What is your name and your current occupation?
My Name is Dave Merritt and I am an Art Director at Mercury Filmworks.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Washing concrete off of tanker trucks.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Probably Toot and Puddle. For adults you need to turn down the sound, but the visuals are stimulating. We had a great team of designers and our director Christian Larocque was always pushing us creatively. I remember our character designer Allan Stuart, Prop master Tom Pajdlhauser and myself were always in early to work. I guess the hard work paid off; I received an Emmy for Location design on that show.
How did you become interested in animation?
Like most of us, as a kid watching animation on TV. My favourite shows were: Flintstones, the J Ward stuff and anything UPA.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Quispamsis, New Brunswick, but left when I was 20. There was never anything at the public library regarding animation, and so a lot of stuff was experimental and I certainly didn’t have the internet to cling to. I left home worked in Montreal and took animation at Concordia University. Before finishing my time at Concordia I got wind of a studio in Ottawa that was hiring a ton of people. Had an interview at the Queen Elisabeth hotel in Montreal in June and was working on my first series on Ottawa in August of 1986. That show was “Teddy Ruxpin” A long time ago.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
If it’s not usual animation production, I’m involved with development. A lot of people come to our studio with sometimes weak pitch packages and want us to add some juice. I’ve stuck with the location Background design mostly in animation, so when a ‘look’ for a show is required it’s the backgrounds everybody wants to see.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
It’s not often these days, but picking up a pencil and drawing. We rarely do that anymore. Everybody’s using the Wacom tablet.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Getting revisions from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. My Dad said when he was in the Navy, he hated saluting guys younger than him. Kind of the same mentality, but use that as in experience. Sometimes you have to educate people.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I always use the Wacom Cintiq and of course Photoshop.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Getting older and not seeing any change in the business. There are so many talented people with great ideas. You see crap ideas being pushed all the time. Not sure what mystery is at work there.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I meet and spoke with Prince Charles once. He’s not in animation, but I heard he liked Sponge Bob. I have had recently worked with and meet Paul Rudish and Craig McCracken. Cool guys with still a passion for animation. You could say a couple of royalty names in the television animation business.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Pleased to note I’ve had it pretty good so far with no real situations.
Any side projects or you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
We are doing some great stuff with Disney right now. I can’t talk about it of course as we are in the midst of it. But I think people will be pleased with some of the projects coming soon. They are doing some great stuff now with shows like Tron and Motor City.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I have been doing a lot of Block printing which is a hell of a lot of fun. Bold shapes and colour. Real simple. I’m also building my own house. An Arts and Crafts style. Super fun, but challenging. You can visit the progress here: http://beerinthemanshed.tumblr.com/
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
I’d have to say keep using traditional mediums like pencils, paint, and marker. We work primarily in the digital realm every day. I think most of us including the younger up and coming, rely way too much on these platforms. I understand it’s what we use at work, but if you’re using traditional mediums properly, you get into the flow. In digital, we edit as we go. Not exactly Zen man. The most fun I’ve had drawing is when I have no visual reference in front of me, and am drawing purely from my imagination. Don’t rely too heavily on Google, and reference. It can fill your head with too much information and become overwhelming. Set some time aside every other day where you can squeeze an hour or two in to dedicate these traditional skills. Draw and paint in nature or right in the city. My art teacher was right “draw from observation”. It’s an uphill battle, put you will surprise yourself with the gradual improvements you will make. One more thing, don’t fall into the trap of negativity. It’s happened to all of us from time to time. A shitty production, or an uninspiring series. Don’t let it get you down. Remember you are adding to your vocation if your learning, and you’re not learning if your negative.