What is your name and your current occupation?
Ruben Chavez – Key Background Painter – Starz/Film RomanÂ Freelance Background Painter – Disney TV
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Bellman/Room Service waiter for Hilton Hotels – Lots of crazy stories I could tell, but I won’t ! Â Repair and deliver electric motors for industrial businesses such as Farmer John’s .
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Hands down, Iron Giant and Cat’s Don’t Dance, other’s are The Simpsons Movie, Juniper Lee, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Lilo & Stitch 2, and most recently, Dan Vs.
How did you become interested in animation?
Comics and animation were my favorite interests since I was a child, I was constant;y drawing characters and scenes every chance I had, it was only natural to pursue my passion into the animation biz.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
Originally from East Los Angeles, my first job right out of college was working at RDI Video Systems in collaboration with Don Bluth Studios on Dragon’s Lair.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Generally background designs come to me cleaned up and approved by the director along with an animatic and any scene directions there may be. I will have freedom color wise to establish the color and mood.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Establishing different locations through color can be very satisfying especially when your canvas starts out in white. Color is such an integral part of any visual story because it brings the viewer into the world you have helped create.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Changes to your work, art is such a subjective medium we always feel like we got it right the first time. And time constraints, it seems everyone or place is wanting the work, faster, cheaper and better.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I’m on a Mac generally working in Photoshop.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
The business is seasonal and driven by ratings and sales so bouncing from one studio to the next can be intimidating for newcomers. Getting on a project with “Legs” meaning having potential to last a long time, such as the Simpsons.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Working at Hanna-Barbera I was privileged to meet and know Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera for several years. When at Turner Feature I briefly worked with Maurice Noble on Cats.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
When your parents pass away that can be very draining emotionally and physically, I went through that over 10 years ago. Fortunately with the support of my wife, family and friends I was able to move forward.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
There’s a possibility of a pitch coming soon, but of course I can’t share the details.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Anyone who knows me can tell you I have a love for wine, so gatherings with friends and family always brings out some prized wines especially during the holidays.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Learn your craft, be flexible to change and maintain a strong network of friends and colleagues because the person your working with may someday be your boss.