What is your name and your current occupation?
Kenard Pak Visual Development Artist at PDI Dreamworks.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Nothing too crazy. I’ve flipped burgers, cleaned dishes + bathrooms, got yelled at for bad video rentals.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’m very proud of “Madagascar 3”. We were an excellent, inspiring, professional + fun art team. This doesn’t happen very often,
and I consider myself very fortunate to have been a part of it. The film that started my career, “Prince of Egypt”, is also very memorable. Not only did I get my start on such a mammoth project, but I learned so much from the legendary artists that had designed it. At Disney Feature I had a great time on their pre-production projects, and I also have some interesting memories working with the director Monkmus on his “Topside Rag” shorts.
How did you become interested in animation?
Like many kids, I grew up enjoying cartoons like Merry Melodies and Woody Woodpecker. Unlike most kids, this fascination eventually became ritual by my teen years. A deluge of Disney, anime, old cartoons, and experimental shorts from Europe overwhelmed those times.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m originally from Baltimore. We later moved to pretty, rural Howard County—a place I still get very nostalgic over and revisit in my personal work. Two ends of the Maryland spectrum. I started my education as an illustration/film student at Syracuse University. Unsatisfied, I migrated to CalArts in Valencia, CA. As I was finishing my last year there, I had met an ex-Disney layout artist who was part of the original Dreamworks Art Dept. He was a visiting artist at the school, and showed some interest in several of us. My friend and I quickly put together our portfolios, visited him at the Lakeside studio, and by summer found ourselves getting paid to draw layouts!
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Just like everyone else. I get my hot drink, look over notes, discuss with fellow artists and directors, talk about baseball, and try my best to finish assignments on time. Inspiration is a daily must, so I’m regularly looking at art I enjoy.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I cannot over estimate the value of inspiration that comes from colleagues. It can be artistic inspiration like the way an artist arranges shapes or has an unusual color palette. Sometimes it’s how hard a PA works. Or maybe someone’s politeness. These things make a workplace worthwhile.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Nobody likes politics, even people that say they enjoy it. If people genuinely liked politics, it wouldn’t work would it?
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I work on a PC computer + 21″ Cintiq + a HP Dreamcast monitor for color correction. At home I have a similar setup except a wider Sony monitor instead of the Dreamcast.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
It used to be the emotional/technical over-investment into a film’s final product. Now it’s making sure my eyes don’t fry from constant monitor use.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Once at a hotel in Paris, the concierge said he recognized my name. He then went on about my painting, drawing, design, etc. Here I’m a cynic: to this day I think he either had me confused with someone else, or wanted a good tip—which I gave him. Or did you mean if I’ve met someone like Marc Davis?
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
When my mother was ill. I didn’t realize it then, but my life (artistic or otherwise as a son) was in a stasis until I began to confront my history with this strange, wonderful woman. Perhaps it was the remaining, emotional short time we had with her to share, reconnect and grow, or maybe it was that brutal outside invasion required to shock us out of whatever complacent denial we enjoy to initiate alert action. What I have learned from this experience is to assemble physical action from what these memories can deploy. I’d like to think that my work is a re-investigation into my past and not just pretty pictures. I also like to think I paint these images to be with her again.
Any side projects or you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Illustration…my hope is to work more with book covers, posters, magazines, picture books, and editorials. I’m working now on a new website that will have my illustration work up.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I used to be an okay Drum & Bass DJ…and I can recognize some bird calls.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Be honest with yourself, and find confidence in what you do best. You can think/talk all you want, but by the end of the day it’s that finished piece you did with your own hands that matters. Civility and sincerity can take you very far. Pull your ropes, it’s a team effort. And work hard!