What is your name and your current occupation?
Tony Seruno and I’m a character designer at DreamWorks Animation.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
In college I worked as a maintenance worker at micro chip manufacturing plant, waiter at a Mongolian BBQ, a Valet at one of Minneapolis’ top night clubs, and also worked as a production assistant on a national cable TV show.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’ve worked on a lot of projects over the years. The ones that stand out are a few episodes of The Simpson’s from season 6 and 7. The Road to El Dorado will always be a sentimental favorite due to the fact it was my very first project as a character designer. Recent ones would have to be Kung Fu Panda, How to Train your Dragon, and Neighbor from Hell.
How did you become interested in animation?
I always drew and painted as a kid and I did enjoy watching Disney animated films and such, but to be honest I wanted to be a comic book illustrator. My interest in animation began when I attended a screening of Akira in college…It blew me away!!
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m originally from Minnetonka, Minnesota which is 20 miles south of Minneapolis. I got into the business in my second year at CalArts. Six students, including myself worked as freelance animators at Duck Soup Productions on a Sega CD game called Cadillacs and Dinosaurs. A few months later, I got hired at Film Roman to work on The Simpson’s.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I usually work from home in the mornings until noon. After lunch (whether it be at home or work) I resume work around 2pm and finish roughly around 8pm. In between time, a group of us take the typical 4:30 break at Starbucks on the DreamWorks Campus.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Drawing, conceptualizing, collaborating with some of the industries top artist.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Dealing with “creative executives” who have no vision or who have poor taste. Most of them have no art background and it’s very difficult to swallow when you have them giving you “art direction”. Another part of the job I dislike is dealing with indecisive people. You have to constantly hit deadlines, but when they have no clear direction of where to creatively go, it becomes a waste of time and money and unfortunately, the artists’ become liable for this, making them the scapegoats for these indecisive individuals.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
What I find most difficult is watching extremely talented people passed over for a job promotion in favor of lesser talent.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I work on a Cintiq 21UX for both home and work. Photoshop CS5 and Sketchbook Pro 2011 are my go to programs for drawing and painting. I still draw on paper though………
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I had the chance to meet Maurice Noble back in the mid 90’s. I had the pleasure of having dinner with Alice Davis (widow of the late Marc Davis) at their home in Silver Lake where I had a chance to see Marc Davis’ collection of Papa New Gunniea art, as well as original drawings from Pirates of the Caribbean, Sleeping Beauty, and development work for the Haunted Mansion. I’ve also partied with the amazing Nico Marlet, Carlos Grangel, and Carter Goodrich.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
My father had a heart attack at my brother’s graduation party and being 19 at the time, it put many things into perspective, especially when he was going through 6 hours of triple bypass surgery. Thankfully he survived!!
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I’m always working on stuff.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I enjoy knife fighting, as well as full contact Filipino Martial Arts. On the weekends I love playing ice hockey.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Draw constantly…practice, practice, practice!!! It’s great if your trying to develop your own personal style, but I must emphasize the fact that you have to be versatile to survive in this industry. Having a lawyer comes in handy, especially if you get offered a contract from one of the big animation studios. I’ve seen way too many young students from art school being taken advantage of because they never took the time to “go-over” the logistics of their contracts with some form of legal representation.