No Boundaries: An Interview With Eric Radomski
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Radomski hard at work. Photo courtesy of Amid Amidi.

AA: To get on the project, you made some preliminary studies using colored pencil on black paper…

ER: That's a painting technique that I had done previously in my own personal paintings where I was trying to work with limited lighting and examining how lighting actually works at nighttime with the effects of the moon and such. Literally the first piece that I did was lights of a city reflected on a wet pavement, and that was also inspired by the drama of Burton's movie. But I never thought that they would go that far in a cartoon. They attached to this look immediately, and that was exciting for me. I thought, Well, at the very best I'm going to get to paint or set the style for the show," but it also opened the door for me to exercise skills that most everyone didn't know about. I knew how to organize projects because out of necessity, I had been so hands-on in the previous studios that I'd worked at so when they asked us to produce a couple minutes of animation, that was like a walk in the park for me. Bruce and I basically organized this two-minute presentation piece in a month and a half. Bruce boarded it, and he and I did layouts from the boards, and I did all the original backgrounds. I had a friend up in Canada, Greg Duffell, who had a commercial studio, and his crew animated the whole thing. Based on the strength of that piece, we were offered to produce it. Here, Bruce and I are looking at sixty-five episodes, neither one of us ever having been in that position of responsibility, and we just never thought about it. Just took it one episode at a time.

AA: Speaking to your role as an executive producer on Batman, you came from an artistic background, whereas many TV animation producers today are not as versatile in basic cartoon fundamentals. Do you think it's an advantage to have a producer assume an artistic and creative role in the creation of an animated series?

ER: Having a very involved and comprehensive knowledge of the process was completely beneficial to me. It allowed me to talk to anyone from prop designers to the directors. I could explain and request things very specifically as to the way a sequence should be directed or what needed to be indicated in the storyboard so that there wasn't confusion when they sent it overseas. I was also able to relate those same concerns and thoughts to the writers on the show, and the writer/producer Alan Burnett, and later Paul Dini. To be able to troubleshoot an episode in script form, we were able to resolve issues and not compromise the content of the scripts.

Following the popularity of Batman: The Animated Series, The WB presented the New Batman/Superman Adventures program hour. © Warner Bros.

The problem comes when folks are given a producer title and it's not warranted. As we see in a lot of the primetime shows, anyone who writes is a producer, and that's fine to have that title or credit, but it doesn't relate to the responsibility of that producer. At the end of the day, it's a visual medium, and while writing is very important to it, in order to make the best possible piece of entertainment, you have to be able to look at the big picture and know how you're going to get to the end of the line. Not just have a cool idea and go, "Oh yeah, we'll have these wacky animators come up with some gags or funny drawings, or direct it with great timing so that the comedy comes off." That's fine but that's a lot of assumption. If you don't know how to get there or convey that, you're asking for big trouble. Subsequently, you see some of these primetime shows that just cost oodles of money and the product is really pretty weak. It's a system out of balance. Primetime television sort of adopted animation and to them it's just a technique. A good portion of the animated primetime shows could just as well be done live-action. I mean there are a couple exceptions but for the most part, it's not what cartoons were originally meant to be. Cartoons aren't meant to lip sync dialogue that's written by stand-up comics, which is what seems to dominate the primetime market. For me, unless you do that extremely well, it's always going to be less than interesting to watch.

AA: With shows like Batman and Ren & Stimpy, it seems that when the producer is an artist, it can avoid a lot of problems down the line…

ER: It's unfortunate but exactly as you've said, really heavy duty producers from the live-action world are trusted more by executives so they're put in a position of power. But they really don't understand the process and the animators are left a lot of times fixing things that are broken rather than concentrating on making them better. So you end up with an end product that's half of what it could have been, had it been trusted in the hands of the animation folks.


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