It’s time to check in with Michelle Bryan, Fairly OddParents director. Michelle’s been part of the Frederator world, off and on, for more than a decade, so it’s good to finally force her to cough up a few answers to our more pressing questions.
Frederator: Where did you grow up?
Michelle: I haven’t… you can’t make me! But, when I was young I lived in Cerritos, California. It’s a city about thirty minutes from downtown Los Angeles, near the 605 Freeway. When I was very young there were cows and farms – then Blamo! We got brand new “track homes,” a mall, a roller rink, and a Tic Toc convenience store.
Frederator: A Tic Toc! The blog readers will be jealous. What made you realize you wanted to go into cartooning?
Michelle: I like to laugh. When I finally found a job where you got to laugh all day, work with creative people, and actually make something for kids, I knew I found what I wanted to do… and my husband was in animation. His love for it rubbed off on me.
Frederator: Who are some big influences?
Michelle: When I was young I used to have dreams that I lived with the Flintstones and had a pet dinosaur… so I guess Hanna-Barbera cartoons were really important to me as a kid. I loved Tom and Jerry, Thundar the Barbarian, and of course, the Super Friends. In college, I studied fine arts. Rauschenberg and Duchamp were my favorites. That’s about the time I fell in love with Ren and Stimpy, Frank Miller, and Nirvana. Now, my husband, Eric, is probably the biggest influence in my life. He is a great character and prop designer and does animation timing. He has a giant toy and book collection and a head full of all things pop culture and animation that he shares with me.
Frederator: What was your first job in the cartoon business?
Michelle: I was an assistant to Dan Kuenster, who was an animator/director for Disney and Don Bluth. He is an amazing artist. At that time, Dan was the creative director of a CD-Rom company called 7th Level, which was headed by Bob Ezrin (KISS), Scott Page (Pink Floyd), and George Grayson. I had the best time and got a hands-on education there. Writers and producers would come up with ideas, and then the animation department would board it and animate it in what seemed like the same day. They were a talented group of people working very fast: Wincat Acala, Ricky Santana, Maureen Mascarana, and Eric Bryan (yep, my hubby), to name a few.
Michelle: Oh, that – only the best experience EVER! I would do it again everyday of my life if I could. Seriously, Fred Seibert rocks! He taught us invaluable lessons about storytelling and character development that made me love this craft even more. We got to work with the most talented artists in the business, and with rock star creators: Alex Kirwan, Tim Biskup, Butch Hartman, Dave Wasson, Larry Huber, Vincent Waller, Rob Renzetti, Bob Boyle, Mike Bell, and like 100 more. They were all so much fun and always so willing to help and give us advice. Best experience ever!
Frederator: You started with Frederator as a production assistant on Oh Yeah! How long did it take for you to become a director on the Fairly OddParents? How’d you do it?
Michelle: Well, as a PA I did direct a lot of Oh Yeah! creators around, but officially it took about ten years. After I was a checker on a gazillion FOP shows, I asked Butch if I could be a timer. (Then I had a baby, Mila.) Then I timed a gazillion Danny Phantom shows. (Then I had another baby, Josie.) Then I asked Butch if I could direct… he always says, “Yes,” and lets me give it a try. Sweet, huh? I’m grateful to work with him. He’s an amazing guy.
Frederator: So I hear! On what other shows have you worked?
Michelle: That’s like asking a girl her age… I only work on Butch’s shows! Except when I work on other stuff, like Family Guy, or SpongeBob, or miscellaneous pilots here and there.
Frederator: What’s slugging?
Michelle: Slugging. Slugging should be done daily. First water the infested area in the late afternoon. Then, after dark, search out the slugs using a flashlight, pick them up and place them in a plastic bag filled with soapy water. Later you can dispose of them in your compost pile. (I recommend wearing rubber gloves to save your manicure!)
Oh! I bet you mean in regards to animation… I guess slugging is when you roughly time out the show so that the track can be assembled and the show can be timed. (Yep, I got that answer from Gary’s blog interview!)
Frederator: Hey, that Gary knows his stuff. So who are your favorite characters to slug for?
Michelle: Well, my very favorite FOP characters are the Anti-Fairies, Vicky, Dark Laser, Mr. Bickles… I love all the villains! I even have a wicked crush on Mr Crocker.
Frederator: Any outside projects you’re working on you want to talk about?
Michelle: Pie. I’m just really into baking pie right now. And crime fighting.
Thanks for the time, Michelle. Save me a piece of pie, please.