Well, now that we’ve gone and gotten all the dirt on Ernie Gilbert (and boy, is there a lot of it), let’s go down the hall and meet the OddParents’ other character designer, Mr Gordon Hammond.
Frederator: Where did you grow up?
Gordon: Garden City, Michigan, a town of about 30,000, twenty minutes or so outside of Detroit. My childhood there was kind of like the movie Stand By Me. It was a great place to be a kid. Not much of an art scene though, most people there work in the auto factories.
Frederator: So many Michigan natives in the cartoon business. What made you realize you wanted to go into cartooning?
Gordon: As a kid I was drawing everything I could get my hands on, mainly copying other people’s stuff. The most available sources were the comic strips in the Detroit News like Family Circus, Herman, and Wizard Of Id. Then I moved on to “trying” to draw famous people like Elvis and Johnny Cash off of the cover of TV Guide and other magazines. A major turning point was the day that my older brother (who was an avid trash picker) came home with a huge stack of MAD magazines. It changed my life. From that moment on I spent every waking hour copying Jack Davis and Sergio Aragones. I loved the humor in their drawings and the way they could tell a story with just one drawing.
Frederator: So they were your first big influences?
Gordon: I guess my first major influences were the MAD guys, Jack Davis, Sergio Aragones, Mort Drucker, and George Woodbridge. I spent hours and hours studying their work, it was like Art School 101. The MAD guys taught me things that I still rely on today. Like all kids I also loved cartoons like the Flintstones, the Pink Panther, and Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes… really inspiring stuff. When I became a teen I discovered Frank Frazetta and fantasy art. Then my high school art teacher turned me on to people like Rembrandt, Toulouse Lautrec, Paul Klee, and Picasso.
Frederator: It sounds like a pretty good art education. Did you go to an animation school?
Gordon: I actually have very little animation training. I took a short class with Charles Zembillas at Associates in Art when I first moved to LA. It was a great class and Charles gave me a nice foundation. I did attend four years of art school back in Detroit at the Center for Creative Studies before coming to LA. It was a really great school. I majored in illustration and graphic design. It was a super intense program but I loved every second of it. I met some amazing people there, both students and faculty who changed my life forever.
Frederator: What did you do after graduating art school?
Gordon: I got a job in an illustration studio in Detroit. I was the low man on the totem pole doing mostly automotive related art but every now and then I’d get to do something fun and cartoony. It was like art boot camp, very high stress and super tight deadlines but it was great training. Every day I was expected to do a different style it seemed. In the long run I think it helped me develop versatility which has really paid off in animation. I seem to be able to pick up new styles fairly quickly.
Frederator: What was your first job in the cartoon business?
Gordon: Working as a prop designer on Mummies Alive. I had been in LA exactly one month and really had no experience, I felt SO lucky to get the job.
Frederator: How’d you get the gig on Fairly OddParents?
Gordon: I had just finished up at Warner Bros, I believe, so I was in need up a job. A friend of mine was working on FOP and invited me over for lunch and told me to bring my portfolio. After lunch he introduced me to Bob Boyle who was the art director at the time who was totally cool. I left my book with him. The next day I got a call back from him offering me freelance work! They were working on their first movie, Abra Catastrophe, at the time. They must have like what I did, I’ve been there now since 2002.
Frederator: Ernie says you two are designing more than 100 characters per episode. Are these mainly new characters or new takes on old ones?
Gordon: Very few designs are actually just a simple pose of a new character standing there. Most are special poses of existing characters or costume changes on existing characters or a new character just standing there or a crowd scene… which I actually enjoy doing (but shhh, don’t tell anyone).
Frederator: Like I said to Ernie, I’d think you guys would’ve designed every citizen in Dimmsdale by now.
Gordon: Hmm, you would think so, huh?? The writers somehow keep coming up with original and really specific story ideas that still need new designs. For example, if we need to see a crowd for a truck pull event, that crowd is going to look MUCH different from a crowd at a dog show. It’s great though, that way we’re always getting to try new things.
Frederator: For what episode did you win your Emmy?
Gordon: Oh, thanks for asking. “Shelf Life”. It was a tough episode. I was really struggling with it. I was actually beginning to think I had chosen the wrong path in life, “maybe this animation business just isn’t for me…??” But somehow I knuckled down and got through it. Oddly enough, sometimes the ones that fight you the most turn out the best.
Frederator: After you won the Emmy, did you finally get to meet Butch Hartman?
Gordon: Oh no, to meet Butch Hartman I’d have to win an Oscar!!
Frederator: Are there any outside projects you’re working on you want to mention?
Gordon: I’m not working on any other animation projects at the moment. FOP keeps me plenty busy, although I do like to work on my own illustrations and other types of artwork in my home studio for fun. I post most of my personal work on my Flickr page. It’s usually silly Post-it drawings or weird paintings that I do. I also have a blog where I post my animation work.
Frederator: Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
Gordon: Yes, I always have my headphones on. I listen to mainly rock music from the 60s and 70s and some jazz like Miles, Duke Ellington, and Billie. I also like a lot of stuff from the 80s and 90s, too. Here at Nick we have an iTunes network so you can always jump on board and listen to other people’s music libraries, there’s pretty much something for everyone that way.
Thanks for the time, Gordon, and congratulations on that Emmy.