What is your name and your current occupation?
I’m Francis Glebas and I am a storyboard artist and author. I’ve also been a director, vis dev artist and teacher.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Newspaper delivery. It got crazy with the dogs. I taught cut-out animation at a summer camp. I built models for a model building company, like architectural models and airplanes. It gets old when you’re on your 100th airplane. I also designed and painted
stage sets. I’ve probably painted more square footage than most background artists. After getting into the business I once ran a brainstorming session at Los Alamos Laboratories that was surreal.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Aladdin was a magical time, the studio was buzzing with excitement but we were still under the radar of the money people. I remember seeing the Whole New World that I storyboarded with crude drawings at the premiere and every department took it and
made it better. It was incredible. I also poured my heart into the ending of Pocahontas. Lion King and Ice Age 4 were also really great to work on. Space Chimps was really fun too. Sometimes it’s more about the people you work with. In pre-Pixar days, getting Ed Catmull’s TWEEN system to work at NYIT was exciting. It created automatic inbetweens and we used it on hundreds of commercials. Well, maybe we reached 100.
How did you become interested in animation?
To work out traumas from watching Snow White when I was 5. But that’s a long story…
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I grew up in New York. When I graduated college I painted houses for a summer. Animation was in the doldrums back then. In the fall through a friend of a friend a found out a about NYIT on Long Island making Tubby the Tuba. I started painting cels on a night crew. It was awful but I was in the business. So much for coming out of ﬁlm school thinking you’re ready for the world. I knew how to mix colors so that got me on the daytime crew. I year or so later I took a test and became an inbetweener. In 1990 Disney was looking for people and I applied. When I left NYIT for Disney I had worked my way up to supervising animator although we wore many hats.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Panic, think, research, draw, judge, redraw. Repeat as often as necessary. Talk with others to get and give ideas. Interrupt with meetings. Also have lunch with crew. It’s really like an emotional roller coaster because you’re putting your heart and soul into
your work and being judged for it often for reasons that don’t have anything to do with your work but for the demands of the story or even marketing.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The creative ﬂow, when you really get lost in the dream of your story. It’s also fun to see an audience enjoy the ﬁnished ﬁlm.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Seeing my cleanups kill the spontaneity of my roughs, although I’m getting better.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Electric lights, plumbing…Oh, Animation related? I use a Mac powerbook with a Cintiq 21 inch drawing tablet. And don’t forget to save and backup! I have a sign posted at my desk that says, “SAVE!!!) I use Sketchbook Pro, TVPaint, Graphic Converter, a digital
camera, sometimes Google’s Sketchup and their 3d warehouse of free built models. I also like to rough out my thinking with Post-its and Redi sharp markers.
What is the most difﬁcult part for you about being in the business?
Not being in the business, between jobs wondering when the next gig is coming. I really love it and would be creating stuff even if I didn’t have to work for a living.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Yes, everyday I have worked with so many talented, generous and truly caring people that I really feel fortunate. The world only hears about the top names but you look at the credits and each one of those people put their heart and soul into the ﬁlm. I also have
been lucky to contributed to many great ﬁlms.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I just started at Disney and Ron Clements and John Musker were really happy with my visual development work. They ﬁnished the script and it was time to storyboard. I was given the scene where Abu and Aladdin are stealing the fruit from the vendor. My scene
was a choreographic nightmare- my screen direction was non-existent, you didn’t know where to look, crude drawings, just awful. I still remember John saying, “I don’t know if Francis can board.” I felt the knife go through my heart. They put me back in visually
development. I was given the “Whole New World” sequence. I started creating images and slowly found that some started connecting up with each other. When I pitched it to them, I pitched it as a story sequence and I started storyboarding! It opened up a whole new world for me. After that, I continued to storyboard for Ron and John on Hercules and Treasure Planet.
Any side projects or you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I just ﬁnished a screenplay which dramatized the trauma I talked about from watching Snow White this was the tough situation. It took 8 years to write. My goal is to draw it as a graphic novel. I hope that’s not another 8 years. I wrote, Directing the Story: Professional Storytelling and Storyboarding Techniques for Animation and Live Action and my new book- The Animator’s Eye:
Adding Life to Animation with Timing, Layout, Design, Color and Sound is coming out in August 2012. I created a 3 1/2 minute animated short to demonstrate the whole process of making an animated movie showing the successes and failures. It really helped my drawing skills creating the 6000 drawing needed to complete the book. I’m now working on a book about storytelling. It’s the culmination of years of research. The list goes on but there’s only so much time and energy.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I built a hang glider to deal with my fear of ﬂying. I ﬂew 25 feet off a sand dune. Ironically, I’ve probably ﬂown over 100,000 miles due to my animation travels. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Be persistent, network (never burn a bridge, it’s a small industry) continue learning, look for and create your own opportunities (I got to direct Fantasia’s Pomp and Circumstance because when they announced that the current director was leaving, I asked if I could direct it. At NYIT, Letting them know I could mix colors got me off the night crew.) Live your life as a storyteller to touches people’s hearts or be funny if that’s your style. When you learn remember to give back, share the knowledge. And remembering the words of one of my instructor’s at Pratt, always keep your portfolio up to date and when you’re out of work, your job is to look for work 40 hours a week. The other thing is when you do work, save some money for a rainy day. Even in SoCal sometimes it pours. Oh, and feel the fear but do it anyway. I would like to thank Mike Milo for inviting me to share my life with the animation
community. All the best, Francis I’m on Linked-in, invite me. My ﬂedgling blog is at: francisglebas.blogspot.com