Ron Yavnieli

What is your name and your current occupation?
Name: Ron Yavnieli. Occupation: Animator at Bento Box. I’m also a Voice Actor and Stand-Up Comedian.

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
When I was a teenager I worked for a birthday clown company as a character performer. I usually dressed up as Batman but once they sent me out as Barney the Dinosaur. The Barney costume didn’t fit me. I’m 6’2″ and the feet of the costume only came down to my shins. So I was walking around the mall that day with my feet sticking out. People kept saying to me “Nice Sandals Barney” or “You look like Barney on Crack!” At one point a group of mentally challenged adults came up and hugged me, then they tried to pull my mask off but their caretaker called them off before they could. I never did that character again.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Currently my favorite project is “The Sketchy Comedy Show” which I produce and perform in with several other multi- talented Comedians at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank. It’s a show that blends stand-up comedy with Sketches: both the drawn and the performed variety, and music. We have a roster of great Comedians who all work in the animation field either as Artists, Writers, Voice Actors or all three. In the past, one of my all time favorite projects was a welcome banner for WB’s internal website: D.A.F.E. which stands for “Digital Assets Fulfilled Electronically”. The ad agency that hired me let me come up with the basic idea, write, storyboard and direct it as well. All they had to go on was that Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny were supposed to appear in the banner. I made it a 30 second long- Looney Tunes short, rather than just a plain old welcome banner. Even though it was a small project, writing, story boarding and directing those characters was a dream come true for me. It was definitely on my bucket list.

How did you become interested in animation?
Like Ray Liotta said in ‘Goodfellas’: “As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be an Animator.” Maybe I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea. I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember and a fan of cartoons for that long as well. I guess if you wanted to pinpoint a specific moment that got me interested in learning how to animate, there’s this story from my early childhood… When I was very little, my family had a super 8 projector on which we’d view old Disney Cartoons like “The Ugly Duckling”, “The Tortoise and the Hare” and “Dwarf’s Dilemma”. Often the projector would slow down and the film would get stuck. Before it started to bubble and burn, the film would slow down just enough that you’d see each individual frame going by. That introduced me to the idea of how animation worked. Then when I was a few years older, my 4th grade class did a Claymation project. I was hooked after that. Claymation became my personal favorite form of animation (though I haven’t done any in a long while) This was during the height of the popularity of the California Raisins so the idea of having animation as a career seemed like a worthy goal.

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I grew up in Miami Fl. Around the age of 12, I began pestering the local animator to let me come and visit his studio. That man was (and still is) Frank Gladstone : of Disney, Dreamworks, WB and Starz to name a few. He’s still a mentor to me to this day. I started working in animation at age 19 at a studio in Tel-Aviv, Israel called “Bet-Anima”. It was the only animation studio in the country at the time but it no longer exists. Due to the digital boom in Israel, there are now several studios there that do a variety of work. After Bet Anima, I worked in a lot of smaller studios around the US: Animotion in Syracuse NY, Deep Blue Sea in Miami and several others. After working for a few years, I went to Cal Arts to study in the Character Animation Department.

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I’ve never had a “typical” day. Not as a studio employee or a freelancer. Each day is different with it’s own unique challenges.

What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The Creative end for sure! I love the “Blue Sky” Design phase: Brainstorming and coming up with the ideas as well as plussing the ideas of others.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Polishing and refining the previous part. I realize it’s completely necessary to the process but as I said, the “blue sky” phase is much more fun for me, and it’s where I get a chance to shine. With a good team in place, everyone can get a chance to do their part to perfection and play off of each other’s strengths.

What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Flash and Toonboom mostly. At work I use a Cintiq. At home I use a Lenovo laptop which is a lot like a Cintiq in that you can draw right on the screen.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
It can be very “feast or famine” a lot of the time.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
The first time I visited Cal Arts,Marc Davis happened to be there that day giving his annual talk to the students. It was toward the end of his life, he was frail and in a wheelchair but still had enough energy to talk to the audience and show slides of his amazing work from over the years. The work itself was very inspiring but more than that, his demeanor was wonderful. Hearing him giggle like a kid as he went through the slides of work he’d done for the rides at Disneyland, and tell the stories about them was really special. Above anything else, that day reassured me that I was on the right path. After his talk, I went to the main office of the school to talk to the department head. Marc was there with his wife. On his way out, I thanked him for coming. A few months later, I went to Disneyland for the first time and saw the original “Pirates of the Carribean” ride which Marc designed and showed slides of that day. I’d been to Disneyworld many times as a kid growing up in Florida and by comparison “Pirates” in California is much smaller, slower, grungier and darker than the one in Fl. BUT, something about that one is special. The one in Orlando is great, but the one is Disneyland CA is a work of Art! It may sound silly to some people but I felt Marc Davis’s spirit coming through in that ride. I felt lucky that day that I’d got to hear him talk in person. He died later that year.

Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Hernia surgery and the subsequent recovery was really painful but I got a good joke out of it for my act.

Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
‘The Sketchy Comedy Show’ which I mentioned in question one. Also I’m working on a few of my own personal films and webisodes.

Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Being a stand-up comic and Voice actor isn’t enough for you? I’m also a really good cook.

Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Most of you will probably do freelance work for at least a little while before a studio hires you, or in between studios hiring you. When you do, make sure you get a written contract from your clients that states very clearly how much you’re getting paid for how much work and when. Also try to keep in mind that any freelance work you do should accomplish at least one if not all of the following items: It should advance your career, increase your skill set, and/or be enjoyable. Ideally you want to have all three, but even two is worth it if you can get it. If it’s none of those, don’t bother with it. I learned that the hard way. Being up front about all that at the beginning will save you a lot of headaches. If you aren’t working for a studio or freelancing, try to use the time to make your own films and put them up on youtube or vimeo. Studios aren’t interested in seeing pencil tests anymore.


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