Greg Araya

What is your name and your current occupation?

My name is Greg Araya, I am currently a story artist for Cartoon Network’s “MAD” at Warner Bros. Animation.

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Right out of college, I worked for a while at a scenic painting studio in Chicago. The owner low-balled all the bids and would send a crew of underpaid twenty somethings with a van full of paint to do the jobs. We had no supervision. We did some truly awful work. Also, I crashed the van.


What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Aside from the aforementioned disaster? I’ll always regard Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends as a special show. It was a great crew. So many talented people. We had a lot of fun. And I’m proud of the fact that it was one of the few shows made entirely at the Burbank studio from start to finish. The studio or the union never really touted that, but I think it makes a difference.

How did you become interested in animation?

I was one of those kids that was always drawing or trying to make my own toys, attempting impossibly ambitious projects like wanting to build a robot or a hovercraft. Making movies was one of those projects that was somewhat attainable, since my dad had an 8mm film camera with single frame exposure. I made a few stop-motion films with paper cutouts when I was around ten years old. It was super fun.

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?

I’m from Pittsburgh, PA. My first foray in the animation biz was in the mid 90’s. In Chicago, I had a roommate who was accepted to CCAC in Oakland, CA and I decided to tag along and try and get a job at LucasArts or something. I didn’t end up at Lucas, but did work at a small animation studio in Marin, which led to subsequent jobs in multimedia and videogame animation. My first Hollywood job was on Foster’s. When I took the test, I exported the storyboard panels from the Flash file and printed them out so I could reference them as I worked. It turned out that the timing director’s notes were scribbled in the margins of those boards, too small to see on the screen, but just barely legible when printed out. I followed that timing on my test. I got the job.

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
MAD is not a typical show. Rather than do 11 or 22 minute episodes with consistent art direction or design, each segment is a unique one-off from 10 seconds to 3 minutes long. So we’re starting from scratch every time, and there’s a variety of different looks. We each have to do a little of everything, from sound editing to layout and timing, to design and compositing, and the schedule is crazy fast. It’s challenging, but never boring.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I have almost total creative freedom and more ownership of my work than I would on a typical show. We essentially get to direct our own segments. Also, next to my desk is a window that opens.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
For various reasons, sometimes the material I think is funniest doesn’t make it to air.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?

I’ve been super fortunate to have every show I’ve full-timed on get renewed, but there’s always the looming spectre of an extended hiatus or unemployment.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Computers. A Cintiq. Indoor plumbing.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?

When I was a kid, I had the big, thin Preston Blair animation book. I wrote him a letter asking where I could get cartoon supplies. He wrote me back -  a handwritten letter telling me all about Cartoon Color in Culver City. It was like Wile E Coyote showing you how to get an ACME catalog. Then, later in life, I watched George Plympton step in poo on the sidewalk at Annecy.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Compared to what most human beings on this planet have to deal with every day, any tough situation in my life is comically trivial.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
My son turns five in a few months. I have to figure out how to twist balloons into Clone Trooper helmets and/or Princess Leia hair buns for his party.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metalurgy?

Every question on Jeopardy has the correct answer encoded within. I am this close to cracking that code.

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?

Yeah. Don’t eat lunch at your desk. It’s nasty.

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