Monday, December 6, 2010


Okay... wanna hear a good one?

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?!


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!

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---

(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.

Uh huh.

One of MY drawings.


Then I looked closer:


I... uh.


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,


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.

My reply?

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.


Anonymous said...

Oh, how sad! Do not EVER EVER EVER do that to one of my drawings when I sign up to work on your new show. NEVER. Cuz if you do, my heart will be ripped out and I will never even bother picking up a pencil again. Even it turns out I'm pretty good five years later. I won't even bother. So don't EVER do that. And anyway, it was a wonderful story. My favorite blog post, next to all those little facts of funosity posts back in January when KND was re-attacking Cartoon Network and making me more insane.

Anonymous said...

Can I say somthing here? Oh well. You poor thing. That wasn't very good for them to do! I MEAN LOOK HOW SOOPER FAMOUS YOU ARE! They are not cool!

Mariana =] said...

I'm sorry for what they did to you, you didn't deserve it =)
but if it makes you feel better your drawings totally rocks nowadays and I couldn't draw Bart better than you ever =p

and sorry for my bad english ^^'

InterestingNit said...

Oh man, that's just so sad! But like the other commenters are saying, you're very successful now, and a great artist! That was SO not cool of them.

Anonymous said...

LOL, I think we all went through that (my first fudged up job interviews were not that long ago XD).

To be honest, your drawing does look a lot like Bart did on the first episodes.

And I "love" that they're being so nitpicky with their drawings, when the style today has *nothing* to do with the style 15 years ago ¬¬

Clearly, Mr. W, you were always too cool for The Simpsons :)

brianna14 said...

lemme get this straight. when you say root beers, do you really mean root beers?

oh yeah, and you can tell the people who put your picture of Bart in the Simpsons model packs to EAT YOUR SHORTS!

Anonymous said...

Bart actually kind of looks like the older style YOU used in Pepper Ann an early versins of the KND. I always like thse styles better than the Simpsons. I mean, as much as I love the Simpsons, their characters aren't exatly human- or appealing to look at. Anyway, we've all had somthing like that happen to us at one point or another, so I wouldn't worry about that too much. Especially since you are so successful now. Great story!

Brubaker said...

Too bad you didn't apply to work on the Simpsons during its Tracy Ullman days. You could've fit right in.

Anonymous said...

I go to school at Kutztown Area High School.

When I found out you went to college at Kutztown I geeked out. Like, majorly.

I was very excited to find out that my favorite cartoon show as a kid (that being KND, not Simpsons :P ) and I are related in some weird geographical way.

And old main being haunted. YEAH.

Anonymous said...

Even tho it may not be on model it's still a great drawing! Your style is way better!

Do they still do stuff like this with sending people test packs with model sheets, storyboards etc. ?
I'm wanting to get into animation and would really like to try a professional test even if I never sent it in, I think it'd be good experience. How did you go about applying? I don't know if it would be a different process now :/

Anonymous said...

(Same poster as above)

I also don't suppose you have any kind of layout test from KND I could use as practise? KND is my fave ! :) Thanks x