What is your name and your current occupation?
Frank J. Guthrie, and I’m a Background Painter on Dora The Explorer…
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Let’s see: I was a Locksmith, I worked for UPS loading and unloading the trucks, I worked at In-N-Out Burgers, I drew maps for the Division Od Oil And Gas (oil fields,) for the State of California, I worked at a Mexican spices and candy factory, and I was in the U.S. Army for 10 years. Thank you Uncle Sam for paying for my College with the G.I. Bill!
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Dora The Explorer. I was hired to help in the re-design of the show, including developing the look for Diego, Go! Diego! The very successful spin-off show. I also Art Directed another spin-off from Dora The Explorer called Explorer Girls.
How did you become interested in animation?
I don’t have a specific stage of my life were I can pinpoint the “beginning” of an interest in animation. I know that I was always interested in Animation since I can remember. I grew up in Spain watching amazing series like Mi Mono Amedio Y Yo (3000 Leagues In Search of Mother,) an Anime series directed by Isao Takahata – in which Hayao Miyasaki was the Layout Supervisor, and other fantastical series from the R.T.I., like Le Avventure di Pinocchio by the great Luigi Comencini.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in the U.S., Pasadena California, and at the age of 3, my mother being from Spain, we were visiting my exiled grandparents in France, and when we arrived and she opened one of the pieces of luggage, she found my father’s divorce papers. So I was exiled in fantastic Spain until I was 17. I then came to meet that individual called “father,” and within minutes I realized I had to get the hell out of there. I learned English in a matter of months, took the G.E.D. Test, passed and ran across the street to an Army Recruiting Office, and that weekend I was flying to Fort Dix, New Jersey for Bootcamp! How I got in the animation business? Talk about interesting jobs before getting into animation, right out of College, I became the Art Director for one of the largest footwear manufacturing companies of licensing footwear. We did Toy Story, Mighty Ducks kids shoes, etc, the ones with the L.E.D. Lights in the hills, very annoying, but it was a job that, believe it or not, made me realize that I wanted to be a Storyteller… yes, shoe-designer… Anyhow, a friend of mine from school got a job at Nickelodeon, told me that Nick was looking for a prop designer on Angry Beavers, I quit my job and took a 500% pay cut and the rest is History.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I reside in Long Beach, California, and work in Burbank, so 36.2 miles each way – don’t worry about the gas, I drive a Smart car! So I get to work late, to avoid traffic, but leave work also late. I get in about 10:00am, I crack a bunch of jokes with my office-mattes, I get coffee and a bad, bad muffin from the main kitchen, and I start by going over all my emails. I try to keep a schedule since I have the gift of O.C.D., so lists, lists and lists. I tackle work and schooling – yes, I still take all sort of classes after working in this industry for 13 years, and I also make sure I walk around and give my eyes a rest. My job is 80% actual work and 15% conversations via email with the creators of the show and our Production team. 5% cracking jokes with co-workers, a must!
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I love problem solving, artistically-speaking. I love re-designing a look,coming out with a specific episode’s unique style, creating new characters and look development. That’s my best quality. I was given the great opportunity to re-design the look of Dora’s world, more than once, and I think that, if they existed, would be one of mu Superpowers!
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
The office Politics, the fact that sometimes you have to take orders from people that are not qualified for the job, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Inefficiency. I hate when we have to do things twice because a Supervisor doesn’t know how to do it, but they don’t bother to ask… and that’s never going to change, so you have to learn how to “work” with these individuals and hope for the best.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Over-specializing. Do NOT become only good at one thing. Go out there and learn a “Plan B,” become a multi-talented artist. You draw? Then learn how to use Maya to build simple shapes for buildings, do a screen-grab and in Photoshop, lay your magic, so people go “Wow! Your perspective is amazing!” Are you a CG artist? Learn how to draw! You would be amazed how many CG artist can’t even draw! I get offended when I see specialized artist loose their jobs and then call me to teach them how to use Photoshop and the Cintiq because nobody will hire them anymore. Seriously people, if knowledge is power, the it is up to you: become multi-talented, not a “one-trick pony!”
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Photoshop for painting. I use a Cintiq to draw and I have Maya on the side for any CG models, animation or other VFXs we need to create.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Not really. I had the great opportunity to travel to Japan last year, but I’m not a huge Anime fan, so all the Directors and Animators I met at studios like I.G., went over my head. I met great artist at the Concept design Academy in Pasadena because they have series of seminars where they will invite “animation greats”like Toby Shelton, Bill Perkins, Jon Foster, etc…
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Too many, and private.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I’m making a short film that I will try to fund through Kickstarter beginning of 2013. Its a short animated, and it will be gear to a much “older” audience. I love kids animation, but I feel that in the U.S., animation is mostly geared for the little ones. Once you turn 12, “no more cartoons for you, young man!” and if you are a girl, forget it! Cartoons?! That’s not lady like! I want to create animation for people mu age, for the fans of the art form, for the artist out there that want to see the art with Stories they can relate to.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metalurgy?
I love photography and Filmmaking, and I’m a great carpenter and wood-worker (believe it or not, two different things.) Lately I’ve been exploring the world of “Storytelling,” where you go to this meetings and you “tell” an unscripted Story to the group within a time limit, not stand-up or stuff from a script, pure “Storytelling!”
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
1) Do NOT over-specializing. Do NOT become good at one thing only! Go out there and learn a “Plan B,” a “plan C,” become a multi-talented artist. You want to be a layout artist or prop designer? Then learn how to use Maya to build simple shapes for buildings and props, do a screen-grab and in Photoshop draw your magic atop so then people will say: “Wow! Your perspective is amazing!” Are you a CG artist? Learn how to draw! You would be amazed how many CG artist can’t even draw! Always have a “Plan B!” I get offended when I see artist that can only do one thing loose their jobs and then call me to teach them how to use Photoshop and the Cintiq because nobody will hire them anymore. Seriously people, if knowledge is power, then it is up to you: become multi-talented, not a “one-trick pony” and you will never be unemployed. I’ve done it all, prop design, layout, character, paint, I put myself through Gnomon School Of Visual Design out of my own pocket, went to Animation Mentor AND iAnimate, and I attend the Concept Design Academy every other term. 2) DO not think you are better than the rest, smarter than the rest or anything else than the rest. There is ALWAYS someone better than you, ALWAYS! Learn from others: if you don’t know something, ASK! You would be amazed at how many young artist strut around thinking that they know it all because they just learned Maya or After Effects. That’s a tool people! A very sophisticated #2 pencil, period! Ask if you don’t know, its not illegal! Learn new things, teach, share, EXPERIENCE THINGS! If you do half of the things I suggested, you will always be employed, you will grow both as an artist and a person and you will be happy!… trust me.
Great advice, Frank!