What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Eric T. Elder and I am an Animation and Video Game Producer in Los Angeles.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I had a couple of cool service jobs before getting into animation full time. I was the “King of Room Service” at the Hotel Atop the Bellvue one of the oldest hotels in the country and got to see some interesting celebrities Winona Ryder, Sherman Hemsley, The Edge from U2. Then I was a singing waiter on the Spirit of Philadelphia and my solo song was “The Rainbow Connection” from the muppet movie. I also had a retail job at a Warner Brothers studio store selling prints and cells of classic Looney Tunes.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I am definitely proud to be part of the team that created King of the Hill. My favorite sequence was one of my last where I made Peggy a rapper. Also I’m really proud of the Game Wizards program I created at the Art Institute in Santa Monica where I trained many successful people to work in Video Games.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m originally from Philadelphia where there were at the time just one small animation studio called the Production House. I worked on a project there which was an infomercial for baby formula. That was the first dollar I ever earned doing animation. I would say my break came though when Bill Plympton recommended me to a guy named Peter Rosenthal who hired me to produce and direct an animated pilot.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Right now I’m in meetings all day and on social media alot promoting Changa.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
As a producer my favorite thing is when I get some artwork or a scene back and it looks great. It’s just very satisfying to see the vision get realized.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The thing I like the least is dealing with executives who are ignorant of the process and don’t have reverence or respect for it.
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?As a Producer I work with everything Unity 3D, Maya, Max, Adobe Creative, Flash. Our team in Buenos Aires Titan Creative is using Harmony for our animation. Digital has made a HUGE impact on the process and the industry. I shot on an Oxberry camera an cheap rigged up video cameras when I was in school.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The most difficult part of being in animation and games is being a black man. To even sit at the table we have to be 10X better than anyone else just to be considered for anything and/or we need someone to sponsor us. Even still there are only 3% blacks in animation and even less in gaming.
If you could change the way the business works and is run how would you do it?
I would love to see equality happen. I would love to see young brothers and sisters have an equal opportunity to be apart of this amazing industry and art form.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Oh sure, Bill Plympton was my first, I’ve been really fortunate and lucky to be in and around some amazing crews. Everyone at MTV Animation was uber talented. That’s where I met Chris Pyrnowski owner of Titmouse Animation. Mike Judge on King of the Hill, all the Simpsons crew a few of which I went to school with.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
It was definitely a challenge moving out to Hollywood without a gig set up and getting rejected by every studio. I made the commitment to stay at it no matter what and was really lucky to get on King of the Hill. Film Roman was a great studio and I met so many great people that I still adore to this day.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
My main focus is on Changa and the Jade Obelisk right now. It is really exciting to be working on a project that features African characters and culture while still being universal. We are doing what has never been done before. It is also awesome to be that I am an owner in what we are creating. All my life I’ve worked for others and helped to make millions of dollars for them. This is an opportunity for me and my team to benefit from our labor i a more substantial way.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I’m really into German or Euro style board games and play them any chance I get. The Germans are light years ahead of us in board game design.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Never give up no matter the circumstances. I have a lot to say about this as I’ve coached hundreds of students to work in the animation and gaming fields and have a 90% success rate. First be laser focused on where you want to work, then make sure your work/portfolio reflects that. Then find a way to get an inside contact.