What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Rich Murray – illustrator, animator, interactive designer and owner of RichToons.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Before becoming an animator I had a lot of jobs. I was a landscaper, stock boy, fence painter, library page, copy writer and graphic designer. I was a dishwasher for two weeks at a restaurant in a mall. One afternoon I was wheeling the garbage cart through the mall’s hidden hallway on the way to the dump. I burst through a set of doors to find a large room full of mostly naked very plus-sized models who were in the middle of a costume change for a live fashion show. I’m still not sure who was the victim in that situation.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
There are several projects that RichToons is very proud of. Among them – http://www.myteenlounge.com. This was a site created for Upper Canada Mall to help promote teen-related events happening around the mall – new stores, contests, etc. We developed an online web-osodic series about a group of teens and their experiences in the mall. We also developed the site around the personalities of the various teen characters and even developed their profiles on various social media sites such as Facebook and Blogger. The site and series garnered 4 marketing awards for Upper Canada Mall. Another project we’re very proud of is a campaign of spots written and animated by RichToons to promote a site where teens can socialize and share their acne horror stories http://www.youtube.com/user/stressometer.
How did you become interested in animation?
I became interested in animation at an early age. I remember always drawing cartoons. Usually I was trying to make perfect copies of the characters I would see in the Sunday paper. Comic books were next and I would often be drawing my own comics on lined binder paper. I was fascinated by the idea of wanting to see my characters move and anything animated in general whether it be 2D or claymation. I once did a short stint at Nelvana of cleaning up animation cels. I ended up spending most of my time just talking to the various animators, (and this was before everything was digital), about my favourite Nelvana TV specials – Cosmic Christmas, Intergalactic Thanksgiving and the little known movie Rock And Rule. They were surprised at all the little details I remembered of their animations.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I applied to be a part of the Sheridan College Computer Graphics program in 1991. At the time only 20 students a year got into the program. I was lucky enough to get accepted and while I was there I was witness to version one of Macromedia Director (before it became an Adobe property). It was then that it all clicked for me – being able to scan in my drawings, make them into digital art that I could then animate and even add interactivity. I knew in that moment that I had found my medium.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I work from home, so a typical day starts with getting my boy up and making the family breakfast and then getting the little man to the school bus stop. I then sift through my morning emails, put on Howard Stern and get busy drawing (or converting things into vectors or animating or coding or writing scripts or day dreaming or playing video ga- just generally working hard, okay?).
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The best aspects of working in animation is hearing praise for a job well done – reaching the audience in the way that I intended.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The worst aspects of working in animation is of course the long hours.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I primarily use Adobe Flash. With Flash, I can develop animated content AND highly interactive content. I of course will also use various other animation and effects tools as needed. I have a laptop with an extra monitor for programs like Flash with a lot of panels. I have a scanner, printer and two back up drives.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The most difficult part of the business changes. Sometimes it’s trying to freshen my motivation. I work on a lot of corporate jobs for clients and I’ll sometimes hit a streak of similar projects that can feel monotonous. But I always try to find the lemonade side of the lemons. The most difficult part of my business a few years ago was the recession. I have to admit things were very lean for about a year and it gave me a whole new appreciation for any and all business I get now.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Other than the aforementioned moments with some of the original animators at Nelvana, I haven’t had any encounters with my animation heroes, but I feel like I am brushing up against greatness when I see the fantastic work of some of my colleagues and collaborators. It helps me to keep raising my own bar.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I had a tough situation in life when I applied to go to art college many years ago, (Ontario College of Art). I was very nervous on the day I had to go down and “audition” my portfolio amongst dozens of other students in a big auditorium. A handful of the professors walked around and, like America’s Got Talent, three of them would give you a vote on whether you did or didn’t get in. Three out of three, after looking at my admittedly feeble portfolio of hand-drawn cartoons, had no problem giving me a thumbs down and crushing my dreams of being an artist professionally. The “nice” one asked if I had any other skills I could rely on for a living.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
As a side project, I’m currently developing an interactive children’s story app with a partner of mine. It’s called Buildosaurs (http://www.behance.net/gallery/Buildosaurs/789273) and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun while also helping me dip my toes into the app world. We’re getting a page set up on Kickstarter to help us fund this project. Besides that, I’ve run a few half marathons and have so far completed one full marathon with what I feel was a decent time of 3 hrs, 40 mins.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
No unusual talents except for a very trusty B.S. detector I’ve developed over the years. It goes off right away when people ask if I’ll do work in return for shares in an upstart company or project.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Whether you’re an aspiring animator, or aspiring anything, the downturn in the economy made one thing very obvious to me – you must make your own opportunity. I think there IS a demand for animators, but sometimes you have to make your own job. What I did with RichToons is seek out the opportunities to where animation was not necessarily being applied, and that was the starting point for building my business. Who knew you could use animation to develop a web series for a mall? Or motivate a sales force to increase its sales? Or create a moving logo for a small production company? Or create a fun, interactive training application? Or create an animated story app for kids? I did. And then it was a matter of finding a solid client base that agreed.