What is your name and your current occupation?
David Russell, and I’m a concept and storyboard artist/writer working primarily in feature films. My literary moniker is David Bryan Russell.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Painting portraits of Hell’s Angels bikers would qualify as my craziest gig.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Special productions to date would include Return of the Jedi, The Color Purple, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Batman, Terminator 2; Judgement Day, Tombstone, Moulin Rouge, Master and Commander, The Chronicles of Narnia; The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,/Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Red Tails, and Paradise Lost.
How did you become interested in animation?
I’m a great fan of the early Disney animated features. I jumped at the chance to work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, particularly since master animator/director Richard Williams was involved. I’m proud of the fact that the film essentially resurrected the animated feature film industry.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I had a rather inauspicious start in the business, working as a storyboard artist for Filmation’s Blackstar series. I continue working as board artist for various animation companies until I got my big break on Return of the Jedi.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Depends on the project, of course. I’m currently finishing my second novel, serving as a consulting art director for Vista Book Trailers and Illustration, and designing VFX storyboards for an IMAX environmental documentary. A major feature project begins sometime in next month.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
As a concept and storyboard artist, I’m right at the forefront of a film’s visual creation. I enjoy the challenge of working on expansive projects, particularly those in the realm of speculative fiction.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Dealing with incompetency—the great bane of Hollywood.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I’m proficient in Photoshop and Illustrator, and much of my illustration work is created with these tools. My storyboards are hand drawn, though often digitally-augmented.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Dealing with incompetents.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Feature film VFX animators are often quite brilliant. As mentioned, working with Richard Williams was a great thrill.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
At an early stage of my career, I took an interview at Disney. The producer (who shall remain anonymous; he’s dead now, in any case) proved to be a virulent racist, a matter confided to me by his associate, who was present during the interview. It was an unpleasant meeting, which naturally ended in failure. The associate asked me not to contest the decision, to which I reluctantly agreed—for his sake, and my own.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
One of my 3D animated 3D feature film properties has attracted partial funding, so my team is actively seeking the balance. It’s an exciting opportunity.
Any unusual talents or hobbies, like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Does the ability to fly qualify?
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Train well; your skills are your armament. Make as many friends as possible in the industry; help others to achieve their goals, and they will help you. Your work is your legacy; be selective about the productions you undertake.