What is your name and your current occupation?
Todd Hampson, Founder/CAO of Timbuktoons, LLC, a 2D animation and IP/concept development company.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I grilled and/or burnt many steaks at a cafeteria style steakhouse in the 11th grade and delivered food to (and occasionally had food thrown at me by) elderly patients at a hospital during my first year of college. Good times.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Character Design room murals for 3 episodes of Extreme Makeover Home Edition (2 episodes will run the week of Christmas).Visual development and animation production on 9 DVD’s for Phil Vischer’s (Creator of Veggie Tales) latest DVD series “What’s In the Bible?”. Action Comic Illustrations and Animation for a National Archives traveling exhibit. Animated commercial spot for Myth Busters. Production of Addy and Telly Award winning animated commercial series for an automotive company.
How did you become interested in animation?
I’ve always loved film, animation, story, etc. I saw Jungle Book and Pinocchio as a kid and it blew me away. I never realized I could be an animator, but loved character design and film. If anyone has a time machine I’d love to borrow it to go back and tell my 9 year old self to plan on being an animator.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from the DC Metro area, went to art school in DC and MD, worked for some creative agencies in DC for 13 years. I always loved animation, but went to art school primarily for illustration. Several years later I fell in love w/ the animation process by visiting a large animation studio and watching Pixar special features which led to a moment of insanity where I quit my secure job and started an illustration and animation company.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Every day is different. That’s one thing I love. One day I may be marketing to potential clients and the next day I’m doing visual development, animation, or concept development. On a typical day I usually meet with our creative director, come up w/ a game plan, give assignments to team members, then dive into creative tasks (usually visual development, or animation).
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Adventure and collaboration. Every project is a new adventure and I love the collaboration. There is a creative synergy that occurs when an animation team works together toward a common goal. I also love the moments when I get into the creative zone. When I get lost drawing or animating. That’s when I do my best work. My favorite part of the animation process is visual development and specifically character design.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Not being able to work on our own IP’s exclusively. We love our clients and we love the work we do, but the long term dream is to get our concepts off the ground and into theaters, TVs, iPads, phones, broadcast contact lenses, and nanotechnology content delivery devices. You know, nothing to crazy.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Strictly mac platform from workstations to servers. We mostly use cintiqs for paperless animation, but we also use old school animation discs and a scanner when needed or preferred. As for software we have 3 main animation pipelines, Flash (for symbol based animation), Toonboom Harmony (for hand drawn or rigged character animation), and After Effects (for compositing, motion graphics, and certain types of asset based animation). We also use ToonBoom Storyboard Pro and love it…and of course all things Adobe.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Marketing. Surprisingly, people won’t just come to the studio and give us bundles of money, so we have to convince them that they need 2D animation to survive. Everyone who works at Timbuktoons enjoys having a regular paycheck so marketing is pretty necessary.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Sure. I’ve had conversations with Andreas Deja, Sergio Pablos, met with Tom Bancroft, Rob Corley, and sketched on a street corner with friend Marcelo Vignali. I’ve also met with Linda Simensky (Nick/CN/PBS) and other key execs from the big networks (Disney Television Animation, CN, The Hub, etc.). One very surreal moment was sitting next to Phil Vischer (Veggie Tales creator and client of ours) in the VIP section at a creative conference watching Glen Keane give a talk about how he designed various iconic Disney characters. Aside from that, I have calls in to John Lasseter and Ed Catmull but I haven’t heard back yet. :o)
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Earlier this year, I fell and separated my shoulder….while playing tag with my 1st grader!
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Sure, we’re developing a show called “The Beefy Adventures of Jerky and Jim”. It’s about 2 misunderstood middle-school meat products. Should be lots of fun. I’m also going with my oldest son on a trip to a 3rd world country this summer to help finish building a community center and serve the poor.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I can take a 15 minute power nap and be good as new. Also, I was in a traveling break dance group in the 8th grade. Break dancing and naps. That’s what it takes.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Find your strength and spend more time developing that than anything else. You need to be a generalist to get a job, but you need a specialty niche to go far and have longevity. It seems counter intuitive, but by specializing you will eventually be in higher demand. Don’t be a jack of all trades. Be a master of 1. The trick is discipline and staying the course w/ the long view in mind. Also, don’t be mean or lazy. Your work ethic and ability to work on a team will be very important in any animation position.