How did you get your start in the animation industry?
I started at Mercury Filmworks in Ottawa as a Junior Animator on Gerald McBoing Boing Season 2. I was lucky to get a job right away from graduating that spring from Algonquin College.
What influenced you to become an artist?
I used to watch cartoons all the time growing up. Didn’t matter what style, Looney Toons, the Simpsons, X-Men the Animated series, Sailor Moon etc…. My early drawings were Looney Toon Cartoons from my Space Jam Pj’s. I would draw everything from logo’s for sports teams, trace airplanes from books etc…. I took it more seriously when anime became popular around the early 2000’s with DBZ and Gundam Wing.
Eventually, my grade 12 art teacher Mr Ketcherson recommended that I apply to Animation and Graphic Design at Algonquin College. The portfolio for Graphic Design was too hard so I tried animation and it worked out pretty well.
What projects have you worked on? and what was the most memorable?
I’ve been in the industry for 12 years and the most memorable would be Rick and Morty Season 1. It was one of the most challenging projects but the results speak for themselves. The creators knew it would be a viral sensation but we had no clue how big it would be. Another show that was memorable was Toot and Puddle because it was one of the first to use a rotational build that are now becoming an industry standard for Harmony .
How has the industry changed since you started?
The industry just keep getting bigger and more “main stream”. Now with the popularity, people are starting out in the industry a lot younger. I started relatively young at 21. Most in the people in the graduating class ahead of me were in their mid to late 20’s. Now with a 1 year program someone can start at 18 or 19. There’s also so much work now.
Going through school, we heard horror stories about having to go on E.I between contracts. Since I graduated, the only downtime I had was during the recession of 2008 for 4 months. Studios are also are starting to notice that compensation for overtime is important. Also offering some perks like RRSP matching which was unheard of a few years back.
Anything else you’d like to mention that I didn’t ask?
When I started my career, we were paid footage which was the standard in Ottawa. It forced you to improve quickly to make quota. It made for a grueling start to in the industry but I learned a lot of habits and skills that make me a faster animator today. When I was promoted to supervisor after moving to Vancouver, I had a strong foundation in animation but there was definitely a learning curve for managing a team. We all had to learn on the fly but having a solid foundation from my early years prepared me for the chaos of crazy deadlines and late nights.
What is one thing you would have wanted to know before you got into the industry?
That you need make your intentions known if you want a position. I got my first supervisor roll after 7 years in the industry but I had many colleagues that were promoted before me. Timing does plays a part but animators need to speak up about where they want to go in their career.
As studios get bigger and bigger, they don’t have to time hold people’s hands and you can easily by missed in the shuffle. Something as simple as periodic check ins coordinators or supervisors about your ambitions could go along way. Supervisors and directors are pretty generous with their time so shadowing is a good start.