What is your name and your current occupation?
Elana Pritchard, cartoonist/animator.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I was an assistant in a hair salon, hostess in a restaurant, a cashier in a newsstand, I sorted mail, I was a nanny, an assistant preschool teacher, and an usher for the Big Apple Circus.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I worked as one of the animators on Ralph Bakshi’s upcoming film, Last Days of Coney Island. It was an amazing project to work on because all of the animation is hand drawn with a pencil, which is such a rare opportunity for a person my age right now. Plus, of course there was working with Ralph. He has a great way of running his team. He chooses an eclectic group of people, all with individual strong points, and instead of trying to make them all draw the same, he gives them each work that highlights their unique strengths. Like for me, I draw funny and put a lot of emotion and feeling into my work. So instead of trying to make me draw like a precise draftsman, he gave me scenes that played up my funniness, like pigs running towards the camera, and freaks marching down the street. He never tried to micro manage. He would give you a couple lines of direction and let you go to town. That’s why the film is going to end up looking so
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where they make cigarettes. And yes, I went to R.J. Reynolds high school, named after the cigarette manufacturer. No, I don’t smoke anymore, I quit. Anyways, I wanted to be a cartoonist before I wanted to be an animator. I used to draw comics strips when I was a kid and I dreamed of having a strip in the newspaper when I grew up. After a period of “finding myself” in my early 20’s I decided that being a cartoonist was the only thing I could do and never get bored. That lead to experimenting with animation, and once I saw something I drew move on the screen I was hooked.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
That really depends on the day. I have always had a very independent streak in me, so other than the time I was working for Ralph I have always worked on my own projects, so things are always changing. If I only had a dollar for every time someone said… you are so talented young lady, why don’t you go work for Disney or Nickelodeon?… I would take that money and use it to fund my own studio. Some days I am animating, some days I’m doing comics… right now I am doing a Kickstarter to try to finish a hand drawn short I started a year and a half ago… so I am running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off trying to promote it. unique.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Hands down it’s animating. I love making things move. I love figuring out how to make the animation work… I love the challenge. I love the little surprises you get and the happy accidents. I love making the characters act. I just love animating.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Probably figuring out the whole money side of things. It takes away from my time being an artist. If I get this Kickstarter I will be able to freely finish my cartoon with the rent paid and all of the supplies I need. Doesn’t that sound like paradise?
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?
As I touched on before, I love hand drawn animation on paper, and try to use it whenever possible. There is something about the connection you get when you are actually touching the paper with your pencil that is impossible to completely replicate with technology, so in a lot of ways I’m pretty basic. That being said, I do ink all my work digitally, and animate sometimes digitally as well, and I love the program Animate by Toon Boom. I can put all my pencil tests together in it… and it has great, intuitive drawing tools for inking and coloring. I also use Photoshop almost daily, for scanning and every other odd job you can think of.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
For me I’d say it’s people misjudging me. It is still a male dominated business and even though I’m 32 I look young, so many people don’t take me seriously upon first seeing me. Also, I am an artist and a unique individual, and I do things my own way, and people don’t always understand that. It’s really easy to attach a label to someone and pigeon-hole them into something they’re not. But hey, you can’t force everyone to spend the time to actually get to know you, so to hell with it.
If you could change the way the business works and is run how would
you do it?
I would completely toss out this doom and gloom attitude when it comes to traditional animation. It’s something that has never made any sense to me. Yeah, so the industry is changing. Boo hoo hoo. Change with it! Adapt what you love to fit the time you are in. That’s what Ralph is doing, and that’s what I am trying to do. Nothing productive EVER has come from sitting around throwing a pity party, and that goes for every aspect of life, not just animation. Grow up!
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Well I got to work for Ralph Baskhi, and he’s still my mentor and kicks my ass and keeps me from being too immature. Maybe there have been some others…
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Well, for reasons I cannot legally discuss, I went to jail. That was the toughest thing that ever happened to me. But while I was there I drew a series of comics about life and the things I saw going on inside the jail. When I got out I sent the comics to the LA Weekly and they ended up being published. ( See them here http://www.laweekly.com/arts/when-a-cartoonist-landed-in-la-county-jail-she-drew-what-she-saw-using-only-a-golf-pencil-5315346 ) Next week they are going to be in the Huffington Post. I have gotten a great response from people all over the world, and because of the comics the LA County Sheriff’s Department has changed their policy to ensure all inmates are given a shower within 24 hours (people were going a week or more with no shower before). I am meeting with them next week to discuss further improvements. It just goes to show you, that even when things are bad, if you stay positive they can end up being good in the end.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
There may be a book deal in the works to expand on the jail comics. Things are still floating around.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I know how to make sweet potato fries.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
I have some advice, but it only applies to those rare few students who aren’t lazy, are disciplined, and actually care about animation more than partying. Don’t go to school. Save the money and learn on your own. Try to find an older animator to take you under their wing and don’t annoy them too much. In this age of the internet there is a treasure trove of priceless information available for you right there at your fingertips. All you have to do is have the dedication to study it. Don’t care so much about networking, printing business cards and all that nonsense. Care about drawing. If you do this you will end up with something they don’t teach in school, and something the industry desperately needs: your own, unique style.