What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Leo Antolini, and I´m currently an illustrator and character designer.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I´ve been very lucky that I went straight to working in animation after I graduated (although it took a while) I actually got one of my first illustration gigs while applying for a telemarketer job: the company found out I was an artist and they asked me to do some character design proposals for their new website.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I´ve done a lot of projects for Leapfrog, and since I love what they do (educational children´s books and toys), I´ve been proud of pretty much everything I´ve done for them, but I´d single out Sing Along Read-Along (a really fun, cool project) and the “If I Were…” book, which was the first time I got to do an entire book by myself. As far as animation goes, I was super proud of all the work I did (character designs, storyboarding and directing!) on the “Brock O´Lee” shorts for PepperMelon studios: it was a big learning experience to wear all those hats, and the final product turned out awesome, I thought.
How did you become interested in animation?
I´ve been obsessed with cartoons since I can remember. I watched everything (and I mean everything) I could all throughout my childhood, from toy-centric 80´s tv shows and Disney movies to weird, artsy European animation. I loved to draw and create my own characters. When I got to the age where people usually stop caring about cartoons and move on to other interests, I pretty much just kept going. I was really into science when I was younger, too, and I thought for a long time I was going to be a paleontologist, but when the time came to make a decision, I realized I had some skill with the pencil, and I was still obsessed with cartoons, so animation was the clear career path.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I´m from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was lucky enough to be able to go to college abroad, at the Academy of Art University, in San Francisco, California. After I graduated, though, I didn´t have any luck finding work in my field, so I had to come back home. A month or two after I came back, however, an animator friend recommended me for a job at a local animation studio (they were just starting production on a new animated tv series) They were actually looking for animators, but I lucked out: they liked my stuff enough to hire me as a designer. The rest, as they say, is history.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I´m currently freelancing from home, so it really depends on what kind of project I´m working on, if I´m working on more than one thing, at what stage I´m in, etc. Typically, I´ll get up (ok, I´ll try to get up) at 9 am, check e-mails, goof around online a bit, and get to work. Then I´ll take a break to walk the dog and have lunch. After that, it´s back to work till the evening. I really try to make this a routine, but more often than not, I end up working late at night…I sadly goof off too much during the day, and I´m more active in the night-time anyways, so…
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
No matter what the project is, the very beginning is the best part for me. It´s when nothing´s set in stone yet, and you´re allowed to try a bunch of different, wacky things, and see what sticks. It´s the most creative and playful part of the design process, and I really, really enjoy it!
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Well, the closest you get the deadline the harder it gets (for me, at least) You get to a point where you really don´t want to stare at the same characters and images anymore, and you just have to grind your nose and will yourself to get through the end. But that´s all part of the job, watcha gonna do?
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I do all of my work with my trusty iMac. At the start of a project, I do lots of loose sketches in pencil, but as soon as I have a general idea of what I want (or what the client wants) I scan them and go into Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop for shading and texturing.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I think the most difficult thing by far is how inconsistent animation and design work is. If you´re a super talented person you might luck out, get a studio job and stay there forever (or at least for as long as you like), but these types of job are rare. Most of us are either freelancing (and when you do that you´re constantly trying to find the next job, and the next, and the next; and sometimes you get several jobs at once and sometimes you can go sometime without any jobs at all) or working in studios on a per-project basis (you get hired, do your part in a production, then leave) It´s definitely a bit nerve-wracking sometimes.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I´ve been lucky enough to meet some really cool people, if only briefly: once, at Comic-Con, I chatted for a bit with Craig McCracken, one of my all-time heroes, which was really cool. When I was doing my internship, me and my co-workers had lunch with Pixar´s Lou Romano and Teddy Newton, which was definitely another highlight. I was completely blown away when Ray Harryhausen visited my school, but, alas, I didn´t get to talk to him.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
It was really tough for me having to come back home after college. I left for the United States at 19, sure that I was going to get a degree, get a job and start a new life there but, as the months went by after graduation and I was still unemployed, with my visa getting dangeously close to expiring, I had to face reality. So, after 5 years in the beautiful Bay Area, I had to say goodbye to my friends and colleagues, and move back home to an uncertain future. It worked out in the end, thankfully, but I still miss life up there!
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I´m really interested in educational stuff, so I´m trying to get a couple of personal projects off the ground (a book and an online comic-type thingie) that kinda head in that direction. I´m also teaching an animation workshop for elementary school kids, which I´m really enjoying. I teach students how to make a short from start to finish, using any technique they want, the only rule being that it has to be educational or explain a school topic. The projects are looking really cool so far, and I hope to expand it to other schools next year!
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I´m pretty good at doing silly voices, I´m told. I´m also a big time trivia nerd, so if you need to find out the names of all the greek muses, or which Prime Minister is featured on which canadian dollar bill, I´m your guy.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Always, always try to improve, and learn how to take criticism: I see a lot of guys out there who don´t want to get better and who get offended when big studios don´t automatically offer them a job. This business is a LOT of work! On the plus side, we´re living in a time when anyone can just do their own characters and their own animations and put them online, where the entire world can see them immediately….so, if you´re passionate and you really just want to do your own thing, go for it! There´s definitely someone out there who´ll like watching it as much as you liked making it. And always, always try to remember what it is you enjoy about making art.