Animation grad helps restyle Bugs Bunny, Looney Tunes for Warner Bros.
When Warner Bros. wanted to revitalize their Looney Tunes franchise, they called on Sheridan graduate Dan Sprogis (Animation ’13). Not only was this Sprogis’ first assignment as Art Director, but it was also a rare opportunity for him to help transform an iconic production that’s credited with having heralded the golden era of animation in the1930s.
For the last two years, Sprogis has been leading the art department at Warner Bros. in creating Bugs Bunny Builders, the new avatar of Looney Tunes for preschoolers which has been wiped clean of the classic slapstick humour of bombs, guns and hammers-to-the-head, to be in sync with modern sensibilities. In Bugs Bunny Builders, the beloved Looney Tunes characters Lola, Daffy, Porky, Tweety and Bugs sing a different tune as they pull off some of the wackiest construction jobs ever, learning the value of working together as a team to problem-solve and build.
“You have to really try and work at it to become a professional artist. Sheridan was great for that. It made me realize that you can't just coast. At Sheridan, everyone wanted to be the best and you have to really work at it to keep up with others.”
Sprogis says his timeline for the job was tough. “It is not easy to come up with a style, especially because I came in late. I had about a month to figure out what the show would look like and that's not enough time. But I had all the source material, and my character designer was phenomenal. I was just very fortunate.”
What also helped Sprogis was his childhood fascination with Looney Tunes and the work of Maurice Noble, the animation production designer, background artist and layout designer who had worked on the original cartoons.
“Growing up, I was a fan of Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes. I was drawn to Maurice Noble’s artwork even before I became an artist. I loved the stylistic wonkiness of all his stuff, and his almost surreal artwork. I was inspired by the colors Noble used and his weird layouts. And so I modernized that old style for today's audience. Preschool is so safe everywhere, very bubbly and cute, and Bugs Bunny Builders gave us an opportunity to take it into a different direction, and it fits. It has been working out great,” Sprogis says.
Sheridan readied him for competitive world
Sprogis traces his ability to deliver under pressure and against hard deadlines to his love of competitive sports, especially hockey, and his education at Sheridan. He says he joined the College after he realized that the art school he had just then graduated from did not provide him the edge he required to succeed in the workplace.
“Preschool is so safe everywhere, very bubbly and cute, and Bugs Bunny Builders gave us an opportunity to take it into a different direction, and it fits.”
“I was 22 at the time, and I did a tour of Sheridan and all the first-year drawings and paintings were up on the walls and they were light years better than me. And I thought, how am I supposed to get a job in animation if this is the work of people that are maybe 17, and still in first year of school? That inspired me, and I took a year off to get my portfolio together, applied to Sheridan, and I got in. I'm making it sound a lot easier than it was, because it was not easy!”
For Sprogis, the best part of his education at Sheridan was its highly competitive environment where everyone wanted to excel, an atmosphere he says is needed for someone entering a competitive field. “You have to really try and work at it to become a professional artist. Sheridan was great for that. It made me realize that you can't just coast. At Sheridan, everyone wanted to be the best and you have to really work at it to keep up with others. That was such a great part of the experience.”
Sheridan a community in animation
In his third year at Sheridan, Sprogis got an internship at Six Point Harness, an animation studio in Los Angeles. Upon graduation, he worked briefly for Mercury Filmworks and Guru Studios before joining Industrial Brothers as Production Designer, Visual Development Artist and Art Director. He had been working at Industrial Brothers for five years when he received the call from Warner Bros. to join them as Art Director for Bugs Bunny Builders.
“I got to know Sheridan grads who play hockey here. That was my intro to LA. Sheridan is a small community. It's a small world.”
Sprogis says while his work is tough, he finds a little bit of home in the tight-knit community of Sheridan graduates in the Los Angeles animation industry. His partner, another Sheridan graduate Lee Ann Dufour (Animation ‘2010) is the Art Director for Disney’s Hailey’s On it! which is co-executive produced by yet another Sheridan graduate, Howy Parkins (Animation ’84).
“Howy put me in contact with a friend who runs a rink and I got to know the Sheridan grads who play hockey there. That was my intro to LA when I didn’t know anyone here during my internship at Six Point Harness, and I’m still friends with them. I play hockey with Michael Surrey (Animation ’87) who’s on my hockey team. Talk about Sheridan! It's a small community. It's a small world.”
Banner photo: Artwork by Dan Sprogis (Animation ’13)
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