What is your name and your current occupation?
Rick Farmiloe, I am a traditional (2D) animator and storyboard artist.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Hmmm…..crazy….? Didn’t really have any ‘crazy’ jobs……I worked in my dad’s warehouse, unloading trucks, stacking boxes, and trying not to go crazy from boredom When I moved to LA from the Bay Area, I got a job in a record store, Music Plus in Pasadena. ….home of Van Halen!! It was a lot of fun….but just minimum wage!
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I think the films I animated on at Disney in the 80’s, early 90’s are the projects I’m most proud of. The Little Mermaid, Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin were all great films, and I enjoyed doing the sidekicks in each one! They have seemed to stand the test of time…..which is very gratifying.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born and raised in the Bay Area, Santa Rosa to be exact. Charles Schulz also lived in Santa Rosa, and was a lifelong inspiration to me!! We actually became friends during my days at Disney. I met two people that helped me a LOT break into the animation business……Bill Melendez and Bob Clampett. Bob introduced me to some animators who worked at Filmation, and through an animation class, I was hired and began animating! That was 1979.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Being mostly a freelancer these days, my day varies. Depending on what the job is, I either go into the studio, or work from my studio at home. I have a drawing board, computer, Cintiq, and scanner for shooting animation. I might put on TCM and have old movies playing in the background, or music. My hours can vary.I sometimes work deep into the night, when most normal, civilized people are in bed! I may be civilized…..but I’m NOT normal! I prefer to work in a studio with other artists to get feedback and just feel part of a team.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I LOVE animating!!! I’m literally never more happy in my life than when I have blank paper, a 2B pencil and make something come to life in front of me! It can be kind of magical when it works the way I want it to! I also enjoy storyboarding and coming up with fun poses to make the scene clear and successful. To me, sometimes, animation although hard work, is a very joyful experience!
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
NOT WORKING is the worst part of my job!!! Hustling for more freelance gigs is stressful. I seem to always find work, but the inconsistency is frustrating. I am lucky to have worked on projects that I enjoy for the most part. Low pay is not much fun either! I prefer to work for union shops, but sometimes as a freelancer you have to just take what you can get.
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?
The BIG change was the switch to CG animation and away from hand drawn! Some animators learned the new technology and became CG animators…..others, like me, wanted to keep drawing so we moved into doing storyboards, and any 2D animation that happened to come along. I am currently learning the Flash program to animate with. There seems to be a fair amount of work for Flash animators. I use Storyboard Pro for storyboarding. I enjoy drawing on a Cintiq for doing my storyboards. Animation…I still prefer paper….but doing Flash digitally is really fun so far! The more programs you know…the better chance you have of getting work, as well as making you more versatile.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I think the lack of work and the lower pay is tough In the heyday of the 90’s, a lot of us were making GREAT money, which was fair because the films were continuing to be successful. Also, with the start up of Dreamworks in 1995, as well as Warner Bros. and Turner producing features, us ‘Disney’ animators were in great demand. So….naturally higher salaries…..which lead to big houses and big cars…..Unfortunately, the bottom dropped out and the big salaries and demand dried up. It’s a good thing these guys bought those big cars, because some had to LIVE in them! Not really……but pretty close.
If you could change the way the business works and is run how would you do it?
I’d fill it with more visionary people at the top…..not necessarily artists but executives who are truly creative and want to take artistic chances. That’s a pipe dream, but it would be really nice! I would also bring back 2D animation in even a limited capacity….but I would love to see a couple of the big studios take a chance with a NEW 2D feature, using the new technology we have at hand to make the film look fresh ,and exciting!…….not a retread of 1988. It can be done….but it will take someone with a vision and someone who is a bit of a gambler. STORY is the most important thing….but 2D is destined to make a comeback at some point…..and whoever DOES bring it back, better not blow their chance!
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
YES! whenever I travel to the bathroom and look in the mirror……..(pause)……..Actually, I had the GREAT fortune to have started in this business when many of the pioneers were still alive. I got to meet and know people like Grim Natwick, Walter Lantz, Mel Blanc, Chuck Jones, Friz Freling, Art Davis….and my hero, Bob Clampett!!! Clampett and I were actually friends….and I’ll be forever grateful for having known him and be inspired by his genius. When I started at Disney, 7 of the 9 Old Men were still alive….and all except Milt Kahl would visit the studio frequently. Hearing those words of wisdom FIRST hand from the guys who CREATED this art form was something that is more valuable than any amount of money!! Attending lectures from these great men helped US to create films that mattered….and STILL matter today…All because those values, that Walt Disney insisted on, we tried to impliment in OUR work! No matter where I have worked in the ensuing years, my ‘Disney’ background figures into everything I do. And…..my colleagues included such people as John Lasseter, Tim Burton, Brad Bird, Glen Keane, John Musker, Andreas Deja, Mark Henn, Dale Baer, Eric Goldberg, Mike Gabriel, Don Hahn…….on and on. I was a lucky dude to have been in the right place at the right time…..and even contributed when I could.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
NOW!!!j Seriously……..we all have ups and downs. The life of an animator is no different than any other profession, I guess. We have families, get divorced, have money problems, drinking problems, wonderful friendships. loving families. periods of unemployment….highs and lows. I can’t think of any particular tough situation that was unbearable. My faith has certainly served me well through some of the tough times….but the hard times were always a learning experience……and helped me appreciate the better things in life!
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I am always involved with side projects here and there. Because of my experience, I get calls or emaills to work on this or that. I am recently proud to have been part of a 2D project, HULLABALOO, as well at doing animation for the San Francisco Giants!!. (MY team!!), to be shown at AT&T Park! I’m a HUGE rock music fan, and have done a lot of animation on music videos…including some work with Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys. There are various shorter projects and few big ones that I am supposed to be involved with too. Time will tell!
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?I actually CAN tie a cherry stem with my tongue! I’m so proud…… I’m not sure what ‘metallurgy’ means…..I’ll have to look it up. I like to golf when I can….although if you’d seem me play, I don’t think we can consider it a ‘talent’. I am a big sports fan! I like to do caricatures……I think I’m kinda funny………I try to eat green vegetables….and I like to dress cool. This is starting to sound like Match.com….so I’l stop right there! 😉
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
My advice is to NOT give up too easily! It’s a competitive business, but if it is REALLY what you want to do, as I did, you’ll just keep at it and figure out a way to make it! Also…LEARN as much as you can. Learn programs…learn techniques…and NETWORK!! Get to know other people in the animation business! It can lead to work but also animation people are some of the nicest you’ll ever meet.Some will be lifelong friends!! As tough as animation can be sometimes……it’s better than some other professions, where people hate their jobs. You may not be rich and famous….but having the opportunity to express yourself and entertain people ain’t a bad way to make a living! I’m going to to go lay down now…………..