Everyone dreams of making it, of pursuing their dream and finding success. Whether it be as a young child lacing up the skates with dreams of one day playing in the NHL or dressing up in a costume for your elementary school pageant with stars in your eyes and silver screen ambitions. The dream is there. The drive is alive. The passion keeps you going when so many others tell you to grow up and give it up.
Sports and movies, while commonplace among childhood fantasies, isn’t the only category of dreamers. Some kids grow up looking at what they see on television and in movies and declare “I can do that!” They brush aside the naysayers and take what they FantaSize about and make it a reality.
Some of the biggest and brightest stars and talents, some of which are now household names, have come from small towns. For example Justin Bieber came from the small town of Stratford, Ontario and started out posting YouTube videos. Now he’s a superstar, a global sensation and has made it.
Les Major is a local animator from Hamilton, Ontario. He’s not exactly new on the block and has been in the animation game for more than a decade. Mr. Major works independently on animation and has dabbled in both traditional animation as well as CG ‘toons. Working for yourself has it’s benefits. You are your own boss but you also have to pay the bills while you do what you love.
His current project is the sequel to his second full length animation FantaSize, an animation that has garnered a cult following. Now he has launched an Indiegogo campaign to crowd fund his latest project so he can focus all his energy on the project to give the fans of the original fresh and powerful content as well as get it out soon.
We recently sat down with the animator to find out a little bit more about the homegrown animator, his passion and the project.
When did you start animating?
Back in my last years of high school in about 1997. I’d actually transferred schools so I could take my first animation course. Most of my lunch hours were spent in the classroom learning various programs that I now use to produce my own independent creations. Most of my focus before then was on comics, but as time went on I began to consider animation as another medium to tell my stories.
What inspired you to take up animation as a career path?
It all happened surprisingly fast really. In my last year of high school I’d pitched the idea of animating the comic book Ninja High School to the series creator Ben Dunn at Anime North, one of the bigger conventions in Toronto. Things just fell into place and he liked what I was doing, so I stuck with it. We changed project ideas a few times until finally we decided on one of Ted Nomura’s Luftwaffe mangas. From there I’ve just continued on with it independently since I enjoy it so much.
Talk a little bit about your experiences trying to make it as an independent animator.
Probably the best story is the creation of FantaSize.
I’d tried a pitch with a local TV station that progressed for nine months, but then unfortunately was put on hold since we agreed it would be best for Darkain Arts, the studio name I release my animations under, to grow as a company before tackling something as big as a full season show. They offered to outright purchase and archive my creation, but I’d rather at least be somewhat involved in production or at least know it was going to be produced for sure after being sold. All that gave me hope, but I wasn’t sure where to go next.
I tried various animation related projects to get something aired on Canadian television, but I always seemed to get caught up in red tape.
Finally when I was going to give up, a friend suggested I try FantaSize, which I’d just drawn ideas of for fun. It gained quite a fan following and allowed me to produce the first episode with preorders back in the day.
Unfortunately these days I recently lost my day job and that’s why I turned to IndieGoGo to give it a try and see if I can completely fund production through crowd funding. Being independent definitely has it’s ups and downs.
Talk a little bit about Fantasize 2. What is the project about?
The FantaSize series in general tells a story about creating horror through size differences, even if there is quite a bit of comedy and background jokes to the animation. It’s sort of like an 80s horror movie that isn’t to be taken seriously.
FantaSize 2 is basically a benchmark for myself to show how far I’ve come in these past six years since the original release.
The story picks up with a troubled goth girl named Misery who has been seeing shrunken people all around her apartment, and became paranoid of them after accidentally stepping on one. It’s now a night after her first encounter with them and she’s off to work at a local variety store. She has a good evening as friends come and go visiting her but then she starts seeing tiny people around the store. In this sequel I want to explore where these shrunken people came from, and reveal the plot of what actually is going on in Misery’s life.
What are you looking to accomplish with your Indiegogo campaign? What will the funding do for you?
All of the funds will be going towards my living expenses for the time I’ll be spending animating the episode, and production of DVDs and bandwidth for digital downloads. This sequel is also about making the story more accessible to a more general audience and I hope to introduce new people to FantaSize through the campaign being on Indiegogo.
If the donations campaign succeeds, this will be my third (animation) of this size. I’ve animated a world war two story about test aircraft created for the Luftwaffe, and the original FantaSize episode. Both are just under a half hour, about the length of a regular TV program. Nearly all the work on both projects was completed by myself. I have produced shorts in the past as well as small videos for anime conventions.
Who has been your inspiration as an artist and an animator?
As an artist both Ben Dunn and Son Hee-joon (Of PHD: Phantasy Degree and iD_eNTITY manhwa printed over here by Tokyo Pop) have been an influence of my work. I like that in general their work has a cute clean style that can add a lot of detail without looking out of place.
To be honest, I’m not sure what my biggest animation inspiration would have been. I’m sure the Luftwaffe comic played a hand in helping me understand choreography, which is something I’m quite often complimented on in my animations. My Luftwaffe animation itself used the book it’s based on as a storyboard. I’d say definitely anime from the late 80’s was a huge inspiration to me in general though. I do take references from everywhere as small nods to animated concepts I like. If something in one of my scenes reminds you of something, that’s probably the joke.
In addition to animation have you worked on any other projects?
Most of my time over the past six years has been spent editing sci-fi videos. I do a lot of special FX, green screening, general scene editing, basically whatever needs to be done.
There’s even an episode of Ed The Sock’s “This Movie Sucks!” that features me making a monster movie with Liana K growing giant and destroying a city.
Other than that, shortly after Luftwaffe I began programming to create a video game based on Ninja High School. It was a small project that was included on CD with a comic book. We only made one issue unfortunately since it seemed many fans may have missed it during a transitional period for Bed Dunn at the time, but it definitely taught me that I enjoy making video games as well.
Les Major has as of press time is just about a tenth of the way there and has raised $585 of his goal of $10,000. The fundraising campaign is an ‘all-of-nothing’ campaign, meaning that if the total goal isn’t raised by the time the campaign ends that he won’t get a dime.
The fundraiser is the second to feature a local Hamiltonian. Recently independent reporter Joey Coleman reached his goal in a similar campaign to reach his $10,000 goal.
There is still lots of time to go in the campaign for people who want to help a fellow Hamilton artist make it. The deadline for contributions is set at midnight on February 16th, 2013 and can be made through the campaign home at Indiegogo – http://www.indiegogo.com/fantasize2.