What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Trevor Wall and currently I am the Director of “Sabrina- Secrects of a Teenage Witch” A CGI series Which will air on The Hub and Disney International in the fall.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Unfortunately my jobs previous to animation were pretty tame compared to working in the industry. I worked as a dishwasher and waiter when I was a teenager and I was driving a forklift and delivering warehouse supplies right before I started in the animation business. Pretty boring stuff compared to the insane, wacky world of cartoons.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
It’s usually the one I’m working on at the time, but from the past I’d have to say “Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks”. I worked on the last season of the series as a Storyboard Director. I loved this project so much because I had the opportunity to draw fantastic characters in great surroundings with good scripts to go by and also knowing that the end product would look outstanding!! That is definitely a luxury that a lot of us don’t have, a good end product takes all entities involved, doing their best to make the highest quality possible on a budget and schedule that isn’t always optimal. (I was also lucky enough to win an Emmy for outstanding achievement in Storyboarding for the series. Which also helps in my decision to call it one of my favorite projects to work on!:)
How did you become interested in animation?
I wasn’t the most popular kid in my neighborhood so I found myself at home a lot, in front of the TV, endlessly drawing from cartoons and comic books. Disney movies, that would air every once in a while, and TV series such as “He-Man” or ” Star Blazers” were my world. I also come from Vancouver, Canada, so the weather outside was often wet and rainy. Drawing was my indoor activity of choice. My grandmother, also an artist, saw some talent in me so she bought me the book “Animation by Preston Blair” and my eyes opened up wide! It’s pretty beat up, but I still have the exact copy that she gave me and I still use it today!
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I am originally from a town outside of Vancouver, Canada called Port Coquitlam. I entered into the industry in the early 90’s after a brief stint in one of Vancouver’s animation schools. My first job was in Character and Background layout but to survive in the Canadian animation industry you had to learn and be able to work in all artistic aspects of production. Whether it was Animating, assisting, storyboarding, character, prop or layout design, you needed to be proficient in all areas to continue to work throughout the year. I fell in love with storyboarding and after many years of direction and instruction by some very talented people, I was recruited by Warner Bros. TV animation in the late 90’s. Since then I have used my experience that I received in Canada to be able to work on many different styles at many different studios in Los Angeles. Learning all aspects of production has also helps me to understand and work in the role as a Director.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
It varies from day to day and project to project. Since I’m actually working on a show that’s being co-produced across the globe, I’ll give you the run down of what my workload is lately. Everything is done over e-mails, uploads and downloads. I’ll start the day by reviewing and noting designs and storyboards from France. I’ll also check and review technical character drawings from Ireland. Depending on what day of the week it is, I might be in listening in on a voice recording done in Canada or here in L.A. The afternoon might take me into post production where I’ll review animated CGI footage coming to me via India. After initial animating is done on an episode and after I have called and noted re-takes and locked picture, I’ll listen to sound effects done in Ireland and music scored in France. This all comes together in a final mix, also done in Ireland. This compounded by meetings with Executive producers and broadcasters (on 2 continents) pretty well fills out my 10 hour day. My Cintiq and my computer are my ways of communication to the various entities involved. I don’t know how co-productions were ever done without them!!
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
A couple of things- Definitely first and foremost, I love the drawing! I love drifting off in a space in my head where the drawing I’m working on can take me- It’s definitely a stress reliever and sometimes it’ll take me a moment after looking up from my drawing to remember where I am in the physical. Sounds strange but I guarantee all artists can relate! I also love to interact with other artists whether it be on the same show I’m working on or an artist down the hall working on a separate project.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The part I like the least about my job is having to answer some notes and criticisms when I don’t believe that they will make the project better. This is a struggle that everyone in the animation industry has gone through or is going to go through. Lateral moves and decisions are pains we all must endure!
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
At work I use a 21inch Cintiq with Photoshop 5 (Can’t wait to get 6). I also love sketchbook pro. I’ve always been a PC guy just for the fact that I’ve never learned on a Mac, but I definitely have nothing against them and believe in some ways they are more artist friendly.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The most difficult part about the animation business to me is the constant artistic struggle against the executive mind set. We deal with shorter and shorter schedules all the time and ever decreasing budgets but we are still asked that we deliver a high quality end product. For an animated TV show or feature film to be a success, all parties must contribute 100% of their own knowledge and experience. Whether it be business type of dealings left to the executives or creative decisions left to the artists, everyone should know their role for a product to become a prosperous victory. Monetarily and creatively.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Yes. I met and had Frank and Ollie while they were sitting behind me at a presentation about the 9 old men’s life and work. I also had the honor of meeting the amazing Glen Keane in a Music/DVD store once. I was lucky enough to have him sign and draw me a picture of The Beast on a kids Disney animation kit. And lastly, I had the chance to work with the amazing voice actor Mark Hamill on a series that I directed called “Zevo-3”. Every day I kept a Star Wars comic I had drawn as a child in my bag with me with the intent on having him sign it for me. Every day I chickened out on asking him! I guess that inner (and insecure) child just took over too much.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
After some years of work in the Canadian animation industry, I was recruited by Warner Bros. in 1998 to work on a series that had been in production for over a year. After gaining my proper immigration employment papers, which took months to procure and packing up myself and my family, we came to the United States to start a new life. Unfortunately after 2 weeks of being here the series that I was hired to work on was unceremoniously cancelled. It was a very stressful time for myself and my wife. Luckily three individuals by the names of Bob Doucette, Bobbie Page and Mike Milo came to our aid and we were able to continue with our new life in the Los Angeles animation industry. We have now been here 15 years and I can honestly say that all of the stress and heartache of that time as well as some strife along the way has been quite worth it.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
As well as my career, drawing and animation is my hobby. I have just recently started my blog up again that will show further some of my personal work. I invite all to come by for a look. Thanks!
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I wish I could do both of those things! But unfortunately, no- I’m pretty inept of any unusual talents.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Go to school to learn. Sounds pretty ridiculous, but it’s not. Don’t go to a school to socialize and don’t pick a school for it’s connections to the industry. Art/Animation school is the time to learn all aspects of animation and entertainment production and to try to find influence in everything and in all styles. Don’t try to emulate one certain style, yours will come out in due time. Be the best you can be and never, never only do the bare minimum of what you are asked. Above all, keep your ego in check- no one wants to know who you know, or how great you are. Don’t talk about how talented you are, be humble and show how talented you are.
Great advice there mr.wall