Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Donovan Cook interview, part 5

Read Part 4 here

Did the two dogs ever had names?
[laugh] Somebody asked me about that recently.

Mark Kennedy, Ash Brannon, Chris Ure...I called them up and said "Let's get together and make a cartoon," because I was working at Disney Features, and I think Mark Kennedy was there, and Chris was at Warner Bros., because they had a shorts division at the time, and Ash I think was at Warner Bros. too. So were were all working and I was like "Let's not disappear into Studio Whatever, let's keep making stuff, you know?" So I brought everyone up to The Alamo in Valencia, and at that dinner there were a bunch of ideas that came out. I still credit Ash Brannon for saying "Hey what about two really stupid dogs?" I liked that, and I think I wrote down three or four things out of that meeting, but it was the stupid dogs one that I thought was the funniest, and I loved dogs, I always had dogs when I was a kid.

Not long after that I happened to see a stray dog in the apartment complex where I lived. There was something about this one dog and scared and whatever, but he looked like he was living in a fantastic, adventurous life. That became a real spark of inspiration for me. They wern't humans, they [wern't humans drawn as dogs], they were actually dogs that lived in the human world as dogs. They were strays, they wern't pets. It was important to me that they wern't pets, that was a big part of the concept. I figured, a dog that wasn't a pet wouldn't name itself, it would just be "I am a dog."

Their names were "Big Dog" and "Little Dog", and that's why they never really had proper names. But there were a couple of episodes where, especially the Big Dog who had a couple of different names that were put upon him in an episode. There was an episode were he was called "Jonathan" once, by a hamster who was played by Maureen McCormick, who was Marsha Brady in "Brady Bunch" as you recall. There was a dramatic love scene between the Hamster and the Big Dog, and she called him Jonathan. That was a second season story, and in second season I kinda loosened up the reigns and things got a little wackier.

That's why they didn't have proper names. I'm surprised the studio let me do that. That's something I can credit to Fred [Seibert]. Fred was very experimental. He wasn't afraid of making a cartoon that, I dunno, had a flaw. I think he figured "Well, if that doesn't work, we'll make another one." That's a risk that nobody would let you make now. Like, let's have two characters that don't actually have names. I'd hate to think that in hindsight that it was a mistake, but, I dunno, maybe it made it harder to market them. [laugh]

Did you direct all the voice sessions on the show?
Yeah, I did. That came CalArts, you basically learned, it's been many years since I've been there but I think it's still the same, but you basically learned to make your cartoon, it's very collaborative and you had all the classmates to help you, but you basically learned to make cartoons, really the old way. Which is kind of a small group of people, and at school it's mainly you and you do basically most of the work, but at school you had all these people supporting you and so that, to me, if I was going to be the guy who run the show, I need to direct the voices and at Hanna-Barbera at the time, they had a voice director, Gordon Hunt, who ran the casting department and was the main casting director and voice director. They had Kris Zimmerman, who was basically his protege, and who was about to take over the department. But I thought "why would I have someone else direct the voices when they wern't involved in creating the storyboards and writing the materials?" and John [Kricfalusi] of course directed his voices at Spumco and at the time I spent on features, on Mermaid and such, the directors directed the voices, so to me it was a very foreign idea that the person running the show wouldn't direct the voice. So while I didn't know what I was doing I remember John Musker, an amazing talented director and super nice guy, and also generous with his time when I interned and the year I spent there, so when it came time for me to direct the voices I asked if he would have lunch with me to spend an hour going over the approaches on how he would direct the voices, there's a little bit of, that I learned alot from John K., and alot from picking through John Musker's brain about, we just did it. I think there's some really talented voice directors, I had worked with them, and there's nothing wrong with it, but I think there's a false idea that animators, cartoonists, directors, don't really know how to talk to actors, and therefore you need voice directors to bridge the gap of language or whatever, but I think that's completely false. I think any directors, be it live-action or animation or whatever, your job is to communicate your ideas to the people you're collaborating with, and there's certainly there's ways to talk to actors and to gets actors motivitated, get them to visualize things, but there's no reason why an animation director can't do that. So I directed all the voices for that. Larry and I traded off directing voices for Secret Squirrel.

Some of the writers, board artists, including Mark Saraceni, sometimes went to the voice session with us. We never put the actors in a position where there were multiple direction, but we were there as a group.

How much work was done in pre-production before everything went overseas?
That was a very standard process, for television. Especially at Hanna-Barbera. Basically you would write outlines, draw the storyboards. At times, during outline, we would design something, like a character that we knew as new. But more often than not there were no designs done before the storyboard artists boarded it. They would make up a new design that worked for the storyboards, and once the storyboard was done, like if there was a new character, and there would always be a new location, we would design a show from the storyboards. At times, the board artists had a great design sensibility so in that first season it would have been Craig or Mike. Take, for example, that character Cubby. He first appeared at the Drive - In. Chris Ure drew him first in the pitch board, then it was Conrad [Vernon] who did the production design. So Craig basically did the final designs based on what was drawn in the storyboards. But we had times when the character designs in the storyboard that looked really, really different than what we wound up designing because we didn't really like the designs in the board, but we didn't have time to go back and revise the storyboards so I had a stamp that said "Character Off-Model. Follow the Model," and I sometimes had "Character Off-Model, Follow the Board," if the drawings were so funny I didn't want to mess up the drawings by putting them back on-model. So we would board it, then we would design it, and then we would record it after the board was done, and then after we recorded it we would create the story reels. We would lock the timing in the story reels and we would do animation sheets for the animation timing, and we would send it overseas from there. Months later it'd come back in color and we would frantically call for retakes, and then it was on TV. That's the process in television. It's a little different now with all the digital stuff, but it's still pretty much the same. We didn't invent anything how we did it in pre-production, although back then not too many places were doing story reels [animatics], we were doing it at Spumco, but Hanna-Barbera didn't and we invented that [at the studio], but now it's pretty standard practice, but back then nobody was doing it.

Part 6 coming soon

Monday, August 15, 2011

Donovan Cook interview, part 4

Read Part 3 here

Did the Standards and Practices ever gave you hard time on the show?

I'll tell you, at the time we thought we were getting hard time, but when you look at what people are like to you now versus what we did then, we got away with murder. We had shows where the dog's caught on fire and jumped out windows, drove in cars without seatbelts, all this stuff you can't do now. We were free as a bird.

I think the best story from S&P comes actually from a Secret Squirrel episode. It was [the one with a possum and his bat henchmen], all these nocturnal animals, so there was a scene where these bats beat the living hell out of Secret Squirrel with these baseball bats. We put it through...there wasn't really a formal Standards and Practices because we wern't doing it for a network, like if you were doing something for ABC, CBS, NBC, or Fox, back then, the networks have formal S&P people, but we were doing it for syndication and TBS, and TBS never had original children's programming so basically there was Mike Lazzo at TBS who wanted to do basically everything, and guys like Buzz Potamkin [...] Buzz would handle production so they would basically look at stuff and say "I don't think we should do this," but we shipped that show overseas and it was animated with these characters beating Secret with wooden baseball bats, but when that one came back they saw it and they kinda freaked out, saying "You guys, no. We can't do this, it's too violent." But we wern't a rich show so I remember Larry and I, and Paul, I think it was a Rob Renzetti show [actually Paul Rudish, David Feiss, and Tony Craig] so we all started brainstorming and discussed what the hell we were going to do so finally we all thought "let's leave all the animation exactly the same" so instead of full retakes we added one scene where instead of picking up baseball bats the two bat characters blew up a long, narrow balloons. So we changed the bats to balloons but all the animation stayed the same, so it was still fantastically violent but they were hitting him with these balloons and they still beat the hell out of him. It was still hysterical, but that was one of the few times they wouldn't let us do something.

But yeah, I'm sure that if you asked me that question 15 or so years ago "Oh, god yes I have a long list of things they wouldn't let us do," but now in hindsight all I can do is look at almost every Stupid Dogs cartoons, there's a joke that would never, ever let me do now. In the "Door Jam" one, the Mike Mitchell one, where they misunderstood the concept of automatic doors and think they need shoes to get through the door, so they inexplictly start collecting shoes, and there's a scene in that cartoon where the two dogs go to a damn strip club, hollering at the stripper girl to take off her shoe! "The shoe! The shoe! Take off your shoe!" [laugh] And this wasn't, you know, Adult Swim or Comedy Central...I don't think Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon or Disney XD or any of those places would let you do that joke. They wouldn't even let you think about that joke.

So we had alot of freedom, especially in hindsight.

One of the characters in 2 Stupid Dogs was a big guy named Hollywood. What's the story of that?
Hollywood was inspired by a guy...I have a group of friends that go all the way back to high school. Every summer we'd run a beach house down San Diego, and one year there was a guy living in a house next door who was just incredibly loud and would always holler at things at the top of his lungs and we started him "Hollywood," I don't remember why we called him that, but that was the summer before we started production of Stupid Dogs so we were in development on the show. I can't remember exactly when Spumco got shut down 'cause I was still working there for the first few months when we were trying to figure out how to get a full greenlight on the show but, so, there was this crazy guy that me and my buddies, not from the animation world, called Hollywood and it was Cornflakes, the first Hollywood episode where he's a farmer, I think, and so we were talking about what do we do with this farmer and we decided to make him this guy with the joke that he had, that some people seemed to like, "Isn't that cute but it's wrong," which I thought was funny. I don't remember whether Rob [Renzetti] invented that in the board pitch or whether that was in the outline but that came up for the first time in that one and we all thought it was funny so we started using it everytime we used Hollywood.

Some of the secondary characters that came out of this show was Hollywood, or Cubby, the pimply faced teenager...he was in the "Drive-In" and I think that character got repeated because of Rob Paulsen, who voiced him. We all thought the voice was funny and we wanted to hear him again. So we started writing him into more cartoons. Funny thing is in the pitch there was a group of characters that never made it into a single cartoon. For example, when I pitched the show there was a gang of cats that would sometimes terrorize the dogs, but the cat gang just never seemed funny when we were developing the premises so we never used them.

Continue to Part 5

Sunday, August 14, 2011

How Jim Tyer worked

On 8/13 I talked to veteran animator Doug Crane, whose credit includes Terrytoons, Paramount, Archie Comics, and many other places in New York (and some in Hollywood). During his stay at Terrytoons he assisted the crazyman of all animators Jim Tyer, so naturally I asked him how he worked. Here's what he told me:

It depended [on the scene]. If there was a weird piece of animation that had to be done like a guy who does not know how to dance...if it was a regular dancer he would have to animate on a beat. If a 16-frame beat he would have to go "bump...bump...bump" and the foot would have to hit the floor on the beat, so it would've meant drawing one, thirteen, twenty-five, etc. And that would be a dance and Jim could do that superbly.

But he would be much better off if he had a fellow who DIDN'T know how to dance was trying to dance. And this way you don't do drawing one, thirteen, twenty-five and work into it. You just go straight-ahead. He would put down alot of paper on his pegs, and the rubber band going around the pegs so the papers wouldn't fall off. He would pick up all the papers and he would do drawing one, then he would do drawing two, then three, then four. He never knew where he was going and you'd never know what was going to happen along the way, with this guy slipping, stepping on his fingers, and then stretching them and all. He was a master at stretching and squashing and expressions.

And with that, here are some of Tyer's animation

[and I'll continue posting my Donovan Cook interview tomorrow]

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Donovan Cook interview, part 3

Read part 2 here.

Was writing on storyboards a big challenge? For years, throughout the '70s and '80s, cartoons were being written on scripts.
Personally I think a challenge is writing a cartoon with words. Great cartoons are visual, all their entertainment value is visual. The drawings are funny, the animation...the dialogues and things like that are never supposed to be primary. If you look at your favorite Warner Bros. cartoons, or if you're a Disney person you look at the old Disney shorts, it's all about visual storytelling and visual humor.

When I get a script, especially for a short cartoon, it's very frustrating to me. You have to develop the materials and the jokes and everything, visually. The challenge was that they haven't really done a storyboard-driven show for a while, so it seemed kinda new to the people at the studio, but that's how we made our films at school. Craig, and Genndy and Rob, had all just come right out of school, and...that's how we all did, so we kind of knew how to do it.

About a year ago I talked to Eddie Fitzgerald and he said that one of the frustrating things about scripts is that they're always too long, and whenever they trim it down they always took the funny part out.
[laugh] Yeah, and Eddie knows them. You know, it's really weird. For some reason, if you're going to make an 11-minute cartoon often people would script them at twelve, thirteen, maybe fifteen pages even, and it's like "Whoa whoa wait a minute. You've got a paragraph here that takes up three-four-five lines of script page but this is a huge piece of business. It can be a huge slapstick thing that I can develop for twenty-three seconds almost. You can take a great cartoonist and tell them to write with words and they're going to find themselves relying on words to tell the story rather than visuals, so when you've done that and you need to trim, you don't want to cut the dialogue, you want things that don't look like they're part of the storytelling. So yeah, he's right. The first things they cut are the comedy, but you know. It's all different ways. There have been people making great cartoons that are from, you know, scripts, but for me it's not the way I love to make it, and it's not the way my favorite cartoons are done.

Did you develop the art style in 2 Stupid Dogs, or did Craig McCracken?
Craig and Mike Moon were largely responsible for what the show looked like. When I pitched the show it had been with designs that were mainly done by Chris Ure, with a little bit of work by Barry Johnson as well, both were also in our class at CalArts. But when Craig came in I was really big fan of films and how they function, and we knew that on's not like Hanna-Barbera was going to rain money on us to make this crazy little cartoon show so we didn't exactly have alot of money for the animation, so I knew that anything we could do to make it easier to draw and look good when it wasn't moving was going to be a smart move. So we were talking about that and Craig said "You know, do you mind if I took the shot at the character designs, and I can simplify them." My mantra was "simplification, simplification, simplification," so I though they were very simple, and they were, but I said "Absolutely. Take a whack at it," so he redesigned as they are and as everybody knows them. I knew Mike from school, but it was Craig's suggestion that I take in Mike to basically create and do all of the environmental stuff. So it was Craig and Mike who created the looks of the show.

We were really big fans of Ed Benedict at the time, who was an amazing designer.

What was the first episode of 2 Stupid Dogs that was in production after it got picked up?
The first that that I think we put into production was the Drive-In one, because when I was pitching the show I didn't have a full continuity storyboard but I had a storyboard that Chris Ure and I had done, that was like what I call sequence board, that basically had all the story, all the gags, just not fully fleshed out but I used that to pitch the show, and so that was the first one that was partially ready to go so I gave that pitch board to Conrad Vernon.

They never really came in and stayed on staff, but Conrad Vernon and Mike Mitchell were really influential on the first season of Stupid Dogs in terms of storyboarding. So Conrad did the drive-in storyboard. Conrad invented the whole, I don't know if you remember in the show, but the little dog does the little celebration dances, and Conrad invented that in the first Drive-In storyboard. And Mike Mitchell did it again, his first board was the one called "Door Jam," where they're trying to get through the electronic door at K-Mart, or whatever we called it. This, to me, is a great thing about storyboard-driven show where a crew pitches a storyboard to the crew. Everybody laughed so hard when Conrad pitched that celebration dance that Mike then wrote one for his cartoon, when they got through the door. That wasn't the thing that we sought around and said "We need to have this thing the little dog does where he does a little dance and sings a song. It just happened organically because it was funny to us and we kept doing it. That's the really organic way to develop characters and character personality trait.

I think Genndy's first one was called "Where's the Bone?" where the little dog thinks he lost his bone but it's sitting on his head, and they travel around the world looking for it, and big dog sees the bone on his head but doesn't know that's the one he's looking for.

I can't remember what Rob's first board was.

That might of been, yeah. That might've been. I think Tony Craig's first board was the one where the big dog gets his head stuck in the fence. It's funny, those early boards have some really fun moments and really rough moments, because we were all young and made our fair share of mistakes along the way.

The great thing about this summer is that the show's running on both Boomerang and on Cartoon Network so I hope they still stand up. It's great when people find me and they're fans of the show when they were kids. I love that people can still see 'em, and hopefully they still hold up, even the ones we made our mistakes on.

Continue to Part 4.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Donovan Cook interview, part 2

Read Part 1 here

How did you pitch 2 Stupid Dogs? Who did you go to?
Specifically at Hanna-Barbera? We pitched Stupid Dogs pretty much anywhere. I think the only place that never got us to Stupid Dogs pitch was Disney TV. At the time nobody was really making short cartoons. John [Kricfalusi] had been doing it on Ren & Stimpy.

Just to be clear on the timeline, we created Stupid Dogs before the Ren & Stimpy pilot came out. Some people have been a little nasty about saying that Stupid Dogs was a ripoff, and if you watch the two of them back-to-back they're very different shows. John K. is a really amazing guy but he had different sensibilities than I do and the people that made Stupid Dogs, with me and Hanna-Barbera. So when I went to work at Spumco on Ren & Stimpy I had already pitched the show everywhere and we were in the long process of making a deal at Hanna-Barbera.

So we pitched all around and Hanna-Barbera was one of the last places. Hanna-Barbera happened to be making Tom and Jerry Kids short cartoons, so when I took the show to Warner Bros., or Fox TV, or alot of those places they would say "yeah, it looks like it could be funny but their shorts. What do you do with them?" I would be "well, you put three of them together and you get half-hour." I mean, that's how we watched Looney Tunes, so it was a little weird that so many television and production executives wouldn't really know what to do with it but at Hanna-Barbera they were making these Tom and Jerry Kids shorts so they immediately knew how to put shorts on television and I pitched to Margot McDonough, who was the creative executive there at the time and she got it and liked it.

The crazy thing is this got pitched on a Tuesday, and on Thursday Turner took over the company. So there was quite a bit of turnmoil and it took quite a long time to make the deal because they were interested and liked it, but for months they had no idea who was going to run the company. David Kirschner was running Hanna-Barbera at the time but they had no idea who was going to run it and finally they found Fred Seibert but it then was months before he actually came to California to take over so it was a long, drawn-out process as it often is, but it all worked out in the end.

Was Bill and Joe anywhere at Hanna-Barbera at the time?
Oh yeah, they were both there. They came in everyday. It's funny, I look back at it now and I regret not spending enough time with them but we got to see them alot. My best Joe Barbera story...we made updated Secret Squirrel cartoons at the same time we made the first season of Stupid Dogs and I took the first storyboard we had for Secret Squirrel and took it to Joe to show it to him. He was so funny because when I first took it to him to say "Hey Joe, how are you doing? You know, we're doing new versions of your cartoon, Secret Squirrel and I wanted to show you one of the storyboards". Joe said "we didn't make Secret Squirrel!" [laugh] And he literally had a plush toy of Secret Squirrel on his shelf. I took it off the shelf and handed it to him and said "yeah, you did. Look, you have a toy of it."

So I pitched him the whole storyboard, I think the first one was the one we called "Goldflipper." I pitched the whole board, the big damn thing, doing the voices, and at the end he cuddles the plush toy and looks at it and says "Oh Secret, they ruined you!" [laugh] It was heartbreaking, obviously, at the time but it's hysterical because it was like "Wait a minute! Ten minutes ago you told me you didn't create this character and now you're cuddling the toy and saying that I ruined it." But they were both great and they were always there and they obviously had alot of stories and good advice. It was a real treat to be able to spend time at the studio when they were still there.

Was it your idea to include Secret Squirrel in the show, or someone else's?
Yeah, that was my idea. For some reason Hanna-Barbera didn't think it was a great idea to run three Stupid Dogs cartoons in a row, which I never did understand that, so Fred said "Let's put something inbetween. What do you want to do?" I said that one of the many Hanna-Barbera cartoons that I loved as a kid was Secret Squirrel, and asked if I can mess around with that, and they said "sure".

Paul Rudish was also in our class at CalArts and I've always been a giant fan of Paul's work and so I called him up and asked if he wanted to come in and redevelop the show. I was there couple months on my own so Paul was the first person that I hired and he came in and immediately worked on redeveloping Secret Squirrel. I think alot of the Secret Squirrel cartoons we made are fantastic, but I don't know if it ever really worked having them inbetween Stupid Dogs. Back then we got some feedback from audiences saying they were confused, so it might not have been the best choice for what to put inbetween, but on their own some of those Secret Squirrel cartoons are fantastic. Paul really worked hard on those. He was really hands-on.

Was Larry Huber in charge of all the Secret Squirrels?
I had never produced a show before and didn't really have any idea of what I was doing, because when we finalized the deal and they hired me to be the creator/producer/director of the show...I was 22, I had been out of school for not long, I think two years, so I really had no experience, so it was Fred...I owe alot to Fred. Some of the people in the production management at Hanna-Barbera were pretty reluctant to let me run the show, but Fred was the one that said "Let's let him try, but let's give him someone who knows what he's doing as a partner." So they teamed me up with Larry and he was amazing with not just with me, but everybody, including Paul and Craig [McCracken], Genndy [Tartakovsky], Rob [Renzetti], everybody that was there. They all learned so much from Larry. But pretty quickly, Larry and I decided to split duties, so he basically teamed up with Paul to work on the Secret Squirrel, and I ran Stupid Dogs, but we collaborated on all of them. I think I directed quite a few of the voice sessions for the Secret Squirrel shorts and all the storyboard pitches...Larry was there for all the Stupid Dog pitches, and I was there for all the Secret Squirrel pitches, but we decided to stay out of each other's hair for a little bit, by splitting up the two shows that way.

I have no idea what he's doing now, but Larry spent years working on these really great stuff; he had a great run before any of us kids showed up at Hanna-Barbera. He was really a special guy and he was a real veteran, but he embraced a kind of this chaos this new generation showed up and all wanting to try crazy ideas for new cartoons. He had alot of impact on alot of cartoons that were made in the '90s and the 2000s with Cartoon Network and Frederator and stuff. He's tremendous guy.

Who would you consider to be the key people in 2 Stupid Dogs, (writers, storyboards, etc.)?
Mark Saraceni was story editor, but we all wrote outlines. I think my role was for seven-minute cartoons we'd have no more than a three or four page outlines. So what we would do is anybody who had an idea for one of the cartoons...I had a pretty long list of 'em from all the development work that I had done that I spent trying to pitch it, but we would have lunch meetings trying to talk about premise ideas for cartoons and then we would pick the ones we like and then Saraceni would go off and, he wrote alot of the outlines and Lane Raichert I think wrote some, Henry Gilroy wrote some outlines, Richard Pursel did us a favor and wrote up a few, I met him at Spumco...but then majority of the writing was done on the wall in the storyboards.

So the board artists would get the outlines, which like I said was three or four pages, which really had just, here's the setup, here's what's the conflict's going to be, some ideas of what will happen, how things will escalate, and sometimes it will have a solid ending, sometimes it will not. And the storyboard artists would spend maybe two or three weeks doing a rough storyboard where they would develop much of the material and the gags. It would get pinned up and pitch it and we'd spend a day or so kinda tearing it down as a group. Most of the storyboard artists and much of the crew would watch the pitch and stay together for the rest of the afternoon and pitch new gags and new character stuff and situations and kinda cover the wall with post-it notes and the board artists would go away for couple more weeks to sort it all out.

So the guys that were doing so much of the storyboards...Genndy, Rob Renzetti became really key guys in the storyboards. Tuck Tucker was there for a while in the first season. But the key people on 2 Stupid Dogs were Craig McCracken, he was huge. Mike Moon, and Rob Renzetti, Tartakovsky. All those guys that wound up running the place for years after that. We were all part of the first season here and everyone was tremendously impactful on the show.

Continue to Part 3

Interview (C) Charles Brubaker
2 Stupid Dogs, Secret Squirrel (C) Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Donovan Cook interview, part 1

Donovan Cook is the creator of 2 Stupid Dogs, which aired on TBS and in syndication in 1993-95. It was then subsequently rerun on Cartoon Network where it gained following within animation fans. He has also worked at Disney, Spumco, and Klasky-Csupo. The phone interview took place on August 11, 2011.

Where are you from? What were your influences?
I'm from California. I grew up in northern California, then moved to southern California as a teenager. Influences, early on, were Disney cartoons, Warner Bros. cartoons and particularly a couple of Peanuts animated television specials. The Halloween special, the Christmas special. I loved those. Heavily influenced by those early on and Schulz in general. A little bit later, toward high school, obviously Calvin and Hobbes was huge for me back then.

And you went to CalArts?
Yeah, from '87 to '90.

Made any films there?
I made four films there. Generally in the character animation program at CalArts you make one film a year. I made a first year film, made a second year film. In the second year we started making some collaborative films, too. Made a couple of group films in the second and third year, but made terrible films the first couple of years. Last year I made my first film that was actually coherent. Got some laughs and things like that. I was in the same class with Pete Doctor, Ash Brannon, Chris Ure, Mark Kennedy. We were a great year. Great class.

Did you made any acquintances with fellow students that you would work with on other shows?
Oh sure. Quite a number of people from 2 Stupid Dogs were from CalArts. Craig McCracken, who art directed Stupid Dogs was a year, maybe two years behind my class. And Mike Moon, Genndy Tartakovsky, Rob Renzetti, Tony Craig. Almost all of us were from CalArts, right around the same time.

Did you get a job in animation after graduation almost instantly?
I was really fortunate. At the end of the second year I did an internship at Disney Feature Animation on Little Mermaid. At the end of my third year, which is when I graduated, I went back to Disney for a year. I left Disney to create 2 Stupid Dogs.

You worked at Spumco on Ren & Stimpy?
I did, yes. For a little while. I was at Spumco when all the really nasty stuff went down, when Nickelodeon shut it down. I left Disney, I was 22. I thought it would take me few months to sell Stupid Dogs. Ha ha. Took a year and a half. So in the meantime I did a few things and I was fortunate enough to meet John K. and spend some time there. I had never done any television work before so my first lessons in how to make TV cartoons was at Spumco with John K. so that was a great time for me. I learned alot from John, and Ron Hughart was there. Ken Bruce and Dan Jeup were there at the time. Those guys were all there directing and I came in as an assistant director and really learned alot about television and how to keep it from getting too rough around the edges. But then all hell broke loose. Luckily that happened right around the time when we had just finalized the deal with Hanna-Barbera so the timing was okay. So I left Spumco and went directly to Hanna-Barbera to start working on Stupid Dogs.

What did you do as an assistant director at Spumco?
Spumco was a great place. They were very hands on. They did what's called character layouts. Once the storyboards were done you would make story reel, or what people now call an animatic, to time out with the storyboard and the dialogue tracks. And then instead of immediately shipping it out overseas they would do character layouts, where alot of really talented artists would do, not all the key poses you would use if you were to animate, but, say, if you were going to have a scene you were going to animate with it was going to have maybe twelve key poses, in the character layout you would probably do maybe four or five of those, the really, really key ones. And so as an assistant director I helped work with the directors in timing some of the character layouts and if something wasn't working I would do some fixes to it. So I was there as a second hand to some of the directors, dealing with timing and character poses and things of that nature.

Continue to Part 2

Interview (C) Charles Brubaker
2 Stupid Dogs (C) Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc.
The Ren & Stimpy Show (C) Viacom International