One of my earliest recollections is watching Disney’s “Skeleton Dance” on the Mickey Mouse Club when I was three or four. Since that time I have loved watching animated films. My brother drew all the time when I was growing up. I always wanted to be able to draw like him, but my teachers and family didn’t see things the way I did and convinced me I couldn’t draw. I have a very competitive nature. When I was in high school (at Willowbrook), I made my first animated film. This won several awards including on in a college level competition. My cinema teacher, Ralph Amelio, encouraged me to continue making films. And I did. My next undertaking would take on my fear for drawing. I made my films “Super Carrot,” which involved drawing and coloring over two thousand pictures. The more I did the more I wanted to make more animated films. In 1978 I move to California to attend Graduate school at UCLA and earned my MFA in animation. From there I started working in the field of special effects animation and in 1983 started my own special effects business where we worked on projects for almost every major film studio and television network.
2. What are your favorite animations and films?
There are a number of animated films that stand out for me. “Wabbit Twouble” is probably my favorite Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd film. (Although there are so many great Warner films it’s hard to pick just one.) I don’t think anyone will ever top the artistry and craftsmanship of Disney’s Pinocchio. Frederick Back’s “The Man Who Planted Trees” is an amazing, powerful, and sensitive work. Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker’s “1933 version of “Night on Bald Mountain” is one of the films I would bring with me if I was deserted on an island, as well as Oskar Fischinger’s “Motion Painting #1.”
3. What habits did you develop to get the results you wanted with following your passion?
When I made my first animated film in high school, I realized for the first time in my life I could excel at something. I feel my work in animation is as much a part of me as my arms and legs. Early in my animation education I realized that if I wanted to really be good I would have to learn how to evaluate my work. That means taking the attitude that anything I create can and should be improved. Sometimes the improvements come during the next project. But it is an ongoing and everlasting quest for learning and growing. I have not had much trouble doing the work. Even in my early films, I wanted to animated and would find the time to do so. One of my biggest problems has been and still is the ongoing battle with organization and planning.
4. What advice do you give to students that have an interest in animation?
If a student of mine has a true passion or wants to discover if they have a true passion for animation I encourage them to pursue it to whatever degree they want. When a student tells me they would like to work for Disney or Pixar one day, I fully believe they are capable and take that goal very seriously. The only thing that will stop them is themselves. To exceed in animation, a person has to be driven and disciplined. These skills can be acquired, but again that is up to the individual.
5. What were the best resources that helped you?
Meeting animators that I respect. While in California I met people who had worked on Disney classic features, went to school with one of the originators of The Simpsons, took a class with CG pioneer John Whitney, worked for Doug Trumbull. It is impressive that some of the big names in animation will take a phone call from a student. There are animation organizations that are helpful as well. ASIFA is an international animation organization with local chapters. AWN.com is a great website for animators and people just interested in animation. Attending The Ottawa International Film Festival is inspirational.