My name is Rich Dannys. I’m currently working as a Layout Artist at Yowza Digital, here in Toronto.. We’re in production on a new web cartoon series for Nickelodeon.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
My summer jobs during high school, involved working at a pickle factory: shipping, receiving, and (later on) in their “Tank Farm”. Smelly work, but at least you could work on your tan! After college, I worked for a time at a comic-book distributor called “Andromeda”. Distribution nights, involved making very early-morning drives to both a nearby bus terminal for accounts in Montreal, Ottawa, and the Maritimes. And to Toronto Airport for accounts in Calgary, Edmonton, and Victoria, BC..
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’ve enjoyed most of the stuff I’ve worked on.. Layout on ‘BEETLEJUICE’ holds a lot of happy memories for me. My start in the business, and not a bad cartoon either.. When I started work in Design, I got to work on ‘CADILLACS & DINOSAURS’.. A very small, tight crew. I think we did good work, that was helped by a solid Japanese overseas studio.. Working on ‘RIPPING FRIENDS’ at Red Rover was also pretty great.. We had a lot of freedom on that cartoon, and Andy Knight had a genuine respect for all of the artists working at his studio..
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Scarborough, a suburb in the east-end of Toronto.. Went to Sheridan College for ‘Classical Animation’ from ’83 to ’85, but dropped-out before finishing. Was working retail at a comic-book shop when a buddy suggested I take the Layout Test at Nelvana.. They seemed to like the work I did on it, and hired me to do Layout on their ‘BEETLEJUICE’ cartoon in 1989. Later, I did some Design work at Nelvana, for their action-adventure cartoons.. And in the mid-90’s, I began freelancing full-time under my own corporate identity: ‘Flying Dutchman Studios, Inc.’
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Get into the studio around 10am.. Get my Scene list and check it against the current animatic. And then either begin roughing-out or cleaning-up my individual scenes. This also usually involves designing some stuff that hasn’t been designed yet.. Lunch around 12.30 pm. And a mid-afternoon coffee run around 3.15 pm, or so. Head home around 6.30 pm.. Lots of kibbitzing with fellow in-house artists, throughout the day, etc.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I get a lot of satisfaction purely from the act of drawing.. I really love drawing. Particularly, when I have a good idea of what each scene requires. The art of composition and making things “read visually” is also enjoyable. The staging, etc.. And when you get those rare moments when you can sneak something into a cartoon that you find funny or amusing, on the Design or Layout end. That can be a lot of fun, too..
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Working from poorly-executed storyboards can be a real drag.. Trying to “fix” stuff that just isn’t working, but has somehow already gotten past layers of approval.. That, can be a frustration. But you always do what you can, to “plus” things. And hope that the phenomenon won’t materialize again, or continue throughout the duration of the production..
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
Right now, I’m using Photoshop on a cintiq.. I still prefer the old analog pencil-and-paper. But realize that it isn’t coming back anytime soon, and that’s a shame. The hardest thing for me to get used to now, is no longer having a nice thick storyboard that I can leaf thru at my leisure and make my notes, etc. Having to log onto a computer just to check an animatic, is annoying. And nowhere near the same experience.. I don’t read my books digitally. And would prefer not to “read” my storyboards that way either, given the chance..
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Keeping pace with new software and new methods of production.. Each studio invents it’s own production pipeline. Some are good, some not so much.. The changes in the industry are happening so fast now, that it’s hard to keep pace with it all. Working contract-to-contract can be difficult, too. Though that aspect does seem to be improving lately, to a degree. Working full-time as a freelance artist will always be a challenge, I think. And having a regular gig is something that we all dream of..
If you could change the way the business works and is run how would you do it?
It’s always nice to have bigger budgets with longer production schedules.. But my entire Animation career has been in TV production. So that equation doesn’t seem to materialize very often.. More money to make cartoons, and more time to create them? That would be a nice improvement..
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I don’t really have Animation heroes, per se.. I had Kaj Pindal as my Animation History teacher at Sheridan. He’s a bit of a local legend here, I suppose.. And I enjoyed working alongside Jim Smith when he came up to Red Rover studio, during production on ‘The RIPPING FRIENDS’. Looking over his shoulder as he storyboarded, proved insightful.. Most of my artistic heroes come out of the Comic-Book field, I guess? I got to meet Mark Schultz, when we did ‘CADILLACS & DINOSAURS’.. Later on, I got to know Dave Stevens pretty good.. He’s famous for creating ‘The ROCKETEER’. But he actually started out as an Animation Layout guy; working at both Filmation and Hanna-Barbera. So, we were always able to discuss Animation on that level.. Boy, I really miss that guy!
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I’m currently seperating from my wife.. Does that qualify? hah In the past 10 years, I also spent a good deal of time caring for my aging parents.. That too, posed it’s share of challenges. But for the most part, I’ve been very fortunate in my life. For which, I’m very thankful!
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I’ve been talking it up for years, ad nauseum.. But one day, I AM going to publish my own comic-book project! I self-published a sketchbook in 2003, and loved the entire process.. Taking control of one’s own artistic destiny, can be a tremendously satisfying endeavour.. I heartily recommend it!
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
As a younger man, I used to take stairs (both up-AND-down) two steps at-a-time.. I’m a short, stocky guy. with very strong legs. I inherited my Dad’s physique, I guess. Dunno, if I’d try it now though. I’m a lot older. Perhaps, wiser?.. Some, would argue that point. So, I guess the Jury is still out on that one!
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Draw, draw, draw.. And draw some more.. I’ve taught a little bit. And always tell my students that drawing is the very foundation of the Animation (or Comic-Book) business. Storytelling too, certainly. But without learning fundamental drawing skills, you’ve really crippled yourself from the very start. After that, Humility is a pretty good tool to have, too!.. When you stop learning in Life, you get old very quickly. So make a point of learning something new each and every day!