What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is George Pfromm and I am a freelance animator and illustrator, and a full time faculty member in the animation department at the New England Institute of Art.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Working the front desk at a walk in clinic for homeless schizophrenics and crack addicts in Seattle was a nutty one. I enjoyed almost every minute of that one truthfully.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Hands down, storyboard artist at Flying Rhinoceros Inc. in Portland Oregon in 1999 –2000. It was my first full time animation job and I have not worked with the level of talent like that since. I got a few glimmers of how special it was and how good everyone in the animation department was but I had no idea how rare that perfect storm of talent can be.
How did you become interested in animation?
I blame it all on Jonny Quest, the Herculoids, and Alex Toth in general I guess. I watched cartoons every morning on Saturdays as a kid in the seventies, and used comic books to give me through the long week until it was Saturday again. My dad was a great, really great illustrator too. Very technical, pre-computer mechanical technical illustrations, inked on vellum with a Rapidograph, beautiful stuff, and he taught me a lot. He would sit and draw with me a lot, try to teach me basics, and then just show me how to draw Darth Vader of a Stormtrooper.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
My dad was in the Army growing up, so we moved around, like you would expect. I was born in Ohio, but junior high, high school and on into my thirties was spent in the Pacific Northwest, primarily Seattle. I went to a two year art school that leaned heavily towards advertising design, with a fair amount of illustration, and after I graduated from there I started storyboarding for ad agencies almost immediately. That was in 1993 and after three or four years of that found a guy named Jim Coffin in Seattle who taught animation out of his basement studio. I took his class and made a bunch of 16mm films which dovetailed nicely with an explosion in the number of web design studios that needed flash animation all of a sudden. I went around with a beat up VHS tape and started landing Flash jobs, learning the software as I went. Initially there were a lot of e-cards and projects for Real Networks and things like that. Drawing, storyboarding and traditional animation opened a lot of doors.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
The one constant in my work days is teaching. I teach 2D animation and storyboarding. I started doing that when I started having kids, and the stability really helps. A few times a month I’ll get an illustration job from a weekly paper somewhere, either here in Boston or back in Seattle, and a couple of times a year I get pulled into a bigger animation project that goes on for a month or two. Primarily, the work is kids stuff, educational entertainment type things. When those projects are underway my days usually start early waking up with my three boys, taking the oldest to school, going and teaching a class, coming home, picking said kid up from school, helping get them to bed and then staying up until one or so working on animation.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The drawing is the best. When you’ve been at it for a bit and get loosened up and a character starts to come to life, or a bunch of backgrounds come together nicely, that’s great.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
My least favorite part is finishing a job and not being able to immediately show the work. I have some stuff like that going on right now. I feel like I’m on a roll when I finish a job and then can’t publicize it right away or use it for self-promotion. That gets me down, especially the times when the work is finally released and I feel so far removed from it and wish I had it to do over and improve upon.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Flash, Illustrator and Photoshop are the primary tools. Sketchbook pro comes in handy, and I would be lost without the moleskine storyboard book. Recently I’ve started playing around with Toon Boom and that’s fun. I see that becoming a more frequent tool.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
For me it’s the business end. I’m good at chasing down work, and showing work I have done, but all I really want to be doing is drawing, at all times.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
A friend and I met Bill Plympton at an SPX convention in 2003 or so and then almost a year or so later at a party at an animators apartment in New York he was there and remembered us. We talked for a while and he was super nice.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
My dad passing away was by far the hardest. It’s been ten years and every day I wish I could show him something I was doing or working on.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I am right now working on a music video that is shaping up nicely. I also found out that a project pitch I worked on last spring is possibly ramping up. It’s a project for television, so my interest is piqued naturally.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Not really. And that kind of depresses me a little bit.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Draw constantly, and make short neat simple animations all the time. I work with a lot of animation students and there are a lot of talented ones who graduate and do not fall right into a job. It’s tough, but they compound it by not animating all the time. I think when you graduate from school it’s a mistake to think of yourself as a college graduate, you’re an animator, and that means making some stuff. If you keep pushing and keep your skills up the breaks will come your way.