Andy Grisdale has been involved in various types of animation throughout his career and has worked on a number of exciting projects ranging from console games for Xbox and Playstation 2, to theme park attractions, commercials and stunning cinematic sequences for games such as Bioshock and Fable 2.
Andrew has spent the past 8 years hoarding a wealth of experience in very exciting projects. After working for several studios in England, he moved to the United Stated where he first joined Blur Studios in Los Angeles for just over a year before joining Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California where he’s currently working as a layout artist on Toy Story 3.
You are currently working at Pixar. Can you tell us how you ended up there?
I started animating as a hobby back in the early 90s which led me to art school and eventually a degree in animation. My first three jobs were for games companies in England. I wasn’t especially interested in the games industry and so in the meantime I was making my own short films at home. I made two of them — ‘The Circle’ and ‘The Green Miaow’. They look crude now but these shorts led to my being hired at Blur Studio in Los Angeles which was artistically a huge move for me, collaborating on much more cinematic pieces. I was there for three years before some larger studios started to call. Although Blur was a great place to work I couldn’t say no when Pixar invited me to join them. i feel like creating my own work was the most crucial step in getting here.
What is it about animation that made you choose it as your career?
I had an interest in film making from a very young age. When I was starting college I thought I was going to go into live action film making but I quickly got discouraged by the lack of control I had over the components of a film — actors, lighting, weather and so on. I was already comfortable with animation with which I could more easily realize my ideas and have more fun with it. You’re only limited by talent and time. When I was at Blur I started to do layout professionally and in that area I really found my niche as it is the most filmic part of the animation process and I enjoyed it a lot.
What do you like the most about the type of work you do?
It’s just really fun to start a new sequence and to create a new Pixar scene from scratch. In layout we really work out the nuts and bolts of how the film is going to work in three dimensions. Aside from figuring out the logistics we’re free to experiment as much as we please with the staging, composition and camera work so we’re a big part of the film making process which is very satisfying.
Who or what inspires your personal and professional work?
I’m mostly inspired by live action filmmakers — Kubrick, Hitchcock, Lean, Scorsese — all the usual suspects. PT Anderson is my favourite working right now. Scouring the internet for art blogs provides an infinite source of inspiration too. I’m fortunate to live in an inspiring part of the world and to be surrounded by many talented people.
What lessons have you learnt from you various roles in games and films?
My years of work have taught me to have a plan and stick to it. Think about what you’re going to do do before you do it. I try to be as organised as possible. To build up my work in layers and to do one thing after another. To communicate as much as possible with everyone you’re working with. Keep track of how long tasks take so that you can best judge how long things will take to do in the future. But how well I stick to my own advice is another question…
Having transitioned from games to films, how do you think these two mediums are different?
From an animation standpoint there are obvious differences — acting in animated film versus shorter actions and loops for games — but, really, the tools and the process are pretty much the same and you always try to create the finest quality you can. I do remember working in games as being more repetitive but it was still enjoyable for the most part. I haven’t worked in games for quite a while so maybe things are changing with this generation of technology.
I know that you enjoy working on your own animation shorts. Are there any more of them in the pipeline?
Nope! I would love to do another but this job takes too much out of me.
What are your tools of choice when animating?
Pixar has it’s own software which I really like using. Commercially, I like to use Max for most things but for animation I would say Maya is my favourite.
With films like Avatar and Up gracing the screens last year which take the art form of animation to new levels, where do you see animation going in the next few years?
Up, and especially Avatar, had huge amounts of resources poured into them and it’s great for the industry that they’re doing so well. I’m more excited about how Coraline and Fantastic Mr Fox went down so well. The animation industry is much cooler with those kind of films in it.
If you were a survivor from the zombie apocalypse and you couldn’t do animation for a living, what would you be doing instead?
Hmm… hopefully, building boats to sail away on.