What is your name and your current occupation?
Bill Dunn. I just recently completed my stint as background paint supervisor on“Batman: The Brave and the Bold”. Currently, I’m doing background paint and development on a yet to be announced DTV movie for Warner Bros.
How did you become interested in animation?
Like most people who grew up in the 70’s, I had a steady viewing diet of the classic Warner Bros Looney Tunes, The Flintstones, Tom & Jerry, and Hanna Barbera cartoons like the Herculoids. Back then, unless you didn’t have a T.V. as a kid, I think it would have been hard not to have at least a passing interest in animation.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born and raised in a part of New Jersey that was a mere stone’s throw from New York City. I originally started my career as a professional artist in the comic book field. I was a colorist for comics during the 90’s, but by the end of the 90’s, the comic book industry was imploding. I got a few freelance gigs from small animation houses in New York, but
it wasn’t enough to live on so without any job lined up, I moved to L.A. in hopes of becoming a background painter. My first gig in animation wasn’t painting though, I started as a prop designer. If I remember correctly, it took me about a year and a half to move over to the background paint department.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
When I was paint supervising on “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” a typical work day would start around 8:00 AM. I would begin the day with coloring scripting one of the episodes and setting up color on the backgrounds to hand off to one of the other background painters (or the occasional freelancer). I would also hand a copy of that same background to the color key department so they can do their magic with the characters and props. I was usually juggling three episodes at any giving time so I was never working in a linear fashion on any of the episodes. Working like this was necessary because in season one we had four overseas studios and in season three we had only two overseas studios. I had to make sure none of the overseas studios were waiting for background keys from us (sometimes working like this it feels like you’re on the Ed Sullivan show doing the spinning plate routine). By 9:00 AM the production department is in and they have forwarded emails from the overseas studios with questions. After I have figured out what the question from overseas actually mean, I try to address all of the questions as clearly and as concisely as possible. Sometimes I will have to provide them with additional color information or have do some extra mock ups for them. After I’m done with the emails, I’m usually trying to set up a meeting with one of the directors so I can go over the next storyboard. By 12:00 PM I get in some painting here and lunch is probably me shoveling food into my face while I’m working (because of this there is an inordinate amount of crumbs stuck in my keyboard. I think I’m just going to convert my keyboard into an ant farm when I’m done with it.). If it’s close to a shipping day, we have our supervising producer James Tucker look at the backgrounds we have been working on for the week. Again, we are probably showing him backgrounds from several different episodes at this point. After we have addressed any notes he may have had, I will give the backgrounds some last minute minor tweaks so everyone’s backgrounds hook up as much as possible. I will then fire off an email to the production assistants that are in charge of each individual episode and they will ship it off to Korea. By this time, it’s around 6:00 PM and I can concentrate on just painting. It will vary on any given night how long I will stay. I continue this until 65 episodes are completed and back from overseas.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
It depends on the day. Some days I really enjoy color scripting because I like the storytelling aspect of it. Other days I prefer the actual painting part of it.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I think any artist will probably say deadlines. I’m no exception.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
To continue working. After you finish every job, you’re unemployed again.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I’m using a Mac Pro with the Dual-Core Intel processor and about 8 gigs of RAM. I have two flat screen monitors, my primary one is an EIZO which has really great color accuracy. I’m using a WACOM drawing tablet and a weighted Logitech mouse. For majority of the background paintings I use Photo Shop CS4 with some custom brushes, but occasionally I will use Corel Painter for some odds and ends.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Yes and I worked with a few of them too. I will leave their names out here to avoid embarrassing them or myself.
Describe a tough situation you had in life. Any side projects you’re working on you’d like to share details of?
I can’t think of any tough situations that really pertain to animation. I try to paint for myself any chance I get. Since my day job is now all digital, it’s nice to get out the real paints and use an actual brush.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
I didn’t get into animation the normal route so my advice would be based on what I’ve observed from how others got in. I guess getting an internship to make business connections while you’re still in school is an obvious one. I guess another would be once your work is as good as you think it can possibly be, put it into a portfolio that people can easily flip through. Don’t use those portfolios that you can also use as a pup tent (those are horrible to try to flip though).