Having a career in the animation field can take you anywhere, just ask Laurent Donnay, Managing Director of TouTenKartoon. Laurent was born in Belgium, raised in France, hired by TouTenKartoon in Paris and later changed continents to work at their studio in Montreal, Canada. Laurent's interesting path once again proves just how versatile a career in animation can prove.
In addition to his geographic diversity Laurent has had an equally diverse career; a career that began with certifications in advertising and design, then a long stint in the fashion magazine world. In 1993 Laurent changed directions completely and left the magazine industry behind to fulfil his life-long passion of working in animation. After working his way up the ropes Laurent was given the opportunity to supervise on a couple of successful feature-length animation films: Balto and All Dogs Go To Heaven 2. Then, about 10 years ago he was offered an executive position at TouTenKartoon in Montreal, where he has been Managing Director. Ever since, covering their entire North American client base.
Thanks to the help of Laurent (and many more assuredly) TouTenKartoon is now a bi-continental, bilingual production house with three locations, two in France and one in Canada. The team is experienced in post-production, executive production, 2D & 3D animation, ink, paint and compositing. Their long list of production titles includes Ratz, Totally Spies 2, 3, 4 and 5, Martin Mystery 1, 2 and 3,Space Goods, Lucky Luke, Kid Paddle and many more.
Laurent recently took time from his busy schedule to offer advice to our readers:
What is your firm's focus within animation and what led your firm to have such a focus?
We focus on Technology, because this is what will save our industry in Western countries and help keep our jobs.
Fill in the blank: The future of animation is ______________.
What are the best and worst aspects about working in the animation field?
The best would be to work in such a creative field; the worst aspect is that the industry is quietly sinking in silence...
Among your firm's achievements, which one(s) are you the most proud of?
I would say the one we're working on now, "The Suicide Shop" directed by Patrice Leconte. We hope the film to be a selection for Cannes 2012. We've worked hard on this particular one. We've even developed an amazing tool to be in 3D, actually it's even better, it's 2D stereoscopic. Of course, we're also proud of all the great series we've done (Totally Spies, Martin Mystery, Kid Paddle, Lucky Luke and so many more).
What skills/qualities does your firm seek out when hiring new employees?
We think of the company as a big family, so we like our crew to be involved, to care of the company as much as the company cares for them. We hire mostly young people just out of Animation School. Of course we select the best and guide them through professional training, to give them skills that school just can't teach.
What particular schools, if any, does your firm recruit new hires from? If none, where do you recruit new hires?
We mostly hire from Le Cegep du vieux in Montréal, but not solely.
What advice would you give to aspiring animators?
To be aware that it is a fun but hard industry, with a lot of competition and that it can't be a pastime but a passion. Know that you will have to work hard. This is not a state employee job 9am to 5pm.
What were your most challenging projects, and why?
This is definitely, again, the one we are working on, "the Suicide Shop”--for the same reason, that it is exciting. It is also our first feature-length film. We are used to making series, since 1995 we have been making series, but a feature film is quite different. And we work with many people who don't know about animation. The Director, as well as the Producers, are "live Action" people...not from the same industry. So it is very challenging for us to make them understand that the process is much longer, and that it is not that bad to produce around 40 sec/day...
What kind of education did it take to get you where you are today?
Never really went to school, I mean, I stopped at 16 and started working. Animation came way later.
What animation software packages does your firm prefer to use? Which one would you recommend to beginners?
For Animation, Flash and of course ToonBoom Harmony. For Ink&Paint, Compositing and Stereoscopic Compositing we work with our own software which called K3System. Sometimes we work with AfterEffect.
Has the trend of outsourcing animation overseas affected your firm, if yes, how have you dealt with it or compensated for it?
We moved overseas...We were originally from France, then moved to Montreal. But of course, outsourcing causes a real problem to our industry. Sadly, Governments don't help enough, our industry is dying in Canada, and especially in Quebec. Please see: (alliancequebecanimation.com--they are also on Facebook).
Do you think that there is an increasing or decreasing demand for animators overall? Why?
Yes, the demand is increasing for the moment and why, well, because the animation used to be outsourced in East Asia for decades because of the price, but now, as the Digital Animation age is still young and affordable, Animation came back in western countries...but not for long.
Check out more interviews at Animation Career Review's Interview Series.