Zach’s Animating Journey

I had a dream when I was little that I wanted to be a cartoonist.  Well, I guess I can’t call  it a dream; it was more of the goal that I just kind of knew would happen, and I was pretty sure I would be young when it did.  So either I had a good guess or it is God’s will for my life – hopefully option two.  Actually, when I was four, I did not want to be a cartoonist.  I wanted to be a sign spinner dressed as a sandwich; but as soon as I got over that idea, then I wanted to be an animator!  My parents never said, “No you can’t do that, think of something else”.  They always encouraged me even though they did not know the first thing about animating.  For  years I would do stick puppet shows every Friday night for my grandma with a new stick puppet that I drew every week.  I would tell stories as I came up with them to my brother’s every night, and I have always loved creating characters and stories.

For my audition for Betweentime I needed to bring something like a talent or a skit.  I had recently been learning about PowerPoint presentations and other programs from a family friend.  So I decided to bring a PowerPoint, but I needed something else.  I looked through my old hand puppets and saw a crab and a shark.  They weren’t a set; I got them at totally different times but they looked fine together.  My brother Eli and I came up with a simple story about forgiveness and Epic Tails was born, but it wasn’t called Epic Tails yet.

Later when I was at my audition with a laptop, two puppets, and a hand drawn z-pad on a note card, I took what felt like the longest personality test of my life using a Macbook pro trackpad which was new technology to me at the time.  When I finished they took me down stairs to film my powerpoint presentation and my puppet show.  Sometime after my audition on a recording day, the producer said that I could get my own custom puppets and that I could do my puppet show for Betweentime.  The next week, the idea came up of me making it a cartoon!?!  My first thought was…  well, I don’t know what my first thought was?  I felt excited, overwhelmed and thrilled!  I knew it would be an extreme amount of work, but I had no idea how much work it would actually take.  I didn’t have a clue where to start.

I came up with some drawings and showed them to the producer, she said she was going to contact Scott Burroughs, an artist from Disney that had his own business called Scootertoones.  “Wow it really is happening!”  I thought.  Within a month, I found myself in another house performing my puppet show for Scott Burroughs.  Pinch and Chops were practically a live tour before a cartoon short.  Scott said that the first two things I needed to do was character developing and storyboarding.  I came back later with nine drawings and Scott told me I needed a lot more. By the time I was done there were three times as many drawings than when I started.  The next six months were full of designing props and sets, key framing, converting to symbols, scrubbing, copying, pasting, clicking, dragging and drawing.  It was such a learning curve, but thanks to Scott opening up his home and sharing his time and experience every week, I learned much of the cartooning process.  When it was getting close to being done Juan Benavides, one of the editors for Betweentime, helped me tweak the final touches like RGB coloring and the frame rate which I set wrong at the beginning.  He helped fix the audio, added music and bubbles… and helped me export it.  I’ve learned so much from him also.  When it was done being tweaked, it was exported and Epic Tails was finished.

For the last nine months, I have been working with Bob Neve on Crazy Talk clips for Betweentime, and I am continuing to learn about the animating process.  I hope one day to get into animating in 3D.  I would love to start my own company and build it as big as Disney for God’s glory.

For Zach:

It is great when dreams become reality! Watch Zach’s episode #5 “Work It Out” to hear the whole story of dreams, God, hard work, solving conflicts, forgiving…

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