No, wait... come back!
This is a GREAT story.
One that I didn't tell ANYONE for almost 15 YEARS!
Not my friends...
Not my family...
Not even my wife!
It all started waaaaaaaay back in my senior year of college. The mighty sceptre of graduation was poised to knock me upside the head and smack into the real world where I was going to have to find myself...
And while my preference was to find a job in animation,
I wasn't exactly prepared.
I had gone to school for graphic design and halfway through decided to pursue my true dream of making cartoons.
I probably should have transferred to a school that specialized in animation but instead decided to stay at Kutztown University and learn what I could.
Which wasn't alot.
There just wasn't much of an animation program back then despite the dedication of a mighty professor named Dr. Schantz.
But lack of education didn't stop me from leaping in head first when I saw an ad in Animation Magazine:
The Simpsons... one of my favorite shows... was hiring layout artists?!
SIGN ME UP!
Never mind that I had no experience.
Never mind that I lived on the other side of the United States.
Never mind that I had NO IDEA what animation layout even was.
I just went ahead and sent for a test!
And in a week or so it showed up on the doorstep of the grubby, foul smelling domicile I shared with 6 other loudmouths.
But this wasn't just a test... it was a GIFT:
A big thick model pack of all the characters from The Simpsons with detailed instructions on how to draw them!
And background layouts of locations from the show!
Annnnnd official Simpsons blank storyboard pages!
Even if I didn't get the job I got a ton of really cool stuff!
But I was gonna try my hardest to get this job so I read through the test requirements.
I had a few questions:
What's a 12 field?
TV safety? Excuse me?
I'm supposed to clearly mark camera moves A, B, C huh?
Regardless... I attacked the test with my patented brand of blind, screaming-with-my-hands-flailing-over-my-head determination!
One of the bits I was particularly proud of was where I had to draw three (3) poses of Bart sitting on the sofa playing a videogame.
And I posed the CHICKEN AND WAFFLES outta that scene!
I mean, I had that kid rockin' the joystick like crazy!
(this was the the late 80's so joysticks were the weapon of the day)
Since I didn't really have anyone to ask for advice (none of my teacher's had worked in animation) I fudged my way through what I could and sent the test off.
And the very next day I got a call from Simpsons creator Matt Groening offering me the job!!!
And then I woke up.
In actuality... I waited a loooooong time.
But no one ever called me back.
I eventually mustered up the guts to call Film Roman and after a couple tries got someone to talk to me... but she said the position had been filled.
So that was that.
Flash forward five years later and I'm living in New York City working in animation!
I've served at Buzzco Associates, The Ink Tank and I've been a layout artist on Nickelodeon's Doug.
And now I'm at J.J. Sedelmaier Productions doing assistant animation and production.
And I'm loving it!
I'm a REAL LIVE OVERWORKED ANIMATOR!
Eventually, I got to visit a friend in LA and while there decided to check out the animation scene.
I visited Spumco (the home of Ren and Stimpy), Klasky Csupo (home of Rugrats, Real Monsters, Duckman, etc) and Film Roman---
HOME OF THE SIMPSONS!
(second home actually... it was first done at Klasky Csupo)
A sooper triple nice guy I used to work with was working there as a layout artist and I was dying to check out the studio. So he gave me a tour and loaded me up with cool Simpsons swag, including a copy of sketches the crew had done of the Simpsons characters re-enacting scenes from Pulp Fiction. He also gave me a big thick stack of the latest Simpsons model packs!
While we were walking around, I eagerly flipped through them, totally nerding out over the model sheets.
And then I saw it.
Right there on one of the Bart pages.
One of MY drawings.
ONE OF MY VIDEOGAME DRAWINGS!!!
Then I looked closer:
They used my drawing as a DON'T.
That's when my heart, along with the rest of my internal organs,
sank into my feet.
My breathing came to a grinding halt...
I broke into a frigid sweat...
And I swore I was going to explode in a shower of tears.
I hastily excused myself, making up something about having to visit my dead Grandmother who was sick from a ninja attack, and fled the building.
I was mortified.
Were people inside, after being introduced to me, laughing and whispering,
THAT'S THE GUY FROM PAGE 72!!!
And YES! It was a stinky drawing!
I tried to console myself with the fact that I was in college when I took the test and had no idea what I was doing.
That I would do better if I took the test today.
It didn't make me feel any better.
My drawing was a DON'T.
And I didn't tell ANYONE.
I just couldn't.
I could barely even watch the Simpsons after that.
Because it would remind me of how embarrassed I was.
But as the years went by the mortification eventually wore off.
I managed to block it out and forget.
Flash forward a bunch more years.
I'm still in New York.
I've animated on tons of national commercials.
I've been the production designer on Beavis and Butthead.
A director on Schoolhouse Rock and Saturday TV Funhouse.
The lead character designer for Disney's Pepper Ann.
I've made my own pilot, Kenny and the Chimp, for Cartoon Network.
I've been a director on Sheep in the Big City.
And I'm the creator of the sooper giant hit show Codename: Kids Next Door.
So I'm doin' okay.
And eventually I find myself having root beers with Spongebob creator Steve Hillenberg and Simpsons creator Matt Groening. The lawyer we share was receiving an award so we came to show our support. Afterwards, we all went out together and I was totally giggly-little-girl excited. I had briefly met Mr. Hillenberg in Ottawa where we served on a panel together. But I had never met Matt Groening before and was DYING to hang out with him.
But what could I say?
I mean... he's had to have heard every compliment in the world about The Simpsons.
So I tell him I've got a GREAT story.
One that I haven't told ANYONE for almost 15 YEARS!
Not my friends...
Not my family...
Not even my wife!
And when I finished, Mr. Groening laughed and said,
Well, if it makes you feel any better... I can't draw the characters either.
Nah. It doesn't make me feel any better.
That was a couple years ago. After that night I felt free to the tell the story to anyone and everyone.
I've had a pretty awesome career so far that dulls the embarrassment I felt for so long.
Someone even told me that when they took the Simpsons layout test a couple years ago-- my drawing was STILL in the model pack!
I find that hard to believe... but I'd like to think that over the years I've helped teach the crew how NOT to draw Bart Simpson.
That's gotta count for somethin', right?
Toldja it was a good story.