What is your name and your current occupation?
Dan Fraga. I’m the director of The Ricky Gervais Show.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
There have been a few. Comicbook artist, Storyboard artist, Set Designer, Visual Effects Supervisor, Second unit director. Burger King.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
One of my favorites was being part of the launch of Image comics in 1992. Designing the sets for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2008 was a hoot as you might imagine. I’m really proud of the work my crew and I did for The Ricky Gervais Show Season 3.
How did you become interested in animation?
When I was a kid, my parents took us to this discount store. In it I found this Fisher Price Movie Viewer and it came with a cartridge for Disney’s Lonesome Ghosts. I’d seen the cartoon before, but I never had the ability to step through it one frame at a time like you can now with a dvd player of quicktime clip. This was the late 70’s early 80’s, so for me to see that animation was 24 drawings making up a second of movement was like learning the secret to the greatest magic trick. Of course afterwards I made flipbooks and what-not. I eventually discovered comics and took detour from animation. After working as a storyboard artist in feature films, I started noticing the changes and compromises being made from board to final shot and it was kind of a bummer. When I started working on The Hard Times of RJ Berger for MTV, it was the first time that I got to see what I boarded translated near perfectly to final shot. It’s intoxicating. I felt that magical feeling that I once got as a kid with that toy. I love all things animation and made it my mission to learn all that I could about the different kinds that are out there and the histories behind the masterpieces we all love.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from North East Bay Area by San Francisco. I got into the animation business through working on The Hard Times of RJ Berger. I was storyboarding the show and providing on camera artwork for the main character who was an aspiring comicbook artist. The creators of the show asked if I could produce a minute of animation for their pilot and I said I could. Using the tools I had, Pencil, paper, photoshop, and after effects, my buddy and I made the 1 minute segment for the pilot. The pilot was picked up and another 11 episodes were ordered. The creators of the show wanted animation in each episode and wanted each episode to have a different style. They asked that I direct those segments. It was fun and a challenge. I was able to create a pipeline that worked with the budget and schedule, and it was a success.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Working on Gervais or I’d say anything with multiple episodes, my duties would be different from day to day. Reading the script. Meeting about gags. Drawing thumbnails. Handing out to board artists. Reviewing boards. Cutting an animatic. Reviewing animation. Doing retakes. Spotting sound effects. Mixing the show. And combinations of all of the above. It’s a fun job.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Working with talented and like minded people. Like minded in that we all love similar stuff and have lots to share with each other. I learn so much from my crew. It makes the job. The other part I love is the magic. The fact that the show was once just words on paper, and through imagination and teamwork, a piece of entertainment is manifested. It’s awesome.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
When something goes wrong, your fault or not, you’ve got to shoulder the blame and come up with solutions. The first time it happened it was a tough pill to swallow and left me dazed. Once I learned that it’s part of the job, I accepted it and made sure to remember it.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I use a Cintiq, Photoshop, Flash, iPhone, iPad, Avid… all wonderful tools. Basically, anything that gets the job done on time and on budget.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The temporary nature of jobs. When you work daily with a crew for over a couple of years, they become like family. And when the show is over, we all scatter into the wind hoping to recreate the magic again. I’ve been lucky enough to have continued to work with the people I have.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I think that the greatness is being able to do what we love for a living. As far as meeting any legends, the closest I’ve come is seeing Les Clark’s desk at ASIFA. Also, I knew Jack Kirby when I was a kid. He’s more of a comics guy, but he also did some fun stuff in animation.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I pooped my pants in 5th grade.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I love to write. I love to draw. I plan on using those to bring some new fun stuff to audiences in the future.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I have a photographic memory, though sometimes the film doesn’t develop right. Seriously though, I can drink a lot of tequila without getting sick or a hangover. I have no idea why.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? Read, Draw, Study the masters. There are no shortcuts. It’s about the kind of time you put into your studies. Smarter, not harder as they say.