Space Ghosts, Part 2
Earlier this week I posted part 1 of a 2 part interview with the three guys behind Ghostbot, Roque Ballesteros, Alan Lau and Brad Rau. In this half, we hear about their inspirations, the future of Flash animation, and giant monsters.
AARON SIMPSON: What would types of new functionality would you like to see in the next version of Flash?
ROQUE BALLESTEROS: It’s funny you ask because we’re still stuck using Flash MX. We never made the jump to 2004 because there were some new functions they added that we didn’t like. It seems like I update every other version (before MX, I loved version 4) so I’m speaking with my experience a version behind. I guess it would be great if they built in more Photoshop-like functionality. It takes a bit of wrangling to get the gradient tool to work for you and the brush tools are pretty limited. I wish there was a way to really customize your tools and panel sets at a very finite level because it’s pretty basic right now. Also, Flash seems pretty quirky when it exports out different formats (i.e. Quicktime, Illustrator) – either colors are off or files can’t be opened.
BRAD RAU: As a frequent user of the undo button, I have been very frustrated using it in MX 2004. In Flash 6 (MX), the undo functionality lets me make a mistake within a symbol, go on to mess around in multiple other symbols before I realize I screwed up something earlier, and then go back to the original symbol and still be able to undo. Flash 7 (MX 2004) will just undo your last move, no matter where it was. If I didn’t make too many mistakes I’d probably be using Flash 7. So yeah, it’s Flash 6 for me.
AARON: What animated TV have you been watching?
ROQUE: I’ve been watching ‘Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends,’ ‘Justice League Unlimited,’ and ‘Samurai Jack‘ and ‘Clone Wars‘ when they were showing. I’m looking forward to seeing Avatar by Nickelodeon since I know the creators and a bunch of folk who are working on it.
BRAD: We watch the same at my house. My son is especially excited to check out the next season of Clone Wars. Also he and his little sister love to watch SpongeBob and Fairly Odd Parents (ok, me and my wife do to).
AARON: What illustrators and designers inspire your work?
ROQUE: There are too many to list but some of my big influences are the legends like Mary Blair, Eyvind Earle, Maurice Noble, Ward Kimball, Saul Bass, the Provensens, Al Hirschfeld… Some contemporary inspirations are Tim Biskup, Lou Romano, Mark Baker, Michael Dudok de Wit, Lynn Naylor, Mike Mignola, Bruce Timm, Shane Glines, Dan Krall, Scott Wills… the list goes on and on.
AARON: Would you say TV animation in the states is on an upswing or a slide?
ROQUE: I think TV animation is at a unique crossroads, especially with the viability of Flash increasing as a production tool. It’ll be interesting to see how the current and upcoming shows produced in Flash will fare in the long run.
ALAN: American TV animation is one of the few entertainment mediums that have not evolved as quickly as say…video games or comics. With those, there is a variety of entertainment ranging from young children to mature. American animation is slowly pushing the boundaries and I’m hopeful to see it continue growing.
AARON: How do you keep your Flash skills tight?
ROQUE: One of our goals at Ghostbot is to always push the bounds of Flash. Since we use it so much in our work, we’re constantly looking for ways to make it not look like it’s produced in Flash. It helps that there’s three of us working together. We’re always punching one another in the face with “jerk comments,” all with the end goal of making whatever we’re working on the best that it could be.
BRAD: Yes, we are big jerks to each other. And it usually makes our work much better, which is probably a rare thing.
ALAN: We were all traditional animators before we got into flash. I think having that eye for timing and aesthetics keeps us sharp. I think we approach most projects with the questions “what haven’t we tried yet, or what could we do to make it better?”
AARON: Why is Flash animation starting to gain such a foothold in the TV animation marketplace?
ROQUE: I think the main reason is the control that it’s bringing back to the creators and studios. The ability to tweak something to the very last second in Flash is a powerful thing and I think a lot of people are realizing that more and more. Plus, keeping things on model becomes less of an issue. A portion of the actual Flash production work is slowly coming back home (I’ve heard that on some shows, half of a season is able to stay local). There can also be an argument that it’s cheaper to do a show in Flash, but I’m sure that will even out eventually.
AARON: What other personal projects are you’re working on?
ROQUE: We’re always trying to develop new ideas for short films/pitches and get our work in front of other bigger studios. Plus, there’s always time to be wasted on our blog.
BRAD: Busy drawing sci-fi girls and giant monsters. Also I scour the earth for the latest GI Joe action figures.
ALAN: Working on some sleep.
AARON: Well, I guess that’s ‘goodnight!’ Thanks, guys, for joining the fun at Cold, Hard Flash.