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INTERVIEW WITH JEFF WILSON (1999)
Jeff Wilson was an Animator on The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin TV series and also worked at Atkinson Film Arts on other projects.  He talked with us about his involvement and memories at Atkinson in 1999 and we caught back up with him in 2006.

JOSH:
Jeff, thanks for doing this! All the Teddy Ruxpin fans will really appreciate it, this is our first conversation on the record with anyone involved with production!

JEFF WILSON:
I am flattered you asked me to do the interview, and I will try to answer questions as well as I can for your site visitors! "The Adventures Of Teddy Ruxpin" was an international co-production under the umbrella of Alchemy II, the creators of the Teddy Ruxpin toy, and DIC Animation. I was employed by one of the key sub-contractors, "Atkinson Film Arts" of Ottawa, Canada. After finished backgrounds and pre-production (key animation movement) was complete in Ottawa, the scenes were shipped to Korea, where a huge team of animators completed our pencilled scenes.

Q:
What was a regular work week like working on the show?

JEFF:
A regular work week was heavy on the whole staff. Often I would work 50 to 60 hours in the posing department, and then 10 more in the model design dept. After a sluggish start, we worked at an unbelievable rate of 2 and a half episodes a week. Some weeks we completed three! For our first few shows, there were two rooms of key animators, but production was falling behind schedule. The idea came along to divide the group into two "teams". I was in the group headed by Marc Sevier, and the other group was headed by Drew Edwards, both very experienced animators. We became friendly competitors, and production sped up dramatically.

Q:
What Character did you like to draw the most?

JEFF WILSON:

Grubby was the most fun. Something about drawing all those circles was easy!

Q:
I know this may be a little bit off the subject, but did you ever get to meet Phil Baron? Was his *real* voice anything like Teddy's?

JEFF WILSON:
Not off topic at all. Actually, Phil Baron made it to Ottawa for a "meet the cast" party sponsored by Atkinson. Phil Baron looked nothing like we expected, but there was a haunting similarity in his voice! Also, Will Ryan (Grubby's voice) and Canadian actor, John Stocker (Gimmick's voice) put in appearances. Same thing. Right voice - different look than their on-screen persona.

Q:
Are you still in contact with anybody you worked with on the show?

JEFF :
Actually, the last I had to do with anyone I worked on Teddy with, was at a party introducing Disney to Toronto. I saw John Williamson, a member of my posing team, in the crowd, but it was so crowded, I couldn't edge my way to him! I would have liked to say "hi", but it didn't happen.

Q:
Do you remember the date (Month/Year) That production began on episode 1?

JEFF:
Yes. I should mention that before the animated series, DIC produced a live action two-part episode, using puppets and actors in full costume. The people at Alchemy II didn't like the "static" feel of the shows, so they chose to go the animation route. I believe the original live action show later went to air, anyway. In any case, the preproduction of the opening five episodes was set to begin after Labour Day, 1986. I was one of the team of animators who were called to report to Atkinson's Fairmont Street studio (Ottawa) at that time, but we found the work would not begin for another month! I had packed up my family to move to Ottawa for the job, so there were a few scary moments during this time! So, we moved office furniture and doodled at our desks to keep busy most days. If you got lucky, you got to help storyboard artists complete their work in the first five episodes. At this point the key animation was actually done in Korea. This was so these particular episodes could air in Sept. '86.

Q:
Was it expected or a suprise when production was over? Do you know the date (Month/Year) when production ceased? And do you know if new episodes were planned or made?

JEFF:
No, it was not a surprise. In television syndication, 65 episodes is the normal length of a series, so we knew when things were winding down. For us in preproduction at Atkinson, the contract was completed in May 1987 - right on schedule! There are always rumours and murmurs of a new series, but I have yet to hear of any concrete plans.

Q:
Did your kids ever watch the show? Did they like it?

JEFF WILSON:
Yes. They loved the show. Particularly, when Dad's name showed up in the credits!

Q:
What particular scenes did you enjoy working on the most?

JEFF:
I became known as the "love scene" expert. The episode where Grubby fell in love with Karen the caterpillar contained some of my better work. In fact, one of the scenes appears on the videocassette packaging. I also did the love scene, where L.B. proposes to Buffy Bounder. It was funny how some people seemed to be better equipped to do certain scenes better than others, and the team leaders knew who these people were.

Q:
Did you or the cast ever listen to music, or do anything else for inspiration before you went "animatin"?

JEFF:
There was a rule. Nobody inflicted their music on others without unanimous consent. Most times, "Walkmans" were the medium of choice. One of the neatest things about music was in Feb of '97, when we worked on the Grunge beach party episode. In Canada, February is a harsh month because of the wintery weather. Anyway, somebody in our dept. had this idea of having a "Beach Day", and everybody got into it! The cassette players played actual songs from this episode and people would get up from their desks and just boogie on the studio floor. This guy came and stood at the doorway with his eyes bulging out of his head. Someone said "Lighten up, we are just enjoying ourselves". The man said. "It's not that. It's just that I wrote that song, and never thought I would see anyone actually dance to it!" Turns out he had been in another department and recognized his tune, and came to investigate! Needless to say, he joined in on the celebrations. It was a special moment!

Q:
What specific task(s) did you work on?

JEFF:
My title was "intermediate poser". My task was to draw the key movements of a scene in black pencil. I would often complete 10 - 15 scenes a day. I was later added to the model design department - doing model sheets for the characters, and ofter designing new characters.


Thanks, Josh for this opportunity. I hope my answers are informative and helpful. Let me know if I can ever help out again!

JOSH:

Thank You, Jeff. It's been a pleasure!

 

teddyruxpinonline.com is not affiliated with AlchemyII, Inc, (who own the World of Teddy Ruxpin and all copyrights and trademarks) or any other manufacturer of Teddy Ruxpin merchandise.

This interview is (C) Josh Isaacson/Jeff Wilson and may not be republished or printed elsewhere without permission.


04.01.2014
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