Tom Ruegger

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What is your name and your current occupation?
Name:  Tom Ruegger.   Current occupation:  various animation jobs.

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I ran the film society at my school.  I worked for Twyman Films, a company that rented movies to colleges.  And I worked for my brother Jim Ruegger at Hillside Construction Company where I painted houses — interiors and exteriors — and did roofing.   After I fell off the roof a couple of times –  my mind was busy with cartoon scenarios –  my constructions career came to an end.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’m proud of most of the shows I’ve worked on, especially “Animaniacs,”  “Tiny Toons,” “Pinky and the Brain,” “Histeria,” “Freakazoid,” “Road Rovers,” “A Pup Named Scooby Doo,” and individual episodes of lots of other shows.

How did you become interested in animation?
I loved cartoons ever since I saw them for the first time.  As a little kid, I drew my versions of the cartoon characters I saw on TV –  Yogi, Fred, Popeye, Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Mickey, Donald — – and my interest in drawing and cartoons continued from that point on.

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born and raised in NJ,. went to college at Dartmouth in New Hampshire.  One of my professors there was Maurice Rapf, a screenwriter who had worked for Disney on many films, among them “Cinderella” and “Song of the South.”  He encouraged my interest in animation. Another professor there, Hollywood film historian Arthur Mayer gave me a grant to make my own cartoon…”The Premiere of Playtypus Duck.”

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Depends on what my job happens to be at the time.  Recently, I’ve been directing a pilot at Disney Television Animation.  In that position, my day consisted of working on the storyboard with the artists, recording and editing the vocal tracks, working with the film editor on the animatic, working on the models and turnarounds and mouth charts and doing a lot of drawing to show some of the other artists what I’m hoping to achieve with the pilot.

What part of your job do you like best? Why?
1.  Laughing, especially with others when you arrive at a funny line or moment or discovery.
2.   A perfect drawing of a character or a drawing that perfectly captures a character’s mood or reaction.
3.  When something comes together in the script or in the board or in the animatic or in the final cartoon that really hits the mark, that genuinely makes you laugh.  That’s a wonderful feeling.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?
How long it takes to make a cartoon. The “corporatizing” of cartoons.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I greatly enjoyed having the opportunity to produce funny cartoons on a daily basis.  Would like to resume that process.

What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Photoshop, Cintiq, Flash.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
When I began in the business as an assistant animator at Hanna-Barbera, I worked with:  Popeye animator Dave Tendlar, Donald Duck animator Volus Jones, Looney Tunes director and animator Art Davis and legendary director Tex Avery. Of course, I worked at Hanna Barbera for many years, in many capacities, and worked directly with both Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who were not only my bosses, but my mentors and friends as well.   Over the years, I have also met and/or worked with Jack Zander, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Norm McCabe and many others.  Of course, I worked very closely for many years with Steven Spielberg (on all the Warner Bros./Amblin co-productions).  Also, I’ve been fortunate to work with many if not most of the greats of the animation voice-over world, and, so as not to leave out the name of anyone,   I’ll leave it at that.

Any side projects you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
Working on a couple of new character groups and animatics for those character groups.   Also, I have a blog where I post things that interests me.

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
1.Drawing still matters.  2. Any story can be told in animation…I’m hoping someone will try to tell a story that’s brand new…not one that’s similar to every other story we’eve seen.

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  1. Chris Osle (Faragalli-Hardesty)

    I have always appreciated your talent Tom, and believe me when I tell you the huge smile I got when I saw your name on Animaniacs. I can still sing the damned song. Thank you for bringing such fun for kids and the great satirical side jokes for us adults. It was a pleasure to know you and have thought about you over the years.

  2. Tom, please please please please please please please please PLEASE bring back Animaniacs! It is such a good show, the humor is absolutely remarkable! It basically changed the way I think of things, and I’m better at coming up with jokes on the spot now. It made me extremely sad to know that these amazing characters would not last forever. I know that at some point everything must end, but I feel like the Warner brothers (and the Warner sister) still had a ways to go. I watched every episode in about three months, right after school until I had to go to sleep mostly. I just finished the last episode, and I am extremely sad to see the animaniacs go. It impacted my life, and I really need it to come back. Thank for making this show, Tom.

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