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April 23, 2014

The Transient Life of Animators

by Ryan McKee, posted May 27th 2010 3:06PM
If a television writer's credits read 'The Sarah Silverman Program,' 'Dora the Explorer' and 'Breaking Bad,' that person would be the most versatile anomaly in entertainment history. However, for many animators, that kind of content diversity among the shows they work on is a just part of the job.

Newlyweds Mike and Anna Hollingsworth are both animators. Over their collective fifteen years working in the industry, they have worked on shows for HBO, Disney, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and Cartoon Network. Anna just worked on the first season of 'The Ricky Gervais Show,' then immediately jumped to the children's game show, 'BrainSurge,' and will return for the second season of 'Gervais.'

"It's fun to jump around. I know I can be working on something completely different next," Anna says. "However, it'd be nice to have job security. But that's every job in Hollywood."

"Actually, those animation jobs do exist," Mike says. "If you get a job at Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon, at the network not just working at a production company making a show for the network, you'll always have a job. But those are few because the network has to give you benefits and you have to be in the a union."

Most recently, Mike worked as the animation supervisor on 'The Life and Times of Tim,' and has also animated for everything from 'Shane's Kindergarten Countdown' to 'Kid Notorious,' to 'The Adventures of Chico and Guapo' and 'The Mr. Men Show.'

"It's important what school you go to," he continues. "Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Disney are all CalArts beehives. I understand it. I mean, if I had their student loan debt, I wouldn't want to work alongside some a-hole who taught himself how to do the job."

The Hollingsworths are those a-holes (although I doubt he would call her an a-hole directly). They work primarily on shows animated with Adobe Flash, a program that was meant for web design, not animation. Until recently, California Institute of the Arts animation students were not taught Flash, even though shows like 'Ugly Americans' and 'Superjail!' use it.


Anna animated the old lady dying and the baby crawling away in this clip.


"Every year I keep thinking it's going to be the last year for Flash," Anna says. "It keeps coming back. The program which is supposed to replace it is TuneBoom, but I'm not going to learn it until I know I can get a job using it."

Even though studios in general do not regard the self-taught animators as highly, continuing to learn new programs is what animators must do to keep getting jobs. Currently, Mike is trying to make the jump into 2-D storyboarding, which shows like 'Family Guy' and 'SpongeBob SquarePants' use.

"Every time I apply for a job, I have to do a take-home test to prove I can do the work," he said. "They take a week. I added up the time I've spent on testing this year and its already up to a month."

Mike's short 'The Mustache Contest' ran at 2006's HBO Aspen Comedy Festival and got him a job producing cartoons for Fuel.TV's 'StupidFace,' however, he really wants to do his own show.

"Actually, the ultimate objective is to create your second show," he says. "The first thing you sell, contractually you'll own nothing. But the second go-around you'll have a better chance to own a piece of your creation. Of course, this is just what I've picked up on from overhearing CalArts kids talking."

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