Bobby "BOOM" Beck interview

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  03 March 2005
Bobby "BOOM" Beck interview

As some of you might already know, I've done a webcam interview with Bobby Beck a few weeks ago, as an assignment for Art History class, in which I had to interview an artist or a person who had something to do with art. I immediatly thought of Boom when I got the assignment, and he was kind enough to let me do that! I've had a blast, and it was awesome to see this energetic guy talk about animation and the upcoming Animation Mentor. The first 20-25 minutes of the interview are now finished and cleaned up a bit by Bobby himself. The next 25 minutes should be online somewhere between wednesday and next weekend, with a bit touched up layout and probably a few more pictures and even a few soundbytes that show how enthousiastic he was at times.

I'd like to thank Bobby once more, for doing this, and I hope you guys enjoy it!

So there I was, on Yahoo Messenger, together with Bobby "Boom" Beck. I was still a bit shy and humbled because of speaking with this guy who‘s such an amazing animator and has given me such a boost in making my dreams come true with, and I was still uncomfortable in using webcams, but seeing Bobby Boom so excited made me feel confident enough to do this right away… After 5 minutes of working out some of the usual webcam video and audio problems, we could finally start it all… And off we went!

So let’s start the interview, ‘kay?

Yes, yes, YES!

Right at this time some visitors seemed to enter Bobby’s office, but he was kind enough to get rid of them… He was “getting ready for business”, hehe.

Okay! So… I’ve done my research, so I know where you’ve worked, where you’ve studied and so on, but how do you feel you have grown as an artist, as an animator, in that career path?

Well, you know, I started in games so… basically I went out of school and I learned quickly that animation depends a lot on being self-motivated; you have to be REALLY self-motivated to get out there, because it takes a lot of constancy. And then when you get into the industry and start working professionally, that’s actually when you really start to accelerate even more, because you have to continue to practice, even when you’re working on a show.

Uhm, hold on a second. Do you have headphones?

And another webcam problem. Echo, this time. So I’m off doing a little search for a headphone downstairs while Bobby gets the chance to take look at my room.

Ha! Cool room, man!

Yep, it’s a big room full of posters, a synthesizer and… LEGO, and Bobby continues to inspect it. (I should give it a repaint, though)

My room, and Bobby's office.

That’s a crazy room! It’s lovely!

But of course, I forgot to tell him I was going downstairs, and he starts showing me his office. When done, he pops out a Jack Skellington puppet and puts it in front of the camera, as I run back upstairs.

Okay, I found a headphone!

Okay, Jack Skellington is going to continue the interview here.

And the foolish, busy-with-the-wires, me just says “yeah”, without even hearing what Bobby has said (Sorry, Bobby!). So he takes it away and puts up a crazy disappointed face, but I’m still not looking… (Sorry!)

Okay, I think it works now…
Yeah, it looks good…

And of we went, again!

So, a second question… You’ve told me over at that animation has added a lot to your life, to your quality of life over the years. How has it done that? How has animation changed your life?

The thing about animation is that it’s different from anything I’ve ever done, because every time you get a shot, each time it’s completely different. Each time you get a new character, a new person, and the way that it has changed my life is because it forces you to tap from your life experience. So basically what it does is that it enhances life, on such a huge level, because you don’t only have to sit in front of a computer to animate, you can use the whole world around you and go ‘oh my!’ You can go to a restaurant or a coffee shop and see people communicating and talking and all of a sudden it becomes animated, and then everything around you just becomes super-interesting… the way a dog walks, the way a cat kind of sneaks around, so everything becomes like “wow, that’s so cool”, and that kind of thing just added so much to my life.

Yeah.. wow. Uhm.. now I’ve got some statements my teacher wanted you to comment on, so really it’s a question I hád to ask you. They’re pretty general, about art, not particularly about animation, but since you’ve been to art school I guess it shouldn’t be a problem. First statement is “Art is 10% inspiration and 90 % perspiration.” Basically a more intelligent way of saying that it’s a lot of work to get an idea to become something great.

Yeah, I would say that’s about right. I got a chance to meet Hayo Miyasaki, which was such an inspiration. He said the moment you have an idea, whether it be for a film, or when you’re animating a shot, that’s the moment of inspiration, and that’s great; and everything after that is suffering. Haa haa haaa. After starting something as big as I can honestly say that that is true. You know it’s going to be something really great and then getting from the idea to the actual fruition is a process that is a lot of work.

My second statement is quite deep: Art is the constant expression of the most extreme feelings, based upon mathematics and high intelligence.

Uhm… that’s a little deep for me! (laughs)

I guess that’s a totally personal interpretation about art. For me, animation is about life, and about capturing life. As an artist I do lots of things, you know, I draw, I paint, I try to stay inspired by life. I always try to pull my inspiration from life, whether it be cool toys like this, or…

Cool toys like this...

Whether it is an expression of mathematics and, I mean, I guess that when you get into it, it could be something like that, but for me, it’s more about what you pull from inside of yourself, and that’s the hard thing to teach, to teach anyone. Because you know, lots of students get kind of stuck when they’re talking about modelling and 3D and texturing,… Animation, you know, is cool, you get to animation and that’s where it is. You get a lot of people who wanted to be an animator but had to go through all these hoops, in hope they’d get there, and I always tell them, you know, modelling and texturing, you can teach someone something like that just to know the process of it, but animation is something different… it’s hard to put into a text book… you can teach somebody how that moves, but, animation is from the heart, and that’s something that, well, each person brings something individually to the table. That’s why I love it so much. Because everyone can bring something completely different to their character.

Yeah. Okay, now, didn’t you sometimes feel that, since you wére animating someone else’s story, at Disney or Pixar, you were creating kitsch rather than real art?

Uhm… nnnnot really. (laughs) That’s fun. Yeah, I guess you could say that, sometimes. But I think, for me, what I we should find is the most entertaining way, and as an animator working at Disney or Pixar or Industrial Light and Magic or anything, hopefully there I can continue working on somebody else’s page book, but the hard part about it is to make it fully yours, you know, making uniquely an expression of yourself. Because when you get a scene from the director, they may or may not know “exactly” what they want, so you have to “make it your own.” On Monsters I got to work a lot on Boo, and also on Nemo on Finding Nemo, and the best part about that is you build a friendship in a way, so it becomes more about living as a character and you get so super-attached to the character. And at the end of the film when it comes out and you see all the toys and marketing and stuff, even though you know it’s not yours, but while you work on it, it’s so special. Even if it some of your work doesn’t turn out the way you wished it did. Then you just say you’re doing your best to create something really really fun and I think that’s what you got to keep in mind when you’re animating.

People these days blame artist for working for the money, rather than the art. Would you have been animating at home too if you couldn’t have done it professionally?

Yeah! Yeah, I definitely would have. I never got into animation for the money, it was simply something I thought was really cool, and I never thought it was going to be that big in my life, I mean, I’m only 30 now, but I did a lot of stuff, it’s crazy, I used to do kung-fu and skateboarding and I started skateboarding professionally for a little while. Life just lends itself to so many different things and that’s what Animation is, it’s not just one thing, it’s everything. There was this thing: my mom always told me, “If you want to be a garbage man, go for it! As long as that’s what makes you happy!” And it took a little time for me to find what I wanted to pursue in life, so I just sat back and asked myself “What do you want to do?” What do I find really cool, what do I feel really good about? You know, I’m a GEEK for movies, I love special FX, I guess uhm… bad movies, you know what I mean, they just get me super-inspired! So I just sat back and I was like “you know what? I think I want to do that!” When I got into character animation at first, I thought it was more like spaceships and that kind of stuff, and Jurassic Park had júst come out and CG animation was really, really new, so, I decided to look around and I found it mesmerising and I went from there.

I remember sitting in one of my figure drawing classes, and I had no idea what an animator made, you know? And I didn’t have very much money and stuff, but I really thought it would be super-cool to do it and now I’ve been animating for about 9, almost 10 years now, and I feel… I get paid a lot of money to be an animator, and to me that’s very secondary, I find so much satisfaction from it, and I can tell you it’s like, with Shawn and Carlos, ever since college we’ve been really super good friends and we just share that passion for creation, you know, some really big cool stuff. And we’ve been really obsessed with it, and I’m very fortunate. But I can tell you that the bottom line is, you have to love what you do. No matter what you do in life.

Animation is a way of communicating, I’m sure you’ll agree on …

And there’s Jack Skellington again! Fortunately, this time, I dó notice it…

Haha! I just bought that movie like last week, when we had vacation.


Yeah, I’ve already watched it like 2 times. It’s a great movie, isn’t it?

Cool! Yes, it is.

So… Animation is a way of communicating, I’m sure you’ll agree on that, so how important are people’s reactions to your scenes for you?

To me, that’s the most important thing. Because you can’t do animation by sitting behind your computer, you know, like punching away and trying to make something very cool, because you’re making it for an audience. That’s the MOST important thing to remember. And you’re getting feedback from people like your peers, people that you work with, people you are working on a sequence with, that’s what dailies are for, you know when we show our stuff in front of the animators and directors. That’s what dailies are for, because you’re doing a scene that’s funny, or you’re doing a scene that’s sad, or you’re trying to emote some kind of feeling and you really… think you’ve done something really cool and you can’t wait to show it, and you show it and nobody laughs, or nobody feels anything, and then you just sit there like “OH MAN!” That’s like a really great feeling, because you’ve got to keep in mind what feeling you’re trying to get to the people. So, to me that’s the most important thing. You can do cool overlaps, and cool expressions, or great physical animation but, if it doesn’t pull what you’re trying to pull from the audience, then you aren’t doing your job.

How much creative input do you really have on your shots? Like for example the incredible - and incredibly popular – “Your Father!”-sequence where Dory finds Nemo and turns him around and kind of throws him beneath her and so on… how much of that was storyboarded, and how much of that was made up by you?

Well, the best thing you can do is gain the director’s trust, and the only way to gain the director’s trust is to give like a 130% of yourself when you’re animating. So on this scene in particular, Andrew Stanton gave me a huge chunk in that sequence and he told me… “Listen, I’m not sure what I want here, but I’m going to let you do it, and just take it and make something great”. And that, you know, as an animator you notice your heart drops to the floor, because now you have to perform, you have to hold up to their BIG expectations, because they’re expecting something great. For the first few hours, you’re basically just petrified and you can’t move, you’re like “I’m gonna screw this up…” Because at that stage, even the camera, the layout, everything in that scene. He gave me everything and he said “create this scene and make it feel really good.” And that’s the best that animation can possibly get, you know, because you’re basically creating that moment of the story 100%. And you have to have the director’s trust to get that. So in particular on The Incredibles, with Brad Bird, he knew exactly what he wanted in every single scene. He had storyboarded the film so closely. This was challenging too because you always have to find a way to put something person in the shot/scene or your work seems very flat.

You have to find new ways to stay inspired and stimulated. And I can tell you, I feel that it keeps me very stimulated, because every single time I get a shot it’s completely and totally something new. And that’s why it keeps me going!


Benjamin De Schrijver
- future character animator :)

Last edited by Bentagon : 04 April 2005 at 08:46 PM.
  03 March 2005
Thats totally awesome dude!

Jack Skellington is my favorite character EVER... I just had to say!!!
  03 March 2005
Great Stuff Bent!!

and btw.. cool room!

  03 March 2005
Thanks for posting that Bentagon. Will stay tuned for the next installment.
  03 March 2005
Sweet. Poor bobby though! Look at that sad sad face. Oh dear.

Hah sweet interview though
  03 March 2005
Quote: And the foolish, busy-with-the-wires, me just says “yeah”, without even hearing what Bobby has said (Sorry, Bobby!). So he takes it away and puts up a crazy disappointed face, but I’m still not looking… (Sorry!)

Hahahah...That was funny. Poor Bobby.
  03 March 2005
Great interview, love to hear stuff from the 'masters'. Didn't know boom was cute . When are you going to continue the interview?
  03 March 2005
Originally Posted by paperclip: Great interview, love to hear stuff from the 'masters'. Didn't know boom was cute . When are you going to continue the interview?
The interview in itself is already finished, but due to bad recording (noise, etc.) it takes quite a while to get it right. On this part, I spent over 7h trying to get it all and putting it all down, and Bobby still had to change quite a bit. I'm working on the next part as we speak... If it's done by tonight, it might be online by wednesday, if not, it'll probably be next weekend (I have to turn this assignment in by the end of the week).

Thanks for the comments, guys! I can tell you the next part will have some crazy stuff in it... so stay tuned!

- Benjamin
Benjamin De Schrijver
- future character animator :)
  03 March 2005
thanks for posting this it was an interesting read looking forward to the next part

Morph Controls Script
*NEW Website*
comming soon!!!

  03 March 2005
Wow. What a good interview. Very revealing. Bobby comes across as a cool guy who is really passionate about his art.

Reading some parts of it made me shiver (In a good way ). The hairs on my neck were literally standing up when Bobby talks about the responsibility he was give for the Finding Nemo scene.

Thanks alot for this, Bentagon. Looking forward to the next installment.

  03 March 2005
Hey Bentagon, great interview! Thanks for sharing. I am so hyped up for AM now you wouldn't believe
  03 March 2005
Trust me... I CAN believe that
Everytime I received mail from AM Online, I jumped around out of sheer joy... and then to be able to talk to bobby was just mind-wrecking exhilirating. I was sooo nervous!

- Benjamin
Benjamin De Schrijver
- future character animator :)
  03 March 2005
Very cool, read the first part, will come back to read the rest ........ very sweet of you to post this stuff
  03 March 2005
Thanks for posting this Bentagon. Very cool stuff!
Quote: Well, the best thing you can do is gain the director’s trust, and the only way to gain the director’s trust is to give like a 130% of yourself when you’re animating.

I can't agree with this more. If you work hard and produce solid animation, then you'll get better and more challenging shots because your director will trust you to deliver. Even screwing up a scene is ok as long as you can pull through in the end. That ends up pushing the individual to better work and inspiring others to plus their scenes.

Everyone enrolled in AM are going to get an amazing experience. Be prepared to raise the bar to new heights for student work. Just watching the incredibles it's clear that these guys have had some major breakthroughs working with Brad, and we are going to benefit from all that knowledge.

Last edited by Jeremy Hopkins : 03 March 2005 at 10:04 PM.
  03 March 2005
Really thanks for this, Bentagon. Always very very inspiring hear Mr. Boom talkin' about animation, it gives everybody a new boost, it makes us work more and better.
Listen to the Chieftains
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