The opportunity to speak with Mikel M and Ivan Aguilar of Samurai Shin has been rather eye opening for many. And now, Derrick gets to speak with their animator, Kynan Justis! So come on down and see what all is learned!
1. Nice to talk with you Kynan, how’ve you been lately?
Glad to talk with you too and thanks for the interview! I’ve been pretty good. I’m finally back from another semester of university, so I’ve got tons more time for animation now, haha.
2. Please tell us more about yourself, introduce Kynan Justis to the world. Who is he?
Well, I’m 19 years old currently living in Missouri where I have been for most of my life. I started animating back in 2010, but I was never serious about doing it until the end of 2014. I’ve always been interested in creating stuff whether it be comics or short films or games, so animation has sort of been my next step into creating media. I’m also a fan of programming and software development, but that’s a whole different thing.
3. You said pre-interview that you became interested in animating when you discovered the website Newgrounds, what videos on there do you remember inspiring you the most? What was it about animation that drew you in?
I think a lot of animators who came out of Newgrounds might say the same thing, but back when I first found it a user named Egoraptor was a huge personality on the site for his cartoons. Egoraptor’s videos spawned sort of a wave of imitation amongst other animators at the time, which some people may have considered to be a bad thing. But in my opinion, I think it was really good because Egoraptor, and some of his friends as well, really set the bar for what quality web animation could look like.
Anyway, I think it was really the humor in the videos I was watching more than anything that got me interested. I remember sitting there one day after watching a cartoon and realizing that I had no idea how one was even made. Then, everything sort of took off from there.
4. What is your process like if you can tell us and how did you become involved in animating Samurai Shin for Mikel and Ivan?
My process for animation is sort of multi-part. First I usually do a bunch of still shots that just have the characters laid out and maybe some notes about how I want the camera to work. Afterwards, I do what I call the “rough” where I go through and add a bunch of drawings to give everything some basic motion. If all goes well with that, I’ll do a few more passes until I have the final motion I want. From there all that’s left is drawing the final lines of each drawing and coloring it in. Sometimes I do some stuff with video editing software after the animation to add effects, but most of it is all done in the animation software.
As for how I became involved with Mikel and Ivan, I can actually thank Newgrounds for that as well. I just happened to decided one day to look through the forums to see if there were any interesting projects I could work on and Mikel’s post about Samurai Shin was actually the one I went to first. I was introduced to Ivan once they brought me on.
5. How is it animating Mikel and Ivan’s work?
The animation for this project has been quite a challenge for me. It’s the first time I’ve really tried to match or adapt someone else’s style for animation. At the same time though, it’s something I’ve wanted to try for a while and I feel like I’ve learned a lot from it as a result. I definitely want more freelance projects like this one in the future so I can get even better at it.
Haha, that’s a good question. At this point it’s a little hard to say. With just me as an animator it would take an insane amount of time to do an animation of the entire comic. Although, if more people were brought on and Mikel wanted to continue everything I think it’s a possibility.
7. Who are some creators or studios that inspire you? And do you directly reflect those inspirations in your work?
I’m so glad you asked this! For creators, I’ve already mentioned Egoraptor, but I’m also big fans of OneyNG, JohnnyUtah, Spazkid, and Psychicpebbles. All of these guys have come out of Newgrounds and I just really admire them for their content and work ethic. I should probably say if anyone hasn’t heard of these dudes, their stuff can be fairly explicit, but the quality of their art is always exceptional.
When it comes to studios there are also a few I want to mention. Studio Ghibli is one of the biggest ones that I think people would know by name. Ghibli films always take my breath away with just how much detail they can pack into a frame of animation and because of that it’s something I really strive to achieve. Some other Japanese ones include Studio Bones (Fullmetal Alchemist), Gainax (Gurren Lagann/Evangelion), and Studio Khara for their work on the new Evangelion films. There are plenty more, but these are definitely the big ones that I draw my inspiration from for one reason or another.
Lastly, I want to mention Studio Yotta. This studio is actually based in the US and was spearheaded by Jake Ganz who also came from Newgrounds. What’s cool about it though is that it seems to take a lot of inspiration from Japanese studios in how it produces animation by hiring freelance artists for its various projects. Yotta really excels in producing web animation, but they’ve started to branch out to industry as well, which has been really cool to see. In terms of my near-term animation goals, Yotta is probably at the top of my list and I hope that one day soon I’ll be able to join their team!
8. Are you a fan of anime as well? If so, what are some of your favorite series?
I definitely am! As you can maybe tell from the studios I mentioned my favorites are Fullmetal Alchemist and Evangelion. I tend to draw the most inspiration from my favorite shows and in terms of art and animation, I really admire those series.
If anyone wants to stay updated with the stuff I’m working on, they can follow me on Twitter (@kftoons) or they can follow my Tumblr (kftoons.tumblr.com)! Also if anyone has a project they’re interested in collaborating on, I can be reached through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
10. And finally, what can we expect from you in the future? As well as can you give aspiring animators any advice on how to better hone their craft?
Once I’m done with this Samurai Shin trailer I’ll probably go back to working on my original cartoon. It’s about a guy who decides to become a superhero, but he’s clearly just a dude who lives in his parent’s basement. I’ve had a lot of fun with it so far and I can’t wait to get back to it!
As for some aspiring words, if there is anyone out there who is discouraged or finding it difficult to do the thing they really love, my advice is just to keep doing it no matter what. I used to think that I wouldn’t get better at animation because I didn’t possess some innate talent or something, but then I realized that one of the only major differences between a professional and an amateur is the amount of time each person has spent working. While talent may play a role in someone’s ability to pick up on a given concept, it’s still my firm belief that if you keep trying to do something you’ll just get better at it!
Interview by: Derrick Crow