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Winning characters have striking features

Published:Saturday | March 26, 2016 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke

The panel discussion on Winning Characters at the recent 2016 KingstOOn Animation Festival, held at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, was packed with those eager to know how to draw memorable animated personae.

They heard about that from Brad Ableson, who worked on The Simpsons, and Don Perro, who has taken a more academic route in the field. In addition, Perro spoke extensively about the classroom experience, both presenters emphasising the importance of drawing repeatedly.

Ableson, who has been working on The Simpsons "for the better part of 20 years", spoke about his fascination with the long-running show after seeing it when he was 14 years old and it "blew my mind".

He drew the characters as often as and wherever he could, and, as he grew up, vacillated between art and film training.

When he was 19 years old, Ableson turned up at the place where The Simpsons was made and plugged for a job. He was given a shot and advised to take life drawing classes. By the time he graduated from college (working part-time while going to school), Ableson was trained as a storyboard artist. "I have been doing that for the better part of 18 years," he said. Included in that time is doing his own show.


Using images, he emphasised the silhouettes of the characters in The Simpsons, doing the same with The Minions, which he worked on as well. He applied this style to his own characters, also going for a style that is simple that it can be done by artists.

That led him to Legends, a basketball-based project, Ableson explaining how he kept costs down by having the characters move in a maximum of four drawings and also maintaining mostly a front view. Of course, their silhouettes were strong.


Perro detailed his long journey to teaching, which he has been doing for a quarter century, showing the importance of persistence along the way. Initially, Perro said, "I really wanted to be a graphic designer," following his brother's example. In college, he followed a friend who was doing animation for his class, thought it was amazing, and wanted to do that. So he switched majors in Canada and "loved the life. You are making magic. Anything is possible".

He pressed on through several setbacks, a two-year stint in Germany a part of Perro's journey, settling into teaching in Canada. He showed the work of several of his past students and told the young animators in the room that they have to know what has taken place in the field previously.

"You have to know animation history. You have to study history and the characters," Perro said.