Noel Saabye

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What is your name and your current occupation?

My name is Noel Saabye and I’m currently the Owner/ Art Director of my own business ( Clown Pirate Productions, LLC). I specialize in 2D Animation (traditional & Flash), as well as Cartoon Illustration. I occasionally tackle some web design, and social media for local small businesses and I’ve recently started to learn to tattoo!

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?

Hands down, the strangest job I’ve ever had was working at a Dental Lab. They had me doing metal finishing on crowns and bridges prior to them getting the porcelain finish. I have no idea why 19 year old me was trusted to make your teeth.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?

Although the show wasn’t the most popular, I will always look back on HISTERIA! from Kids WB as being the “Big One”. The characters were a lot of fun to work on. My second would be Directing Edd hosting Cartoon Cartoon Fridays for Cartoon Network. I also have several games on that I’m really proud of including TKO and Magnet Face.

How did you become interested in animation?

I’m the son of a high school art teacher, so I’ve been drawing all my life. Oddly enough, my mom had given me The Illusion of Life as a birthday gift when I was in Jr. High and I never really thought much of it other than it had cool pictures. It wasn’t until after high school that I started trying out different art related jobs and found an opportunity to learn animation.

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?

I’m a native Minnesotan. Back in the early 90s I was invited to attend a monthly meeting of comic and animation artists. Each month I would make it a point to learn something from someone new. My eagerness caught the attention of someone who had introduced me to an animator who was starting his own studio. I became his apprentice/ intern and the rest is history.

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?

The majority of my day is spent working on the particular project I may have on my desk, but I also incorporate an hour or two keeping up with my networking on various sites and replying to potential clients. In the case that I’m between projects, I’m probably working on personal art which I sell at conventions or spending time at the tattoo shop.

What part of your job do you like best? Why?

My favorite part of the day is when you hit “the zone” and you’re just drawing as if there’s nothing else around you. I feel that’s when I do my best work.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?

Letting down would-be clients that don’t understand the cost of creative work. At this stage, I would often times really like to work on projects that people come to me with, but I just can’t pay my bills with barters, or portfolio pieces.

What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?

My weapons of choice are… Sketchook Pro and my Cintiq. From there I will use Photoshop, Illustrator or Flash.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?

Staying in the business! If you don’t have a full time gig, you’re always networking and trying to secure that long-term project. I kind of like the challenge, but it can be difficult at times.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?

I’ve had the privilege to not only meet, but work with many great animators. Some of which were big inspirations to me including Star Toons owner Jon McClenahan. Also, working at Cartoon Network I was able to meet many of the show creators including Maxwell Adams, Genndy Tartakovsky, and Danny Antonucci.

Describe a tough situation you had in life.

Freelancing is always unpredictable. If you’re not good with your money, you can find yourself it a sticky situation during the down time. It happens to all us. That’s when you learn to save your punch cards from the coffee shop.

Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?

I have a few game apps in various stages, I’m creating art to sell at various conventions and art festivals and I’m also starting to tattoo.


Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?

I have this amazing talent of making people believe I’m much younger that I am. Maybe it’s because I act immature or I don’t dress the part… maybe it’s just taking the animation thing to far and refusing to stop laughing at everything?


Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? Draw, Draw, Draw! Draw your dog, your cat, a bird out the window… keep drawing. Stop with the Manga characters (unless you already live in Japan). Draw in different styles, and learn the old school methods of animation. I’ve seen too many portfolios from students that rely too much on flash and don’t understand the fundamentals of traditional animation. It’s not just knowing “how” but knowing “why”.

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  1. Thanks for reposting my interview! Let me know if you’d prefer an update.

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