What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Aidan McAteer and I’m Episodic Director at Kavaleer Productions in Dublin.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
It wasn’t crazy (kind of the opposite), but I did a brief stint in a financial firm which I thought was supposed to be animation. I turned up on the first day and they said – hello, design our new mobile website. I should have known something was up when they said I had to wear a suit!
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’ve been lucky to work on lots of great stuff – I did a show in UK called “The Secret Show” for the BBC, it was really fun, but never found a huge audience, which is a shame. I also worked on Peppa Pig (which is massively popular in the UK) with a host of very talented people. I had a great time working in Vancouver – it’s an amazing city and I really have landed on my feet back in Dublin working for Kavaleer on a new show called “Wildernuts”.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Dublin (Ireland). When I left animation college, there wasn’t much work there, so I moved to London. I got my first job in a traditional animation studio owned by a great guy, Philip Vallentin, called Espresso Animation. I was a runner there – making the tea, buying the toilet paper and ‘running’ drawings down to another company to be coloured. I was there for almost two years and by the time I left, I was assisting and animating scenes.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
In the ‘whacky’ world of animation, every job is different. Even in my current job, no two days are the same, but usually it involves plenty of tea (I’m not a big coffee person); lots of meetings with our series director, Andrew Kavanagh, to approve and give notes on designs scripts or storyboards. I’m also boarding the pilot episode, so I have plenty to keep me busy!
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
In my current job, I have a fair bit of creative input – it’s great to be involved in the writing process. I enjoy that kind of creative problem solving. At the end of the day, no matter how stressful it gets, I still feel extemely lucky that I make cartoons for a living!
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Things can get stressful – sometimes you need to be in three places at once my ‘to do’ list just seems to get longer and longer.
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?
We’re using Storyboard Pro for the boards, the writers are on Final Draft, design is being done in Photoshop, the series is being animated in Flash and comped in After FX. As a studio, we also use another 2D animation software called CelAction. I usually end up using some or all of these on a daily basis! I started out with drawings, so obviously Flash and CelAction have sped up the process enormously. Digital storyboarding eliminates the tedium of having to cut and paste story panels. I’m very much in favour of technology if it eliminates hours of that kind of dull work!
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I suppose the most difficult part is the short contracts and constantly having to be on the lookout for work. Having said that, I did quite a bit of freelancing in London, so now if I know where I’m going to be working next month, I’m generally happy enough!
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I’ve been very fortunate to work with so many ridiculously talented people throughout my career. I better not start naming names because I know I’ll forget somebody. I remember I cornered Don Bluth at Comic Con about 10 years ago and had a long and interesting chat with him.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Life is full of ups and downs – we lose people we love, have troubles with family or relationships – 2012 was a bit of an up and down year for me, but I’m very lucky really – I’ve had many more ups than downs.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Sure – I’m currently finishing a super short film called “Meanwhile, on the train”. My most recent side project is a monthly animation podcast which I’m co-hosting. It’s called Flipped and focuses on interviews with Irish animators
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I can play the ukulele, badly.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Most of the advice I’d give is sounds corny, but it’s true – keep trying – everyone get rejected at some point, especially when they start off. Also, work leads to wor -, so try and get into a studio, even if it’s just as making the tea – alot of successful people I know in the business started that way. The most important thing I would say is to work hard. Everyone always talks about having talent. The irony is that you can’t do anything about how much talent you have – what you do have control over is how much work you do – Thomas Edison said “Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration”