Todd Ramsay’s Honkbarn – his own brand of animation

by Katie Brennan

I met Todd Ramsay during Bottega and Tribehouse’s 10-10-10, where we were both speaking about our crafts – Todd animation and me painting. I was intrigued by his work, so took some time to sit down and have a chat with him to learn more. Here’s our chat.

oook: What got you into animation? And where / how did you learn your craft?


Todd Ramsay: Art was always my favorite subject throughout school and I pretty much closed every other career door by maintaining a C average in all my other subjects. After high school I took 3 years of Fine Arts at OUC and then moved to Alberta to work in the oil fields. There I learned how to work my butt off and saved up enough money to attend Vancouver Film School’s Classical Animation program. I always wanted to be an artist and animation seemed like a decent way to make a living.


oook: How does an animator make a living in the Okanagan?


TR: I guess the same way in Vancouver, Toronto or LA. You’d be surprised but there’s quite a growing industry here. A couple of studios have moved here in the past year and I’m meeting other animators all the time.

oook: Are there other animators in the area, or are you kind of it?


TR: There seems to be a lot of animator working at Disney (Club Penguin) but not many of them come out of the woodwork. There’s a studio in Kelowna called Bardel Entertainment with a team of about 10 animators. I know of a few more freelancers and another studio called Lizard Brain who just wrapped up a series for the BBC.

oook: You’ve mentioned you’re drawn to an unpolished, childish aesthetic, have you found any inspiration for this in the Okanagan?


TR: I guess you could say that. I have a 4 year old daughter who draws me pictures every day. Most of my inspiration was drawn from cartoons and art I grew up with. I always loved Jim Henson’s work and Sesame Street was often filled with animated Gem’s. There’s an animator from Vancouver named Jon Izen. I was inspired by his style when I first started in the animation industry. I can’t really put a finger on a certain style that inspires me. I’m constantly tumbling through artists and styles on a daily basis and I guess it somehow works it’s way into my work. My art is influenced by comedy and many of my ideas are inspired by the people around me.


oook: What are you working on currently?


TR: I just finished working on the Disney series ‘Motorcity’ and am currently working on a show for Teletoon called ‘Rocket Monkey’. On a personal level I’m working on a new series called Specimen and I’m always tinkering with my Honkbarn series.

oook: What are the Honkbarners, and how did they come into being?

TR: I first got the idea for Honkbarn after a really bad snowboarding accident left me without the use of my drawing hand for about 6months.

There was only so much daytime TV that I could handle so I decided to start drawing with my left hand. I couldn’t draw with the same attention to detail that I had with my right hand so I had to simplify the designs.That’s when I came up with my first character line-up.

I’ve tried to come up with concepts for shows in the past but every idea seemed so contrived. All of my ideas were influenced by what was going on in mainstream animation and nothing felt true to what I wanted to do. Taking a few months off work was the best thing that ever happened to me. I stopped watching cartoons on TV and was basically locked in my house in the woods without the constant reminder of the rules and regulations associated with animation production.During that time I took a different approach to animation. I began recording idiot noises and found a few royalty free sound clips on the net and started animating a couple of the Honkbarn characters not knowing what would happen until actually drawing the next frame. I didn’t have an idea, a storyboard, or a script. I was just animating for fun, something I had never really done before. It was an experiment in animation, a way to convey my own sense of humor through an art form.


oook: What’s one really great arts / cultural person, place or thing you think everyone should know about (I mean besides oook – *grin*)?


TR: I just discovered an artist by the name of Souther Salazar who’s work is brilliant. Definitely worth a look, I’m also addicted to which is an online network of cartoon goodness. I would also suggest adding San Diego’s Comic Con to your bucket list.


Want to see more? We’ll be posting more of Todd’s Honkbarn vids in the coming months. But if you’d like to check out more NOW, here you go:




Honkbarn on Vimeo:


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