Holy wow, I didn’t even realize I was the featured mentor this month at AnimationMentor.com!
I’m not sure how long the page will stay up with me on it, so I’ll quote the interview here:
Who is your favorite character that you’ve animated and why?
Most definitely Julian the Lemur King from Madagascar ( and now Madagascar 2: the Crate Escape). He’s just so much fun to animate! He’s a bit over the top and dramatic. And totally unafraid to do something completely asinine. So it’s just a ton of fun to figure out ways to make him act that are completely outrageous.
If you could do one thing differently on your journey to becoming an animator, what would it be?
I probably would have gone to an actual animation training program, I feel like a lot of my learning about actual animation technique was self-taught through many, many hours of making mistakes and trying again. I didn’t really start learning until I was actually working with animators every day.
How has the Animation Mentor experience been for you so far?
It’s been incredible. The amount of joy that I get from watching the talent just explode from the students is amazing. I absolutely love it when the students learn something over the course of a semester, and can’t wait to work alongside some of them at a studio! The joy and love of animation is totally palpable from Animation Mentor, not just from students but from everyone in the organization.
What inspired you to become an animator?
Actually, I think it all dates back to something that happened to me when I was about three years old. I was having these horrible nightmares about spiders, and would wake up screaming, crying, and totally terrified. My parents were trying everything in their power to get the nightmares to stop, but couldn’t do anything about them. Finally, after one horrendous episode, my mom took out a box of crayons and some paper and told me to draw the spider. So I did. Then she said “now draw yourself killing it.” So I drew myself killing the spider, making sure it would never come back to hurt me. What she was doing was teaching me to have power over my fear so I wouldn’t be affected by it. But what I think was actually happening was that I was learning to tell stories through art. And that’s what’s stuck, throughout the rest of my life I’ve absolutely loved listening to and telling stories whether through art, spoken word, film, cartoons, etc. The idea that it’s possible to think up an idea, a thought, or an emotion and transmit those feelings to others simply by “telling” them about it is just amazing to me.
Hmmm. Okay, I guess that doesn’t really answer the question completely. It explains why I love telling stories, but as to what inspired me to use animation to do this? Probably it’s watching cartoons and just falling in love with the medium. For me it’s like this thing…I don’t know…like when I watch something move and it just moves beautifully it just feels right. It hits me right in the heart, you know? That’s probably why I like animating. I love the idea that we can tell any story and get any mood across. I can play both characters in a serious drama, or be a crazy lemur that makes children laugh until they pee themselves. There aren’t too many jobs where you can have that sort of variety! “Honey! I’m home! 37 children between the ages of 5 and 7 wet themselves when they saw my shot of the guy jumping up and down in the tree! Let’s go out and celebrate!”
What was your first animation job?
The first animation job I ever got paid for was when I was in my senior year at the University of California in Santa Barbara. I was a teaching assistant for the animation course in the Art Department. It wasn’t much of an animation course, it was more like a “here’s access to the software, we don’t know how to use it, but try and figure it out by creating a short film, oh and by the way we only have 2 machines that run this software, but the engineering department has some machines, so maybe you can go over there and use them” course. Anyway, back at my apartment I was playing with this cheap 2d animation software I had picked up at a computer event somewhere called Disney Animation Studio. I used to play around a bit, creating really short crappy 2d animations not worth much of anything. One day there was a notice up from a local illustrator who was in need of a student to help her produce some 2d animation for a children’s educational CD-ROM called Kid Phonics. I gave her a call and she came out to my apartment to check out some of my work. I showed her a few drawings and the animations I had done and she hired me to produce the work for this CD-ROM. So that was my first gig, about six months of creating little animated characters that would move when children clicked on them. I had a blast doing it, and proceeded to work with Karen (the woman who hired me) on a number of other projects over the next few years, including designing a puppet for Jonathan Winters!
Who would you consider your mentor to be in animation?
I’ve got two definite mentors. The first is Randy Cook, my first animation director. He really is the one that I give all the credit to for allowing me to move from rigging to animation. Without him I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity and I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.
The second is my current animation director, Rex Grignon. Rex is one of those guys who really puts his heart out there to try and make the environment the best it can be for his animators. He’s also got the magic ability to notice when someone’s doing a good job and instead of pushing them down out of fear for his own job, he builds them up and helps them achieve their goals. I appreciate the opportunities he’s given me every single day, and am constantly watching him for inspiration.
What is your favorite Animation Mentor tool?
I love everything about it, but also can’t wait for the next releases of the eCrit tool and the live Q&A. It seems to keep getting better and better each term! Go team dynamite!