What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Jimmy Cross I am currently a production artist and owner of Uncle Porkchop! Productions LLC.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Crazier than animation? Well when I was around 19 I worked at the VA hospital running a snack shack and there are allot of craziness going on there. But it was fun. My favorite job around that time was delivering pizzas. Good times no worries. Just school and delivering pizzas . Always been a hard worker.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
So many so many. I loved the NFL RUSHZONE. Creating the world from the ground up was so much fun and I worked on it for over nine years. I didn’t really know that much about football, but when I started working with the NFL , I learn to love it. Lots of things to pull into a fantasy world in the NFL franchise. The Olympics was also a blast and creating a web experience was hard work but lots of fun. But to tell you the truth I still get giddy seeing something you’ve drawn on television. It’s still very humbling . So many things. Personal projects are the best . Nothing like creating your own projects and sending them out to the world.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m was born in raised in Los Angeles so I didn’t have to go to far to be in the business. I’ve been drawing all my life and I knew at a very early age that I wanted to make cartoons. My mother enrolled me in a animation school when I was twelve . My parents were and still are very supportive of my art. I got to animate a potato coming out of the ground. It’s was a class where I was the only kid with all these adults that worked at Disney that were laid off. Some of those people I work with today. I also wanted to be an actor and did lots of theater in my youth. But my uncle who was already deep in the entertainment world sat me down and went over the pros and cons on what talent would stabilize me. I went with my heart and chose animation and enrolled in Cal Arts in 1990 with only a note book with drawings on every page. No fancy portfolio just doodles and some graffiti characters. It’s was one of the first times I saw my father cry when they excepted me right then and there. My father took me to see the school that day. From there I found out that other people like to draw just like me. Some of those guys were super human and made my work look like a three year old did it. But it didn’t scare me. I wanted what they had. I learned something from everybody and I still do. I studied hard and made my way to Saban Entertainment and the DIC where I worked and developed many shows. But I gotta tell you, That’s where the real education came in to play. Deadlines and making clients happy and having mentors construct your work. It makes you tough. I was very lucky. I became a development artist on my first job with a steady full time position for a few years. But it was very hard.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Lots of drawing. lol. The work we have here acquires an artist to wear multiple hats especially in the design department. Over the years I done my best to have no style but many styles to keep working. It comes from liking many different styles in animation. Not only do I design BG’s and characters at work , I’m also bringing them into flash and setting up the designs that will move on to animation. Also rigging my flash files as well and some animation when needed. Whatever they need , I tackle it. You must be fearless or you wont survive.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I get to draw with amazing people from all walks of life. They understand me. We as artist have a amazing way of seeing the world. It’s truly a blessing to be able to pull the world in to your eyes and then put it back on paper in the way you see things. Actors, writers you name it. That’s why I label myself an artist first before I say producer or art director or whatever I’m doing at the time.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Well … It’s necessarily the “job” but the unstable platform in the business. I don’t like the fact your job depends on the length of the show . Buy the time you get the gig it’s time to look for another one. You get to work with great people and it’s hard to say good bye. Well at least for me. But I found to avoid that is to learn and do many things. Put yourself out there and let people know that you can do everything and more. Then you will be able to find jobs that are a little more stable and not just on the animation side. I can find creativity in many things. Be an artist first.
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?
Well the main program we use is flash . But I love drawing in sketch book pro. It’s the only program that got me off paper. Sometime I use Photoshop but the biggest program is flash. Now if I were at my other job I would have told you Flash , illustrator, Maya, After effects, Photoshop, Premiere and back breaking drawing lol. Learning these programs is really the only reason I am still here and it’s been 23 years. I am not intimidated by programs. To me they are just a pencil. It’s the artist behind the program that makes the job beautiful. The great thing about the tech is , it makes the job go faster and it frees your mind to push your craft. The bad thing can be if you become a machine and be a slave to the program and not push the program as far as you can go. The human brain is beyond the boundaries of any program. . Push the program until it blows up with your brilliant mind.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I think the artist should have more input in their work a little more. Sometimes I think people forget that with out us you have no cartoon or toy line or video game. But the artist must still be opened to a point of view of a non artist. We are all human and your spark is just as important as mine. I think if studio finds great talent they should hold on to it for dear life until the wheels fall off. When an artist knows you have his back and secured a relationship with them , the artist will feel like the studio belongs to them and work will be at 100%. An artist with a good attitude and great work ethic wants to be loyal and they want to have a place called home. I think respect on both sides is a must . We are all feeding each others families and it’s a blessing to be here. Great communication and have fun.
If you could change the way the business works and is run how wouldÂ you do it?
I believe that the change come from the artist themselves. If they want to change the industry , the artist has the power. Just do it! Technology has made it so that you can produce, direct and distribute your own films and have your own empire. Make the studios come to you or just do it all yourself. Just do it! It’s a very hard thing to do. I know. Some of us have families and problems outside of making drawings. But if your not happy,change your path. You only live once why not take the risk on letting the world know who you are. But be smart. It’s very easy to jump the cart before the horse. Make a list or a plan and tackle one thing at a time. Take advantage of everything this business has to offer.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Yes!!!!!!! At 26 I had my own network show and many projects in development at many studios here and overseas. In 2008 I produced and directed and funded my own pre school dvd and it did very well on Redbox and is still available online. I also got to go to the super bowl for creating The NFL RUSHZONE and the NFL owners meeting last year and met all the coaches and owner in the NFL. Seeing your characters as toys is also very humbling and having them in McDonalds is out of this world!!!! But doing the distributions on my classic holiday cartoons is by far the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done. The cartoons are my child hood favorites and I never thought in a billion years I would own the shows and work with the creator on new projects. Also seeing my three son’s and daughter with the bug is animation greatness. This was not a mistake. It’s in our blood. Thanks Grandpa! He was one of the first black cartoonist in the south and a popular sign painter.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Well. Losing people by far is very tough for us all. But I think losing my first show was hard. But I learned what not to do next time. But losing family members and friends to death is very hard. There are allot of people that I wish were still here to see all the stuff I’ve done. One is my Uncle Bill Whitten who was a fashion designer for many stars. I guess we all will never get over that tough situation of losing people. That’s why you must be grateful for anyone that cares about you and return that love.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Building my very own company is my goal. So far it’s coming to life but very carefully and smart. Be very smart. I can’t say it enough. This also is very time consuming and having my wife and kids supporting this adventure makes the hard work worth it.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I paint on the side. I paint in oils and sometime show in galleries. I need to start that up again it’s been awhile. I love doing voices and acting. I may still do it if I get a window of clarity. I also love staying fit and diet and exorcise is very important in my household. Well not the holidays . Movies! I love watching movies and collect many movies of my youth. I am a big Japanese monster sci fi nut and anything Bruce Lee is my cup of tea.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Go get it! It belongs to you just as much as it belongs to me! Pay your dues and start from the ground up. Do not a since of entitlement coming in to this industry. Remember your like a new born baby and you need food comfort to stay alive. Adapt yourself to everything in the business and be fearless. Know that you are an artist first and you have no limits on what you can create. Have a business mind and market yourself as if you are a company. Network but do not become a full time fan boy and your not producing your own art. Draw Draw Draw. Learn to love your imperfections and use them or make them better. Show people your artwork , find people that inspire you and learn from them. Don’t be intimidated by great people in the industry. They had a starting point just like you. If they are good people they will show you the ropes . Learn to read people. You will know who works in fear and who is willing to help. The web is your friend. Look at reference in everyone’s work and tackle their style. Pull everything from everyone but still learn the basic building blocks to drawing. Stay true to your original style and grow it into every style. Read animation blogs and magazines. Find out whats going on in the art world not just animation. Learn the programs but don’t become the program. No matter if someone is throwing a lot of program “mumble jumble” talk your way, always look at things in an artist prospective but still discipline yourself to working with your team. Watch allot of films of all kinds even if it’s not your thing. Research many films and use them as reference in your daily talk and study theater and music of all kinds. Culture yourself. I will say that again! Culture yourself in travel and in your actions. The more knowledge you know the more you’ll shine. Have a strong since of self and to be able to take criticism and direction. Quiet your ego. Also very hard to do when your putting your heart out on the page. There is always something to learn from everybody. Once your ego gets in they way that means your scared and fear will destroy you in this business. Always remember to pass on what you learned to someone trying to get where you are. Treat people with respect. It goes along way but demand respect at the same time. Learn everyone’s name from the guard down stairs to the president of the company. People tease me about that, but you never know what that person can bring to your life. Last , stay grateful and humble never take your experience for granted. Think about it. You get paid for making silly little ducks run around to some goofy song lol. . That is truly a blessing.