Willy Hartland
RFB Host Profile: Willy Hartland and “The Dope Sheet”

Award-winning animator Willy Hartland on the three precursors to making animated films — and how a day at Pine Box Rock Shop led to his new RFB show.

RFB: Hi Willy, and welcome to Radio Free Brooklyn! Tell us about the creative or other path(s) that led to you doing your show.

WH: I was born and raised in Washington D.C., where as a young kid I loved to draw, perform magic tricks and do ventriloquism. These three things are often considered precursors to making animated films — which I began doing in high school, before going off to study animation at the Rhode Island School of Design. After graduation, I moved to NYC in the mid 80’s, and began working for animation studios, eventually starting my own small studio. I got my big break when I was hired to work on MTV’s Beavis and Butt-Head. I worked in television and feature animation for about 15 years, and then began teaching animation at such prestigious schools as Parsons, MICA and CUNY. In addition to teaching, I make my own independent animated films and curate animation programs for the Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where I live.

RFB: How did you become interested in radio and why did you choose RFB?

WH: Lisa Levy (host of RFB’s Dr. Lisa Gives a Shit) and Phil Buehler are friends of mine, and one day while having beers at the Pine Box Rock Shop, Lisa said, “Hey Willy, how about hosting a talk show about animation on RFB?” I said, “Okay, sure, what the hell!” And that was it.

RFB: I love that you’re doing a show about animation! I actually majored in it for a year at SVA before, sadly, switching to advertising design (thought I was going to be an art director, but nope, haha!). What do you think makes animation so appealing — and timeless?

WH: When done well, animation has the ability to do truly amazing things. It is the only artistic medium that combines all the art forms: music, dance, acting, drawing, sound, sculpture, literature … basically EVERYTHING. I love independent films more than big studio commercial stuff, and to make a film independently the animator must be able to master all these things well to move an audience emotionally. Ideally, the guests I want on The Dope Sheet will be those rare, highly gifted individuals.

RFB: Animation is a genre that has certainly evolved since “Steamboat Willie.” In what direction do you see it going (or continuing to go) in the 21st century?

WH: It certainly has evolved and it’s hard to say. Computers have really made it much easier to make films independently. And animation is becoming more accessible to everyone because of this. Therefore, we will see animated films made by more diverse groups from all over the world — which is a beautiful thing. Technically speaking, as high-def resolution continues to expand, look to see larger and larger movie screens, with more theatrical live performance-based animation.

RFB: We’re still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped you from debuting a show! Tell us about the challenges and rewards of your process so far.

WH: I’ve found it very easy to find guests because of the advent of Zoom, and my many decades of working in the animation world. Microphones are critical! Sometimes the guest is not equipped with a good one and this can be a sound quality problem. However, most animation folk seem to know the drill with sound.

The Dope Sheet logoRFB: I usually ask new hosts who would be their “dream guest,” but since you are so accomplished yourself, I’d like to know which artists you look up to and who you’d love to get on The Dope Sheet?

WH: So far I’ve had some A-list guests, including an Oscar winner for best animated short. But I don’t think I want to show my hand regarding my upcoming guests. (Ha!)

RFB: What is the takeaway you hope people get from The Dope Sheet?

WH: I hope to provide exposure to independent animators from all over the world. And to inspire my listeners to seek out all these diverse films online.

Tune in to The Dope Sheet Sundays at 12 noon.

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