With 20 years of experience in the animation industry, Eric is an exceptionally skilled animator in both CG and traditional animation. His impressive portfolio contains names such as Dreamworks, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Warner Brothers, and Rhythm & Hues among others. Some of his most recent projects are The Princess and the Frog, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Bolt and Meet the Robinsons. He studied animation at California Institute of Arts, in Valencia, California, where he was awarded a partial Disney Scholarship. He’s even published a children’s book, which he wrote and illustrated: The Harbor Light, published by Kregel Publications.
As an animator, do you have any preference between 2D and 3D?
I honestly love both. Each has its own unique pluses and minuses, and I love the challenges both bring. To me, animation has always been about the performance of the character, creating a believable and relatable persona you care about.
And as a spectator?
Both forms of film hold wonderful opportunities for creativity, imagination and style. I love films that pull you in and make you believe in and care for the characters, regardless of the medium used to achieve that goal.
How long had you been doing 2D when you first decided to learn CG, and how did you find the transition?
I was a 2D animator for about 10 years before I started learning CG. It was a little daunting at first, but since I’m an analytical person by nature, I wasn’t scared off by the technical side of things. Once I wrapped my head around the tools and how they affect the animation, it became second nature and I could concentrate on the most important thing — creating a performance.
I recently had the privilege to transition back to 2D for a time to animate on The Princess and the Frog for Disney. I thoroughly enjoyed the return to familiar ground. Then, it was back to CG for my next project. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity for the variety.
Do you think CG is killing traditional animation?
No. I think there are several reasons why CG is at the forefront of animation currently. But I don’t think traditional animation is being “killed.” It’s just been pushed aside for the time being.
There’s a lot of room in the marketplace for medium diversity. The last few years have been a mix of animated films, mostly CG, but also traditional, stop-motion, as well as some new forms of animation. Great stories, appealing characters, and unique experiences are what make great films, and they are not exclusive to one particular medium. Hopefully we’ll see a better balance of mediums in the not too distant future.
What do you like animating the least?
I’d say anything not character performance related can become tedious for me. I know I keep repeating myself, but it’s all about character to me.
How does life as a family man get along with the long hours of an animator?
It is tough at times, I must say. Family is number one in my book. So when crunch time hits, I am very aware that I must be on guard to MAKE time available. Work ethic is extremely important to me too, but a person can’t live their life at the studio. I work with my employers to have some flexibility in my work schedule at times.
You have worked with very talented and renowned directors and animators, is there anyone left you would like to work with?
Yes, I have been blessed to have worked with many great people in the animation field. Down-to-earth and approachable people who make you feel part of a team, respect you, and value your experience and input.
The person I’d most like to work with is, actually, whoever is the next person or group of people I work with. Everyone has their own unique experiences, skills and ideas, and the more people I collaborate with, the more I’ll learn and grow as an artist.
Do you have any intentions of taking your children’s book, ‘The Harbor Light,’ into an animation?
I actually started the idea as an animated project. I had hopes of creating a 30 minute, direct-to-video featurette with it. But from the very beginning, I wanted to do something personal, something under my own complete creative control. As time went on, I realized a fully animated project was a bit beyond my means, so my focus shifted to a more manageable form, and the idea to turn it into a 32 page children’s picture book came in to being. There is nothing like having your own creation and seeing it through all the steps to completion.
Are you currently working on any new projects of your own?
Yes. I’m just finishing up on a new children’s picture book, my second. After that, I plan to move right on to my third picture book idea, while continuing to develop a novel aimed toward an older audience.
How would you explain your job to a 90 year old lady who’s never seen a CG animation?
I’ve always found it a challenge to convey to others exactly what an animator does, and the process they use to create a performance. I’ve sat down many times at my animation desk or my computer screen and shown in summarized terms the steps to animating. They seem to understand it to a degree, and are always amazed to discover the time and effort it takes. But in the end, I know it still eludes them. It seems “magical” to them.
But I think that’s the way it should be. To create a character from absolute nothing that you could believe lives and breathes and feels and emotes, but is created through a tedious process one frame at a time over a period of weeks and weeks – how could that be anything but magic?