What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Keith Osborn. And I’m a freelance character animator.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I was once an intern for a super-secret government agency – though I can neither confirm nor deny that. I also drove an ice-cream truck. Until it went up in flames. Interestingly enough, after the firemen came to the rescue, the ice cream was still cold in the charred, warped freezer. I offered them some but they kindly refused. Good thing too as it had a hint of smoky flavor after that.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Though this was probably the toughest job I had, I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of the Reel FX crew on the new Looney Tunes theatrical shorts. Animating those classic, beloved characters was an absolute honor. In a couple of them, we actually got to animate to Mel Blanc’s voice! I’m also proud to have been a small part of the 2012 Oscar winning animated short film, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” for Moonbot Studios. It’s amazing to me that a crew, largely comprised of recent graduates, was able to put together such a remarkable film.
How did you become interested in animation?
I was bored. I had seen every movie that was playing at the movie theater I worked at. Well, all but one. Feet dragging, I went in to see “Beauty and the Beast”. I loved it! And I’m not ashamed to admit that! Even if it means I have to turn in my man card. The visuals, the storytelling, the music… it really floored me! That began the journey into finding my way into the animation business.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I grew up as an Air Force brat so I moved around a lot – though I’m mostly from Florida. I’ve been here for over 20 years. And I’ve been trying to get out for about as many. I would love to live in the mountains. In any event, back when the animation bug hit me, the Internet hadn’t reached the masses. So it wasn’t an easy task finding out much about the biz. I did write to Disney Feature Animation and they recommend about a dozen schools. One of them was in Florida, Ringling College of Art and Design. So I went there. It was a real financial sacrifice but in the end it was worth it as it opened doors that wouldn’t normally have been available to me. Much has changed since then and there’s so many great resources within reach for aspiring animators.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
As a freelancer, it varies quite a bit. But an average animation-day involves my butt squarely planted for hours in front of a glowing screen. It requires a serious amount of self-discipline to do this. I do try to mix things up a bit since I do have some flexibility schedule-wise. So occasionally I’ll go see a movie (for research purposes, of course) or take a short trip to Georgia to pick up some Fat Tire. You can’t get the glorious brew here in Florida for some strange reason. I also try to squeeze in some reading and banjo picking. I’m not any good at the latter. But to me, picking away on the five-string is the most anti-tech/computery thing I could think of to help me have some semblance of balance. I know that may not seem relevant to animation – but it actually is. After a decade in this biz I’ve realized just how incredibly important is it to have a healthy balance of work and play.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I love blocking-in rough animation. It’s a total rush sometimes seeing the character come to life.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Working in the curve editor. It’s such a huge mental shift – I feel like I’m no longer an artist but rather a technician. I envy those who can animate without even touching the curve editor. I can’t do that. Not yet. But someday… I will!!
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
All my work is done on a Mac laptop. Though sometimes I do have to boot into Windows (same machine) for some jobs where plugin’s and such have been compiled for Windows. I also work on a Cintiq tablet. I ditched the mouse long ago as it was causing me a lot of wrist pain. I animate in Maya.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
I probably shouldn’t go here… but there are some directors/clients that can be pretty difficult to work for. When the director starts dailies with phrases like “how about…” or “what if…”, you know you’re in for it. There’s a proverb that says “where there is no vision, the people perish” and that couldn’t be more true than working for a director that doesn’t know what they want. Animation simply takes far too long for the crew to be playing guessing games. It can have such a huge impact on team morale. That being said, animators know that even in situations like these, we’re still doing something pretty special. And that keeps us going.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Yes! Probably the greatest mentor I had was Ken Duncan. He’s a Disney veteran who supervised such characters as Jane from “Tarzan” and Meg from “Hercules”. Early in my career, I had the chance to be supervised by him on the Disney film, “The Wild”. I learned a ton! And the lessons I learned from him then, I still use today. Just recently, I had another opportunity to work with him at his studio in Pasadena. And again, it was an honor to work with him. He’s extremely generous with his knowledge and is endlessly patient.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I’m a high-school flunky. I was simply too immature. Still am. But I’ve channeled that immaturity into a job where I can make a living doing that.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I’m actually delving more into scripting and rigging, though I don’t know that I have the brain for it.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Does sitting count? I really like to sit. And I’m pretty good at it. But now we’re hearing about how “sitting” is the new “smoking” – and that people are dying from it. I have a really hard time believing that. Work is unpleasant (at times). Standing is unpleasant (all the time). Why combine the two? Plus, we’re chair shaped people. Even from before birth, we’re in a posture befitting a chair.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Check to see that your work is awful. Meaning, if your previous attempts at animating disgust you, that’s great! That means you’re growing and your eye is being developed. Your growth may not be as fast as you’d like but as long as you’re continually embarrassed by your prior work, you’re on the right track. Enjoy the ride!