All new users of Toon Boom invariably run across the well-maintained forums at ToonBoom.com. Likewise, all visitors to the forum will have a conversation with JK. He is the wise Yoda-esque voice of reason and knowledge on the forums, and is the true definition of a power user of Toon Boom.
JK runs four blogs, some specific to Toon Boom and some simply about animation in general. They are: Toon Boom Studio Wiki, Cartooning In Toon Boom, Craft Of Making Cartoons and Between The Frames. JK was kind enough to grant a request for an interview, in an effort to understand how he came to use Toon Boom and how he got his start in animation.
When did you begin working in animation?
I started in animation in 1967 working for a small studio making TV commercials. I started out painting cels and backgrounds and also as an animation camera stand operator actually shooting the films. I did some character design and voice work too. I was 18 years old when I started.
Most of the commercials that we made were reworks of the same basic set of commercials just for different clients so we would change the art slightly and use different backgrounds and voice-overs. It was a real low budget operation which was great because I was eager to learn and I was cheap labor and they let me do some of everything.
I got the job by offering to work for free just to learn. My work was good enough that I got hired for a couple of dollars per hour. It was great experience but not a way to get rich by any means, so I had to do other jobs as well and then went on to college to study engineering because I liked to eat regularly and needed a “real” career.
Did you go to school to learn how to become an animator?
No, I’m a product of “on the job” training. I learned from other animators where I worked but I am mostly self taught.
Is Toon Boom your first foray into digital animation?
If not, what was? No, I started using Flash in 2002. I was able to produce OK work but was frustrated at the non-animator centric approach of Flash and decided that TBS was a better fit to my way of thinking. I started with TBS 1.0 on the Mac but found it to be lacking in many areas and stuck with Flash until TBS 3.0 which I finally decided was a better product than Flash MX2004, so I made the big switch. It was a very good decision.
How difficult did you find the transition from traditional to digital animation?
Not difficult at all, I had the advantage of being an engineer and having spent years in computer systems design and software development I was very comfortable with computers and using software. Also being self-taught but classically trained in animated film making, the metaphor for TBS was easy to understand and I had learned film editing a few years earlier on a non-linear editing software, Final Cut Pro, so the time line concept was not new to me.
Are there any projects you’re currently working that you can tell us about?
Most of the work we do at TGRS is client confidential, but I am currently working on a web comic that I hope to debut in a few months.
Please describe a typical work day for you.
There are few days that I have that are typical because I wear so many hats. Some days I work on projects for clients and some days I work directly with clients. Some days I’m working as a management consultant. Some days I’m working as a cartoonist and animator / cartoon maker. And some days I’m doing systems analysis and design for software. And most days I do what is the highest priority to keep everything flowing so that I can get paid. It is mostly a client driven life.
We certainly appreciate this glimpse into your daily life as well as your first days as an animator. Once JK’s new web comic goes live it will posted about here. Thank you again!