Meet our awesome Toronto based Character Designer Joseph Troy! We recently chatted with him about all things animation and are delighted to share some of his insights, inspirations and advice for artists looking to get into the industry.
First up, what is your life motto or favourite quote?
“Illegitimi non carborundum” which translates to “Don't let the bastards grind you down.” I came across it a long time ago in U2's song Acrobat and it kept coming up in different incarnations from then on, including supposed Ancient Roman graffiti. Here is where I first encountered the line in English, those many years ago:
And you can dream
So dream out loud
You know that your time is coming 'round
So don't let the bastards grind you down
- Acrobat, U2
What is your role at Brown Bag Films Toronto?
I am currently a Character Designer on the wondrously wild cartoon Let's Go Luna! And as such, I start my process by referring to the images created by the Fun Pack artist to create the required assets in Harmony. I then add additional elements such as mouths for the characters to talk, eye blinks so they can see and custom poses that are described in the storyboards so they can be wacky.
Formerly, I was a Fun Pack Designer on the scientifically successful reboot of Magic School Bus (Magic School Bus Rides Again) and hopefully I will hop on board for the next season. Being a Fun Pack artist is a lot of fun but also a ton of work. It involves creating new visuals for the series as described by the writers in the script and guided by the director, all the while keeping the client's needs in mind. This could be anything from a simple seashell to an imaginary engine in a living magical bus that runs on a piece of the sun!
What do you love most about your job?
I love the challenge of solving problems whether they are visual or technical ones. It's exciting when you are confronted by the puzzle of how to make a design work best for animation while still trying to achieve the desired visuals for the client/director.
And working alongside some of the very best people that were ever hatched, makes the rollercoaster ride all the more enjoyable!
What tools and programs do you work with most these days?
In general, I have been using a combination of Adobe Animate and Photoshop for some projects and for others, it is Toon Boom Harmony.
My favourite tool is a lined notebook and a regular pen to work out and test ideas and to write the occasional grocery list.
What is your origins story? Aka, how did you get to where you are today in your career?
For a lot of people, it's seems they come out of the womb knowing what they want to do as a career but that wasn't the case for me.
I had to do a lot of different jobs before finding a career that was a good fit. I worked as a baker, a shipper/receiver, a telemarketer, a material handler, a steel fabrication paint line worker, a glue line operator, and a mall janitor.
Most of these jobs helped me pay for my education from Cambrian College in Sudbury, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and Durham College in Oshawa.
Finding out what I definitely didn't want to do for a living led me to the animation industry where my lifelong love of Saturday morning cartoons finally paid off and it's been talking animals and butt jokes ever since.
Who are your biggest influencers or inspirations?
Some of my biggest influences are people that I have worked with and who have helped me along the way. One is the indomitable Mike Geiger who's insanely productive personal projects helped to motivate my own annual Holiday Cards. (You can watch a selection of them from previous years below).
Another is the incredible Steve Boeckler who is the king of animation timing and in animation, timing is… everything! (And so is humour, thanks for the joke Steve!)
For design, it was the illuminative Mark Kort, whose approach to logical design thinking had set me up on the strongest of foundations.
There is the invigorative Dave MacDougall, who is top of the class for Fun Pack Designer and had me a huge fan of his innovative work long before knowing who the artist was.
Lastly, is the unimaginable Chris Ramsarran, who crushes all disciplines that come his way from animation to design to storyboarding.
Some of the artist's that I love but have never met are Chuck Jones, Bill Waterson, Don Bluth, Bruce Timm, Ben Balisteri, Pierre Alary, Robbert Momaerts, Serigo Toppi, Craig Kelman, J.C Leyendecker, Tomm Moore, Albert Uderzo, Paul Coker Jr, Stephen DeStefano, Andy Suriano and Windsor McCay!
What have you found is the most challenging thing about working in the animation industry?
Having the rare 9 am meeting on a Monday without a coffee.
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career as an animator?
Try different things and find one that fits the best or hurts the least. Your work will reflect your world so enjoy life and go explore it!
A tip or trick you might want to share about what you do?
Never stop learning! Take classes beyond just a college/university program. It is important to keep growing in your craft and in life. Reading is always key for growth.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” - Dr. Seuss.
I would recommend Voltaire's Candide, Marcus Aurelius Meditations and Jeff Smith's Bone.
What do you love about animation?
I love seeing and feeling the beauty of movement and its ability to evoke emotion from laughter to tears in myself and in others.
Outside of work what are your passions?
I play a weekly game of soccer with a fantabulous fellowship of fantastic animation professionals.
Also, I've been studying Irish Gaelic for a few years and I am at the level where I could win half the debates with a kindergarten student (though I would probably cheat!).
If you were an animated character what would you look like?
An animated bearded me appears at the end of my holiday cards so watch out!
Anything else you would like to share?
Watch more cartoons! Drink more water! Read more books!
Oh and check out Troy's festive homage to a certain classic 1980s television series, The X-mas Team: