FOX Finalists Stephen Leonard

We close out the week of FOX Finalist interviews with animator Stephen Leonard, our Fan Favorite and Community Choice! His awesome series, My Life Plus Animals, is a huge hit on Aniboom, and it's no wonder his Thanksgiving installment grabbed FOX's eye. Watch it and then read the words from the slacker animation master himself!

Watch more cool animation and creative cartoons at Aniboom Where are you from and where do you work (city, studio, or home studio)?

I'm originally from Florida, but I have been living in Los Angeles for almost 2 years now. I am a freelance animator and I work from home.

When did you first become interested in animation?

I've been interested in animation since I was a kid watching cartoons, but I didn't pursue it as a career or even a hobby until about 4 years ago. I have a background in live action, but I figured animation would be a good way to separate myself professionally, so I gave it a try and it stuck.

What do you like about animation?

I like having control over everything - environment, visual style, acting, etc. In live action there are so many variables that you have to deal with and work around that you don't have to with animation (like bad weather, locations, costumes, etc). In animation, you can create any time or place you want and you have total freedom to do anything you want there.

How did you get started in animation? Did you have any kind of formal training?

I have no formal training in animation. I basically just wanted a break from live action and wanted to find a way to separate myself from the millions of live action film makers, so I tried cartoons. Of course with no artistic background, my first few attempts weren't so great, but with a lot (and I mean a lot) of practice, I gradually got better. And being a life-long fan of cartoons, it was an obvious path for me.

What techniques did you like to use in your animation? I draw everything on paper, then I use Photoshop to color each frame, and Final Cut Pro to assemble and edit it. It's kind of a time consuming process, but I like the look better than most Flash stuff I've seen, and I like creating stuff that looks like the cartoons I grew up on. So it's worth the extra time and effort.

What works of animation, comics, film, or books inspire you and your work?

My work is heavily influenced by two shows: Garfield and Friends and The Simpsons. Those are basically the shows I grew up on, and my character designs and writing style heavily reflect that. If you watch anything I've made you'll notice that pretty quickly. Jim Davis, Mark Evanier, and Matt Groening are definitely due some credit for any success I have.

What attracted you to the FOX competition?

Every series I've created targets the same audience FOX does - adults who like cartoons. I think my stuff is mainstream enough for broadcast network television, and that's ultimately where I want to get to, so this competition was a no-brainer. Coincidentally, I had already been working on my series My Life Plus Animals, and I already had a Thanksgiving episode written, so the guidelines of the contest and the timing of it all really worked out well too.

What’s your favorite holiday?

Christmas. I love the cooler December weather and the atmosphere of it all. Plus giving and getting presents is pretty cool too.

What is your ultimate dream?

Honestly, it's to have a show on broadcast network television. I want to get my work in front of the largest audience possible, and make as much money as I can in the process. So yes, winning this contest would be pretty big for me. Oh, and if I could have a little thing on the side with Natalie Portman that would be a very cool bonus.

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