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.
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