Edit: Sadly, Gordon Kent passed away last year due to Cancer but his 38 year career lives on…
You can read our article on his passing here.
What is your name and your current occupation?
Gordon Kent – Animation timing director at Bento Box on Bob’s Burgers
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I was pretty lucky to get into animation almost right out of college. However, while I was in college I spent one summer working in an auto body repair shop as a “lot boy” – the worst part of the job being cleaning the toilet – those guys were not as careful in the bathroom as they were when repairing or painting cars. I also did scrimshaw for about a year – pendants, earrings, belt buckles… lions, tigers and bears mostly (oh, my!)
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’ve been doing this since 1977… I worked on a show called CBS Storybreak for two seasons. I was associate producer – but my job entailed hiring character and background designers, storyboard artists and story editing (and some writing). I also was the voice director for most of them and worked with the composers and sound effects people as well as working with the engineers on the final mix. I got to learn and do a lot. That was for Buzz Potamkin at Southern Star. I also worked for him years later at both Disney TV and Hanna-Barbera. At HB I got to be Supervising Producer on a couple of movies for TV – Titles change in animation all the time – today that would be supervising director. The Flintstones’ Christmas Carol was my favorite project there. I’ve been an animation timing director since then and have been lucky enough to work on Kim Possible, Teamo Supremo, Billy and Mandy and Bob’s Burgers among dozens of other shows.
How did you become interested in animation?
It wasn’t animation per se that I loved it was just the idea of being a cartoonist. Drawing funny pictures that made people laugh. What I really wanted to do was be a strip cartoonist. I tried several strips, both alone and with a partner, but was never able to create anything that the syndicates liked enough to buy. However I did write the Rugrats comic strip for five years. I learned a lot – it’s a very tough job.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from McKeesport, PA – but we moved to Los Angeles when I was seven. I went to Cal State Northridge as an art major and in my last year I met Martin Crossly, who worked at H-B in the Xerography department. He told me that H-B was beginning a class. He told me to take a portfolio to Tiger West and tell him Martin sent me. This was in the summer of 1976. Somehow I made the cut and I was hired in the last week of July 1976. I was laid off a week later in the first week of August 1976! Bill Hanna heard that they were hiring in betweeners and he basically nixed the idea. It wasn’t a class at all. We were expected to turn out professional in betweens without any real instruction! I think it was also about this time that someone figured out that everyone was getting on in years – there were people who worked on the original Popeye working there — if they didn’t start training new people, there wouldn’t be anybody around to lay off at the end of the season because there wouldn’t be anymore seasons cause there wouldn’t be anyone to do the work – this was just before they began sending EVERYTHING overseas! Anyways, Joe Barbera hired Harry Love to begin an actual class and I was invited to join – it was October of 1976. I was hired on January 10, 1977. Was that too much information?
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Animation Timing Direction has changed since I first began doing it in 1995. Back then we first “slugged the storyboard” then wrote the exposure sheets from the slugged board. They hired editors to create animatics to take the “slugging” part away from us. Now, with programs like Toon Boom, they expect the storyboard artists to do the animatics a lot of the time. They don’t give them any more time or money to do it and many of them really can’t time the action. They all do a fine job with the dialog, but the action is usually timed either too slow or too fast – or too erratically. I’m going to shut up now if it isn’t already too late, On Bob’s Burgers we use a computer program to write the exposure sheets directly onto a Wacom tablet with a stylus. It’s mostly pretty nifty to do it on a computer. There are a few things I miss about paper – but not many!
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Working with some incredibly talented people. I’ve been very lucky over my career to get to work with people who are, I think, brilliant artists. Some of these artists were truly amazing but there are too many to name.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I’m going to take the 5th.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Keeping my big mouth shut! You’d think after 37 years I’d have learned!
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
It’s a Harmony program for animation timing. As I said, we use a Wacum tablet (and a Mac).
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I suppose that’s a matter of opinion. In my opinion, yes – though often it went unacknowledged.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I’m not sure what you mean by this… if I missed the point with my answer feel free to edit it out. Well, right now I have cancer. I’ve had it since 2011. I’ve been very lucky to work at Bento Box as they have been incredibly nice and understanding all through this.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
Not anymore… I’ve written sample screenplays, created original shows and a lot of comic strips in the past. Alas, no success.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metalurgy?
Wish I could say “yes”…
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Save your money. Or invest wisely. Forty years pass more quickly than you know.Don’t work overtime for free. Don’t work for anyone for free – at least get a piece of the project. Know your true worth and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. This is a business. Your bosses are in it to make money. Learn to appreciate the talents of others. Figure out how you fit in. Be on time and make sure you finish your assignment on time – believe me when I tell you that THAT counts a lot. Much more than you think. If you’re having trouble with an assignment, TELL YOUR BOSS, so he or she can find someone to help you. It’s much worse than hoping no one will notice you’re late. If you’re late, you take away time from the next person. Learn to appreciate good bosses. Smile. Be friendly. Try to keep your opinions to yourself – this may be the hardest one of all!