Animated programming is having quite a moment right now, with more offerings than ever that encompass all genres and are for all types of audiences. The creatives behind five of the biggest contenders for Emmys in animation joined our recent Meet the Experts panel. They included shows about a class struggle based on a popular video game, a workplace spy-comedy, an anthology set in a world of manufactured superheroes, a musical set against a New York landmark and an exploration of what inspired people currently working as animators.
In our roundtable discussion, we hear what these showrunners and animators have to say about the works that inspired them, the biggest misconceptions about animation and the most recent animated work that left a deep impression on them. Gold Derby recently talked about this with Christian Linke (“Arcane”), Casey Willis (“Archer”), Simon Racioppa (“The Boys Presents: Diabolical”), Steven Davis (“Central Park”) and Gabby Capili (“Sketchbook”).
You can watch the television animation group panel above with the people behind these five projects. Click on each person’s name above to be taken to their individual interviews.
Davis remembered being incredibly inspired when he would watch “The Simpsons” with his brother. “We used to tape it on VHS, pause the TV, put up tracing paper and learn how to draw the characters from the TV and also get Sharpie one time on my parents’ TV, which was not cool.” Willis remembers his grandparents getting him a book on how to draw Mickey Mouse and drawing that all the time but never really thinking that he could be in animation. “I think the first time that I thought as an adult that I could do it was seeing some of those early Adult Swim shows. My friend got a job at ‘Sealab 2021’ and said, when you get back from Japan, come be an intern on this show.” Capili remembers a specific little thing in a PC computer game she would play when she was five-years-old. “In the background of the computer game, there was a TV that you could click and it would run old Felix the Cat cartoons…in that old 1920s style. And I would just click the TV again and again.”
When it comes to misconceptions about animation, Racioppa takes issue with how animation is viewed as a genre (films for children) rather than a format. “You can find so many different types of stories. It could be like a hard-boiled detective story set in the forties, it could be a kid’s show, a comedy half-hour or an hour-long dramatic series.” Linke believes that people really don’t understand how many people go into producing a work of animation including story boarders and simulation teams. “It’s such a delicate craft…and it always kind of pains me to realize that the drawings that sometimes are so amazing, so inspiring, no one will ever see them and I think it just always breaks my heart.” Willis finds it funny when people think an animation studio is a wacky place to work but, in reality, is really just another workplace. “We like to play around and goof off but when it comes to doing their work, everybody’s heads are down and they’re trying to get this stuff done.”
The last animated project that really impacted Racioppa was “Moana.” “I walked out of that theater just feeling happy and in love with that movie. I just thought it had so much love in it.” He also shouted out “Love, Death & Robots” as another recent project he really loves. Linke also reflected on how much he loved “Moana” for opening his eyes to Hawaiian culture but singled out “Your Name” as one he admired as a craftsman. “I’ve watched ‘Your Name’ and I’ve just realized, damn, we are still living in these walls of structure…especially in Asia, they’re just so fearless when it comes to the structure of story, creativity of story and it doesn’t always have to be the hero’s journey.”
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