Animation Block Party (www.animationblock.com) is the premier animation festival of the East Coast. In this interview series, the founder of ABP, Casey Safron will be introducing Animation Magazine readers to some of the award winning animators who have screened at past ABP festivals.
Mari Jaye Blanchard’s film Craft won the Audience Award at the 2011 Animation Block Party film festival. If you live in Brooklyn, you can see Mari Jaye’s large-scale murals at Trader Joe’s. Her personal website is www.marijayeblanchard.com
Casey Safron: Your film Craft features a young woman who seems to never leave her city apartment. Did you use your own living space as reference in animating this?
Mari Jaye Blanchard: The apartment in Craft is 100 percent made up, but I feel like I know it as well as my own apartment now since I had to draw all the camera moves. I do not use 3D models at all, so I definitely got a bit turned around at times. I relied on a little thumbnail floor plan I’d sketched out that showed me where all the furniture was.
Safron: You’ve done a handful of animated shorts for Sesame Street. How did you initially get linked up with them?
Blanchard: I am still pinching myself about the Sesame Street work! It is crazy to me how it actually came about. The real beginning was a commercial break during Family Guy a few years ago. It was for a Fox contest to find new pilot ideas. The contest was being run through Aniboom.com, and I created a short called Beckner. It didn’t win, but the next contest they posted was for Sesame Workshop. I felt like I’d be kicking myself forever if I didn’t try, so with the help of a musically talented co-worker, I ended up making two shorts: Lonely Eleven and Inspector Nose, Private Eye. We ended up winning in the School Readiness category, which earned us a cash prize but no air date. We were absolutely psyched regardless, so when a Sesame producer called me a couple weeks later asking if they could air it, I couldn’t believe it. The rest, I guess, is history. The contest put me on the Sesame producers’ radar, and I’ve made three more shorts for them since then. I am learning invaluable lessons about the industry and about animation in general, and am so grateful for having been given the opportunity.
Safron: As a muralist, have you ever considered creating a mural based film using pixelation or stop-frame animation?
Blanchard: Truth is, I don’t have a great explanation for why I haven’t been able to incorporate painting into my animated work. An easy answer might be that the mural painting I do these days is commercial work, so it isn’t the most inspired mode of working for me. But I am hopeful that one day I’ll find a project that might merge the two mediums.
Safron: Thanks for taking the time talk animation, Mari Jaye – and congratulations again on the ABP 2011 Audience Award.