What is your name and your current occupation?
Chris Battle, and I’m a Character Design Artist, currently working on “Dan Vs.” at Film Roman.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Assistant Manager of one of the short-lived Hana-Barbera Retail Stores. A bit of a zoo, but it was run by the studio itself, so it allowed me to meet all of the studio artists, which led to me getting my start in the biz.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Without a doubt, my 7-year stretch at Hanna-Barbera/Cartoon Network, where I worked on DEXTER’S LABORATORY, POWERPUFF GIRLS, and SAMURAI JACK. Truly amazing shows that I’m personally very proud to have been a part of, working alongside some of the greatest talent this industry has to offer.
How did you become interested in animation?
I was lucky enough to grow up during the 80’s, which was a perfect storm of kid pop culture: The best of the old (Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera, Classic Disney, Marvel & DC comics) and the best of the new (Star Wars, Muppets, Nintendo, Robotech, etc) You can’t help but come out of that creative stew with a head full of cartoons and desire to be part of it!
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born and raised in Santa Monica, California– A definite advantage, ’cause growing up in Los Angeles surrounded by the film & television business, one’s dreams of working in cartoons/illustration aren’t as a silly fantasy, but as a valid career choice.During the 1990’s there was a boom in animation, and most studios were very open to trying out inexperienced yet capable talent. By keeping in touch with a single yet important contact I had in the industry and putting my work out there, I was able to fill a job slot when one became available.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I’m a typical night owl artist, and often stay up late drawing, so I usually roll into work around 10 AM, grab some coffee, and settle in. Sometimes I need to read a new script, but most often I’m busy attacking already in-progress designs for the latest script or storyboard. The day moves pretty swiftly once the drawing begins, but I always take time to walk around and see what everyone else is doing (It helps to get an idea of what the entire show is looking like instead of just your one little area), and usually try to get outside for lunch with friends– it’s important to actually see some sunlight and get fresh air to recharge your batteries. Usually by 7 PM I call it a day, unless I’m in the middle of a drawing and in “The Zone”; Sometimes you can’t stop while the drawings are flowing!
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The fact that I get paid to draw cartoons all day! Seriously– it doesn’t get better than that. But specifically, the initial design exploration phase is the best part– starting with a blank piece of paper where anything can happen… that’s where the magic lies.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Being organized and getting every little thing done, and keeping it on schedule. That’s where the “job” part comes in and the “fun” part has to take a slight back seat.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
These days, it’s the big change in TV animation from a steady position held for years within a studio to the now standard project-to-project employment. Knowing you have to look for a new job every 6-9 months can be stressful, and the non-stop marketing/self-promotion can be exhausting. It’s like a 2nd job, really. (On the other hand, it does allow you to be more prepared and empowered during times of unemployment than someone who’s worked in the same place for 12 years and is suddenly let go without warning)
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
While I still prefer to do my initial sketching on paper, I later scan them into Photoshop and go to town digitally, all on a Wacom Cintiq, which is now the standard industry tool.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Absolutely– As mentioned before, my stint at Cartoon Network had me working with not only Genndy Tartakovsky and Craig McCracken, but also almost the entire crew of the original Ren & Stimpy– Total heavy-hitters, every one of them. Also, a tiny bit of Warner Bros. action show work I did had me taking direction from Bruce Timm.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Getting through a 7-month stretch of joblessness during a lean year for the industry at the same time my first child was born. Luckily, given the above-mentioned lack of stability in the business, I had made sure I had saved up some dough just-in-case, and made it through just fine.
Any side projects you’re working on you’d like to share details of?I’m going to make a sandwich in a little while that I think is gonna be pretty epic. I don’t want to get into specifics, but there will be 2 types of cheese.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
1) It may sound cliché, but you should just draw like crazy. Draw plenty from real life. Study from everyone and everything that’s come before you. Draw what you love, but also make sure you draw what’s most difficult for you– push yourself to grow outside of your comfort zone. Always keep growing as an artist; Always keep moving forward creatively.
2) Keep your digital skills up to date– Photoshop is as essential as paper and pencil these days; Illustrator’s a close second. A Cintiq is a must– But if it’s too pricey for you, a Wacom tablet will do.
3) Get your work out there… You HAVE to maintain a web presence these days, be it on your own website, a free blog or portfolio site like Deviant Art/Flickr, or your own YouTube channel. Make it easy for industry people to find your work.