What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Patrick Stannard, though most people refer to me as “the Kilted Animator” or “that guy in the Kilt”. I currently work at Powerhouse Animation as an Animator.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Ho boy, I’ve worked some pretty nasty jobs before getting into my art career. My favorite one to tell people about is when I worked as a raisin dumper. To your quirked eyebrow and inquisitive expression I say, a raisin dumper is exactly that, someone who dumps raisins, frozen blocks of raisins, eight hours a day. I performed this simple task at a grain factory in Michigan that supplied grain and fruits for cereal companies to box and ship. Extra Extra Raisin Bran was the worst, the conveyor belt never stopped moving, and you’d come home smelling like boxes, and boxes, of raisins. The smell never really washes out.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
There’s so many. I’ve been lucky enough to have a career of varied experiences. Epic Mickey 2 and Stoic Studios: The Banner Saga are my two biggest go to projects currently. Both have taught me a lot about how to animate well and efficiently, as well as allowed me to really explore and have fun. There is of course my internship at Disney when I was a Junior in college, I can say that I learned more in that year than I have any other in my life, and I’ll always cherish that summer as one of my best. The job I’ve been proudest to work on however has got to be a little video game project titled, Downfall Aftermath. Â If you’ll permit me to reminisce, Downfall Aftermath was a glorious experiment. At a community college in Kalamazoo, we put together a 6 man team to pitch an idea for a new video game production class. To prove it’s worth we were tasked with producing a working video game in 13 weeks, from scratch. The final product wasn’t what you would call a AAA title, nor even a B or C game, but it had functioning levels, a multiplayer server, working character models, animations, items, and above all we finished it on time. It made the local papers and was played at the school for a couple years beyond that. It helped spur the animation and game courses in my home town. It was a risk when I hopped onto the project, and it required more sleepless nights than I prefer to remember, but it was a rewarding adventure and opportunity to explore my passion.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Kalamazoo Michigan, and ever since I was reprimanded at a parent teacher conference for drawing on my homework, I’ve known that art was the career for me. Animation specifically grew on me more gradually, as I began as many young artists do, with aspirations of becoming a concept designer. Â Sometime after finishing Downfall Aftermath I realized that I enjoyed playing with the characters animation sets more than any other part of the game design. I had very specific ideas of how I wanted each character to move, to act, and this fascination with movement soon became an obsession. When I enrolled at CCS (College for Creative Studies), I gravitated towards the Entertainment Arts department. It wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year however that I had finally made up my mind to forgo my desires to be a concept artist in exchange for my passion in animation. Switching your focus halfway through your college career be tricky however, and I had few extra credits to spare.Â I met with and made an agreement with the main traditional animation instructor, Steve Stanchfield. He allowed me to skip the entire Animation Tech 1 class if I agreed to study animation over the summer. I remembered I had met with a budding animation instructor during my first animation festival experience. His name was Jason Ryan and he was offering 3d animation courses for a price I could afford. An added bonus was the fact that he was teaching 3d animation using 2d animated guides and roughs. By the time my Junior year started, I had a strong understanding of the fundamental principles of animation.Â By the end of my Junior year I had taken the entire remaining Animation Tech courses, character design courses, and even a film making course or two. The result was a jam packed demo reel, that, along with some contacts I made from attending nearby animation festivals, and a lot of luck, landed me a summer internship at Disney Animation Studios. Following that I finished my senior year at CCS and got a job here in Austin Texas working for Powerhouse as a hand drawn flash animator.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Powerhouse is a service studio, so it’s hard to say what a typical day is like, or a typical job. We do just about everything from video game sprites to feature quality animation, and everything in between, to the right, up above, and out of left field. My work is a bit more specific than others as I tend to tackle the traditional or hand drawn types of work. So while no day is typical, we do have a routine we follow and it goes like this. Â At the start of my day if I do not have something I am currently working on I will go to one of my supervisors or one of Powerhouse’s directors. They most always have something ready to work on, and will hand me a scene or two, sometimes a bunch with an ETA of about a week at most. Added to by bundle will be concept art from the client or in house artists, sometimes an audio or temp audio track, layouts or illustrated backgrounds, and an animatic to follow. Beyond any notes the client my have, or direction from the directors I am for the most part given a lot of creative freedom to pump character or entertaining motion into each shot. Once I am done and it’s approved by the director, it is sent to the client for review and sometimes comes back with revisions. Rinse and repeat this process a few times and you have a typical day/week for an animator at Powerhouse.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Big, long, juicy shots. Shots with a character, some audio, a layout and a lot of freedom to play around. The goal is always to produce the animation the client wants, but I get a special satisfaction in pleasantly surprising someone with entertaining motion or a character trait that complements the scene. It doesn’t always work out that way, but those are the best moments, and I’m thankful that Powerhouse gives me a lot of those.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Slow days can be hard, and with any service studio you can expect fluctuating schedules, weeks when there seems almost too much work to handle or weeks when there’s not enough to go around. Thankfully Powerhouse tends to always have the engine running and I haven’t had but one or two days in my 2 year career where I’ve twiddled my thumbs for very long.
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?
At Powerhouse we use a variety of Adobe programs, and I animate primarily in Adobe Flash. Having studied using pencil and paper, jumping over to a Cintiq monitor and Flash took some time to get used to. Thankfully the process of animation is the same, though vector drawing still tend to frustrate me on occasion. Flash allows me to experiment at a much faster pace, but working on pencil and paper teaches you discipline and planning. They both have their advantages, and I think any modern animator should keep a light table at home to remind themselves of the basics now and then.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
A steady paycheck is more than most people get coming out of art school, which is something I am sincerely thankful for. Because of that I tend not to have a lot of gripes. It can be somewhat disheartening when a project you’ve put a lot of time and effort into gets canceled, or in some manner restricts you from sharing your work, but it’s by no means disabling. If I had to pick something I’d have to go with that as the most difficult, aside from student loan debt of course.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
You get to meet and greet with a lot of your childhood heroes when you regularly attend animation festivals. During my internship at Disney I worked directly under Bert Klein and his mentor Eric Goldberg. The insight I gained from them has been invaluable to me, and I still apply it to my art and animation today. While at Disney I also had the chance to meet Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, as well as sit and draw with Glen Keane in his office. Once during the Ottawa Animation Festival, a family member of Richard Williams who had been traveling with him, pulled a friend and myself over to share some of Richard’s old highschool drawings with us. I then got to meet Richard himself for a brief moment, and drew a caricature of him on the spot. In my opinion if you want to meet great animators, go to animation festivals.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Recently this year my father passed away after a 3 year long battle with cancer. He was my first role model, and probably the best father any person could ask for, and I learned a lot about appreciating and experiencing life from him. I am happy to say that I wasn’t left with regret after my father passed for he made the most out of every day. There were never any uncertainties with him, we knew he loved us and he knew we loved him. “Do what you love” he always told me, “because then you’ll never have to work a day in your life”. I try to live by that as best I can.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I am currently producing a short film “My Dad the Giant”, a project that has been in production for a few years and tells the story of the relationship I have had with my younger sister, but turned into a father son story. After the recent passing of my father however I will add a special credit for him at the end, as he always wanted to see my work on the big screen. It’s 5:35 long, is currently entirely animated, and is in the process of clean up and post production.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I work a lot in art and animation, sometimes I worry it’s my only subject I can converse on with confidence. In my spare time however I do enjoy cooking, and lately I have begun perfecting some tasty entrees. The most recent successful experiment is a sauteed cod on a bed of rice and covered in a black bean vinaigrette. I’m from Michigan, gotta show some love for that fresh water fish.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Too much to say in one paragraph. If I had to list a few points they would be these. Love your work, it’s much easier to spend months or years on a project if it’s something you love to do anyways. Always strive to improve, listen to feedback but know your own voice. Knowing your own voice can be difficult, and require a lot of introspection. Go to animation festivals, they are great locations to rub elbows with other industry professionals. Above all don’t be afraid to take risks, to try something that you are passionate about in the face of opposition, you never know what you’ll get. You may fail, and that’s OK, failure can be one of the best learning experiences, especially if it’s something you’ve put a lot of effort into. So in closings, love it, express it, explore it, and never let rejection or failure defeat you.