us a little bit about yourself: your background,
why did you choose
to do what you
are doing now?
Well, I grew up in an unusual household. My father wrote for computer
magazines, so there was a fair amount of both computers and
software-including graphics software-lying around for me to play with
very early age. I quickly decided, for reasons I can't recall, that I
going to grow up to be an animator, and a computer animator at that (this
was way before Toy Story brought computer animation to the general
consciousness-I mean, I must have been seven or eight years old at the
time). So I set out to do exactly that, and eventually I did. I have
my parents a lot of credit-they never even hinted that I search for a
lucrative line of work, or go to college, or any of the things parents
usually say-in fact, they were the ones who suggested I leave school
the 8th grade, and my father currently runs Anzovin Studio with me.
How old are you? (don’t answer, if you don’t
Are you ‘formally trained’ or
and what are the pros and cons of either education
I'm about as self-educated as you can get. I quit Junior High after the
grade. I have no High School diploma, no GEDs, no SATs, and certainly
college degree of any kind. This worked out really well for me, because
animation industry is a complete meritocracy. It's true here, as it is
in few other business, that nobody cares what's on your diploma or even
But I don't pretend to know whether this would be a good path for anyone
else to follow. I know I chafed in a school environment, chained to an
over-structured, committee-designed system that did nothing to develop
creativity. But not everyone feels that way--there are people who really
need the structure to give them direction. So, the pros and cons of either
system really depends on who you are.
How did you start, what was your first job
and how old were you then?
Well, the first job I was ever paid money for was an illustration for
Presentations magazine, for one of my father's articles. This was when
14, in January of '96. It showed some vaguely Pixar-ish guy (this was
after the first Toy Story was released) juggling a bunch of laptops and
tapes and stuff. It was pretty awful.
But my first professional job was a little bit before that. I think
Windowsworld, the short I did for Specular International with Inifini-D
started this whole mess off, would be considered a professional job by
normal standards (I wasn't paid but I was an intern). By any kind of
objective standards, it was also pretty awful. However, it looked amazing
a bunch of people at the time because they'd never seen anybody even
attempt real character animation with that software. Sometimes I feel
nostalgic about those times - the days when just making a character that
had actual limbs and hands and stuff and moved with some kind of intention
was enough to make people's eyes wide. There was so much ignorance of
the basics of character animation (and the software was so primitive)
that even the most rudimentary achievement looked amazing. Today, of
course, you actually have to be good at it.
What is your creative process: how do you start,
when do you stop?
Hell, I don't know! I know an idea's working when I suddenly see it in
head, fully-formed. This sudden creative epiphany thing is totally
subconscious, I have no idea how it works. Then the hard part is trying
get that out of my head and onto a computer screen. That's really hard,
sometimes grueling, and I do whatever looks like it'll work.
Do you have a special creative or workflow
like to share?
The most important thing for an animator to learn is how to look at the
latest test render of a shot you've been working on for hours or days,
then shift your perceptions so that you can see what's wrong with it.
Beginning animators put down the keyframes they think they need, and
sort of look lost. You need to develop the ability to look at the shot
go, "this motion doesn't look good because there's no weight shift
takes a step, his arm movement needs more snap, the spline overshoot
head makes it look unmotivated, and his fingers are all hitting their
on the same frame." And then, when you've fixed all this stuff,
you need to
do it all over again, and find a whole new set of things that are wrong.
When you can really do that easily, animation becomes much less of a
struggle, and you can see the life of the character take shape almost
magically under your hands. It's all a perceptual thing, and one that
still trying to learn myself.
Showing it to other people is really important too, of course. They
likely to pick up on things you've missed. But you can't rely on
that - animation directors don't want to see something in dailies which
everyone has to pick apart and analyze. What they want to see is something
that makes them say, "yeah, that piece of animation really works!"
Do you work primarily as a freelancer
or permanently in a studio,
do you prefer and why?
Well, actually, I kind of do both at the same time. My studio is a satellite
studio, meaning that we usually work by "orbiting" larger studios
picking up the overflow work from their large projects. Currently our
biggest client, ReelFX, is currently keeping me on retainer, and when
comes down the pipe that's too big for me to handle alone, the rest of
studio gets pulled in and we tackle it together. So does that make me
freelancer with a studio attached, or the principal of a studio with
direct line to another company? Hard to say.
Do you work internationally, how do you do it
and what are benefits
I haven't worked much internationally, but I think that's just coincidence.
If I did, it wouldn't be much different from how I always work, except
the client would be in a different timezone.
What is your favourite city and why?
I was born in New York City, and while I've never lived there, I feel
strange connection to the place.
What are you working on now?
Professionally, I'm about to start the Action Man movie, which is basically
the British version of GI-Joe. It's basically like doing GI-Joe again,
with cool British accents this time!
In my personal work, after a long stretch of not very much in the short
department, I have three that are in various stages of development. The
first is actually a live action short I directed Robert Rodriguez-style
called "Werewolves Ate my Zombie." There is indeed a werewolf
and a zombie
in it, and Michael Haynack takes them all on! (I realize that you don't
the faintest idea who Michael Haynack is, but when this film comes out,
will. I think he'll be the next Bruce Willis.) All the footage is in
and it's all been edited, but sound editing is still in progress and
there's all the effects work. So I'm not quite sure exactly when that
see the light of day.
I've just begun working on a new animated short, which may or may not
called "The Duel." I'm trying to get a unusual flat-color look
something that doesn't look like conventional CG rendering and doesn't
to imitate drawn animation either. I'm getting really excited about trying
to convey motion using flat areas of color instead of my usual highly-lit
style. The closest thing I can think of would be Samurai Jack.
And the other short I'm working on....I think I'd better not talk about
too much, it's too far off. But it will be the biggest thing I've done,
whenever I finally get around to it.
How do you celebrate completion of a project?
Who or what inspires you and does it influences your work?
So many different things inspire me, I honestly don't know how I'd narrow
the list down. But, I'll try to get some of the bigger ones. When I was
little child, I became obsessed with Dr. Suess, which explains a lot
things about me. Also the Muppets, which I am still inspired by (no one
ever managed to top The Great Muppet Caper for sheer fun weirdness).
The films of Terry Gillaim are very inspirational, especially Fear and
Loathing in Los Vegas, which practically is an animated film (come to
about it, an animated Hunter S. Thompson would be really cool....). His
extreme wide angle camera work really inspired some of the stuff I'm
Neil Gaiman's Sandman. There are too many good things to say about this
work, so I'm going to limit myself to one. It's so easy, when writing
characters who are immensely powerful, like Dream or Death or Lucifer,
make it a story about the contests between those powers. Basically, a
superhero story (which is exactly what you'd expect from a character
The Sandman, right?) But no, what we get here is something so much greater
then that. Something that uses mythology and the supernatural to create
world so strange and vast it's almost more then you can do to take it
in. Rather like our own, in that way.
I'm really inspired by the animation of Glen Keane, primarily his depictions
of Tarzan and the Beast. Here is a guy who can put so much life into
character's movement, I'm surprised they don't burst. I think I remember
cleanup artist at the Disney studio saying that it's as if Michalengelo
become an animator. That's a pretty good way to sum it up. He's directing
CG film now, which is so sad. Glen Keane has this unique talent that
will transfer to CG. On the other hand, if anyone can make it work, maybe
What excites you in today’s design/animation
The ability of CG animation to play with the real world in a way that
never possible before. Chris Landreth's "Ryan" is a great example.
Here is a
film in which the characters are very good semi-realistic depictions
people, but who have enormous holes through their heads representing
emotional wounds. The effect this produces wouldn't work in live action,
wouldn't work that well in traditional animation, but it works beautifully
in CG, and it's an amazing film. Gollum being another great example.
character who is far too wasted, grizzled, and twisted to be human, but
moves with a surprising life and vitality and personality. His "realism"
enhances the effect by making this impossible character seem possible
realism" in quotes because I think the term is misleading--no one
going to mistake Gollum for a real actor. Rather, what CG characters
reach for is believability, which is an entirely different thing from
realism. When people actually go after realism itself, I cringe. See
What you don’t like in today’s
A lot of people (especially suits who run the American animation industry)
are saying that traditional drawn animation is dead. First of all, this
blatantly untrue. Just look at Lilo and Stitch! Traditional animation
as lucrative as any other kind, as long as you tell a good story with
The reason why traditional animated features in America have been such
in recent years is that the story or the marketing sucked. And second
all, if it was true, it would be a crying shame. Drawn animation is really
distinct artform from CG, and very beautiful in it's own right. They
photography was going to kill painting too, y'know. They were dead wrong.
I also don't like the trend of people who don't really understand animation
trying to make overly "realistic" CG films, thinking motion
capture is going
to solve all their problems, and ending up with creepy, lifeless, dead-faced
characters. Final Fantasy being the obvious example. It looks like Polar
Express is going to follow in its footsteps, but I guess I can't tell
the trailers and I hope not. People have to pay attention to the uncanny
valley effect, or their characters are going to end up looking like they
came from a George Romero movie.
Have you ever fell asleep during a meeting with the client,
what happened next?
Nope, never done that.
Did you ever said ‘no’ to a
client, why and
do you still have that client?
I have a problem with saying no to clients. I don't do it even when I
really, really should.
Do you play computer games?
What are you playing now?
I don't play computer games. They're way too time consuming and
addiction-forming. I do, however, play tabletop roleplaying games. In fact,
at Anzovin Studio we have a weekly studio D&D game, in which I play
Vivaldi, the dashing Jash swordsman with a wit that's as sharp as his deadly
rapier and a past that's as dark as his night-black cloak.
What do you read in bed?
Currently, Louis McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan saga. Also, I have
recently have inexplicably been reading the collected writings of Lester
What are your plans for the future?
Er....I plan to become a great film auteur who's seminal works will define
generation and bring joy to millions of people.
How many hours a day do you spend on the computer?
I don't want to know.
What is your favorite food?
What music do you like to work to?
The Rolling Stones. When I'm on a deadline, I like to play Gimme Shelter.
Apart from Google, what is your favourite
website at the moment?
Aint it Cool News, mostly because of the comic reviewers, who refer to
themselves as "The Talkback League of @$$holes." That's verbatim,
way, that actually use the @ and $ signs. Where else are you going to see
someone review the latest issue of Captain America by interviewing Saddam
Hussein? He turns out to be quite the comics geek, but I guess he had do
something while holed up in that bunker.
If you had to choose a different profession,
what would you be right
now and why?
I'd like to be a consulting detective, but only if I could live in the
19th century, when it was cool to be a consulting detective.
What image is on your desktop?
Hmmmm....I moved this text window aside, and underneath it I see some
of streaky blue thing. Interesting. I never really noticed it before.