Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Nelvana monkeyshines..

My entry into the Animation business, began in '89.. I passed a test to become one of the Layout Artists on Nelvana's popular 'BEETLEJUICE' cartoon series. I continued doing Layout on crap like 'BABAR', etc. But Layout, is incredibly intensive work.. And I sooned burned-out on it.

In 1993, I heard that Nelvana might be adapting Mark Schultz' 'XENOZOIC TALES' comic-book into an animated series, entitled: "Cadillacs & Dinosaurs".. And as I'd heard that Design was a much lighter workload than Layout,-- I thought I'd apply for any positions that might still be available..
Long-story-short, I got the job.. And began working with a very small (but very talented) group of artists: Ted Bastien, Leif Norheim, Mike McKay, Kurt Lehner, Koko Maung, and Franc (Francisco) Reyes, among others..
Design, was (is) very different than Layout.. There was a lot more day-to-day kibbitzing & kvetching, than I was used to.. People had the time to throw Gag Drawings around, back-and-forth. And even though I stank at drawing them, myself.. I got quite a few, tossed in my direction. And thankfully, had the foresight to save most of them..

Ted Bastien, was our Design Supervisor.. A very talented artist, that basically showed me what Design was all about. I definitely learned a lot from him. And because our Final Artwork required very-finished linework.. I was also able to teach myself "inking", at the same time!
In hindsight, I suppose I was something of a whiner & complainer. I can get frustrated when a Production isn't running, the way I think it should. And Ted, (of course) picked up on this! Here's a couple of funny drawings that he did of me:

That's Ted, peeking around the corner.. And me, complaining about Ray (Jafelice) who was our Director on "Cads & Dinos".. I was an early fan of Dan Clowes' 'EIGHTBALL' comic-book, too. And I used to bring them into work..
Ted seemed quite taken with the David Greenberger 'Duplex Planet' 1-pagers, that appeared in that comic.. The writing of these strips, were based on the verbatim (and largely incoherent) ramblings of the Retirement Home citizenry; where Mr. Greenberger worked his Day Job.. Hence the obtuse "Run like a Goddamned Deer" comment.. heh

Another guy (who wasn't on our crew) that liked to poke fun at others, was: Dave Thomas.. Later, he turned out to be a quality Storyboard guy on shows like 'DOG CITY', etc. He always had a very dry wit & killer sense of comedic timing..
He seemed to like to draw me with a bullet Head & Body.. I guess the 1st one, was intended to be me as a "Simpsons" character? I dunno.. The color scheme makes me think so, though.

Mike McKay, was another dry wit.. Later, he would go on to be a much-in-demand Effects Designer. Which meant, a lot less Drawing for him to do. Mike is the guy that coined one of my studio nicknames: "Two Dawgs" Dannys.. All because I had the temerity to eat 2 whole hotdogs for Lunch, one afternoon?! Didn't seem like a very Big Deal, to me.. But I guess it was, to him! heh
He also also got a kick outta calling me "Dick", rather than "Rich".. Hence, the following caricature:
Ted Bastien musta liked the sound of that.. 'Cuz while we were working our way thru the "Cads & Dinos" Production schedule, he concurrently worked on his own pet project: a comic-strip, featuring different members of our studio crew.. I think that Mike McKay was a bit put-off to find out that his sole cameo in the strip, involved being portrayed as a derelict vagrant -type, that me & Ted (as the main Detective characters) ran over with our old-school Sedan? haha

The big hulking dude crashing thru the wall of Blayne's (Burnside) Variety store, is none other than Pat Rowsome.. He wasn't on our crew. And I didn't really know him, all that well. But Ted loved drawing him as a raving sociopath. And he was definitely the so-called "Villain", in his storyline..
I can recall watching a Super Bowl game at Pat's house once, with fellow friend: Rob Walton.. I dunno where Pat is, now.. I heard he got married to a girl named Sheryl.. And (I think?) may be now working in Ottawa..
Speaking of Rob Walton.. He did this killer Gag Drawing of Pat & myself, facing off against each other.. Rob liked to call it: "Clash Of The Titans", if memory serves? I found the joke a lot less funny, after Rob explained to me that I WASN'T necessarily being portrayed in Perspective, here!! heh
Even so, I think I could still give "The Pat", a run for his money..

"Clash Of The Titans" was (I believe?) inked by virtuoso artist: Goran Delic.. A Serb import to Toronto, that I didn't really get to work with fully, 'til we both began working in Design, on Jim Lee's 'WildC.A.T.S' cartoon series..
At that time (around '94, I think?), it wasn't uncommon to see me schlepping my way into work (up Atlantic Avenue), most mornings.. Wearing my usual "uniform", ably illustrated by the following Goran ink sketch:

I recall him saying: "Here you are, Reetch.. Now, you are truly a WILDcat!!" heh
Those that know me, realize that the outfit continues to be 'de rigeur'.. I still like my coffee, t-shirts, and jeans.. And though the Doctor's Bag isn't nearly as pristine as it once was.. It continues to carry all of my valued Field Guides, Layout Notes, and reams of Animation Paper.. Cintiq & Sketchbook Pro, be DAMNED!!

A little insight into some of my Nelvana Daze.. Hope you likey?
Talk to y'all laterz!