John Serpentelli

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What is your name and your current occupation?
John Serpentelli – I am an independent animator and an Associate Adjunct Professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I was the world’s clumsiest caterer. I once knocked several boxes of glass soda bottles down a flight of marble steps. Fizzy explosions everywhere.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I made two short films for UNICEF for their Child’s Rights campaign and I was feature in a documentary called ‘Animating Autism’ where I taught a dozen kids with Autism to collaborate on an animated film.

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Toms River, New Jersey and I got into animation as a career while attending the University of Pennsylvania where I was studying film theory.

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Most of my days are spent teaching college students or children how to animate.
There isn’t too much of a difference other than the college students are taller.

What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I love seeing a student’s face light up when they see their first piece of animation.
It reminds me of the magical quality of animation.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Administrative paperwork because it so rarely has anything to do with the students.

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? I don’t deal with much technology myself but programs such as After Effects and ToonBoom have become the most used programs. But even with new technologies, the ability to draw never goes out of style.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Finding new clients who have a reasonable budget. I was spoiled during the 1990’s when there was plenty of money.

If you could change the way the business works and is run how would
you do it?
There would be more animation jobs in America and our government would fund the Arts.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Years ago I was a guest of the Hiroshima Animation Festival and had the pleasure of spending time with Ray Harryhausen and his wife. They were so warm and generous.

Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Having my animation school for kids close when the economy tanked. I still teach kids but now it’s done in various venues.

Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I am doing a documentary/animation short film featuring my close friend Robert Moran. He is a contemporary composer who has done internally recognized work. In this film he tells the true story of his dog winning an art competition.

Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy? I do a fairly impressive / second rate Donald Duck impersonation.

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
I always tell my students that it’s crucial to get your work seen and no matter how many rejection letters they may get, don’t give up.

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