What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Jean Texier. That’s French, so it’s not Jean as in JeanHarlow, but Jean as in Jean-Claude Van Dame. I’m living and working in France and I’m what you call a story artist, or a story-boarder. I also occasionnally do designs and illustrations.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
A long time ago, I worked as a bell-boy in a big parisian hotel. The high-point of the job was a conversation I had in an elevator with Burt Lancaster and I also remember serving a hot chocolate to Kim Wilde at 2 in the morning. Prior to animation I worked in a Fish n’Chip shop in Dublin, Ireland, which was great fun. One could write a sit-com on the goings-on over there.
How did you become interested in animation?
My dad used to take us to see old Disney flicks in the cinema, and as early as I can remember I was being very selective about what artwork was good and what was less good. Also in France there’s a very big comic-book culture and so I grew up immersed in that. I only realised though that drawing was my thing in my mid-twenties.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m French. I had moved to Dublin in the late eighties and a French friend of mine was doing lay-outs on an Asterix movie back in France. It had never occurred to me before that one could actually work in animation. So that possibility must have stuck with me somehow. At the time I was just doing odd-jobs and the idea had started to take root in my head that I could get into animation; I enrolled in Ballyfermot College of Art and Design, got a portfolio together, arrived at the door of Jimmy Murakami, and … hey Presto … I was in! Those were the days…!
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I start at 8.30 am, finishing at 7pm with perhaps a half hour break in the middle. Not good for one’s sanity..
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like telling stories, and I really love character development. I don’t know why, I just find that I have a feel for characterisation. It actually means that it’s hard for me to get a character to do or say something that I don’t think this character would do or say. So sometimes I feel close to them when I board. I might sound corny, but it’s true. I also love to learn something more when I work. So I love it when I find myself working with someone who teaches me something new. There’s always something more to learn but that doesn’t mean you find the people who will be able to give that to you. When you find them, it’s precious.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Long hours and the need to constantly look for the next series/work/contracts. Sometimes if I push a little bit too hard, because of hard deadlines, I find it hard to switch off. Although objectively when I look back over my career I’ve never really had any problems (touch wood). Still, looking forward can be and has always been unsettling.. Artists are not always comfortable with the business of business.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The insecurity. (Imaginary?).
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I work on a draw on Toshiba and with Toon Boom Storyboard 2.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Well in Europe, there’s little or no star system, at least not in Animation. When I started out in Dublin I was trained by someone who from the start I thought looked liked Jiminy Cricket. Turns out he started in the FX department in Disney on Pinocchio! His name was Tiger West. I also met Thelma Whitmer who worked on backgrounds for so many of the great Disney classics. So for me meeting these guys was like I was working in Santa’s grotto… More recently, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Bob Camp and Olivier Jean-Marie (Oggy and the Cockroaches), who taught me a lot.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I like to play bass guitar.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
My advice is learn how to draw, and in order to do so first learn to draw by learning how to draw what you see, rather than what you’d like to see.