It’s always cool to look back in time to see where we were at a year ago, two years ago, three years ago… twenty years ago. You get the idea. Especially when it means a chance to catch up with old friends. So it was in the interest of catching up that I tracked down one of the clubhouse’s past guest recently, Zach Bellissimo, to see how much has changed in the life of the aspiring animator since our last interview way back in 2011.
Turns out, a lot has changed for Bellissimo including relocating from New York to sunny SoCal and snagging a gig with Starburns Industries as Character Designer for one of the coolest new shows I’ve seen come out of Adult Swim in awhile, Rick & Morty. Haven’t heard of it? Well, get ready because our pal – and professional slimeball – Zach is about to take you on wild ride through time and space!
ZACH BELLISSIMO: Things have been great! I moved to California to pursue my career working in the animation industry. It’s sunny and warm and happy here everyday.
Are you still working for Titmouse and Furry Puppet Studio or have you since moved on to other opportunities?
ZB: When I left New York I had to leave Titmouse and Furry Puppet.
Now you’re working on Adult Swim’s hit new animated series, Rick & Morty. How did you get hooked up with Starburns Industries on that project?
ZB: I was lucky to know a few people who were all friends with Justin Roiland. They all suggested me and I bugged him a lot until I got a character design test. I worked my ass off on it and got the job! I was so happy since its my first character design position.
So for those who haven’t seen the show yet, how would you describe it?
ZB: The smartest dumbest show you will ever see about a drunk scientist grandpa and his average grandson traveling through dimensions.
Who else is on the design team with you?
ZB: There were three designers: myself, Stephanie Ramirez (Futurama) and Carlos Ortega (Rugrats, The Cleveland Show) who was our lead designer. James Mcdermott (King of the Hill) was our art director. These guys were amazing!
Have you or any of the other artist ever snuck yourselves into an episode, as a background character or anything?
ZB: I don’t think any of us did. I did draw my girlfriend and roommate in the “Meeseeks” episode but found out they were cut when the episode aired.
You did sneak Boris Karloff into one episode though. How’d you manage that?
ZB: The scene called for a couple incidental background characters, a couple males and females of varying ages [and] I just drew a Karloff inspired old man. I tried to do one of Lugosi but couldn’t make him look right in the style [of the show].
Last year you also released your first art book, Professional Slime Ball? Can you tell us more about that?
ZB: Me and my partner, Tara Billinger, had signed up for the CTN Expo in Burbank. It’s a great convention for the animation industry. I didn’t have anything to sell and thought about making an art book. I printed 25 of them for the show and sold out on the 2nd day. Right now I’m tweaking the layout of the book and adding a couple new pieces. I’m hoping to have more copies by March or April. They’ll go for about $15 a piece. I’m also working on a storenvy site to sell them. I will also have buttons, stickers and other goodies!
ZB: Side projects always go by very slowly, especially if you have a full time job. I started trying to develop a comic but its honestly the last thing I should be doing at the moment so it’s on the back burner. I am working on a top secret animation project with Tara though.
You’re such a tease, Zach. Moving on… obviously you get to draw tons of weirdo, whacked out stuff for the show – my favorite so far has been the ‘Cronenburgs’ from Rick Potion #9. How did you come up with all of those crazy designs?
ZB: We were told just to go nuts with those designs and that’s what we did! I’m used to drawing crazy monsters so I had a ball with those. They were just supposed to be fleshy mutant creatures like The Thing or The Fly (hence the name Cronenburgs!) I even tried making a Cronenburg cronenburg but it didn’t look right.
That would’ve been awesome. You’ve got quite the inspiration fodder set up in your bedroom – what’s the absolute favorite/oddest curio in your collection?
ZB: My Musical Jolly Chimp, the one with the cymbals. I’ve always wanted one and its nearly impossible to find one in good condition and that is able to work (especially since Toy Story 3). He’s awesome. You push down on his head and his eyes bulge out and he makes this awful noise. It’s great.
Alright you slimeball, before we let you slither back into your hole… what’s been the strangest thing you’ve been asked to design?
ZB: Sexy dwarves in masks.
Sounds like Saturday night to me!