Simon Sherr
Character Animator

Just Completed Work On:
Santa Lights Up New York
for Radio City's Christmas Spectacular

I realized I wanted to be in animation when I saw:

I think I was always drifting towards animation. For the better part of my childhood, I would wake up at 5 a.m. on Saturdays so I could sit down like a zombie in front of the TV for hours. My older sister and I used to watch as many cartoons as we were allowed, but our Saturday morning ritual will always stick in my head as one of my fondest memories. I also remember very vividly a conversation I had when I was very young (probably about six years old) with my mother. She thought it was great that I was always trying to learn how special effects were done. I always wanted to go see the scary FX films, and I would drag her to them. One time she asked me if that was what I wanted to do when I grew up... I think at the time I still wanted to be a fighter pilot, (which at that age still involved duking it out with aliens on some other world). But the conversation really stuck in my head.

When I was a kid I:

When I was young I was always drawing, I'd have stacks and stacks of sketchbooks... cars, and Robotech characters, in addition to my attempted portraits of friends and family. When I was about seven my mother got a hold of boxes and boxes of leftover pads from a paper company. You know, the edges of the pads that get left over when they cut down the paper, after it is bound. I used those for years to create little flip book doodles, goofy faces, moving stick figures, whatever I could think of. When I was about 10 years-old the California Raisin commercials came out, and my sister and I got into making clay figures. I started animating with those as well. I was also heavy into drama. I had my first lead in a 4H play when I was five years-old, playing the main character in Leo the Lop. I used to organize plays (again with my older sister), and all the neighborhood kids would come and take part in them. These things were no joke. When I was about seven we did a neighborhood production of the Broadway show Cats. With my love of acting and drawing, animation was the only logical direction for me.

My parents wanted me to be:

Surprisingly my parents have always been supportive with my career decision. My mother, being a child of the hippie generation, was always overboard supportive with my artwork, she always said I should draw nicer things than guns and giant walking tanks, but nevertheless she was supportive. My father, on the other hand, is a doctor (M.D., Ph.D. director of cancer research at St. Jude). My sister is also a doctor, interning at Hopkins. I thought he would have a heart attack when I told him I would be transferring to SCAD, after three years of a psyche degree, to become an animator... I was actually impressed with how well he took it. I was waiting for his head to explode, and the only think he said was, "If you can make a living, then do it."

My first job (of any kind) was:

…working in a mailroom for the Douglas Michael Corp. in Springfield, VA. I got the job when I was 14 through my best friend Michael (Douglas was Michael's younger brother, and their father named the company after the two boys). I spent my days stuffing mailers and running a bursting machine, which cuts pages that come off of printers as one long sheet. I hated that job. It was so boring. I think it's why I listened when my mother said, "The key to happiness is figuring out what you love, then finding someone who will pay you to do it."

My first big break in animation was:

…accepting a job offer at Giant. Although it was a no name startup, the CG supervisor was Rudy Poat who worked on Starship Troopers, What Dreams May Come and had just finished as color & lighting TD on The Matrix. Working with him was incredible. In addition to Rudy, I worked with some incredible talent like Blake Holland and Rich Sussaviche. These guys had been around so long, they really plugged me into the industry and introduced me to the right people. It was mainly through Rudy that I was able to land the open staff character animator position here at Kleiser-Walczak.

My career in animation is most influenced by:

…the incredible talent in this industry. Work coming from Pixar has been an incredible influence in my own work. More than anyone or anything though, I would have to say Chuck Jones. His work is still the best animation ever done. Nothing in my eyes can compete with a classic Road Runner, Daffy Duck as Robin Hood, or Ralph and Sam cartoon. Chuck Jones' work originally defined comedic timing and still does today.

I'm most proud of:

…the work I did on a short called The Fruits of Labor which was in this year's Electronic Theater at SIGGRAPH. I did about 70% of the character animation on that project, and completed the majority of the character animation work in about two weeks. I think with the rushed schedule that I had on that project the quality of work is impressive. The other animator, Dave Peng, also did a phenomenal job with the other character work, and I really think the project broke some new boundaries.

One thing I would change about the animation business is:

…the politics. It is a very tough business, the competitive nature makes the political side of the inner workings of a company very complex. Someone with better work, to many artists, is a threat instead of someone to learn from. I came to Kleiser hoping to find animators better than myself so I would have someone to sponge off of. The only way to improve is to surround yourself with people that know more than you do. My father taught me a valuable lesson when I was young, he said that the only way to improve at any sport is to repeatedly put yourself in a situation where you will lose, if you always win, you will never improve. I think the same thing is true in this business. I just wish more people understood that.

The animated character I'm most like is:

My favorite animated character would have to be Wiley Coyote (with the exception of the 1980s WB cartoons). I can watch Chuck Jones Roadrunner cartoons until I pass out from laughter.

What I'd like to be doing in 10 years:

I really hope to be in a lead position, maybe even an animation director. Although it would be hard for me to take a position where I am no longer a hands-on animator. I love the work so much, I can't imagine stepping back and telling someone else how to do it. In addition it seems the higher up you go the more politics and less artwork you tend to be involved in.


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