Q: What were the pivotal moments in your career? How did you get to where you are?
A: My first job out of school was a software test pilot gig at Alias/ Toronto on the then fledgling StudioPaint 1.0. A StudioPaint sketch I produced for Alias marketing ended up on the February ’94 cover of Computer Graphics World magazine, inside the issue was an article on California-based video game start-up, Magic Edge, whose principles took note of said cover art… a pivotal moment. I moved to The San Francisco Bay area and spent nine months at Magic edge working on an immersive entertainment center design for a fighter jet sim-game in Mountain View. I jumped to another video game start up, Rocket Science Games, in Berkeley and contributed art for their graphic adventure game, Obsidian. I interviewed with Doug Chiang in late 1995 for a position on Ep.1. I sent him a Christmas card. I quit Rocket Science and freelanced for a couple months. (I boarded a TGI-Friday’s commercial with Corvette Summer Director, Matthew Robbins!) Tax day of 1996 I started work on Ep.1. I took the year 1998 off to assist my girlfriend in recovering from three brain surgeries attempting to remove a tumor. I worked on Ep.2 until late 2000. I freelanced off and on for three years. During this time I built some furniture out of airplane parts. I was discouraged and ready to throw in the dish towel on the movie thing. My exceptionally talented buddy Dave Gordon encouraged me to submit a portfolio to Pixar. Two interviews and a year and a half later I hired into the CARS art dept. I completed work on my second Pixar film, Wall-E, in mid 2008. I am currently on a project for 2010. Pixar salvaged my faith in movie making and my job remains fresh to this day, almost 7 years on.
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
A: Because my day is dominated with drawing I tend to channel my after hours energy building in three dimensions. It’s a much needed break from constantly working in the virtual; a character or environment design will evolve over multiple, month-long iterations before a final build happens (cycles can last years) So it comes highly recommended to have projects in ones non-work life to keep a personal momentum.. where you conceive, organize and execute designs of your own. Really, it maintains ones sanity! The benefit is cyclical- your work at work is at the mercy of so many different arms of the production (story, production design, technical, budget, scheduling etc.) On the other hand you get home and, in a couple days, you dream-up and scratch build a modified float plane that’s been haunting your sleeping hours. You have a finished product that fills your personal cache- it makes going to work and dealing with the start/ stop nature of production much easier. The design/ craft work you do in a less restricted environment will (in some form, at some time) infiltrate and inform your work at work. During Episode 1 a few of us from the art dept. used our ‘credentials’ to gain access to a small, family-owned ex-NAVY supply depot across from the Oakland airport in the East Bay. Some of the internal volumes of this two warehouse complex resembled that last shot in the first Indiana Jones film- where the arc is boxed up and buried deep among vast terrains of concealed, countless booty. The parts prized from the containers at the depot were beautifully preserved jewels of fifty-year-old aeronautic engineering. It was a feast for the eye, for the camera and for an insatiable appetite of precious, formed, cast, stamped and welded metals. The mechanisms that make any plane work are experiments in lunacy: elegantly blunt, heavy aluminum armatures actuated by intricate, dedicated systems of pulleys, struts or a ridiculous muddle of hydraulic pumps and plumbing. Just holding one of these milled, polished.. perhaps anodized parts in your hand satisfies and provides real, lasting sustenance for a design brain.
Q: What you do on your free time… does it affect your professional work?
A: Buying truck loads of this stuff from the airplane scrap yard, I’ve built various pieces of furniture over the years: a dining table using the rear horizontal stabilizer wing tips off of a Lockheed Constellation prop-liner from the 40’s. A day bed consisting of two radar dishes and landing gear parts, a variety of smaller storage unit pieces.. all absolutely functional and used around the house. The conceit behind this furniture is: honor the design/ craft of the part and build simply. I strive to combine these parts meant for different planes and applications into what looks and works like a piece of true aircraft engineering from a parallel universe. I don’t garnish the pieces with lame wood trim or spend my time polishing the aluminum to a mirrored finish.. all this distracts from the absolute-utilitarian nature of the parts.