#86. A Conversation with Bob Camp: Part II

Jason Anders: I'd like to just start with your thoughts on the current film and television animation being made in comparison with the shows and movies of the 1980s and '90s.

Bob Camp: I'm kind of out of touch because I don't have television. I don't have time to watch it, and the only stuff I see is generally on the web. I'm just not really plugged in to what's happening on the animation scene. I do see some really great stuff coming out in features, Pixar's films are always great. Dreamworks has also been making some pretty good movies lately.

In the '90s there was a lot of junk out there- Of course The Simpsons was great and The Ren & Stimpy Show had its moment in the sun.

JA: To sort of dramatically change the subject- I love the work you did for the movie Twins, specifically the caricatures of the actors you made for the watch.

BC: It's funny, I've never actually seen the watch! I don't even know if they made it. That was really difficult because I had to draw something that would literally shrink down to the size of a centimeter long. It was hard to create something that would read at that size.

JA: How did you get involved with Twins?

BC: I was working for Ivan Reitman and Michael Gross who were both working on the Warner Bros. lot while I was at DiC on The Real Ghostbusters animated series doing character designs. I picked up freelance work from them, development for an animated series and other odds and ends to go along with Twins. Every now and then they would send me something.

JA: Have you seen the new box set that was put together for The Real Ghostbusters?

BC: I haven't seen it, but I've heard about it. It was such a fun show to work on. I sat working with Bruce Timm all the time and I learned a lot watching him draw. Design is just a great job because you don't have to worry about story, directing, or anything like that. All you have to do is just sit and have fun drawing. Such a great way to get into the business. Bruce and I weren't necessarily young, but we were new coming into the business, and we were picking up a lot of tips from each other. We were sitting around drawing monsters and ghosts all day- I mean, how cool is that?

JA: When is the last time you went back and viewed the original episodes?

BC: I haven't seen them since that time, honestly. I liked them okay. They were DiC Saturday morning shows and we were knocking them out as fast as we could. DiC was a huge factory at that time with several hundred employees doing more shows at the same time than any other animation studio in the business. I think since then they have become a studio that farms out 100% of their work, if they still even exist. Last I heard they were doing everything overseas.

JA: Do you have a favorite piece of animation? Not necessarily the best, but one that you always enjoy going back to?

BC: I always go to Tex Avery's Deputy Droopy. I think that's probably the funniest cartoon ever made, I laugh my ass off every time I watch it. I could watch it over and over again and it wouldn't get any less funny. I love Dumbo, it's one of the great features of all time. Of course, I'm partial to Stimpy's Invention. I storyboard it, and it's probably one of the better television cartoons ever made- I'm really proud of that. Also a lot of stuff that Bill Plympton does is just wonderful. I love his stuff, all very original and unique. It's kind of hard to name everything.

JA: What do you think is your best work within The Ren & Stimpy Show?

BC: The best one I directed? I kind of hate them all. I just look at them and think "wow, that could have been better" or "this joke could have been funnier". I do like something about all of them. My favorite again is Stimpy's Invention, which I did not direct but there's a lot of me in there. I love all the shorts like Log.

JA: I really love Out West, I laugh the whole way through every time.

BC: I'm proud of that one too. That was the first digital ink & paint cartoon that we did, and one of the first ones on television that I'm aware of. Jim Smith and I wrote and performed the song at the end which was really great. Even so, I look at that one and see jokes that could have been funnier. There were a couple of things that got cut out for one reason or another and we had to make last-minute substitutions, so it wasn't quite as funny.

JA: Did you have trouble getting the song past the censors, or was it that big of a deal back then?

BC: It was always a big deal, but I was always surprised at the stuff that got through. I felt like the censors were just clueless. We would throw red herrings in just so that they would have something to cut out, since that was their job, in hopes that they would leave other jokes that we really needed in there. Typically, they would cut out the jokes we wanted and leave in the red herrings.

Did you ever see Prehistoric Stimpy? It's the one where Ren and Stimpy go to the natural history museum and Wilbur Cobb gives them the tour and tells them why the dinosaurs became extinct. There's so many off-color jokes in there, it's just dripping with innuendo. I was really proud of how much we got away with in that one.

Another one of my favorites that I didn't direct was I Love Chicken, I think it's one of the funniest ones. Stimpy's making dinner for Ren and he is cooking this chicken, and he falls in love with it. He runs off and elopes with it. Ren has this dilemma that his roommate has fallen in love with a chicken and is ignoring him, and not only that, it's his dinner. A lot of funny crap in there.

JA: Something we just barely touched on in our first interview was your time spent working on Tiny Toon Adventures- Let's talk about the days in and out of that studio and what it was like working on that series.

BC: It was fun. What was so cool about it was it was such a rich talent pool. Chris Reccardi and Jim Smith of Ren & Stimpy were both there. Just a lot of talented people working on that show. Too many to name. It was frustrating because we all felt like we were hired on under false pretenses of re-doing the Warner Bros. Termite Terrace cartoons, but it turned out that we didn't have that much control over stories. We didn't have the kind of freedom that we had hoped. It was very writer-driven and not cartoonist-driven. The frustration of working on that show led to the creation of Spumco and doing The Ren & Stimpy Show.

JA: With the release of The Ren & Stimpy Show on DVD, were you ever asked to come in and do any of the commentary tracks, or is that something you considered?

BC: No. In fact, I was kind of shocked to see them released. I was at the video store and I look down and see these Ren & Stimpy DVDs, and I didn't even know that they were being produced. No one called me or asked me to be involved. That I didn't get to do the commentary on my own cartoons I thought was kind of shitty. I honestly haven't even looked at them. I'm pretty annoyed at the way that turned out.

JA: What advice to you give to artists who ask you about getting into the industry?

BC: Well I personally ended up in animation accidentally. I was working at Marvel Comics and one of my roommates was working on Thundercats, he helped me get in and then I just sort of made my way through the industry over the years. I never received any advice during this time. As far as getting into the industry now... it's really tough. I tell people if they want to get into making cartoons, to just make them themselves. Make your own films. It's a lot easier to do that nowadays because of the software that's available right off the shelf. You don't have to have a big animation camera, paint cels, and all that crap anymore. If you want freedom and control over your vision, just do it yourself.

To go the route of getting into a studio is a very difficult road, if not almost impossible. Just make sure that you have something to fall back on. There's a lot of out-of-work animators who are fresh out of school. The one thing I did was try to work in a lot of different areas- I did comics, illustration, portrait artist, character and design for animation, layout, storyboards, writing, and directing. Learn to be versatile and flexible. Be a sponge and soak up everything you can. Ask people their opinions, be self-critical, and work hard.

JA: What's your favorite thing to do when you're not working?

BC: Hang out with my family. Be with my kids and go to my son's baseball games. I also have a monthly artist brunch at my house. Artists from all over the area come to my home and we just throw ideas around. I just enjoy hanging out with other creative people. I love going to New York City and meeting people at galleries. Just enjoy life and not be so stressed all the time.

JA: And finally, if you could live as any cartoon character for one day, who would you pick and why?

BC: Droopy. He doesn't seem to put out that much effort, and he can be all places at once- in the end he always comes out on top and makes everyone else look like a jerk. I've always enjoyed Droopy, he's my favorite character to draw.

A Conversation with Bob Camp: Part I