A May 2002 email interview with Lance Falk, a writer, producer and artist for numerous animated programs such as SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron and The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest.
Do you enjoy being a writer? Why or why not?
Of course. I like to invent and tell stories for the same pleasure a musician enjoys playing an instrument.
Since it is a JOB that means pleasing a boss (or bosses) when I write, there have been times in the past when it wasn’t fun for one reason or another…but those situations are rare. I’ve primarily written for one person (Davis Doi, my boss on JQ, SWAT Kats, and Scooby) and he’s been just great.
Currently, I’m doing some writing for someone who will probably become a good second client (Jason VanBorssum of Cornerstone Animation) and he too has been fantastic to work for. You haven’t heard of these guys yet, but I’m confident you will in the years to come. It’s a sharp little company with unusually creative and intelligent management and a very skilled staff. I really hope we work together on a lot of projects.
I’ve been very lucky with the caliber of bosses I’ve had in this business.
Writing is too taxing on the mind and personal discipline for me to do unless I’m enjoying myself. Luckily, it’s fun.
Some writers can write no matter what. I’m not that disciplined!
You’ve often said that you grew up on comic books. Are there any specific ones that you feel have affected you more than others?
Hmmmm… I don’t know if any specific books have been a specific influence, per se. I think I’d have to say, the overall flavor of that type of storytelling appeals to me.
Since SWAT Kats was sort of a comic book come to life, I did my best to put myself in that mode.
I can’t say the following things are specific influences but my absolute favorite comic works include:
The first decade (or so) of Marvel Comics. (Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Steranko, Gene Colan, John Buscema, John Romita Sr.)
The old EC line. (Before my time, but I discovered them in reprint form) The best horror, war, and SF comics ever. They were killed in the 50’s except for MAD magazine (which started as an EC humor comic)
ANYTHING by genius Alan Moore. Watchman is probably my all time favorite comic story.
Anything by Alex Ross (a friend of mine, actually).
Byrne/Claremont X-Men, Simonson’s Thor, Miller’s Daredevil, Starlin’s Warlock, O’Neil/Adams Batman & GL/GA, Astro City, Concrete, Nexus, The Spirit, Smith and Buscema Conan, Killraven, Kamandi, Hellboy, Bolland’s Judge Dredd…
I could go on and on.
Things I like that are on the stands on right now: Avengers, Amazing Spider-Man (J. Michael Straczynski’s writing is the best Spidey has seen in 20 years), The Alan Moore books like Tom Strong and Promethia, Simonson’s Recently canceled Orion.(grrrrr).
Whew! next question.
Do you have any opinions on the semi-recent Anime programming that seems to be sweeping the nation in popularity?
Yeah. I hate them. Utterly, totally hate them.
I like the high end, theatrical feature stuff from across the pacific (Akira, Ghost in the Shell, etc.), but their TV shows are ugly, screechy, and confusing to me. Call me a snob, but I also HATE the style of faces with those little noses, slit mouths, and huge eyes.
Also, every time a network buys one of those series instead of ordering a show from an American studio, it puts at least fifty of us out of work…that’s for EACH show. Card Captors, Pokemon, Digimon..that’s 150 American jobs right there.
I don’t blame Japan for this. Not at all. I blame the networks for victimizing us to save a few bucks.
As a writer, do you ever find it difficult to do your job?
It’s never easy work, but it’s fun and worth the effort.
Do you ever run out of ideas?
Not even close. For everything of mine that gets to the screen, there are dozens that you didn’t see.
Has business in the animation realm been good, bad or mediocre as of late?
We’re in a major depression right now (See question 3). Most of the better people I know are out of work. Personally, I’ve only worked about one year out of the last three. before that? 15 years without a break. Yeah, it’s not so good these days. The same thing is happening in live action too.
But these things are cyclic in nature. There have always been good times followed by bad, then good, etc. We’re overdue for an upturn.
Are there any plans to resume shows that have been put on hiatus, such as Jonny Quest?
I can’t speak for all shows but JQ isn’t on “Hiatus”. It has been canceled.
There’s a big difference. Like the one between “on vacation” and “dead”.HB/CN has made it clear that they have no intention of doing anything with that property. It would take a total change in management for more Quests to happen. I wouldn’t hold my breath. If only it weren’t so.
What are your current projects?
I just finished up a 6-month prop designing job for WB’s The Zeta Project. (those shows are currently airing)
I do little bit of freelance drawing for WB. I have a few props to design tomorrow, actually.
I’ve been writing up a few new show ideas for Cornerstone, which has been VERY fun. I’ve done two different show bibles and a movie outline for them so far. I’m also working with them to get the presentation art together, pitching the ideas, etc.
I’ll be working full time with Davis and the rest of the JQ/Scooby team pretty soon on a project I can’t talk about yet. It isn’t at WB or HB, but a new place.
I’m also working with a small theater group as one of three writer/director/producers on a series of comedy plays for local small theater.
….And in my spare time (Ha!), I’m teaching myself a CGI program called LightWave. It’s the program that was used for Jimmy Neutron, Starship Troopers, and Voltron, and all the SFX on Babylon 5.
How do you feel that animation as a whole has been lately? Do you believe that it is improved or degraded?
Both and neither depending on what you’re talking about.
This is an art form being done by many, many people. Some things are great, some suck, and most fall somewhere in between the extremes. There’s always someone making things a little better (Pixar’s work, for example). I have a great feeling about Lilo and Stitch. Final Fantasy is a great technical achievment (though I didn’t think much of the writing). Certainly with every new Disney feature, they push the computer technology within their traditionally animated productions.
I can point to some great things in the past that have yet to be topped (CJQ, Sleeping Beauty, Classic WB shorts, the 40’s Superman shorts by Fleisher, etc.) but every new generation of artists brings some great new things to the art form.
The modern day addition of computer animation is being used more and more frequently. Do you feel that this still relatively new form of animation takes away the personal feeling that an animation might have? Or do you feel that it adds to the overall product making it better?
It’s a new tool which can be used for things both great and terrible. Certainly the Pixar stuff, Shrek, Ice Age, etc. are as “personal” as any traditional animation. Final Fantasy type stuff IS cold and artificial to me (though I admire the amazing technical achievement of it).
If the right people are doing the work, it almost doesn’t matter what method they use.
I think the real reason this year’s three Oscar nominees for best animated picture were CGI was the lack of story quality in the traditional stuff this year (Atlantis, Titan A.E.). If something as good as Tarzan or Prince of Egypt, or Iron Giant (!) came out this last year, they would have had a good chance to be in the running.
This coming year, I’ll bet Lilo and Stich takes it no matter what it’s up against. Ice Age will probably be nominated, maybe Spirit.
Watch me eat those words in March.
And that’s number ten!
I hope you found my ramblings of interest.