Tag: Interview

An Interview with Fred Dianda

I found myself an interview with the graphics artist behind the AIO video games, the interview from 2005, originally published on Whitsend.org. (Found via archive.org) Without further ado, here it is!

Drawing Out the Artist: An Interview with Graphic Artist, Fred Dianda

By Karin Currie

Fred Dianda, Animator, Illustrator, and Graphic Artist, is one of the many designers here at Digital Praise, Inc™ Fred’s talents can be seen within the characters, action, and background of the latest hit video games, Adventures in Odyssey and the Sword of the Spirit™ and Adventures in Odyssey and the Treasure of the Incas™, based on your favorite Adventures in Odyssey® audio series. His talents bring the Odyssey gang to life with cutting edge graphics. Read on to discover how one young artist made his passion his profession.

Q: When did you first discover your ability to create art?
A: When I was a kid, I was always into art. In junior high, I would love to do art and discovered I had passion for it. I was even on the art committee. But in high school, I grew away from art somewhat and became more interested in sports. It didn’t help that the high school I went to did not have an art department. However, I incorporated art into a lot of my assignments, whether it was making collages for current event projects or drawing posters for history class. It wasn’t until college when I really began to pursue art. I took a bunch of fine art classes at Cañada Junior College and went on to get a Bachelors of Science in Design and Illustration at San Jose State University.
Q: How did you learn to do animation?
A: I mainly learned animation on the job. I mostly took illustration and design classes at San Jose State. It wasn’t until I began working at The Learning Company™ that I started developing my animation skills. I started off as part of the ink and paint department. I also was an animation clean-up artist and in-between artist. Eventually, when I moved up to a lead artist, I began to do more animation of my own.
Q: What characters have you created and what are your favorites?
A: Well, at The Learning Company, I worked on characters that already existed for Reader Rabbit® and Cluefinders®. My colleague at The Learning Company, Carla Cruttendan, worked with me to create some fun characters for Reader Rabbit® Preschool like “Spark” the firefly, and “Sparklers.” These are kind of like glowworm type characters-we had a miner, a scientist, and even an artist. My favorite characters that I created never made it into the game. They were concept sketches for Katie Cadet® which later became known as Star Flyers®. The concept sketches were ideas for Katie’s nemesis. There were two versions of them- their human form, which is what they would look like here on earth, and their fantasy form, which is what they would look like in space. The reality characters were preteen punk bullies with slingshots, skateboards, etc. The space versions of these characters were alien creatures, done in a whimsical way, carrying space-like devices, and contraptions.
Q: Generally, what are your favorite animated characters?
A: Scooby-Doo is probably my all time favorite cartoon. I also enjoyed Hanna-Barberra classics such as The Jetsons and Flintstones. Popeye was another favorite of mine. Warner Brothers was high on my list as well. Who can compete with Bugs Bunny? I also watched a lot of the Super Friends when I was a kid.
Q: Do you like to watch cartoons now?
A: Yeah, I especially enjoy the 3D cartoons such as Jimmy Neutron and Rollie Pollie Ollie. The Power Puff Girls are not bad, too.
Q: How long were you at The Learning Company and how did you get in with Digital Praise, Inc.?
A: I was with The Learning Company for six years and heard about Digital Praise through Pete (Peter Fokos, Chief Technical Officer, Creative Director, and Co-Founder of Digital Praise, Inc.). Many of The Learning Company’s design team is now designing for Digital Praise.
Q: Can you tell me about the process you use to animate?
A: I like to animate more complex things such as people or animals on paper first, and then scan my sketches into the computer. I will then trace my drawings so that the artwork is scalable and will maintain a nice line quality no matter what size. Less complex things such as objects, machinery, lights, etc., I will animate directly in the computer. With tight deadlines, you almost have to be very economic with your animation. Reuse when necessary and never draw more than you have to. If the scene calls for a close up head shot of a character, don’t worry about drawing or animating anything outside of the camera.

Q: What programs do you use?
A: For animation I use a combination of Macromedia ® Flash®, Adobe® Photoshop®, and Maya®. For marketing designs, like the boxes, CD covers, CD labels, inserts, and retail pages, I use Adobe® Illustrator®.
Q: Tell me about your work with the Adventures in Odyssey® characters.
A: Barry Prioste, a Digital Praise Designer, gave me the three main characters with only their ¾ fronts drawn. My task was to do a complete turnaround for each of the three characters, meaning a front, ¾ front, side, ¾ back and back pose. These model sheets are then given to the animators to aid them in their animation for these characters. Barry then altered the characters, giving them more up-to-date clothing. The model sheets and character re-designs were then given to Toonacious™, an animation studio out of Los Angeles, where they were then used for the animated movies located throughout the games.

Q: How do you match the audio with the drawings, and how do you create the movements for the characters to go with the audio?
A: First off, we are given scripts from which we create storyboards. From the storyboards we can determine how we want to stage each scene. Things like facial expressions, gestures, and poses are determined during the storyboard stage. As far as matching audio with the drawings, we usually bring the audio file into the application in which we are building the animation. With the games Adventures in Odyssey and the Sword of the Spirit™ and Adventures in Odyssey and the Treasure of the Incas™, we used Macromedia® Flash®. But, it usually works the other way around – where the animation is given to the sound designers, and they match the music to the animation or artwork.
Q: How many drawings do you need for one game, and how long does it take to complete a design for a game?
A: The drawings number well into the hundreds per game. Storyboard panels alone can number into the hundreds, not to mention background sketches, character sketches, concept sketches for game activities, etc. It generally takes about 6 months to complete a design for a game.
Q: What are the greatest challenges when creating the action for the video games?
A: One of the greatest challenges in creating action for video games is creating something that your target audience will find intriguing, stimulating, and fun-something they will want to play over and over again. You don’t want to create something that is so difficult that they will get frustrated and walk away from the game, yet you don’t want to create something too easy. You want to create something in between.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Currently, I am working on an activity for the next game that is loosely based on the arcade/carnival game “Whack-a-Mole.” I am also currently designing the game bezel, otherwise known as the game’s control panel.
Q: What is something about the process of animation of which the general public isn’t aware?
A: A common misconception is the length of time it takes to animate. It takes a lot longer than most people think. Many times people think because you are an artist you can animate anything. In some cases you may need reference, you may need to do extensive research on the subject matter you are animating, and you may need to do quick studies of the subject matter you are animating. Some animation studios will even bring in reference to help the animators get familiar with the movements of the subject matter they are animating. Look at EA (Electronic Arts™), they go as far as bringing in the actual athletes to get down their movements-Tiger Woods and Marshall Faulk just to name a few.
Q: What advice do you have for kids who want to become professional artist like you?
A: I can’t emphasize enough the importance of life drawing, especially for kids who want to get into the animation industry. Also, learn the computer-it’s easier to take computer classes in high school and college now than when I was in school; we just didn’t have computers as available as kids do now. Lastly, I would advise them to keep up with technology-it’s constantly changing.
Q: Do you do any art for fun?
A: I try to go to the life drawing sessions offered at my community arts center. I haven’t gone in quite a while, but I’d like to get back in the habit of going on a weekly basis. I also plan on taking some more Maya 3D classes.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
A: I would like continue working on video game design. However, I would be happy with any job involving art, whether it is graphic design, web design, web graphics, or even web animation.
Q: What do you find exciting about the games, Adventures in Odyssey and the Sword of the Spirit and Adventures in Odyssey and the Treasure of the Incas, being an animator and video game player yourself?
A: I, personally, find the “arcade” style activities to be exciting in these games. For example, activities like the “Ore Cart” with Connie and “Bat Cave” with Eugene in Sword of the Spirit, are ones that I enjoy. The puzzle activities are cool too, but I am more for the “arcade” type activities. That is why I really enjoy working on our next title. The activities are “arcade” style and some of our inspiration was based upon the classic arcade games of the eighties and early nineties.
Q: Anything else you want to tell me about yourself or your profession?
A: What I like about my profession is that I am constantly being challenged, and when I do finish a project, it is very rewarding. I am also constantly learning new things from the talented artists I have the pleasure of working with. Many of the artists such as Art Director, Fred Butts, artists/animators, Gary Johnson, Barry Prioste, Todd Wong, Erik Knudsen, and background painter, Carla Cruttendan, I have had the privilege of working with at The Learning Company.

With his detail, design, drawings, and down-right dashing disposition, Fred Dianda is one of Digital Praise Inc.’s multi-talented artists. Now you know the work and passion behind each grimace of Eugene’s mouth, rise of Whit’s brow, and widening of Connie’s eye-the adventure behind the adventure!


A cool interview. I would add that Fred is no longer working for Digital Praise as this interview was from around 11 years ago. Fred went on to be the lead artist for the well-known app Diner Dash, and then did a couple other Diner Dash apps in the series before moving on to a full-time job doing preschool math program graphics design and animating the characters. I would also add that technology has advanced heavily since this interview and Mr. Dianda’s strategy for animation and drawing may very well have changed since then.

If you have a question, comment, concern or otherwise, use the “contact” form on our website, or send us an email at odysseynerds@mail.com. This is Kungfunaomi, reminding you to come in and nerd out at Odysseynerds!

Interview with Jess Harnell (voice of Wooton Bassett)

Hey nerds! My amazingly awesome friend Luke (The Doctor here on Odysseynerds) got himself an e-mail interview with Jess Harnell (the voice of Wooton Bassett). Thanks to both of them!! Here’s the interview below.


1    First of all what is it like playing one of the most loved Adventures In Odyssey characters?

It is an honor and a privilege. I love Wooton as much as I think anybody does and I am very blessed to be able to play this guy.


2    If you had to be another Adventures In Odyssey character who would you want to be?

I think everyone else does such a good job playing them that I’m happy where I’m at. So unless Wooton suddenly gets a twin Wooton, I’m cool!


3    Have you ever been recognized in public for your voice?

Yes, sometimes people hear my voice and recognize it from one project or another. And then I was also in a movie about voiceover called, “I Know That Voice!” They interviewed me a lot in that movie so I get recognized for that quite a bit, which is always nice, because it’s nice to meet people who like what you do.


4    Have you ever decided to use your Wooton voice when you were for example buying groceries or talking on the phone?

Not buying groceries, but talking on the phone when I’ve made calls that were Wooton-related.


5    What was your first response when you heard that Wooton was gonna lose his memory in the latest album?

Nothing that happens to Wooton surprises me anymore! It’s always a joy to go through it with him and see what the writers have come up with, but Wooton could take off flying like Superman and I’d be like, “oh yeah, well, that figures!”


6    Besides Adventures In Odyssey, what has been your favorite audio drama, TV series, or movie that you played on?

I have been very blessed to make a living exclusively with my voice for a long time now, and every time I get a job I’m thrilled to do it. A couple of my favorites were Animaniacs, playing Wakko, because it was the first big cartoon series that I was on, I love announcing America’s Funniest Home Videos because families can watch it together and it’s a genuinely funny show. Lately I am bringing back the Cowardly Lion on a new Wizard of Oz cartoon. That’s a joy too, because he was my favorite character in my favorite movie.


7    What has been your favorite Adventures In Odyssey Episode that you have played in?

I like them all! The ones that I did recently stand out the most, and there was one we did where is was B-TV, and I got to do my Adam West impression as a Batman-type character, so I really had fun with that.


8    How often to do you listen to Adventures In Odyssey? 

I don’t have a chance to listen to much of anything, but I know when I’m in the room recording with my friends I never get tired of listening to them do what they do.


9    What’s it like to play the comic relief? Have you ever wanted to play the bad guy again?

I’m always fond of saying that I have the coolest job in the world because I can go in and play the dad, the kid, and the dog, all at the same time, in one hour or less, and not have to change costumes or anything. I’m happy to be the comic relief. I love being a character that makes people happy (and it’s fun to be the bad guy too). It’s just fun to get to play!


10                 Your house was featured on HGTV’s “Home Strange Home”, and it reminds me of Wooton’s house! Was your house the inspiration for Wooton’s or vice versa? 

No, my house was completely separate. For those who didn’t see it, my house looks kinda like a spaceship. But it was fun to find out that Wooton’s house is crazy too because it’s yet another thing we have in common, in addition to both just wanting to be happy and have a good time.


11                 And what was it like to be on TV rather than in an audio drama?

Well, I’ve been on TV for a lot of things before. It seems like whenever they want somebody to play a rock star or a pirate and they know me, they end up casting me for those things because I have the right hair cut for them. LOL. But voiceover is my first love because you can do it so much more quickly and do so much of it in the same time.


12                 Your impressions are incredibly impressive, I’ve always wanted to know- can you impersonate Randy Newman? 

Thank you for your kind words, I’ve worked on them for a very long time! As far as Randy Newman, a little insider trivia for you: in the first Toy Story movie, there is a Buzz Lightyear ballad called “I Will Go Sailing No More.” There was one note in that song that was a little too high for Mr. Newman, and they had me come in and imitate him. They mixed it in and nobody can tell the difference. How cool is that?


13                 If you could meet any Adventures In Odyssey character (including yours) in real life who would you want to meet?

Obviously Wooton! We would hang out, we would go on a road trip, and we would do an Adventures in Odyssey episode all about it. I would love to hang out with Wooton.


14                 Who is your favorite actor to collaborate with when recording a scene?

Man, I work with the most talented people in the business and I love collaborating with all of them! I love the energy between Wooton and Penny, and Kimmy is great to work with, but everybody on the show and the other shows that I work on are so terrific, I couldn’t possibly choose just one.


15                 In your own words what is the gospel? What is Christianity all about?

Wow, that’s a bigger question than I have time for in this but I can tell you it’s about the peace that comes from knowing that you’re never alone.


16           Finally tell us more about your band “Rock Sugar“. How long have you been singing for it? And what inspired you to create it?

I have always been a rock singer, that’s how I got into doing voiceover. I love singing, and I thought, “wouldn’t it be fun if there was a band that took 80s metal and mashed it together with 80s pop?” So I did it with my best friend and we ended up getting to open up for well-known bands, and sing in front of hundreds of thousands of people.  It has been a huge blessing in my life. I love to sing!


Again, thanks to Jess, and Luke for making this interview happen.

If you have any questions, comments, concerns, etc, drop us an email at Odysseynerds@mail.com! Or leave it in the comments below, or use the contact form on our site. This is Kungfunaomi (And The Doctor!!!) reminding you to come in and nerd out at Odysseynerds!


Part 3 of Phil Lollar interview released by Odyssey ScoopCast

Hey, nerds! Ever wondered how Renee Carter fits into the canon of Odyssey? Well, if you listen to the last part of the Odyssey Scoopcast’s interview with Phil Lollar, now you can find out. You can listen to the interview at this link, or embedded below.


Source/Via: Odyssey Scoop Blog