For a longtime Tom Bancroft and Rob Corley had the dream job for most animators—working at Disney. After being hired by Disney the two immediately gravitated towards each other, and over the next 15 years they had the opportunity to work on 10 classic Disney films, multiple shorts, commercials and theme park rides.
With experience in direction, character design, visual development, storyboards, layout, 2D & 3D animation and art direction under their belts it was only a short leap to becoming entrepreneurs—which is exactly what they did.
Their unique personalities branded their new animation company the Funnypages. Funnypages Productions is an animation development company with character,” says the unique pair. Funnypages Productions has had the opportunity to work with high-profile clients like Disney, Big Idea Productions, CBN, Scholastic Warner Brothers, Simon and Schuster Publishing, and Hasbro—work for which Funnypages has won numerous awards.
Rob recently gave us the opportunity to ask him about his interesting career path.
What is your firm's focus within animation and what led your firm to have such a focus on this one?
Funnypages Productions chose to focus primarily on animation because of our previous experience as Disney animators working out of the Orlando studios. From 1989 to 2004, we have had a hand in creating many of the best animated features of that time, from Lion King, Beauty and the Beast to Mulan and Lilo and Stitch just to name a few. When the studio closed in March of 2004 we decided that our company focus would be to stay engaged in animation and offer our services as a pre-production, development team for other studios and groups that are seeking to create preliminary art work that involves character designs, props, storyboards and other assets that need to be created prior to production. We also offer animation consulting, direction and art direction for projects as well. Funnypages is also heavily focused on illustration work for books and other print media with a strong influence on character.
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 have to be the creative process of developing good stories and great characters, and the worst, which I prefer to call the challenge, would be the expense of undertaking a full production and the tremendous amount of effort it takes to complete.
Among your firm's achievements, which one(s) are you the most proud of?
Early on we were hired by Disney to produce all the animation and clean-up for the Stitch encounter ride at the Magic Kingdom. Working with Big Idea, creators of Veggie tales, on their feature film “The Pirates who don’t do Anything”. FPP was hired to produce many of the films characters props and storyboards.
We were also hired to produce and direct 6 episodes of 3-2-1 Penguins for broadcast. We created and directed an animated music video for the band Reliant-K called “Sleigh ride”.
We directed, art directed and provided prop/character designs for the pilot episode for the re-launch of Superbook for CBN, and spent time in China overseeing 3D design and animation for that episode and setting the look/style for the following seasons, currently in production.
We have also been able to create and produce 2 original book series, Andi’s Journal, a girl’s chapter book series for Thomas Nelson and Tomo, an 8 part original series published by Zondervan
What skills/qualities does your firm seek out when hiring new employees?
First and foremost is the ability to produce great, solid drawings. A positive attitude, the ability to listen, learn and take direction is also very important traits for anyone wanting to succeed.
What particular schools, if any, does your firm recruit new hires from? If none, where do you recruit new hires?
We normally do not recruit like some studios, and have been able to provide internships in the past. We have a lot of artist connections, and depending on the project, we will typically hire a handful of freelance artists and oversee the art as it is produced. Because we are involved in several projects at any given time, we need to have great artists that we can trust and depend on.
What advice would you give to aspiring animators?
At Disney we participated in portfolio reviews for many hopeful applicants wanting to become a Disney artist, so the three most important words I can give any artist, even CG artists, is to, Draw, Draw, Draw! I know that can sound like a broken record, but nothing separates a great artist from a mediocre one more than a portfolio full of bad drawings. Keep a sketchbook and draw from life by going to the park, the mall or the zoo. Learn to adapt and observe as many styles as possible in order to give you an edge over the competition. An extremely important piece of advice would be to never, ever, think that you can’t learn something new, because the moment you begin to believe you’re there is the moment you stop growing as an artist.