What is your name and your current occupation?
Greg Whittaker- Character Animator at Dreamworks Animation.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Suit Salesman, Assistant in secret experiments involving the production of a bigger, stronger breed of corn (for real!)
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Most recently, the Croods. Past favorites include How to Train your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda 2.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from a small town by the name of St. Marys in Ontario, Canada. Sheridan College was not far from my home and I enrolled in the three year Traditional Animation course there. After graduation I worked briefly in Toronto. By day I worked as a designer on “Eek the Cat”. At night I worked as a clean-up artist on “The Goofy Movie” (uncredited). I heard that Chuck Jones Film Productions were interviewing students at Sheridan for possible positions at the studio in California. Having already graduated, I was extremely lucky to even get an interview. I accepted a position as Junior Animator and spent three wonderful years there before joining Dreamworks.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I like to arrive at the studio early. I find I do my best creative work early in the day, when I have fresh eyes. The afternoon is saved for more technical work. I like to have a handful of shots in progress at the same time. Once I feel like I’ve hit a new milestone with one, I will jump to the next. This process allows me to feed the pipeline continuously while maintaining a fresh perspective on each scene.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I love when there is an opportunity to help “find” a character. Quite often we will make discoveries about our characters during the animation process-little quirks or traits that really help bring them to life. These discoveries may lead to stronger character arcs and can influence the overall path the story takes. It’s always a thrill to be able to contribute.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
It’s a hard job to turn off at night. Quite often fall asleep with my shots looping endlessly in my head.
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 made the transition from traditional to CG animation ten years ago. Since then, there have been tremendous advances in the speed and quality of the software we use. I always felt that having a good grasp of animation principals is the first and most important step when it comes to using any new tool. I still find drawing to be a very useful and will sometimes sketch out poses or very basic animation before I begin my work in CG. This helps me keep both a sense of design and a looseness to my work.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I think he most difficult part of the business is the pressure for each film to find it’s audience in an
increasingly crowded marketplace.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I have been very fortunate to work with a few giants in the industry. My work at Chuck Jones Film Productions allowed us direct access not only to Chuck, but also background artist Maurice Noble and layout man Bob Givens. Much of my real education as an animator began and continues at Dreamworks, working alongside amazing animators such as James Baxter, Kristof Serrand, Rodolphe Guenoden, Fabio Lignini, Simon Otto, Dan Wagner and Ken Duncan to name just a few!
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I consider myself very lucky overall, the decision to move so far away from my childhood home, friends and family was one of the toughest I’ve had to make. I’m sad to have missed watching nieces and nephews grow up.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
At the moment I do not have any side projects. Aside from animating, I mentor students looking to get into animation and have been busy raising two very young daughters.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I picked up a few extra skills in my suit selling days. The ability to tailor a suit on the spot helped with suit sales!
Being Canadian, I felt it was my duty to take up the sport of hockey shortly after moving to California. Unfortunately, I think I picked it up too late. However, my experience playing has made me a bigger fan and given me more respect for those who play the game.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
The best piece of advice I can give to someone breaking into the industry would be that it’s OK and completely normal to feel frustrated from time to time. If the work you did yesterday or last week no longer seems good enough, if you now see how it could be better, it is the surest sign that you are growing and moving forward as an animator.