What is your name and your current occupation?
John Schnall, president of the thriving multi-national (or at least multi-floor) animation emporium called Quality Schnallity Inc. We make explainer videos, music videos, games, and sundry. Lots of sundry.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
You know how circuses shoot a clown out of a cannon, and he ends up on top of a far-away circus tent? Well, the dirty little secret is it’s a different clown that’s in the cannon and that’s on the circus tent: the clown in the cannon is completely incinerated when the blast goes off, and the one on top of the tent is a completely different clown. I bring up this unfortunate situation because one of my many pre-animation jobs was: I was the guy who had to clean the clown viscera out of the cannon. Hey, someone has to do it…
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’m very proud of my various independent films, particularly The Dead Comic. What makes me proud of this film is how many people absolutely hate it; I must be doing something right if I can get absolute hatred. The film can be seen on my website, but I’m not putting a link here; if you can’t take five minutes to search it out then you don’t want to see it, really.
How did you become interested in animation?
I fourth grade the teacher passed around a strip of blank 35 mm film, and had us draw on it. I spent a long time, totally getting the sequential frame by frame thing, and tried to make the ultimate character walk; I drew the same stick figure in marker over and over as he took one small step for humankind. Then the teacher projected the animation in class, and I watched in horror at the blip across the screen I had created. So, honestly, my obsession with animation started with that feeling of extreme horror at how insignificant my labors were in the big scheme of things, which became the theme of pretty much all of my films from the 80s thru the Aughts.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from New Jersey. You know that last episode of the Sopranos? Quality Schnallity Inc is located right behind the restaurant where that was shot. I got into the animation business thru drinking. More specifically, ASIFA-East (the New York chapter of the international animation society) has a yearly festival, and when I was just out of college two of my films received prizes in the festival. After the festival a group went out drinking and I tagged along; over beers i met George Griffin who offered me some freelance work; I continued working with George on and off for years. So I highly recommend drinking as a method to break into the industry.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Wake up early. Check email. Put out a fire. Rinse. Repeat.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like the monkeys. They are so cute; they hang around the office swinging from the lamps by their tails.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Cleaning up after the monkeys.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I’m happy to say that one of my biggest tools is pencil (or marker) and paper; always has been, probably always will be.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The most difficult part of running a home business is that you’re always working; right now I’ve got a client in Dubai, another in Japan, just finished a job with an Australian client, and a few local clients; I’m often working all sorts of odd hours. Then again, working is better than not working, so…
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I AM animation greatness; it’s the pixels that have gotten small. Oh, OK, I want to ace this test so I’m going to give you three of my brushes with animation greatness: 1: Several of my early, shot-on-film films were shown in a theatrical package that toured theaters in the US. Since it was a ‘movie’, one of the most successful programs got reviewed on the tv show “At The Movies”, which at this particular juncture was hosted by Rex Reed and Bill Somethingorother. Rex Reed hated the whole program. But, he said, there was one film that was terri- (at this point Bill Somethingorother interrupted him saying some inane thing like “Well, Rex, you’re not going to like all the films”, but it was clear in context that Rex was going to say “terrific”, as opposed to “terrible” or “teriaki sauce”). The film he singled out was my film “I Was A Thanksgiving Turkey”: 2: I co-directed the tv show JoJo’s Circus for the Disney Channel. The Canadian director, Tim Snyder, was the guy on the set, making the animation work, my job was more of a hand’s off job; supervising the script side, the client side, that sort of thing. But at one point JoJo was going to become a balloon in the Macy’s Thankgiving Parade, and Tim and I (along with the effervescent Paula Rosenthal from the Disney Channel) were sent to a loft in Hoboken to supervise the design of the balloon. When we got there the sculpture was, frankly, horrible. This is not at all a fault of the excellent artisans at the studio; they were given an off-model JoJo mock-up to work from. My brush with animation greatness in this situation was seeing the amazing Tim Snyder get his hands dirty, helping the artist resculpt JoJo to be on model; seeing it later tranformed into a huge balloon was icing on the cake. 3: Back in the Paleozoic Era, Walt Disney’s frozen head and I used to galavant around the Hollywood hills, hitting up the speak-easys and closing out every bar (for a decapitated head he really could do an amazing karaoke version of “Putting On The Ritz”). Ah, memories…
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Well, let’s see; there was that time where I was asked by God to offer up my only son Isaac as a burnt offering; that kinda sucked… Oh wait, that was a film I worked on; you can see some stills from it.
Any side projects or you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
You might enjoy my occasional radio show, Midnight Matinee: http://www.quality-schnallity.com/midnight.htm . I kinda invented the whole concept of mash-ups back in the nineties. No, really.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I have a nasty habit of stretching my face. I must stop doing this.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Just one bit of advice: do something because you can’t do it. I don’t want to see the stuff that’s in your comfort zone; try something that could fail and blow up in your face, every day; that’s interesting.