Wednesday, June 18, 2008

POKEMON! My first cartoon license!

I had done work on back on Pokemon back in 1999. It was my first real cartoon license though I had drawn Star Wars and the Green Hornet material in the early and mid 90's, but they were drawn more realistically since the licensed required it. I did an audition test for Pokemon in early spring and got approved, and from that got a good amount of work that year drawing Ash and company and the 150 Pokemon characters (there was only 150 at the time and the following years it went up to 300 characters!).

It was fast and fun work overall. The characters were relatively easy to draw in a timely manner, so much so that if I had a week deadline starting say on a Monday morning, I'd be done it all on by Wednesday morning, which in turn got me more work to pump out. They always stick with reliable artists who can do the job fast and with little or no corrections. This was also a time when I was adament about getting my name on as much stuff as an artist as I could. You need that credit line as a commercial artist to then move ahead and get other work. It certainly helps. I didn't get my name on everything but any books that came out I always got an art credit line in the first printings of the stuff. Second or third printing are sometimes hit or miss.

In September of 1999, I was asked to do an audition test for Scooby-Doo. I was approved in mid-October, and started working on Scooby on November 21 and the rest is will be nine full years of Scooby this November 21st! Zoinks! Scooby's been good to me!

During this time in '99, I was also working at the Franklin Mint in the art department doing conceptual design for statues, sculptures, knives, figures, etc and I remember doing my Pokemon audition during my lunch hour there in my cubicle. I also did my Scooby audition there as well. At the time they didn't give me any real reference for Scooby, or Pokemon either for that matter. I must have had the right sensibilities or something that allowed me to get it really close to what they wanted because they hired me. I beat out quite a few artists to get Scooby. Soon after I was approved, then I would get tons of reference, which I've accumulated over the years. It was great at the time to have these opportunities because the Mint was having money and corporate control issues and they were laying off people left and right. I sensed a change in the place and left before I probably would have been laid off and went back to work in my home studio and worked right through the next two years on Pokemon and Scooby. I was offered even more Pokemon work in 2000 but declined because I was so deep in Scooby work with three big Scooby projects going at one time! 2000 remains my most favorite year of my life creatively and financially. It was Scooby all day, all night!

At any rate, here's some Pokemon sketches from 1999/2000 that I did for stuff. They're just more prelims. I even drew on crappy copy paper or cheap kids sketchpads back then too! The last Pokemon thing I drew was a 60-page "How To Draw Pokemon" book, which never did get published as they pulled it and I got my kill fee for it. I still have the approved rough version of it.

Pokemon died out as a fad in 2000/2001 and the kids had moved onto Digimon. I guess they sensed it too at a corporate level...but look at it now! It's 2008 and Pokemon is back and the kids love it again! I see how much interest there still is for it when I go to speak at schools and do my 'speak and sketch' demos. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

Hey Scott,
Very interesting post. I love hearing about what its like to work on animated shows. Regarding the how to draw book: my brother spends hours with his pokemon how to draw books and its a shame yours did not get published. If you were to post any pages from it we'd both appreciate it. Keep up posting either way!

ScottN01 said...

Hi Jen,
Thanks for writing me. I didn't work on the animated show for Pokemon. In case you didn't know, but Pokemon was created in Japan and it was on TV in Japan for YEARS before it got picked up in America.

When it was bought and licensed by an American company to put it on TV over here, they then had to go and revoice all the characters in English and edit some stuff out if it was too violent, and once it was deemed kid safe, then it would be shown on American TV. In a case with a show like Sailor Moon, they had major editing done to each show as they took out all the lesbian overtones to the show. A lot of the original Manga shows are really violent so most times that's what's cut out.

At any rate, when you saw the first Pokemon movie over here, in Japan, they were up to the 4th film that was being shown!

So for Pokemon, all I did was licensed products that didn't use pre-existing art from Japan (i.e. Products that had specific scenarios in them that had to be drawn fresh and not pieced together from other art). That's the kind of work I did which included coloring and activity books and some product art.