Eddie Fitzgerald have worked in animation for over 30 years on series such as The Ren & Stimpy Show, Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, Tiny Toons, and countless others. Currently he writes on a popular blog Uncle Eddie's Theory Corner.
I've conducted an email interview with him. My questions are in bold.
You worked on many different shows during your career, which spans over 30 years. Of all the cartoons you've worked on, which did you enjoy working on the most? The least?
Gee, I have a bunch of favorites! Ren & Stimpy was fun because working on it gave us all an insight into the mind of John K, a true genius if there ever was one. It was also fun to work with a talented crew. I'd get up to stretch and when I looked around there were museum quality drawings on every lightboard around me! it was exhilarating! I also have great memories of working at Filmation. The shows were absolutely terrible, and the hours were grueling, but it was my first industry job and there wasn't a moment when I didn't feel surrounded by magic. Actually, I still feel that way. Warners and Bakshi were fun, and I actually had a job as gag man at Disney's. Maybe I had the most fun doing my own cartoon for Cartoon Network: "Tales of Worm Paranoia." Believe me, there's no greater experience than directing a cartoon that you've written yourself. Every day was an education! I felt truly alive and awake, and when the film was done and I had to return to the workaday world, I felt like I had been forcibly put to sleep.
How did the staff react when the news of Nickelodeon firing Spumco from Ren and Stimpy came?
Interesting question! I didn't see it coming at all; it was a complete surprise! Out of the blue the production people told us to put our pencils down and pack everything carefully so it could be shipped to a new studio. I was stunned! John was out of town, so there was no talking to him about it. All the artists gathered in the middle of the main room. A couple were crying. Mike Fontanelli looked like he'd seen a ghost.
What happened next was the ugliest experience of my adult life. I said, "Wait a minute! This show uses a unique drawing style that takes a while to learn. Draw it any other way and it just won't look like Ren & Stimpy. We're irreplaceable! If we hang together and refuse to work on the show without John, then Nick will be forced to give it back to him! Let's all sign a letter to that effect and deliver it to Nickelodeon!" Half the room thought that was a great idea but the other half just looked at the floor, avoiding my gaze. Finally someone said, "Well, I wouldn't sign that. It sounds like a loyalty oath to me. That's McCarthyism."
McCarthyism!? Being loyal to a friend and a generous employer is McCarthyism? I didn't think that made any sense at all, but it seemed to satisfy half the room, and we broke up. Later, as new information came in, it became apparent that half the studio had already secretly negotiated contracts with the new place, for big raises in pay. They knew the split was coming.
Still later, I talked to the artist who was leading the split, and implored him not take John's characters away. I offered to do free work on a presentation that would help him to sell a show of his own, with his own characters, but it was no go. It was an ugly, ugly experience!
Are there any animation introduced in recent years that you like? Or hate the least?
There's been several funny animated shows since Ren & Stimpy, but none that relied on solid cartooning and the unique thing that funny acting and animation bring to the table. Cartooning caricatures the way people look; animation caricatures the way people move. I don't understand why current cartoonists show so little interest in moving things funny.
Have you ever pitched any series ideas to networks? Thinking about pitching more in the future?
I do pitch to networks, and I have absolutely fantastic ideas that would break new ground and work great on the screen! Unfortunately I'm one of those people who are shattered by rejection. You need a thick skin to prevail in this business.
What are your thoughts on the now-common practice of outsourcing animation to an overseas studio?
I would never outsource anything if I could help it. There was a job waiting for me when I needed it, and now it's my responsibility to be sure that one is waiting for the next guy. But it's more than that. American animation benefits from a hundred year-old tradition that includes comic strips, magazine illustration, pulp fiction, movies, funny cereal boxes and toys. It was influenced by immigrant humor, vaudville, jazz, swing, rock and roll, hip-hop and the unique flavor of the american streets. I don't see the sense in turning our backs on all that and sending everything to Shanghai.
Would I take a job overseas? Sure, if there was nothing going on here, and I'd do my best with it, but I do want to see a healthy industry here.
Interview © Charles Brubaker
Tales of Worm Paranoia © Cartoon Network, A Time-Warner Company
Other Artwork © Eddie Fitzgerald