What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Tony White and I wear many hats. My principal full-time job is as animation instructor at the new “AIE-Seattle” school. At the same time, I and a number of top-drawer animation colleagues are developing several traditional hand-drawn movie projects through my virtual studio – “Drawassic Age”. Our most current project is “BAD PENGUIN”, an animated teaser for a full-length independent movie for adults. I also write. My latest book (and I believe my best book) is being published in September 2011… “Animator’s Notebook”.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I came straight into animation from art school in London. I worked for Fords once as an office paper-pusher, so I could support myself through college. It wasn’t crazy but it was sooooooo boring!
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Many. I did the opening title sequence for “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” movie for director Blake Edwards and the Richard Williams studio towards the beginning of my career. I won a British Academy Award for my short biopic, “HOKUSAI ~ An Animated Sketchbook”. I’m proud of many of the 200+ TV commercials I have made too.
How did you become interested in animation?
I stumbled into it by accident as I couldn’t get a job in the area I most wanted to work – illustration. However, when I saw the work that Richard Williams was doing in the 1970’s I was blown away by it originality and knew that’s what I wanted to do. I ended-up as his personal assistant for 10 months, then was a director/animator for him for the next 5 years.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I started in London, my birthplace, and I am currently living and working in the Pacific Northwest. My interest was as stated above but I am always excited again and again by the potential in animation that has not yet been nearly realized – yes, especially in traditional, hand-drawn animation.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
My full-time job requires that I work for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. But I will get up at 5.00am and get a couple of hours of animation done before leaving for my classes. I will then return home to do a few hours of animation in the evening. Weekends are great because I can do even more hours of animation! (Can you tell that I’m quite animation obsessed?)
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like teaching young students but I most like showing them while I’m working – more in an atelier/apprenticeship situation. I think students can learn much more by ‘doing’ than by ‘listening then trying’. Sadly though, the regular apprenticeship days in the animation industry are long gone.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I do like all of it but I would like to spend more hours a week making animating films with students, rather than teaching via an underachieving teaching curriculum that is imposed on schools by their ruling accreditation bodies.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Fighting to bring new respect and opportunities to traditional 2D animation! When the Disney traditional animation studio closed in 2002 it destroyed the nationwide industry. It’s not the same throughout the rest of the world but in the USA – ironically the home of all that was once great in 2D animation production – it is almost treated as a ‘disease’ by the US mainstream.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Pencil and paper! (Yes, it’s still a delight to use – and actually far superior to digital approaches when quality of drawing and accuracy of inbetweening is important!) I still don’t ignore the mainstream digital software though… Photoshop, ToonBoom Studio, Premiere, After Effects, etc. I am intrigued by TVP and Flash though – but entirely like the traditional drawn approach best as it has more ‘soul’.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I was personal apprentice to Richard Williams (3 times Oscar winner and author of the animator’s bible, “The Animator’s Survival Kit”) for two years. I also apprenticed to the late, great Ken Harris (top animator from Warner Brothers in the ‘Bugs Bunny’ and “Roadrunner” era) and studied with the late great Art Babbit (the ‘10th old man’ of Disney animation from their golden era). Most of all my best friends and colleagues are from the now non-existent Disney animation studio, as well as some key animators at Pixar. I met some really great artists, animators and producers via my annual “2D OR NOT 2D Animation Festival” in Seattle.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Surviving the loss of commercial 2D animation production in the USA – following the Michael Eisner cull! (It’s still a never-ending battle in the USA, as I said earlier – but I believe its one well worth fighting for!)
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
Check out my “Bad Penguin” and “Drawassic Age” websites. My personal blog covers a lot of ground too.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I am a very spiritually motivated and a metaphysically inspired person – but that will always remain very much a private part of me. I’m very much NOT a flake though!
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Draw! Draw!! Draw!!! Yes, even in the CG, non-animation world a drawing and art capability is a huge bonus. It makes you better at what you do and it’s also a growing demand from studio employers. Most students think that if you operate software you’re home and dry. It’s just not true. The tools may change but you have to be an ‘artist’ first, to get the most out of whatever tools are given you. If you don’t believe me, check out my book, “JUMPING THROUGH HOOPS – The Animation Job Coach”.