Aniboom 4 Sesame Street Awards Finalist Mari Jaye

Where are you from and where do you work (city, studio, or home studio)?
I currently live and work in Brooklyn, NY…I have a studio set up in the corner of my apartment.

When did you first become interested in animation?
I made my first stop-motion clay animation with one of those huge, clunky camcorders resting on my grandparents’ kitchen table. I’m pretty sure I have written “by Mary, Age 11” on the VHS tape, so that would have been 1990. Every time I hit “record” and “pause” the camera jumps back and forth.

What do you like about animation?
My first instinct is to say “storytelling”, but sometimes the stories in my animations are not so clear, so I will come up with a different answer. Overall, I am fascinated by the entire process…how we can create the illusion of movement through hundreds of still drawings. It is an amazingly rewarding feeling when I’ve fought through a scene and it plays back and works. I am still new to this, so maybe this will be less thrilling in thirty years, but somehow I don’t think so!

How did you get started in animation? Did you have any kind of formal training?
I started animating sort of by chance in graduate school where I was enrolled as a painter. I had long since forgotten about my childhood ambitions of being an animator until I stumbled into an animation class taught by Paul Fierlinger (Teeny Little Super Guy) and was completely hooked. I spent my second year studying with the wonderful Joshua Mosley, and ended up showing an animated short as my thesis project. When I left school, I didn’t have much formal animation training, per say, but I definitely knew what I wanted to do.

What works of animation, comics, film, or books inspire you and your work?
Joanna Quinn’s “Dreams and Desire: Family Ties” made me question whether I knew how to draw at all…but once I got over the initial shock it inspired me to work harder! When I saw Michael Dudok de Wit’s “Father and Daughter”, I realized how powerful simplicity could be. I absolutely love the Cohen brothers’ films and Michel Gondry’s “Science of Sleep”…I ran into him in a coffee shop once, and I almost died. I love Paula Rego’s pastels, William Kentridge’s show at MoMA recently blew me away, and I could watch “The Triplets of Belleville” for days.

What techniques did you like using in your animation?
The best part of this particular animation was blocking in the actions to Mandy’s awesome song. It’s so snappy and catchy, I wanted to make sure that Eleven was constantly activated. To keep this from being overwhelming, we decided to keep the style very minimal, so it was nice to work with straight drawing on one background, and just move the character around all over the place. The chalkboard concept meshed well with our design requirements.

What attracted you to the Aniboom 4 Sesame Street Awards?
As soon as I saw the posting, and I’m sure many others feel this way, I was amazed at how many Sesame Street animations I remembered immediately. I haven’t watched that show in at least twenty years. I was suddenly really excited to make something that might be stuck in someone else’s head twenty years from now! :>)

What’s your favorite holiday?
Hands down, Halloween!

What is your ultimate dream?
Even though I don’t know what it’s about yet, I want to make my own animated feature film. All by myself. If I have to work until I’m eighty I’ll do it. Go ahead and set up the interview now! :>)

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