What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Freek van Haagen, and I’m currently a freelance illustrator and animator.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Oh, I was…an art-director and packaging designer. I even was an electrician-assistant way back at my dad’s office. But that’s like really long ago. And I had my own little animation/games company 15 years ago.
What are some of your favourite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Well New Eden comes to mind first of course. It’s an animated sci-fi web comedy about two crewmen that have crash landed on the wrong planet. They are quite literally the last surviving people in the whole galaxy. And now they have to survive everything the hostile planet throws at them. It turns out that’s the easy part because getting along with each other proves to be harder. It was made on a zero-budget but it was a lot of fun. The last cool job I did commercially was for Aquafresh. The toothpaste brand wanted an online game teaching kids about the health of their teeth. I did all the character designs, background designs and even did an intro animation. Turned out pretty cool and got positive reviews.
How did you become interested in animation?
The first time I saw a Disney movie. I don’t remember which one but I do know that I couldn’t understand how it moved. Drawings were still images, right? How the hell did they move those drawings? My dad got out a flipbook and drew a ball on all the pages. Moving it a bit further each page. Then he flipped it in front of my eyes and I was just blown away. “You can let drawings move?!” I’d been drawing all my life but the idea that you could tell stories that way and make something move was just incredible to me. I was very young then and didn’t have the patience for animation but that’s where my fascination began I think.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from the Netherlands and I’m not sure there’s a real “industry” over here. I just like animation and when you’re an illustrator you often get the question if you can move those illustrations – animated them. So, it was a logical step I think.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I start with some music to get the creative blood pumping and then it’s basically checking my mail and going over my planning to see which client is waiting on me. I get my work from various clients and businesses. I did a corporate film for Amacom that was about the company and what they did. And I did commercials for Ola (ice-cream brand). Amacom is for grown ups and Ola for kids. So it’s pretty far apart. But the production stays the same. Storyboard, designs, animation edit and … voila. Simply put of course. A lot goes into it.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I would say the designs and getting the first shots out. Knowing if things will be alright. Seeing the idea work (or not). The great thing about animation is that you can go back and forth. Tweaking until it does work.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The middle part. The part where you’re in full production and just chopping away. Sometimes it can make you feel like you’re not getting any closer to that deadline. It’s not that I don’t like it. I just like it least.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I use Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects each day. I use After Effects for animation using a handy little tool called Duik tools. It’s a puppetering animation tool. I can also do traditional 2D hand drawn animation but the budgets and deadlines of clients rarely enable me to use that technique. Shame though.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Clients not understanding the amount of work that goes into animation. Working with really tight deadlines and not getting everything out of it. It’s of course the world we live in where everything has to be done fast and cheap. Animation (really good animation) just doesn’t work under those rules. It takes time/money to make something beautiful.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Unfortunately no. Still hope to bump into several great people.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
That would be the loss of a friend of mine. He got hit by a car and unfortunately died. I made a short film about it called Broken that is actually not actually what happened but more an abstract take on it.
Any side projects or you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
At the moment it’s New Eden. I don’t have time for anything else at the moment. But I definitely want to make another short film some day.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Ha ha ha, nothing unusual I think. I’ve played the piano for years, collected swords and now I practice Kung Fu. I love music and photography.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
From where I’m sitting I’m not sure I have advice since I don’t know the American system. You guys have an actually industry over there. But in general for animation there’s only one actual rule. And that’s just practice your ass off. Draw each day, get better, observe the world around you …you know all the familiar rules you’ve probably heard before.