What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Ray Chase and I am a directing animator on “Free Birds” our first feature film at ReelFx. I am also a mentor at Animation Mentor.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I don’t know that I really had any crazy jobs. But let’s say that I was a llama herder in Australia.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
A couple years ago I worked on a series of Looney Tunes cartoons which were a lot of fun. One short in particular, “Daffy’s Rhapsody”, used original Mel Blanc recordings of Daffy Duck. It was pretty amazing to animate to his voice.
How did you become interested in animation?
I was always interested in animation as a kid but never thought much about doing it as a career. Toward the end of high school Who framed Roger Rabbit came out and I was inspired; I saw it eight times in the theater. A couple years later the Disney/MGM studios opened in Orlando where you could see real animators bringing characters to life. That’s when I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I grew up in Gambrills Maryland. And went to school at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). They didn’t have much of an animation program at the time; this was the early 90s. After college I started applying to Disney to get a job as a 2d animator, but my drawings skills weren’t strong enough. With the release of Jurassic Park and Toy Story, CG animation took off and provided an alternative for getting into the industry. For 6 years I worked as a animation freelancer doing technical animations for court cases and by night I worked on developing my character animation skills. During this time I made a couple friends who were working in the industry. They were amazing sources of encouragement at times when I considered giving up. In the summer of 2000, I landed my first industry job working on the Jimmy Neutron movie at DNA Productions in Irving Texas. That was my big break.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
We have supervisor rounds twice a day; first thing in the morning and then again after lunch. If animators want feedback on their shots outside of a director review these are the times for that. There are dailies with the director twice a day; once in the late morning and again in the late evening. We encourage everyone to show early and often and with four times to show, there are plenty of opportunities for that. Others days may include casting sessions for upcoming sequences and helping support the team with libraries and tools. I also try to squeeze in a fair amount of animating as well.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The best part is working with the animators and helping to get their vision up on screen while also assisting them in executing the directors vision. The leadership of our team is there to support the artists rather than be a line of bosses. There is no “you must please 5 people before we show the director”.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I don’t like when I get to work late and my favorite parking spot is taken. I also wish there was a Starbucks in the studio.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Time away from my family when the hours get long and weekend work is required.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
All Maya…all the time. And my iPhone.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Last year Glen Keane came for a visit to the studio and it was an amazing experience. He gave a talk about his career and his thoughts on computer animation. He had an extremely positive attitude about where animation was headed and where he hoped it would go. On the last day he was in town, a local theater did a special screening of Aladdin. It was kind of surreal to be seating in the same row as Glen watching the film. I may have peed my pants a little.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
In 2006 when DNA more or less shut down, it was a really hard time. Our animation team was close, everyone got along great and it was like a little family. Many of us had worked together for several years so when that suddenly came to an end and the gang separated to the four winds it was tough, emotionally. I ended up being out of work for three months. It was tough. On the bright side. I got to spend everyday with my daughter and my wife.
Any side projects you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I worked on a Disney Animation Trivia app with some friends which was pretty fun to do. Other than that, I have no side projects currently. As for hobbies..I’ve taken up running in the last few years and have done several half and full marathons. Oh and occasionally I fight crime on the rooftops of Dallas.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metalurgy?
I can cross one eye while the other stays straight. It is my useless mutant power.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Be sure that you spend the time learning the fundamentals of animation. They are the building blocks of what we do as animators. You can’t build a house on a rocky foundation. Be patient and persistent. Not just when applying for jobs but when learning as well. Everyone learns at different rates and sometimes it takes awhile for things to click. I’ve come across many a student who really gets down on themselves because they aren’t getting it. So be patient. And be persistent. Keep learning new things and if you’re having some difficulty keep at it until you figure it out. We learn from our mistakes. It makes us stronger.