You know what’s so special about July 8? Well, it was two years ago today Mr Eirik Paye officially joined the Fairly OddParents crew. Although Eirik’s spent most of his time on the series working on props, he’s more recently moved over to become the show’s newest background and layout artist. Let’s bother him with a few questions, shall we?
Frederator: Where did you grow up?
Eirik: I was born in Norway but moved to Santa Barbara, California, while I was still learning to toddle. The neighborhood my family finally settled in looks a lot like Calvin and Hobbes backyard only with actual bears, bobcats, coyotes – basically an assortment of wildlife that can eat your face. As a city, Santa Barbara has a lot to offer for anyone enthusiastic about the arts or raging brush fires. It was certainly an interesting place to grow up, geographically speaking.
Frederator: Dessverre snakker jeg bare litt norsk. When and what made you realize you wanted to go into cartoons?
Eirik: Cartoons? I thought I was making video games! If you ask my father that question, he’d say it was when I was four and saw him bounce several times after falling off a ladder. My mother would say it was Hong Kong Phooey. Honestly, I loved all things Hanna-Barbera, UPA, and Disney, but the Hong Kong Phooey song was some of the first English I learned. Please don’t make me to sing it for you.
Frederator: I won’t, but now it’s stuck in my head, thanks. How did you learn the art of animation?
Eirik: I’m self taught. Originally I wanted to be a scientist, mostly because I thought it sounded cool. Sadly, at the time I also believed that being able to translate The Hobbit into Klingon would get me chicks. SO…. I went to UCSB to major in art history/archeology with an emphasis in classics. As soon as I found out that I’d be trading high adventure in the Amazon for a lab coat, I switched to art studio and film studies. Swiping golden artifacts from pre-Colombian temples and getting chased by perfectly manicured natives would have to be my minor. Three years and a merry bushel of my parents’ money later I graduated with a degree in art. I should also mention that I briefly attended Art Center and San Jose State University for classes in entertainment and industrial design. As luck would have it, I was recruited by SEGA as a concept artist in mid-semester which suited me fine because starving was getting old. That’s pretty much how I got into the entertainment industry.
Frederator: Who’s inspired you over the years?
Eirik: Well let’s see… Butch Hartman, George Goodchild… let’s just say too many to count. Every five years I start a whole new collection of comics, art books, and posters. If I had to name drop, I’d start with the illustrators I discovered in grade school. Frank Frazetta, Bob Peak, Bill Sienkiewicz, Barron Storey, Drew Struzan, Leyendecker (anyone from the Brandywine tradition), McGinnis, Bernie Wrightson, William Kaluta, and Jeff Jones. I was a BIG comics fan too and not just the popular titles. Sure, I looked for artists I liked: John Byrne, Arthur Adams, Tony DeZuniga, Ernie Chan, John Buscema, Steve Ditko, and Moebius, but I learned to find value in everything. I even read the third tier Marvel and DC series: Arak, Son of Thunder, Jonah Hex, Rom, the list goes (embarrassingly) on. Can you imagine what it was like for me when years later, I would land my first real industry gig, and who would turn out to be my mentor but Tony DeZuniga!? I owe Tony a great deal. In terms of animation, Ollie Johnston caught my attention when I saw The Rescuers in 1977. (Yes, I’m old. Leave me alone.) After that I started collecting golden books and anything that looked “Ollie-esque”. Don Bluth was also a big hit with me and I still have my original Betamax copy of Secrets of NIMH. I should also give a shout out to Steve Lambe, Stephen Silver, Marcelo Vignali, John Nevarez, Dave Johnson, Eric Canete, and Dan Panosian – guys, I’ve been shamelessly mooching from you for years. Lastly, I can’t overlook the impact that MAD magazine had on me. Even now, I get hooked when I open a MAD and see the greatness of Mort Drucker, Jack Davis, George Woodbridge, Sergio Aragones, and Al Jaffee. Ok, maybe not so much Al Jaffee, but his fold-overs were still pretty genius.
Frederator: How did you make the move from SEGA to animation?
Eirik: Eric Robles propped the back door open and I walked in. Not long after I left SEGA, I got a call from a friend who’d recently left ILM. He said he was working on a CG animated feature for Disney called The Wild and he needed a character designer. I joined the production generating designs, expressions, turns and mouth charts. It was a real wake up call. Up until this point, I’d had the luxury of playing things fast and loose, but now I was in the NFL. Constant changes were an every day reality, deadlines loomed, and sleep became a commodity. I worked sixteen-hour days and gave up Saturdays for eight months, but it in then end, it paid off. I made a lot of friends, expanded my skill set, and my folks got to see their son’s name on the ‘big screen.’
Frederator: So congratulations on moving from Fairly OddParents prop guy to handling layouts and backgrounds. Before the switch, how many props were you designing per show?
Eirik: It really depends, but I’d say the average per show has been about 100 or so. I’m a relatively quick study with a fast hand so I count my blessings on the larger shows. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a show with a really solid production team. The production staff on FOP is top-notch and so are the artists. Some of the old guys – uh, veterans – of the show were extremely helpful getting me up to speed with the style and pace of the production. I owe George Goodchild, Jim Worthy, Gordon Hammond, and Ernie Gilbert a deep debt of gratitude for taking the time with me that they did. They were also instrumental in my promotion to Layouts/Backgrounds. Thanks, guys!
Frederator: Any outside projects you’re working on?
Eirik: I have worked (on and off) in development for the past ten years. In fact, I was part of the creative team that created Growing Up Creepie for the Discovery Kids Network. I am presently partnered up with some of my former colleagues from the SEGA days. For the better part of two years we’ve been working on video game concepts, kids shows, and a ‘retro’ tabloid concept, but it’s all off the record, on the QT and very hush-hush.
That all sounds pretty cool, and we’ll keep it all on the down-low. Takk så mye, Eirik.