Emmy Winning Character Designer Dan Haskett Writes Foreword to Pose Drawing Sparkbook

Illustration by Cedric Hohnstadt

I’m proud to announce that Emmy-winning character designer Dan Haskett has written the Foreword to the Pose Drawing Sparkbook.

Dan is an amazing character designer, animator, and all-around great guy. He’s worked on everything from Sesame Street to Beauty and the Beast to Toy Story to The Simpsons, where he won an Emmy for his work converting Matt Groening’s rough designs into an animation-friendly format.

I consider Dan a friend and I have tremendous admiration for him both as an artist and as a person. I’m both humbled and grateful that he has so generously given his support for the Pose Drawing Sparkbook. To learn more about Dan, here’s an interview I did with him on my blog back in 2010.

The book is almost finished and will be going to press soon. The official launch will be at at the CTN Animation Expo in November, but you can pre-order yours now.

Interview with Character Designer Dan Haskett

Dan Haskett is an animation veteran and one of the top character designers in the business. He’s contributed to classic feature films including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Prince of Egypt, Mulan, and Toy Story. Dan helped translate Matt Groening’s early sketches for The Simpsons into the look we know today and was rewarded with an Emmy for his work.  He’s also worked on numerous commercials and created animated bits for Sesame Street.

I first met Dan Haskett at the Motion ’08 animation conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he gave a fascinating presentation on designing ethnic characters (read my blog post about it here). After his presentation he was kind enough to review my portfolio. The following year I was invited back to the Motion conference as a speaker where I again had the chance to visit with Dan. He’s a brilliant and versatile artist, a likable guy with strong opinions that he shares in a soft-spoken and thoughtful manner.

In January 2010 Dan was kind enough to give me a phone interview from his desk at Warner Brothers where he is currently designing characters for two Scooby Doo projects. He shared some observations on the industry, offered some advice, and gave his thoughts on The Princess and the Frog from his perspective as an African American in the animation industry.

(Full interview after the break.)

(The above artwork is copyright © Dan Haskett. All rights reserved.)

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Motion 08 Recap

Last week I attended the Motion 08 conference in New Mexico. The 4-day event was geared towards two industries: animation (2D and 3D), and motion graphics/editing. It was one of the best conferences I’ve attended in a while. The seminars were loaded with helpful and inspiring information, and I met a ton of great people.

As an animation character designer, I figured this would be a good opportunity to do some networking with lots of potential clients. My goal was to meet as many people as possible and flex my networking muscles. It was a real treat to get out of my isolated studio and hang out with other creatives in the industry. All in all I think I gave out over 100 business cards.

The first day featured several seminars open to the general public and finished off with a screening of animator Phil Nibbelink’s self-produced feature film “Romeo and Juliet: Sealed With A Kiss”, followed by a Q&A session with Nibbelink. I missed the seminars but flew in just in time for the movie. The film is a loose retelling of Romeo and Juliet, with cartoon seals playing all the major parts. Nibbelink is an experienced Disney animator who wrote, animated, and produced the entire 80-minute film in his basement. Quite an impressive feat!

The next three days were packed with seminars on animation, editing, and motion graphics. At any given time three seminars were going at once. I focused on seminars about animation, so I can only tell you about those sessions. I can only assume the other sessions were just as terrific.

Monday I attended an all-day seminar on the modern television animation pipeline using Flash. The seminar was presented by animator Stanton Cruse from Film Roman. Afterwards I went out for dinner with four guys who design fake computer display graphics for TV and movies. When an actor uses a computer in a movie or TV show, these guys design what shows up on the actor’s computer screen. Most of the time the computer isn’t really doing anything, the actor is just miming to a mini-movie playing on his computer designed to look like real software is running.

Tuesday I attended seminars on animation principles, using Flash, and surviving Hollywood. Fascinating stuff presented by first-class speakers.

Wednesday’s seminar topics included animating to music, designing character packs for Flash, acting in animation, and designing ethnic characters. The last two seminars were both led by Dan Haskett, a veteran Disney animator and character designer. His work was incredible and his wisened, soft-spoken manner had me hanging on every word. More about his presentation in my next post.

If you are serious about animation, be sure to attend Motion 09 next year in Alburquerque, NM. Sign up for future updates.