Former ‘SpongeBob’ supervisor visits Tech animation class
BLACKSBURG — Lynchburg native Tuck Tucker probably never imagined his doodling and drawing would take him from small-town America to the bright lights and big city of Los Angeles.
Tucker chased his dream right out of college, and after a 28-year career in the film and animation industry, he’s sharing his knowledge with students who hope to have the same success.
On Wednesday, Tucker visited a 3D animation class at Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity and Arts to work one-on-one with students interested in animation, film and visual arts.
Students watched most of an episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” a Nickelodeon show that Tucker once worked on as a storyboard director. The end of the episode was not shown, and students were charged with coming up with their own ending and drawing it out on a storyboard.
“They’re work-shopping ideas to come up with their own ending,” Tucker said. “This not only simulates the way we work on the show, but it’s a way to get more than one person’s point of view on a story. We’re trying to demystify some of the ideas about putting together a story.”
Some students appeared to be mystified by Tucker, who worked on their favorite shows growing up.
Tech junior Matt Yourshaw was thrilled to work alongside Tucker because two of his favorite shows were “Hey Arnold!,” another project Tucker was a part of, and “SpongeBob.”
“Everyone here has favorite episodes, and everyone here has a longing for SpongeBob,” Yourshaw said.
“SpongeBob was a really big thing when I was little. You grew up watching it every day.”
Yourshaw and more than 20 other students worked in three groups to storyboard their best ending to the cartoon episode.
The students were scheduled to present their ideas to a large audience Tucker was speaking to later Wednesday night at Hancock Auditorium.
Tucker, during his senior year at Virginia Commonwealth University, worked as a production assistant at Candy Apple, the only animation studio in the commonwealth at the time, and worked full time for HBO as a production assistant.
His animation career quickly took off after graduating from VCU in 1984 when his colleagues at HBO encouraged Tucker to make the move to Los Angeles because of his animation talent.
He’s worked on several well-known projects during his career, such as FOX’s “The Simpsons,” Nickelodeon’s “Rugrats,” “The Ren and Stimpy Show,” and “Hey Arnold!,” and Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
In 2007, Tucker became a writer for “SpongeBob” and quickly transitioned to supervising storyboard director in 2010. The show’s recent hiatus has allowed Tucker to begin working on another Nickelodeon project, “The Fairly OddParents.”
Director of Tech’s Center for the Arts Ruth Waalkes believes bringing Tucker in as an example to students illustrates how the center and ICAT plan to work together in the future.
“ICAT is all about exploring that intersection between engineering, sciences, art and design and how these things come together,” Waalkes said.
ICAT Director Ben Knapp said Tucker is a fine example of what ICAT is envisioning for its students.
“It’s very important to be able to show that anybody from the local region can study science, technology, art anddesign and use those skills to go on and do something fantastic,” Knapp said.
Although Tucker has enjoyed what some may call an illustrious career in Los Angeles, he hopes to be able to return to his roots after finishing out the remaining two years on his Nickelodeon contract.
Tucker said his family has a farm in the area he’d like to return to soon.
“It’s a nice thought and something I’m working on,” Tucker said. “Virginia is something that’s hard to get out of your system; I don’t care where you’ve been. It’s a nice place to come back to.”
Tucker’s advice for students in the area hoping to break into the industry was simple.
Tucker said students should amass a set of drawing skills because “drawing is the beginning of everything.”
“Everyone in Los Angeles is someone from someplace else,” Tucker said.
“They might as well be from Virginia.”
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
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