- by Derick Brooks -

Here is a little interview I did with a student from the Art Institute of Washington, located in Arlington VA. right outside of Washington DC. One of the assignment for his Introduction to Media Arts and Animation class was to try and get in contact with, and conduct an interview with one of his favorite artist who was, or had been involved in the animation industry. I asked him if I could post the interview on my site and he graciously agreed.


How long have you been interested in comics and animation?

I started reading comics when I was about nine. As far as animation, "Lady and the Tramp" got me hooked when I was about 16. My interest in movies, animation and comics was so strong that I knew very early on, that no matter what, I'd somehow find a way to make a living at it.

What is the first animated feature you ever saw?

The first animated film I saw, which had any kind of impact on me, was either "Watership Down" or "Lady and the Tramp". I probably saw others earlier on but I don't remember. The film that had the biggest influence on me was probably Star Wars (episode 4). I was 11 when I first saw it and it pretty much changed my life.

You attended Sheridan College where you studied animation. What skills do you feel you gained during your studies there?

I learned the basics of animation, such as timing, squash and stretch, lip sync etc… I got to make my own short films from storyboard to final color, which taught me how to put films together. Meddling with other students who had a common interest was also highly motivating. I had such a great time. I look back at the three years I spent there as a very fun period of my life.

What was the first animated piece you ever worked on?

If you exclude my early animation tests such as bouncing balls, walk cycles, lip sinc exercises etc, the first complete animated project I worked on was "On a Good Note". It was a one-minute film I did as part of my 2nd year animation assignments at Sheridan College and I believe we had 2-3 months to complete the assignment. The teacher gave all the students a model sheet of the same character, and we had to do the following routine with him: He gets out of an elevator. He does whatever for thirty seconds to one minute. He returns to the elevator. The door closes.

Fellow student Mike Surrey, who is now a renowned Disney animator, designed the character. All the films were to be spliced together after completion as to form a kind of anijam. As far as I know, no one else finished his or her film. So now, it's this little weird film that doesn't seem to make much sense to anyone. HBO bought the right to air it for a couple of years, so I guess they must have liked it.

My first professional job in animation was for a small studio in Ottawa, Canada. I was an animator on a half hour Christmas special called "For Better or for Worse: the Bestest Present". My first feature experience was on "An American Tail". I came in towards the end of production as an assistant to directing animator, Linda Miller. I became a full fledge animator on Don Bluth's next movie "The Land Before Time".

What, or whom would you say influenced your style of creating the most?

I have a lot of influences from fine arts, comics, movies, animation and illustrations. It would be hard to isolate one in particular, but here are a few names that come to mind: Picasso, Jack Kirby, Moebius, Yves Tanguy, Yerka, Oscar Fishinger, Don Bluth, Walt Disney, George Lucas etc… Other influences include my beloved wife Nancy, my dogs Star and Nova, looking at nature, seeing Manowar in concert, going to museums and looking at other talented artist's works.

You are currently working on several comics and illustration books, and you also delved into a period in which you did fine art. Which do you have the most fun creating, sequential art, fine art, or animation?

I love it all. Wherever the inspiration takes me is where I try to be. I have done animation for many years so it's getting harder for me to get excited about it, but if the project is cool, I can really get into it.

When dealing with fine art, do you have a specific medium you prefer over others?

Here are some of the mediums I've used in my fine art that felt very comfortable: acrylic, collage, ink and wood constructions. I've tried oil painting but found that it didn't suit my style, or maybe I just didn't have the patience to learn how to do it right.

In total, how many films have you worked on?

If you only count the features, I believe I've been involved on 18. I've also worked on quite a few shorter projects such as short films, commercials etc…

Which was the most challenging?

The most challenging feature I've done was probably Osmosis Jones. I was the special effects artistic supervisor, in charge of creating the look the microscopic effects found inside the body of Frank (Bill Murray's character). Some of the effects I created for the movie included molecular fire, cellular smoke, electrical impulses, DNA strand sequence, death of the villain (Trax), destruction of city of Frank, microbes of all kind, as well as the title sequence.

You recently worked on films such Osmosis Jones, Scooby-Doo, and the Iron Giant, just to name a few. How much of an influence were you in the development of character design for these films?

My involvement on those three movies was in the special effects department. I had nothing to do with any of the character designs.

In Osmosis Jones, what techniques did your team use to make the pill?

The pill in Osmosis Jones was animated using Maya and filtered through a "cartoon shader" so it would integrate with the rest of the animated hand drawn characters.

How did it feel to be a part of the development of the live action Scooby-Doo film that was recently produced?

My involvement in the Scooby-Doo film was quite minimal. I initially turned down a position on the film. A few months later, I received a call from one of the production people asking me if I could do some conceptual effects animation for the movie. They were in a real bind. They needed somebody to quickly hand animate a few scenes for the digital animators to use as a guide. The work only lasted about 3 weeks. My involvement with the production was strictly a short freelance stint.

Did you agree with their decision to make Scooby-Doo fully 3-D rendered?

I'm not a fan of the show. Actually, I don't think I've ever watched an entire episode. I really didn't care how they did the dog. I probably won't even see the movie.

What animated features, or movies in general are you looking forward to seeing, or working on in the future?

Good ones! I'm involved with Brad (The Iron Giant) Bird's new movie he's doing at Pixar and I'm quite excited to see how it will turn out. I'm also really looking forward to "Star Wars: Episode 3" and "Lord of the Rings part 2".

Do you feel that if the world were to stop right at this moment, that you have accomplished all that you wanted to do in this industry?

As far as animation, I still have to make my own "art film". I wrote the story a few years ago and I'm waiting for the right time to do it. In the realm of comics and books, I feel I've only begun. Hopefully my best work is yet to come. So the answer to your question is ABSOLUTELY NOT!