What is your name?
What would you say has been your primary job in animation?
First and foremost I’m a props & effects designer.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Professionally, they’re all good because they paid my rent for a time. Recently, I’d say Disney’s “Kim Possible” for the sheer joy in the design work, I loved the wacky off-kilter nature of the universe and then the ill fated and all too short lived “Atlantis” T.V. spin off, I got to draw like Mignola (who I realllly like) and the series story arc/mystery was brilliant, sadly, it died much too soon. Early on there was a one shot show called “Jeremy Creek”,it was a blast and the creator of the original property was happy with how we had treated her baby, that felt really good.Personally, I enjoy photography, write music, play a few instruments, sing in my wife’s madrigal group, sculpt and enjoy wood work… I like to use my hands you see….
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Worked as a graphics artist for an inhouse Oncology Teaching Series for County USC Medical Center, cutting films by hand for graphics, doing Letra-type, designing logos that sort of thing, I had to wear a dosimeter badge ’cause we were situated near the medical radiologics for the complex… yes, art is dangerous. I worked in commercial silk screen factory for a time, probably trashed my liver cleaning the giant industrial screens with toluene and no gloves, but hey, it was the ’70’s and OSHA was still getting it’s collective act together. Had a tour in the Legal Profession as a grunt/messenger… did not improve my opinion of lawyers in general.
How did you become interested in animation?
I’ve always loved the medium. I grew up on a steady diet of classic WB cartoons and reruns of the Mickey Mouse Club. However, I planned to be a medical illustrator through High School and my first year of College… then I discovered a severe allergy to formaldehyde… that and a pretty high empathy quotient for the teaching cadavers brought that career track to a smashing end. I Gumped it.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
From L.A., moved away as a child, came back, been here so long, I’m ill equipped for regions elsewhere with real weather. I got into animation by lucking into a two week job that turned into a full time career. Providence or sheer dumb luck? It all depends on your perspective, I guess. To this day, my relatives have no idea what I do for a living.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job? My job starts with either the script or the storyboard, depending on the show. Some shows, I’m ahead of the board guys, so I design based on the script, other shows the board guys take the lead (usually due to budget) and I follow them. Props are anything that is not a character that animates, so I design whatever falls into that category; “Scooby walks into a table, piled high with fruit and sandwiches, knocks it over.” Easy to write, but none of that stuff exits, so I have to decide, based on show style, BG & character reference what all of those items would look like and then create them in as few drawings as possible, but as clearly as possible so that they can be animated. I also may have to do animating backgrounds, in which case I hope for loads of BG reference. Effects are similar in that they must relate to show style, but generally there is a bit more latitude in say a tornado or an explosion than a telephone. Lots of story meetings and handouts of assignments, lots of research (thank you google images) and lots of checking with the director or producer (depending on the studio) as to whether they had a particular vision in mind of if I should just strike out on my own. I will usually spend the first half of the week roughing, then getting approvals, making whatever changes are needed, then cleaning up to make the Friday deadlines for shipping. Repeat.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Meeting new people. There are so many interesting, talented people in this Industry and we’re all thrown together into these incredibly stressful, deadline driven jobs, it’s like going to war, you learn fast who you can count on and who you can’t, but everyone of them is a piece of a fascinating puzzle.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Deadlines. The Studio’s keep trimming production time to save a buck at the cost of quality and our bodies. When I stared, there was time for Development, now it’s all part of Production, and the clock is running… madness.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The cyclical nature of the work has never been easy to adapt to. In the Real World, at least until the recent economic downturn, you got a job and worked at it for years. In our Industry, the better you are at your job, the sooner you’ll be out on your butt again looking for the next gig. It seems an odd way to reward competence and skill.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Once upon a time it was paper and pencil (sigh, my first love) and maybe a little tweak pass in Photoshop, however more and more Studios seem to be favoring the Cintiq and a graphics program. For “My Gym Partner is a Monkey”, it was the Cintiq and Flash (still use Flash as a vector drawing program, it’s so much better than Illustrator). For my latest job it was the Cintiq and Sketchbook Pro, I was doing storyboards for a DVD at Technicolor, using all of my own hardware and software (i.e. A MacPro Tower, a Wacom Cintiq, Photoshop CS3 and Sketchbook Pro 2010). So, I’d build my own board pages in Photoshop and import them as JPGS to Sketchbook Pro to do the drawing in layers, then send it back to Photoshop to do minor clean-ups or effects, some things are just easier in PS, others in SBP), before discarding rough layers and then compressing them for upload to and FTP site.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
The toughest thing in my life, the one that I struggle with the most is the loss of my father. He was killed by a drunk driver when I was too young. I never really got to know him and that has affected the whole of my adult life. I come from a family of medical professionals, I’m the one one that has ever had any interest in art, except for my father, I got my love of drawing and my ability from him. On good days I remember to try and live the life he never got to, on bad days I realize how much I’ve let his memory down.
I have an online portfolio here as well.
I’m in the process of writing a couple of children’s books, because I’m concerned about the direction our education system seems to be going. Critical Thinking seems to be one of the things left behind and I’m worried by that, if our children can’t think for themselves, they will be ill-equipped to take over from us in the future.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Personally, I think everyone I’ve ever worked with was “animation greatness”, for the most part these are the poor slobs in the trenches doing their jobs with little or no recognition trying to keep their heads above water. Celebrity-wise, I met both Hanna and Barbera when I worked at HB, Jonathan Winters and a lot of voice talent. Steven Spielberg when I was at WB.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Animation is a very small industry, be nice to everyone and leave your egos at the door, invariably today’s hot wrist d’ jour is tomorrows “who?” . Everyone you meet is crazy talented and we’re all just trying to do the best job we can in this insane pressure cooker, so keep your cool, laugh when you can, because the ride is over all too soon.