Johnny Bravo creator talks about animation

It was a Saturday hobby that turned into a career for Van Partible. Like any other child, he grew up watching cartoons - loads of it. Today, at 39, the father of two makes a living as a cartoon animator for Hanna-Barbera.

Currently residing in California, the Filipino-born American whose full name is Efrem Giovanni Bravo Partible is an animator/writer/producer works as executive producer for Cartoon Network Asia. He has produced original materials for Film Roman, Walt Disney Television Animation, Fox Kids and NBC’s Medium. He also sometimes conducts animation workshops at the Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Lucky break

A Mess O’Blues was Partible’s first animated short film while he was studying at the Loyola Marymount University from 1989 to 1993. Dan McLaughlin, Partible’s teacher, submitted the short film about three Elvis Presley impersonators to Buzz Potamkin, a producer who was working at Hanna-Barbera. Partible was living on his friend’s couch and working at an after-school daycare centre when he heard that Hanna-Barbera was going to turn his work into a weekly cartoon series.

Alter ego

With James Dean’s look, the moves of Michael Jackson and the speaking style of Elvis Presley, the unique, amped-up story of an Elvis Presley impersonator was what Hanna-Barbera was looking for. Therefore, Johnny Bravo was born in 1997. Partible points out that his name Giovanni actually means “John” in English. “So my middle name is Johnny Bravo,” chuckled Partible in his video on YouTube.

Joseph Barbera served as Partible’s mentor, providing jokes and answering his questions. The duo, along with a team of directors and writers, worked to develop the 13 half-hour series. Johnny Bravo was subsequently listed in Cartoon Network’s new animation showcase, What A Cartoon! Show.The showcase featured Partible, Craig McCracken (creator of The Powerpuff Girls), Paul Rudish (the What A Cartoon! Show's designer), Genndy Tartakovsky (creator of Dexter’s Laboratory) and a fellow out-of-college cartoonist Seth MacFarlane, who then later created Family Guy.

Draw, I tell you, draw!

Growing up with an ardent love for drawing, Partible spent his free time copying artwork from his old comic book collections. It was not until university that he knew he wanted to pursue animation as a career. At university, he learnt how to draw and animate his drawings.

“If you’re not the greatest artist but you’re a great technician, you need to know how to move things,” says Partible.

He started drawing on paper and knew nothing about doing it on the computer. It was only through hardcore practice and years of learning at Cartoon Network that he learnt to sketch and draw quicker, and from there learnt how to draw and animate different poses and expressions.

Knowledge vs experience

With an impressive 15 years of experience under his belt, he has produced and written countless hours of quality animated shows which have been recorded and broadcast around the world. Among them are Yin! Yang! Yo, Shorty McShorts’ Shorts, The Amazing Women and of course, Johnny Bravo.

He has created original programmes and worked directly with network executives and artists in aspects such as animation development, production, character development, screenplays, 2D and flash animation.

Clearly, Partible embodies both knowledge and experience and thinks that other animators should, too.

“A lot of technically-proficient people don’t have experience and they end up not knowing how to budget their time,” said Partible.

Working with numerous people has taught him about deadlines, hitting milestones and getting faster and better every day. “If you are slow, you would probably not get your next job.” He stresses that having both knowledge and experience are essential as both help in gaining the required speed and the right direction.

Perks of being an animator

“I get to come to places like Malaysia!” exclaims Partible. Animators don't travel much but as the executive producer of Cartoon Network Asia, Partible gets to do just that! Being a part of Snaptoons (Short New Asia Pacific Cartoons, www.snaptoons.org/), he has travelled to places like India, Hong Kong and Thailand for a few weeks to launch the programme. Apart from travelling, he gets to meet interesting (and famous) people, know different cultures and share his love of drawing and animation with talented people.

Persevering through challenges

While public speaking was never Partible’s forte, he realised that his job requires him to talk to people all the time, especially the media. Currently, he finds it easier to talk to people as he understands his job better.

The challenges an animator faces have changed, he says. “Lack of time, money, skilled artists whom you can collaborate with and getting your vision across are the few challenges I have encountered over the past years.”

For Partible, animation is not a one-man operation. As an artist, the ability to communicate the vision and get the right people to work with are two important aspects. One needs to be able to delegate, express views and be very clear of what is desired and expected.

The right place at the right time

Partible has always thought himself lucky. “It’s a lot about knowing and being prepared when meeting people because you’ll only get one shot to present yourself well. If you don’t, you’ve become a person no one wants to work with.”

Socialising is the key in any business and the more likeable and noticeable a person is, the more likely the person is to be accepted.

Advice to aspiring animators

At his animation workshops at Loyola Marymount University, Partible often advises, “Draw and keep drawing; learn your craft and do it well and do it fast!”

He learnt how to draw and sketch faster under the mentoring of Barbera. “He used to say to me, ‘That’s great, now do it faster!’ ”

Being able to emulate cartoonists of choice and work on developing a personal style are the two important things an aspiring animator should remember, says Partible.

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