What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Bob Etchingham, I’m a key poser/lead animator at Magpie6Media in Dublin, Ireland.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
My uncle owns a jewellers and workshop here in Dublin. So I started an apprenticeship at the age of twelve while I was still at school and during college and worked there pretty much up until I got into cartoons. I miss it sometimes. Lots of interesting characters working in that industry.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I worked on a show at Studio B in Vancouver (Now DHX media) called Kid vs. Kat. That was a great show to work on cause it was the first gig I did at a studio that actually owned the show. So If you had any suggestions about a scene, something that might make it better or funnier you could just walk into the next room and talk to the director about it. The more creative input you have into something you’re working on the better it comes out and the happier you are as an animator. Also the Slacker Cats title sequences that I worked on for Seth Kearsley was a great gig cause he was really easy going with how I went about them. Again more freedom means a better end product and a better experience over all. After that then I guess just my own shorts that I make all the time. I did some animation for the podcast Tell ’em Steve Dave on the smodcast network (unsolicited haha) They came out well and got a good response so thats cool. All my own stuff is on the Bobetch Productions Youtube page.
How did you become interested in animation?
I just always drew for as long as I can remember. As a kid I was really into Looney Tunes, then Ren and Stimpy all the usuals. Cartoons were just always there in the background. I used to sit and try and pause specific frames of Daffy Duck cartoons on a betamax video player to draw them. Have you ever tried to pause anything on a video player let alone a betmax video player? It’s not easy, and the pause only lasts for about a minute before it starts playing again and you have to rewind the tape and try and pause it on the exact same frame each time. But I would sit for hours doing that over and over again. I can’t remember a specific moment where I got interested in animation. I just can’t remember a time when I wasn’t.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Ireland. Growing up I learned there was a booming animation industry in Dublin and some great colleges to go to and realized I could actually do this for a living. So I went off to Ballyfermot Senior college for three years, then spent a following year working on my portfolio and found my way into the industry starting in Boulder Media. I learned a lot there before heading to Vancouver to freelance and work at Studio B. Then coming back to Ireland and working freelance for Cartoon Saloon and after that as animation director at Kavaleer Productions.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I’m working in Magpie6media in the Digital Hub on a show called “The Young Adventures of Marco Polo”. It’s a great studio with a really good crew. It’s near enough to where I live in town so I can stroll in. I have a quota of seconds that I need to have keyed out and ready for the animators in Germany. I review the boards, listen to the audio, check the surrounding scenes for continuity and then pose out the characters for each scene, getting as much emotion and strong body language into each scene as possible. If I get ahead of schedule I spend some time learning new software in preparation for an upcoming creator-owned series. It’s a really cool show created by my boss Cliff Parrot in Magpie6Media.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like when I get ahead of schedule enough that I can slow down and really play around with a scene. Maybe add something in there that will bring up the quality of the overall sequence. Again the more creative input the better as far as Im concerned. So the more opportunities for that the better.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Retakes! I think everyone feels the same way. You spend hours working on something and for one reason or another it comes back with notes to change something. But it’s all part of the job and if there’s a good director at the helm you can learn a lot from them.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I use pretty much the whole Adobe range from Sound booth, Flash, Photoshop to After FX. Right now we’re using Anime Studio but for the next gig we should be using Toon Boom. The technology changes all the time. the more you can learn and stay up to date the better off you’re going to be and the more opportunities for work. So it’s really important to stay on top of the latest software.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Animation tends to be contract to contract. So you’re constantly having to keep an eye out for the next job. It’s great when you can pick up a long term contract and relax into it. On the other hand it’s a double-edged sword because in another industry like say jewelry you could be sitting at the same desk doing the same work with the same people for your whole life and I’m not sure if that stability is better because with animation you get to meet new people and work on different shows all the time. So again, while it can be difficult changing jobs once in a while it’s also one of the best things about the animation industry.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I was saying I was a big fan of Ren and Stimpy and all of John Kricfalusis work. When I was in Los Angeles meeting up with a producer I had worked with, Kevin Kolde, who had worked a lot with John K, he told me John was just down the road signing in a comic book store by complete coincidence. I went down and met him, which being a Ren and Stimpy fan was pretty cool. Not sure he understood a word I was saying (Might have been the Irish accent or something? haha) It was cool to meet him though.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Bridging the gap between leaving college and actually breaking into the industry can be tough. I had a year after college of working on a portfolio and figuring out how the hell to I actually get into the industry. You kind of feel like you’re in limbo a bit cause the pre set path of school and college is well and truly over at that point and you’re on your own with no specific template. It can be nerve wracking cause you can build up ‘a career in animation’ to be this big thing in your head. So actually getting started can be daunting. But just keep knocking on doors and don’t take no for an answer.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
I work on side projects constantly. I have nearly twenty shorts up on my YouTube channel Bobetch Productions, that I make in my spare time. I love working on them cause I have complete creative freedom. Right now I’m taking a break from spare time animation and working on a comic book called Speakeasy. It’s a prohibition story set in Dublin. The premise is “What would happen if they tried to ban booze in Dublin”. It’s going to take about six months to a year to complete. I have the script written and some artwork done. I’m happy with it so far.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Well jewelry is a type of metallurgy, but I haven’t done much of that in a long time. Animation is a hobby of mine apart from being my day job. I work all the time, after a day of it I’ll head home and a lot of the time keep working on my own stuff all night. I do really enjoy it.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Learn traditionally! (in my opinion) Whether you want to do 2-D or 3-D or whatever. Learn the principals with pencil and paper first. Don’t just draw cartoons. Life drawing is really important as is observational drawing. Draw as often as you can and draw anything you can, the more varied the better. Don’t be disheartened if you get a couple of rejections in your first interviews. Just keep trying, you’ll get in eventually. Once you do manage to land a job don’t tense up just relax and do the work, if you tense up your work will suffer. HIT YOUR DEADLINES, that’s the difference between someone who can do this as a hobby and someone who can do it professionally. It is a business at the end of the day so show up on time and get the work done. Have fun.