Movies & TV

An Interview with animator and artist Sara Pocock

An Interview with animator and artist Sara Pocock by Soul Tsukino

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Recently Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, starring noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson ended it’s run on Fox and National Geographic Channel. A follow up to 1980’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, hosted by astrophysicist (and Tyson’s mentor) Carl Sagan. The new 13 episode documentary series covered a wide range of topics including the history of our universe, the greatest scientific discoveries of history, and well as the forces that make our world and it’s surroundings possible. It told these stories through revolutionary graphics, stellar animation, and the host’s natural ability to explain complex concepts to the viewing public.

One of the people who contributed to the animation of the show is Sara Pocock, an animator and artist based in Los Angeles. Sara has worked both in television and film, as well as video games and art. I was able to catch up with her recently.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Sara Pocock and I’m an animator and filmmaker.  I currently work as an animator at Cartoon Network.  Previous projects include 22 Jump Street, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Community, and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (the Louis CK episode).  I previously worked in games as an art and animation director on titles like Mighty Switch Force HD, Regular Show: Mordecai and Rigby in 8-bit Land, and Duck Tales Remastered.

What kind of movies and TV shows do you like to watch?

Breaking Bad is the Great American Novel in serialized TV form.  I also love Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Review, Comedy Bang Bang, etc.  I loved the original Cosmos hosted by Carl Sagan so it was very exciting to work on the new one.  I also love weird sketch comedy, like Mr. Show and Upright Citizens Brigade and Kids in the Hall.

What shows did you watch growing up?

See above.  Also, lots of Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.

What is your background growing up, such as school and training?

I went to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design for my undergrad degree in animation and got my Masters at the California Institute of the Arts.

How would you describe your animation style?

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I’d say it’s fairly traditional.  I was trained in hand-drawn animation.  I like to make big swoopy lines when I draw and animate things for myself but as an animator-for-hire I need to make sure my drawing style is versatile, so I can work on a variety of projects.

How do you handle criticism of your work?

While I’m working on a project I value all criticism greatly; every bit of input helps.  Once I’ve finished and it’s out the door I don’t really think about feedback any more.  Either people like it or they don’t; as long as I know I’ve made the effort I’m happy with myself.

A lot of people were surprised when Cosmos was announced that it was being produced by Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy. Did that enter your mind when you were chosen to work on the show?

Nah, he was just giving us the money, really.  Wasn’t involved in the creative process.  I’m not a huge fan of his stuff, but I met him at the wrap party and he was very nice.  He complemented my Carl Sagan dress.

You animate at least one scene in almost every episode, which one was your favorite and which had the most meaning for you?

Hmmmmmm, I really liked the Sisters of the Sun episode a lot.  I got to work on a lot of Cecilia Payne shots, her getting the letter that undermined her thesis and looking disappointed an stuff.  I really connected with that.  I also loved animating Sir Isaac Newtown being an evil bastard and throwing the last surviving portrait of his rival into a fire.

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Tell us about “The Sagan Dress”

My friend Erin Pearce is an amazing seamstress who caught a little bit of viral internet attention last year with a George Costanza dress.  I love her awesome fabrics and dresses so much that I asked her to make me a Carl Sagan one.  It turned out great!

In 2012 you produced a wonderful short called “7th” that even got an airing on a French television show, what was it like working on that and how cool was it when it aired in France?

Very cool!  I love Catsuka and it was an awesome thing that he enjoyed my short and put it in his show.   I’m working on a new short now that is scheduled to come out in October.  Looking forward to putting new personal work out there.

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The Gi Joe Parody piece you did for Community was very well done and close to the original. How familiar were you to the original Gi Joe Cartoon and their “Knowing is half the battle” shorts?

I was vaguely aware of the GI Joe cartoon from my youth, but I am intimately familiar with the GI Joe PSA parodies from the ebaumsworld days.  It was fun drawing in that super 80s style.

I first got to know of you through our mutual friend Bamboo Dong and her “Chicks on Anime” article for Anime News Network, as well as your guest strips for the site’s Anime News Nina comic strip, how much of the current Anime scene do you enjoy?

I’ve been out of the scene for a while, but I finally checked out Attack on Titan this week and I dig it.  I have “comfort food” titles, stuff like Sailor Moon and Utena, that I watch over and over again.  I’ve been crying a lot at Bokura ga Ita this week as well, haha.

You are now working for Cartoon Network, what are your goals being involved with them?

Happy just to be here for now (can’t disclose the project I’m on) but I would love to move up to an animation directing position or pitch my own show ideas at some point.

What inspires you in your art?

All sorts of things.  Music, comedy, other types of animation, classic posters, illustrations.  Anything that elicits an emotional response from me.  I’m way into Jon Brion.  He plays a live show here in LA every month; I want to ask him sometime if I can come to his studio and make improvised art while he practices/composes music.

 Any advice for aspiring artists or animators out there?

Keep on truckin.

When does Sara Pocock take over the world?

When the sea levels rise enough to drown all of my competition.