Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Interview with Dice Tsutsumi. (Pixar Art Director)

Today is all about Dice Tsutsumi. He's one of my favourite artists in the industry. I first became aware of him from the Robots film and followed his work since.

Dice started his career at Lucasarts, then went to Bluesky, and now is at Pixar! He was at Bluesky Studios on the visual development team and worked on such film titles as Ice Age, Robots, Horton Hears a Who. He recently went to Pixar as the art director. He did a bit on work on Wall-E, and is now on production on another title.

To check out his work click this link.

1) Could you tell me about yourself Dice? How were you first interested in this field? You love painting but did you know you wanted to be working in the animation industry when you first started?

Dice: I studied very traditional oil painting. When I graduated, my visa didn’t allow me to stay in the States unless I got a full time job. That’s how I got into a video game company as a concept artist. Immediately, I fell in love with my job where I collaborate with many other talented artists. I soon made a shift to concept design for animated films.

2) I know that you are born and raised in Tokyo. I am curious as to why you traveled to study art across seas? Was there something here driving you to come here to study like Pixar?

Dice: Like I said above, I never thought of animation until my senior year in collage. I left Japan only because i wanted to experience something different. Wanted to look back to see my own culture from outside. I spoke no English and did not know what I wanted to study.

I always loved Miyazaki films growing up. Never thought I'd work in the same business but that might have affected me a bit.

But my coming to the US was only for life experiences at first.

3) From your blog, I always see that you are doing traditional painting, but in the artbooks, and when it comes to work are they mostly done in Digital? Do you like one over the other, or both are about the same feeling for u? Was it hard to translate traditional painting to digital? Your digital art the painterly brush stroke feel that is really unique in my opinion!

Dice: I have to say i love both just as much. But I do warn every student who is focused on developing their fundamental skills about the digital media. I'm more and more convinced that students these days rely way too much on the convenient side of digital media. While it's very convenient and impressive on the surface, it really allows shortcuts.

I even don't wanna get into a situation where I only paint digitally. I have to paint traditionally to still brush up my skills. I learn way more painting from life traditionally.

4) I read on your info that you first started at Lucas and then moved onto Bluesky! That is amazing! For a recent graduate do you have any tips on applying to studios? Should we start off at a small studio and gain some experience, or go for the big fish? I have a few connections with LucasArts in Singapore so I may try to get into there to gain some valuable experience on bigger projects but I just worry I'm not strong enough considering there's so many professionals out there!

Dice: That's a good question. I'm not sure.

I can see either way works. I started at a small studio. Lucas video game was a very small company. That allowed me to do lots of things I probably didn't qualify for. Same thing with Blue Sky. When I worked on Ice Age 1, their first feature film, they were still in process of figuring out the way to make films themselves so they ended up giving young kids like me lots of responsibility.
Now, after 9 years of experience, I came to Pixar as an art director. I'm not sure if I had been able to get the position if I started at Pixar to start my career. I might have but I don't know.

I think in the end, if you are self motivated, and always looking to improve yourself, you will take advantage of whatever environment. And you will probably know what would be the best environment for you at the time. (I had to change my environment twice to seek my challenge)

5) There has been something bugging me about Wall-E for a long time although I loved the technical and storytelling aspects of it.

I was wondering how come Pixar decided to use a live action footage of the president? I didn't notice it at the beginning but near the end when the captain is watching a video of the president in live action felt like it broke the continuity for the human was a different species or something. Maybe it's just me!

Dice: I have no idea why they did it. (I really was involved with WallE production for very short time)
I personally felt the use of live action footage was a mistake. It stood out too much and made it look less believable.