Robertryan Cory

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What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Robertryan Cory and I’m currently a character designer on Secret  Mountain Fort Awesome at Cartoon Network.What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Well I started working in animation when I was 15 so it was sort of my first  job, but I did have a weird job when I went to college. (Warning this is not PG) I worked for a porn company doing comics and they had me animating “money shots” for a series called “Pop-up Porn”. It was sort of like a dirty version of Pop-up Videos on VH1. I remember having to work late one night
and thinking “what am I doing with my life?”. I quit the next day even though the money was really great.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?

Well I guess Ren & Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon because working on R&S was the  only goal I had in life at the time. I thought it was impossible since it  had been off the air for nearly a decade. It was one of the worst experiences emotionally, but I met so many talented people and it made me practice harder.  2nd would be Spongebob. I feel like I wasn’t a good artist until that job.
That was another job with an incredible crew that really made me push myself  because I wanted to earn their respect. Also it’s cool to be involved with  something that the entire world knows… it even impresses my niece, which  means a lot to me.
How did you become interested in animation?
There was a program during middle school where students would get to animate  a 30sec spot promoting anti-smoking. I did that 3 years in a row. The 3rd year my short was banned for being vulgar. I had so much fun doing the inappropriate one with my friends and I just thought this is what I should do when I grow up.Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
My parents are musicians and they moved around a lot, but I consider Austin TX my home town. I crashed a cartoonist party when I was 15 & I had my sketchbook full of dirty drawings on me. I guess those dudes thought I was funny and suggested I intern at a local animation studio. I did that for a month before moving up to inbetweening and such.What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I absolutely love design because it bridges math, drawing, research, and problem solving. I like it the best when I’m making myself laugh because I think that joy is transferred to the drawing.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Deadlines! They get worse and worse each year. At the same time people’s expectations of me increase. Everytime I pick up a new show I’m told “you only have a week but we know what you turn in will be amazing”. It causes so much pressure/stress I freeze up for the first couple days and the day before the deadline I’m cursing my life.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Communication…I’m sort of terrible at that. I get so stuck in work mode and drop out of communication with everyone. I also work myself to exhaustion and don’t communicate I’m burnt out and need a break. I can’t seem to balance my work with having a normal life.

What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
When things are more relaxed I like working on a cintiq, when I’m rushed for a deadline it’s just paper, pencil and a copy machine.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Yeah all the time, I even feel like I’ve worked alongside animation  greatness (Vincent Waller, Chris Reccardi, Lynne Naylor, Craig Kellman, Ralph Bakshi, John Kricfalusi, etc). I was fortunate enough to befriend Ed Benedict. I could listen to him talk all day…and he WOULD talk all day. He knew so much about art and we would try to stump each other with obscure illustrators. He would tease me about how my parents should be arrested for giving me such a dumb name, or not knowing how to drive. He made me laugh so hard, but he was also encouraging about focusing on the right things with art. I got busy and lapsed in communication towards the end. My friend Amid warned me that he thought he didn’t have much more time, but I knew Ed was really sensitive about people disappearing on him and I didn’t want to be yelled at. I put off calling him and he died, I’ve always regretted that. He was an artist’s artist and super genuine.

Describe a tough situation you had in life.
There are too many, I wouldn’t know which one to single out. I will say they were all my fault. I was so focused on trying to be a good artist that I’m just now learning to be a good human.

Any side projects you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
At any given time I’m juggling several projects, most are abandoned or dissolve before the public ever gets a chance to see them. It’s probably best to wait until I’m sure they will be seen before I tell anyone, but I can shoot you an email when something exciting is ready.

Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I’m pretty good at yo-yoing and Monopoly. I sometimes record cheesy techno versions of bad 70’s songs for my own pleasure. I included one in the email.

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
There are paths in animation and what you ultimately want to do in animation should determine where you try to break-in.

Path 1:storyboard revisionist > storyboard > storyboard writer > having your own  show. Path 2: clean-up>prop design > character designer > art directer or colorist>bg painter> art director (it’s more common for bg painters to get the art
director position). Path 3: bg layout > forever (the true heroes of animation).  Get to know people in animation without annoying them. The animation community is full of super nice people who are always eager to discover new talent. Be genuine, listen to their advice and REALLY apply their criticisms to your work… only bother them again when you’ve done so. You will need to learn patience because animation moves slow. If someone tells you they’ll let you know about a test or job in a month…go ahead and double that time… it’s closer to reality. I always try to show people how eager I am to work with them and gear my portfolio towards the job because people have trouble trusting that you can handle the job until you directly show them. It is exhausting and daunting to have to test and do free work for a job that is not guaranteed…but that’s the reality of the industry. If you think you’re really good and deserve a job… you have a difficult road ahead of you and will be humbled soon. Don’t put life-drawing or studies in your portfolio…that’s like a musician playing scales to get a record contract. Good Luck, and I hope you’ll consider me for design when you finally sell your own show.

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  1. Fantastic artwork here Robertryan! If I ever sell a show I will hire you in a heartbeat! At this stage though after 10 dev deals all of which never went to series it’s unlikely. So much solidity and form in your drawings.

  2. Thanks Mike! Good to know about future employment 🙂 As far as the form and solidity in my work…that comes from years of constructing every design like a CGI wire model…maybe a little overboard but now it feels like second nature.

  3. Great interview!! So much to go over so fun so inspirational and such good advice!

  4. This was an excellent read, thanks man.

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