Jerry Hibbert

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What is your name and your current occupation?
Jerry Hibbert. I have had a production company – Hibbert Ralph Animation – for many years but now really operate as a freelancer.

What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I did have one oddity: I was ‘knotter’ on a building site, putting glue on knots in wooden boards so they wouldn’t dry and fall out at a later date.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I have directed hundreds (maybe more than a thousand) of commercials so they all blend into one mass after a while. But the UK Famous Grouse campaign has been a good one, as were some of the title sequences I did with my partner Pat Gavin in the 1970s. I enjoyed animating the funny ones most. As an animator I always enjoyed people laughing at my character’s performance on screen. They never really realised it but it was my performance by proxy they were actually laughing at – and I loved that, and still do.

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Oxford in England, and I went to art school in the 1960s. From there I went to work at TVC under George Dunning (director of Yellow Submarine).

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
It used to be: 10am: draw all morning, 1pm: have a great lunch with the other animators including lots of wine, 3pm: draw some more, 5pm: have a cup of tea, 5.3-pm: draw most of the evening. Now it’s 9am: a bit of drawing and a lot of emailing; 1pm: try to find some animators who still like to stop for lunch including lots of wine, 3pm: do bit more drawing and some emailing, 4.30pm: stop for a cup of tea. 6pm: go out to dinner.

What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like the people. Animation people are a wonderful bunch of characters. And I like the lunches. I have worked in London’s Soho for 45 years so I know the restaurants well – and love them too. My happiest animation memories are over the lunch table.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Having to put up with people with a tiny fraction of my experience being in a position to tell me what I’m doing wrong.

What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
I come from a generation where we did everything by hand – so just the existence of computers has completely changed my entire world. I do work with some Animation Pre-Vis technology though (Redboard), which I love. It enables the artist to preview his work via games engine before drawing anything and therefore prevents me from drawing anything ‘wrong’. Endless and unnecessary changes have been a pain in the neck historically (I hate redoing stuff because the brief was wrong) – but Redboard gets rid of that.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Now at age 66, it’s trying to keep up, but in fact I don’t – and can’t – keep up. But some clients still want things done the old way, and I’m happy to oblige.

In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I have had many. The first was working with George Dunning. Another was having dinner with Marc Davis. Bambi is probably my favourite films ever made, and to have the privilege of a meal with Marc Davis – well, it doesn’t get better. Dick Williams once told me he liked my work. I hadn’t realised he’d even been aware of it so that bowled me over too.

Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I ended up employing some very good friends, and some for many years. When I had to shrink the size of my studio, I had to let some very lovely and loyal people go. I hated doing that to them but I couldn’t afford to go on paying them.

Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
My wife and I have a boutique hotel in the Cotswolds now. (Thyme at Southrop). It’s a side project that’s taking over from my animation stuff.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I play guitar, and used to play with Freddie Mercury in the 1960s while we were at art school together before he formed Queen. But he thought the future lay in harmonies and I thought the future lay in the blues…. Guess who was right…. ?
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Get in to work before your boss and leave after him. And always stop for lunch – laugh and live life to the full for a couple of hours with your friends. It’s those times you’ll remember.
www.hibbertralph.com

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