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I Have a Question Tom Warburton

In which Chris Robinson asks animation professionals profoundly inane questions about the inner workings of their lives. Today's guest is Codename: Kids Next Door creator, Tom (Mr.) Warburton.

'Codename: Kids Next Door' created by Mr. Warburton

Tom (aka. Mr.) Warburton is an American animator, producer, writer and designer. He is best known for creating the animated television series Codename: Kids Next Door. He also created the animated short Kenny and the Chimp. Prior to that he served as production designer on the first season of Beavis and Butt-Head and was the lead character designer for the animated series Pepper Ann. He is also the author of the book A Thousand Times No. Since 2009, he has worked at Disney Television Animation serving as creative director on Fish Hooks and co-executive producer on The 7D. He is currently executive producer on the reboot of Muppet Babies for Disney Jr.  

Mr. Warburton agreed to meet me on a cloudy May 19th near Shepherd’s Bush in 1945. Headphones were mandatory. He would not explain why, nor did I ask why. That would be rude. It seems.

I get the greatest pleasure from....

Making stuff…

An illustration.

A doodle.

A story.

A song.

Something.

ANYTHING.

Every day.

I get antsy and irritable if I don’t get to flush ideas from my system. That’s why I keep

sketchbooks to dump ideas and inspiration into:

a big ol' pile of Mr. Warburton's sketchbooks

The trait I like least about myself is

When writing or drawing, I often put my head down and bulldoze forward without reeeeeally stepping back and taking a look at where I’m at until the VERY end.

BUT… it’s kind of how I work best; by getting a first draft down quickly and seeing the myriad problems as a whole.

The book I value above all others is:

My copy of S.J. Perelman’s Westward Ha signed by illustrator Al Hirschfeld.  I sent him a letter asking if he would sign it and got this in the mail:

courtesy of Mr. Warburton

I didn’t even care he spelled my name wrong on the envelope.

Needless to say I took the “in person” option:

Here’s the inscription:

'Westward Ha' inscription

A (non-family member) person I have high respect for is....   because… 

Against my better judgment, I’ll say Mo Willems.

And I haven’t even been drinking.

(yet)

Mo Willems and friend

Mo and I grew up in the NYC animation community working on each other’s shows, engaging in spirited debates regarding commercial, independent animation and what to put on French fries.

While head writing on Codename: Kids Next Door, Mo created a stupidly impossible plan to escape me by becoming a sooper triple famous children’s books writer.  Weirdly, it actually happened, and I got a front row seat to watch Mo become “the modern day Dr. Suess.” And although he made it look easy… it wasn’t. His success came from an impossibly strong work ethic, boundless creativity and a firm desire to get away from me.  Solid traits everyone should have.

And while success has mellowed Mo over the years, he hasn’t allowed it to stop him from always seeking new exciting outlets for his creativity.

No one makes me laugh harder than Mo, be it with him, or at him.

So yeah.

I respect Mo a lot.

Just don’t tell him I said it.

The song that makes me tingle is....Quadrophenia by The Who

'Quadrophenia' by The Who

Yes, Yes…

I’m fully aware that it’s an album and not a song.

(although it IS a song on the album)

But I’ve always heard Quadrophenia as a whole;

A lush, angsty, confused and sublime portrait of the frustrations of growing up.

It’s the ‘song’ I always go back to.

My comfort food.

And its sound is infused within everything I’ve ever worked on.

The funniest thing that happened to me….

Well, it started out as a gut-wrenchingly horrible event that made me almost burst into tears anytime I watched The Simpsons. But it eventually turned into a funny story I could confidently tell.

The short story is that while I was in college I took a layout test to work on the Simpsons even though I had had never worked in the industry and had no idea what layout entailed.

And then, a couple years into my animation career, I visited Film Roman to see a friend.  He gave me a model pack and whilst paging through it, I found one of my drawings of Bart Simpson playing a videogame:

'Simpsons' drawings by Tom Warburton

<GAH!> My drawing was used as a DON’T!

I politely excused myself and ran to my car to hyperventilate. And I didn’t tell anyone about it. Ever. Not even my wife.

Until…

Many, many years later…

I’d worked in the industry for a long time working on tons of really great projects…

I had a sooper triple big hit show on Cartoon Network…

And then one day I found myself sitting next to Matt Groening at an awards ceremony.

So I leaned over and said, “Wanna hear a funny story?”

You can read the full story over here to see what he said.

Chris Robinson's picture

A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.

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