This is the fourth of our series of interviews with those animators whose work has particularly appealed to our students here at South Axholme. Each interview is available in a more colourful format, along with suitable illustrations, on our website.
Nicola Bland interviews Billy Blob
Billy Blob is an animator from the USA whose ‘Karma Ghost’ was our week 3 for 2006 on the school’s Movie of the Week. His other animations include ‘Bumble Beeing part 1’, ‘E-Ticit’ and ‘Darwin Bug’ all of which are just as good as the fantastic ‘Karma Ghost’. Billy Blob uses art, deceptively simple cartoons with witty, often funny stories that definitely keep you interested. ‘Karma Ghost’ is often shown in lessons to make us aware how important it is to have your own style; it’s proof that five colours and simple drawings can be just as effective as the most perfectly crafted, realistic animation. In the interview Billy Blob himself makes the point that having your own style and working with your own ideas is the way to make an animation that at least you can be proud of. We were very proud when Billy accepted our invitation to talk to us.
Billy: Here are my answers to your thoughtful questions, Nicola.
Nicola: Where did you start to animate and what training have you had?
Billy: At work I was sent a link to a Mumbleboy animation http://www.mumbleboy.com/ (back in 1998 I think) from the web site Milky elephant http://www.milkyelephant.com/ and it blew me away. I had been dabbling with animation on the computer for some games and programs I was working on, but what Mumbleboy was doing with vector graphics and Flash changed what I thought was possible. It seemed more like art to me. I had to get the program he was using and see if I could figure it out, so I bought Flash, taught myself , and have beentrying to make something as cool as Mumbleboy ever since.
Nicola: You've had a lot of success – "Karma Ghost" is one of the best things our class has seen in Flash. How do you plan to use your animations in the future?
Billy: I finished Karma Ghost back in 2000. It was accepted to the Sundance online Film festival and actually won the audience best animation award. As for Karma Ghost's future, I would like to finish a follow up (Karma Ghost 2) that I've had rattling around in my head for a while now. Hopefully I can get to it this year.
Nicola: Your website is very distinctive. It uses humour a lot. What are your views on website design?
Billy: My views on web site design have changed over the years. In the past I was concerned with download times but now with the speed of people's internet connections, I feel you can design with a lot more multimedia. I am a big fan of Apple's site, and use it as a template to judge how far you can go with video and stuff without going overboard. My site is a little stale at the moment, but I am in the process of revamping it a bit. Hopefully the new changes will be posted soon.
Nicola: Is there any animator you admire and can recommend their work?
Billy: Oh yes, for sure there are so many people out there doing incredible work. Here are just a few:
Mumbleboy ( http://www.mumbleboy.com/)
Jerry Zucker and Orrin Zucker: http://www.itsjerrytime.com/
Steve Whitehouse (http:/www.whitehouseanimationinc.com)
Jordan Stone and Martin Hughes http://www.wefail.com/
Peter Stanick http://www.stanick.com/
David Heatley... No animation, but I love his work: http://drawger.com/heatley/
Nicola: What software do you use? (Or is it just Flash?) And a linked practical question. Do you use a graphics tablet or is all your animation produced using a mouse?
Billy: I use Flash and a Wacom tablet to draw directly in Flash. Justrecently I have started using Garageband to edit sound-effects and music. Before I would do all the sound effects in Flash.
Nicola: Concentrating on "Karma Ghost" for a moment. Two things struck me. One was the use of little movie clips to illustrate a point. The other was the colours you restrict yourself to – blues and browns. Do you self-consciously aim for a particular style in your work?
Billy: My style is pretty simple out of necessity I am kind of lazy and have never been to hung up on details so If I can figure out a way to convey the idea simply and get to animating the cartoon, then that just seems to be the direction I head. In the end I think it works okay for me. Like the little clips in Karma Ghost were there to help illustrate what was happening without having to cut to scenes and then backagain...Laziness is the mother of invention.
Nicola: Another movie I liked was "Bumble Beeing Part 1" Is there to be a Part 2?
Billy: Yes, I have had part 2 in mind since the beginning, but I am having some problems with how to convey certain aspects of it. Hopefully I'll get this figured out soon. However, I do like the idea of naming something part 1 and never really having a part 2 to it...
Nicola: Have you won any awards for your animations?
Billy: Yes the Audience award at the Sundance Online Film Festival for Karma Ghost.
Nicola: Do you animate every day if so for how many hours?
Billy: No, not everyday. I usually animate in spurts. It seems to work better for me if I can devote a whole lot of time to one project.
Nicola: Do you believe in Karma? Will your sins catch you out?
Billy: Maybe not as literally as the cartoon, but I do think that your negative actions will affect your life and happiness.
Nicola: Is animating your full job or do you do other work as well? Is It possible to make a living from creating animations for the web?
Billy: So far I have not figured out a way to make a living just doing cartoons, but Flash has definitely given me a career a in web site design and animation.
Nicola: How do you come up with the ideas for animations?
Billy: I usually come up with the characters first and after playing with them and staring at them for awhile, stories sometimes come to me and I will try to flesh it out.
Nicola: Finally, if you could offer one piece of advice to any of us animators here at school in the UK, what would it be?
Billy: My advice is to find your own style and to animate stories that mean something to you. This way regardless of what others think, you will have something that you can be proud of.
Nicola: And finally, finally is "Blob" your real name?
Billy: Yes Blob is my real last name but I did change my first name from Greasy to Billy.
Nicola: Thank you for the interview and “self-portrait”
Billy: All the best and good luck with your paper.
Billy Blob’s site is: http://billyblob.com/cartoons/index.html
And his preview on Movie of the Week is 2006 No. 3