On Roswell we had almost complete freedom, getting no notes whatsoever from the network, BKN (Bhobot Kids Network).
A well written, well drawn, well animated series. It was ground breaking as well; as far as I know, it was the first American animated series to proceed in chapter form, necessitating being watched in order to gain a full appreciation of the over-arching storyline.
THE BATMAN ADVENTURES
This was my first comic book illustrating assignment. I loved illustrating in the Bruce Timm style; it influenced me greatly. That influence has lasted to this day, being superceded only when I started storyboarding on KING OF THE HILL
KING OF THE HILL
I tried watching an episode of this animated series in the late 90’s and simply didn’t get it. I thought it was ugly and I didn’t get the characters and situation at all. It wasn’t until I started working on it with Season 11 (2006), and had to watch several episodes in a short period of time, that I drank the KOTH Cool Aid. The graphic style had a profound influence on me, or, to be more accurate, I fell into something that fit me like an old shoe, sort of like when I worked in the Bruce Timm style on Batman. For all its surface ugliness it has been the most realistic series I’ve ever worked on, once one gets past the stylistic choice to make the character’s heads too large and the legs too short. It is probably one of the best-written series I’ve worked on.
This is one of the other best-written animated series I’ve worked on, really funny, full of heart. I really like the character designs as well. The downside (as with KOTH, as well) is that the series is totally writer-driven. The board artists and design team have very little creative autonomy. In fact, these series tend to be ego-less experiences: the better job I do, the less I can tell it’s my work when I look at it later.
I got the chance to pencil and ink this mini-series for Dark Horse Comics. I developed a Will Elder-esque inking style I’m quite proud of. I poured my heart and soul into this work; it was the absolute best I could do, no excuses, no apologies.
I took over from Darwyn Cooke on the Ed Brubaker helmed re-launch of the character back in 2001. Illustrating Ed’s scripts was a joy; in my opinion, he’s one of the top ten all time great comic book writers.
FLAMING ARTIST PRESS
I started this IIC in 2003; After my stint on Catwoman ended, I found it difficult to get more comic book work. I decided to publish myself. I started with the material from my homo-erotic sketchbooks. These say print in “True Adult Fantasy” #1. While putting that volume together, I ran across a 6 page comic book story fragment I had done in my late teens that surprised me for how good it was, and included it in that volume. That fragment inspired me to continue the story 20+ years later. This resulted in the serial, “Harry & Dickless Tom”, two more chapters of which appeared in “True Adult Fantasy” #2. I later finished out the entire story and published it as a graphic novel. “H&TD” is the story of two heterosexual truck driver partners, one of which, Tom, is “punished” by the Vagina Goddess after an evening of Gay Bashing by waking up the next morning with female sexual parts.
How did you become interested in animation?
For my tenth birthday, my parents gave me “The Art of Disney Animation”, by Bob Thomas. This book deeply influenced me. In the final chapter, the author decried the younger generation of animators not having the chops of the Nine Old Men (or however many there were). I resolved to prove the author wrong.
However, I was unable to draw the same thing twice let alone 24 times per second. I took a detour into reading and drawing comic books as a way developing my skills. I fell in love with THAT medium, losing interest in animation altogether (the 70’s to early 80’s being a particularly fallow time period for American animation, both in TV and features).
I fell into animation work as a money gig until I could break into comics and have found myself doing it fairly consistently ever since.
Where are you from and how did you get into the biz?
My parents moved to Anchorage, Alaska when I was 3 years old. I moved to Pasadena, California in 1979 to attend Art Center College of Design. (I chose this school because my 7th grade art teacher, Ramona Fridley, said it was the finest art college in the United States.) Upon graduation, I was unable, for a number of circumstances, to pursue my dream of moving to New York and breaking into comics. Instead, I used my Art Center connections to get a job interview with John Dorman, action-adventure director at Ruby-Spears. He hired me on the spot on the strength of my portfolio, even though I had no experience or even training in storyboarding or film grammar. He threw me in on the deep end; I learned everything I know on the job. After slightly less than 2 months he fired me. However, I had gained enough experience by that time to get free-lance work with Kay Wright at Hanna-Barbera.
What is a typical day like on my job?
For the past 2 1/2 years, I’ve been on staff at Bento Box Entertainment, storyboarding on “Neighbors From Hell”, “Bob’s Burgers” and “Allen Gregory”.’
I work an 8 hour day most days. I work exclusively in the Storyboard Pro program these days. My commute is only 15 minutes, for which I feel blessed. The studio demonstrates loyalty to their employees, moving us from project to project, instead of making us test once we’ve already been hired, for example. I feel blessed.
What aspect of my job do I like best? Why?
The fact that I can usually do it in an 8 hour day and leave work at work, giving me time and energy to work on my own projects.
What part of my job do I like least? Why?
That I have to tell other people’s stories, using their styles, instead of telling my stories, using my style. While I’m grateful for the work (and the pay), I’m sad; I feel as though I were Alfred Hitchcock directing toy commercials or John Coltrane playing advertising jingles.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Keeping current with technological and social networking innovations. With the former, most jobs these days require prior knowledge of specific programs. For example, I had difficulty learning Storyboard Pro until I was hired on projects that required me to use the program, but gave me a chance to learn as I worked. (Neighbors From Hell, Scooby Doo).
With the former, one can spend all one’s time on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc and not get any creative work done.
What technology do you use on a daily basis?
Storyboard Pro, Photoshop, Microsoft Word (for Mac), Excel.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with Animation Greatness?
Having won an Emmy©, I consider myself to be an Animation Great.
I was an occasional phone-friend/ pen pal with Alex Toth until we had our requisite falling out. I worked with John Krisfalusi on the first season of Mighty Mouse and Bruce Timm on the first season of Batman.
However, I’ve worked with many other greats who haven’t had the fame breaks of the 3 listed above. In no particular order…
Jim Woodring, Thom Enriquez, Jack Kirby,
Chuck Connor, John Dorman, Doug Wildey,
Jesse Santos, Vicki Jensen, Vince Edwards,
Dave Clystik, Eddy Fitzgerald, Carol Police,
Lou Police, Paul Feiss, Kevin Altieri,
Kathy Altieri, Dan Riba, Brian Chin,
Antony Chun, Peter Chung, Armando Gil,
Tony Salmons, Jim Janes, Dave Simons,
Ted Blackman, Joe Pearson, Ronnie Del Carmen,
Butch Lukic, Gaby Payne, Steve Gordon,
Will Meuginot, Dan Quanstrom ,Paul Felix,
Phil Felix, Gordon Bressak, Jim Smith,
Richard Raynis, Al Ziegler, Rich Chidlaw,
Chris Rutkowski, Gary Hartle, Dan Fausett,
Wendel Washer ,Paul Fusco, Chuck Patton,
Charles Zembilis, Perry Zombolas, Mike Deidrich,
Leonard Robinson ,Frank Paur, Kent Butterworth,
Tim Gula, Boyd Kirkland, Keith Tucker,
Ralph Bakshi, Eric Radomski, Fil Barlow,
Alex Stevens, Joe Pearson, Young Yune,
Kyung Shin, David Byrd, Raf Navarro,
Everett Peck, Jennifer Coyle, Jennifer Graves,
Rocket Calcutta, Sandra Frame, Robin Brigstocke,
John Eddings, Chuck Austin, Armando Carillo
Describe a tough situation you’ve had in life.
I’m having it right now. My spouse of 26 years, John Callahan, is presently dying of metastasized (to his skeletal system) prostate cancer. Back in December, he was given the prognosis of 6 months to live; he’s still hanging in there.
I’ve already described Flaming Artist Press. (See question #3).
I sing and play the guitar, mostly selections from the Great American Songbook (Gershwin, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, etc). I did some open mike in the mid-90’s then gave it all up around 2000. I picked up a guitar while on vacation in ’08 and have been getting into it more and more. I played rhythm guitar for Rocket Calcutta during 2 of his recent sets at The Hollywood Bar and Grill.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring artist wanting to break in?
Sorry, I have no idea. All the jobs I get these days are with people I’ve already worked with, and some of THEM won’t hire me anymore. When I go on the cattle calls, I have no more luck getting hired than anyone else. I don’t know what I’d do if I was just starting out. Keep trying and wish for synchronicity, I guess.
I’d advise students to learn the fundamentals of drawing, composition and filmmaking and DRAW DRAW DRAW… life drawing, anatomy, sketching at the zoo, in the park, at the mall, the baseball game, your sister’s wedding…You have to do 10,000 bad drawings before you start doing good drawings.
To do storyboards professionally, one needs to be able to draw anything from any angle, doing anything and everything, whether possible or not. You need to be able to take direction, be willing to change your most prized work for reasons you don’t understand or agree with. Good luck.