Friday, October 14, 2011



Paul Briggs Interview

Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?

I'm from the great state of Texas, where the men are men and so are the women. No, I kid, I love my home state and am proud to be a Texan.
I attended 2 1/2 years at the Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri. I went there because the great Disney animator Marc Davis was an alumni... and.... they gave me the most scholarship money. I didn't really take a lot of animation classes in school. I was more into sculpture, painting, ceramics and good old fashion figure drawing.

Then I left when I was 20 years old to attend a Disney Feature Animation internship.

I've worked the majority of time at Disney but have also worked at Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon animation studios.

I’ve been in the animation field for 15 years now and am currently Head of Story at Disney Feature Animation.

What do you as a Head of Story at Walt Disney Animation Studios do compared to other story artists?

Being a Head of Story or Story Supervisor means you’re managing a team of story artists working together to get the Directors vision up onto the screen.

How do you go about story boarding, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?

I always start by asking "why is this sequence in this film?"
After I'm clear on that I strip away everything and make the characters as strong as they can be so it deserves to stay in the film.

I’m a thumbnail fanatic. I’ll do 2 - 3 thumbnail passes before I ever start boarding. After I’m satisfied with where it’s at I redraw the whole thing digitally and pitch it to the crew and the Director.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?

It all depends on the day. The best days are in the story room working with the crew, or I’m at my desk drawing, sometimes I'm in the recording room, or in editorial looking at the film in progress. Then there's also the dreaded management meeting.
Right now I'm working with Chris Williams - Director, Tim Mertens - Editor, Paul Felix - Art Director and a story crew.

What are some of the things that you have worked on?

Who are some of your favorite storyboard artists?

EVERYBODY always says there's too many to list but you know what …… I'm gonna do it!

First and foremost, I love to be inspired by the old school work of Vance Gerry.

These people have all had an influence on me:
Dean Deblois, Toby Shelton, Barry Johnson, Chris Williams, Dean Wellins, Steve Anderson, John Ripa, Marc Smith, Joe Mateo, Don Hall, Mark Kennedy, Jeremy Spears, Michael Labash, Josie Trinidad, Mike Gabriel, Marc Davis, Nicole Mitchell, Jeff Ranjo, Nathan Greno, Kendelle Hoyer, Clio Chiang, Byron Howard, Chris Ure, Tom Ellery, Lissa Treiman, Normand Lemay, Don Dougherty, Brian Kesinger, Fawn Veerasuthorn, Jed Diffenderfer, Leo Matsuda, Michael Lester, Rad Sechrist, Will Mata, Chen Yi Chang, Dave Pimentel, Jenny Lerew, Wilbert Plijnaar. Bruce Morris, Randy Cartwright, Dan Abraham, Scott Graham, Lawrence Gong, Tom DeRosier, Kevin Gollaher, Kevin Deters, Stevie Wermers, Howard Baker, Chris Mitchell, Oliver Thomas, Tom Nelson, Joe Ranft, Enrico Casarossa, Ronnie Del Carmen, Louis Del Carmen, James Robertson, Nick Sung, Scott Morse, Mark Andrews, Pete Sohn, Ted Mathot, Louis Gonzales, Bud Lucky, Rodolphe Guenoden, Andrew Stanton, Josh Cooley, Gabrielle Pennachioli, Dave Derrick, Steve McCloud, Aurian Redson, Kris Pearn, John Hoffman, Daniel Chong, Tron Mai, John Musker, Matt Jones, Alex Woo, Octavio Rodriguez, Bill Pressing, Chris Sanders, Stephan Franck, John Sanford, Ed Gombert, Kevin Harkey, Bruce Timm, Joe Grant, Burny Mattinson, John Lasseter....Hayao Miyazaki ... Bill Peet…. aww man this is too difficult I know I'm gonna miss some people and there’s more and more everyday.

What are you working on now? (if you can tell us)

A movie...... directed by Chris Williams... that I'm very, very excited about and it's going to be awesome but I’m not sure of it’s release date. I’ll let you know when I do!

Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?

I only use color when I want something to pop and really be noticed. Here’s a trick I use: I actually set my palette in Photoshop to web colors so it gives me black, white and 3 values of grey. Working digital is a dangerous beast because there are SO many bells and whistles and it's easy to get caught up trying to make a nice illustration rather than a story sketch. Removing features and options allows me to focus on the idea rather than the fancy imagery.

I draw on a Cintiq and use Photoshop, proprietary storyboarding software, and listen to music on Itunes. One of the most important pieces of equipment I own is my Beats by Dr. Dre noise canceling headphones. A lot of times I don't even listen to music while wearing them.

What part of story boarding is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?

The easiest part is the wrap party when the film is fnished - hardest part is every blank story panel in front of you.

What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?

I try to do a lot of things outside of animation. Things that I can call my own, that's really, really important - after a couple of years working in the industry I realized I didn't have anything I created that I owned so I started creating work that was just for me. I've published books, done large scale drawings, sketches, greeting cards, furniture design, calligraphy, letterpress printing and design work outside of the studio.

What are some of your favorite storyboard sequences you have seen?

Baby Mine from Dumbo is a pretty amazing piece. Those old guys were dealing with some pretty have stuff under the hood - a child's separation from a parent, It's a very emotional sequence handled in a very tender way.

All of Michael Dudoc De Wit’s Father and Daughter short. Again, a story about loss/separation but told in a poetic, tender way.

I’m a sucker for big action that has some entertaining character in it. I really loved Mr. Incredible’s fight sequence with the first robot – that was a fun one!

What inspired you to become an Artist?

I've always loved drawing but in 1984 I was 10 years old and was in a mall bookstore and came across Frank and Ollie's "Illusion of Life." Even though we couldn't afford it my Mom bought it for me. I spent the rest of the day slamming into things because I was trying to walk and read it at the same time. I kept my head buried in it for a long time. I thank my Mother for being my biggest supporter and that book as a big inspiration.

What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

It's nice to know everybody struggles. Even the best. What makes people the best though is that they never give up.

What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?

rappers that look like magicians -
animals on drugs -
bacon or beer can -

What wisdom could you give us, about being a Story Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?

Here's what I tell someone about trying to get into storyboarding -
First, you don’t have to be an incredible draftsman but your drawings have to convey the idea you’re presenting clearly! So…… that requires a strong drawing ability. You can't "fake" your way through it. You can't spend time trying to figure out how to draw a foreshortened arm in a story panel because then you're not focused on storytelling - you're still learning to draw. So first, demonstrate that you can convey ideas clearly through strong drawings.

Then more importantly you have to be a strong storyteller. You have to use visuals to demonstrate that you're a strong writer that is working with character and structure. Can you use images to write a strong character in an action, comedy, or emotional scene? Or depict even a strong character in a single image?

I love seeing work that uses as few drawings possible to tell a good story and a portfolio that is geared towards animation - meaning, there's a strong sense of entertainment, caricature and imagination.

If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?

I can be reached through my blog -

But… don’t expect a quick response. Randall e-mailed me this interview 4 years ago. I’m sorry Randall!

Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (books, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?

I do have a couple of books in the works but none currently at this time.
If you have a sketchbook I'll trade you for one of mine!

For more information about books I’m featured in please contact me!

Thank you!

Paul Briggs Gallery