Jim Worthy by Craig Kellman
As we’ve been posting interviews with the Fanboy and Chum Chum cast and crew, we figured it’d be a good thing to go over to the main building at Nick and visit with the folks behind Butch Hartman’s Fairly OddParents (and over the 5 freeway with the gang at Adventure Time, too). No. 1 on the FOP list is a guy who’s probably worked on more cartoons than you’ve seen, background and layout designer Jim Worthy.
Frederator: Where did you grow up?
Jim: I was born and raised in Holland, Michigan, a small town on the big lake that is known for its Tulip Time Festival every year in May. It has many tourist trappings like Windmill Island and the Wooden Shoe Factory. You can watch an episode of Leave It To Beaver from the 60’s and that was my childhood.
Frederator: What made you decide to go into cartoons?
Jim: I didn’t choose it, it chose me. A prior colleague of mine became a producer at Klasky after we both left the advertising hell in the 90’s. She called me out of the blue and offered me a design job on Real Monsters. I delivered the test on Friday and started on Monday.
Frederator: So you didn’t go to school for animation?
Jim: No, I graduated from Western Michigan University with a BS Degree in fine art. Mostly an “oil on canvas” guy from high school, I developed a more commercial pencil style in college based on a desire to perhaps go into medical illustration.
Frederator: Funny, the medical illustration makes sense after looking at your FOP caricatures. How did you get the job on Fairly OddParents?
Jim: Kind of a blur here. I think I was doing some freelance for Butch when the show was still one of the Oh Yeah! projects. Later, I started full-time freelancing the show while I was still at Cartoon Network. Once that well ran dry, I came in-house here at Nick.
Frederator: As a layout artist, where do you fit in the chain of production?
Jim: Let’s see… Writing, Record, Story Board, Revision, Design, Clean up, Ship. That would be 5th.
Frederator: What’s an average count of background designs for an eleven-minute FOP episode?
Jim: I’d say about 6 thousand. Really it’s between 110 to 140. The show is a bit ambitious and usually jammed packed with lots of action and lots of cuts. After 7 seasons, I’m amazed how many times I still need to design Timmy’s bedroom. Thanks to all the board artists for keeping me employed.
Frederator: Besides for job security, why must you redraw Timmy’s bedroom time and time again?
Jim: The show works better when the board artists don’t have to worry about continuity or adhering to a “blue print” of the house. Having the freedom to add or knock down walls if need be (for story or action) keeps me busy.
Frederator: Any idea how many shows you’ve worked on around town, either full-time or freelance?
Jim: As I mentioned earlier, Real Monsters was where I started. From there it was Rugrats, the series and specials. Klasky was the launching pad for most of us back in the day. Then I was recruited over to Hanna-Barbera to work on Dexter’s Laboratory, then did the first 3 seasons of The Powerpuff Girls. I helped just enough on the feature to get my name in the credits as well as the Dexter short (“Chicken Scratch”) that ran in front of it. Then we did the Flintstones special On The Rocks. Really enjoyed my time on that and tried to be true to the 60s style of the original. From there it was another season of Dexter, and finished up with Whatever Happened To Robot Jones. So much freelance “overlap” at this time, I don’t remember all of them. Did the pilot for My Life As A Teenage Robot, ChalkZone series… a bunch of pilots I just don’t remember. Then went on to The Fairly OddParents, Danny Phantom, The X’s. Went back to Cartoon Network and did the last season of My Gym Partner’s A Monkey. I had freelanced the first 2 seasons out of house. Sorry to those I forgot.
Frederator: Holy crap, that’s a lot. Does it give you time to do anything else? Any outside projects you’re working on you can tell us about?
Jim: Nothing at the moment. Just finished 2 new shorts for CN.
Frederator: You have a reputation for doing great work very, very quickly. Were you always a fast artist?
Jim: My sense of urgency stems from my background as an art director in publishing and advertising. You DON’T miss a deadline.
Frederator: What or who inspires you?
Jim: What inspires me is knowing I have the best job as an artist on the planet. It was a long road to get here, working in factories, retail, restaurants and even on my hands and knees pulling weeds to earn money for school. I’ve done it all and consider this my reward for all the hell I went through to get here.
Frederator: The best place to eat in Burbank?
Jim: I like the courtyard, one of the back tables. Can’t wait to see the new landscaping!!!
Thanks, Jim. We’re lucky to have you on board.