Tag Archives: RISD

I Was a Teenage Sunbow Intern – Part 3

Close up of Sunbow Entertainment logo for Tim Finn's blog entry about his internship

In our last episode ([Part 1] [Part 2]), Tim called Sunbow.  Would he call again?

In February or March, I called back, and Randy asked about an interview.  Hopping on the Greyhound from Providence to NYC was no big deal, so soon I was in the tiny lobby of 100 Fifth Avenue.  It was grey with dark walls, and just big enough for one black desk with a security guard and a company directory of white letters and floor numbers behind him, and two elevators.  It was not grand, but it was a tall building in Manhattan on a busy street a block from Union Square and a subway station, so much of that New York mystique was intact.

The elevator opened onto the fifth floor, a tiny annex with a glass wall that separated the elevator foyer from the office itself.  On that glass was the Sunbow logo (I grew up with Sunbow Productions, the company was now called Sunbow Entertainment), and through it was visible the receptionist’s desk in front of two orange walls that blocked the rest of the office, a load-bearing column (also orange or perhaps magenta) and two hallways.  One went right and the other straight.  This was the corner of the entire floor, and the rest of Sunbow stretched out unseen behind the receptionist’s desk, behind her orange walls.  Sunbow had moved a few times since its founding, and as of 1998, took up just one floor, though the entire floor, here.  The receptionist was nice.  I was nervous.  Private offices with views of Manhattan lined the edges of the whole space, while cubicles with half walls took up most of the middle and rear.  Walls had enlarged, framed stills from Sunbow’s TV shows – My Little Pony, The Tick, Salty’s Lighthouse.  No G.I. Joe or Transformers, though.  A glass-walled conference room took up the center.

Randy was busy, so Tamara Shear (Hi, Tammy), who I hadn’t spoken to yet, handled the interview.  She was number three in Production, and shared an office with Randy.  We sat in the conference room, which was nice since it offered some privacy – I would have been nervous if in Tammy’s office the phone had interrupted us – but it also added a level of severity to the proceeding.

It was also informal and pleasant.  I probably told Tammy about Animation at RISD, and she talked about the two shows Sunbow was making at the time – Salty’s Lighthouse, an educational show for The Learning Channel, and The Brothers Flub, a comedy for Nickelodeon.  And that the company had three departments – Development, Production, and Sales.  Plus an office on the West Coast where artwork was made.  This office, Sunbow East, generated no artwork, and the artists who worked for the company were not in New York.  This was disappointing to hear, but I probably also had the good sense to know that even being a traditional gopher would yield valuable experience, networking, and a resume entry.  Tammy asked to see my portfolio, which was… I dunno… good-not-great?  I think my drawings were fine for a sophomore, and the animation was probably cute enough to be memorable, but a CalArts character animator I was not.  Having issue #5 of my Transformers parody comic might have helped – it showed follow-through, even if fan-art was a kind of black mark.  I don’t recall my “Little Timmy Meets Tracks” film getting a reaction one way or the other, but I suspect that my resume looked good, and I was probably wearing a tie.  Those combined with the RISD name and a positive experience with That Other RISD Student who had interned (a note to students:  Don’t mess around with jobs and internships.  You’ll make it harder for the next person) must have left a good enough impression.

Tammy ended the interview by asking about my availability for the summer. I wasn’t sure since I lived in Rhode Island and would have to figure out housing in NYC, but we agreed that I would call at the end of the spring and fine tune my schedule.  But here two conflicting memories muddy the narrative, and I don’t know how to reconcile them.  On the one hand, I was actually being offered an internship, but it was in such a casual way that I didn’t fully comprehend it.  “When would you be able to start?” is different than “You’re hired.  When would you be able to start?” The first one, which is what I recollect, implies they’re not decided, so I was nervous I didn’t get the internship, and worried about it until I did call back in May and was certain the position was still waiting for me.   On the other hand, the interview had been a breeze, and rather than making me feel like I had to prove my worth or pass some test, Tammy and I had just chatted, and getting the internship felt obvious after such a great interview, like it was a foregone conclusion after the first minute.  So whether I walked out feeling anxious or cocky is lost to memory, but it was probably both.

Either way, I now had a plan for the summer.  As the end of the school year approached, I started talking with my friend Nick, who lived in New York City, about apartments.  If visiting New York made me nervous, finding a place and living there for three months was much worse.

Where would Tim live?  Tune in next time to find out!

[Click here for Part 4]

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I Was a Teenage Sunbow Intern – Part 2

In our last episode, Tim heard about Sunbow Entertainment’s summer internship!

New York still intimidated me when I visited, but I had been there several times recently, and part of the culture at RISD was that You Went To New York. I don’t necessarily mean professionally after graduation, but at some point you would visit because that’s the center of the art world, and it’s only 3 hours away, and the inertia began with the Freshman Foundation bus trip there a year prior.  Every freshman goes there for a day.  And I’d visit Nick there (Hi, Nick), friend and now G.I. Joe book editor, each year for his birthday.  (And have ever since.)  So being in the Big City was a little scary: it’s dirty, it has a reputation for crime, and if goes on forever — sidewalks horizontally, buildings vertically.  But it had some appeal as well.  Though I’ve always taken art and history museums for granted, even then I knew New York was THE PLACE for that.  And though I wasn’t yet thinking about life after college, I must have had some abstract notion of going to New York or Los Angeles when the time came.  Before Flash and the internet decentralized the animation production process, those were the two cities where you’d go if you wanted a job in the industry.  (Not entirely true, but I didn’t know anything as a college sophomore.)

I got a number for Sunbow from Dee or Mystery Person, and in the late fall or early winter of sophomore year, called.  I should take a moment here to point out that this very act is a nerve wracking one.  I don’t know what everyone’s relationships to telephones are anymore since cell phones are also HD video cameras and internet hubs in your pocket, and famous people are easy to find through e-mail and Facebook.  But before I was using these much, there was the paper letter and the cold call.  And telephoning an office filled with busy and important people, people who can easily say “No” and hang up on you in the fulfillment of a filmic cliché, was intimidating.  Plus it was long distance (*sigh,* I’m dating myself), so each attempt would cost ten cents or something.  Again, paying a dime for a call isn’t a big deal by itself, but it adds to the heaviness of the act.

I had been good at public speaking (thank you, grade school), and had made a few important phone calls before, so this was doable.   Randy Koshinskie, #2 in the Production department took the call.  Randy was warm and kind (Hi, Randy), and while I didn’t know it at the time, in 8 months he’d be my boss.

The trick was to get in and out quickly.  Introduction, say something nice about the company, or at least prove I knew something about it, express an interest, and then shut up.  So it probably went something like this:

“Hi, my name is Tim Finn.  I’m an animation sophomore at the Rhode Island School of Design.  Dee Boyd or Someone interned with you last summer and gave me this number.  I’m looking for internships this coming summer and would be interested if you have any available.”

Without nerding out or sucking up I demonstrated some knowledge of Sunbow’s library, and that I was a big fan of Sunbow’s Transformers and G.I. Joe cartoons. Randy seemed pleased with that, but in telling me a little about the company explained that Sunbow was very different than it had been in 1985, now making only a few shows and recently focusing on educational programming.  He asked if I had a portfolio.  I did.  At that point it consisted of a few figure drawings, some zoo animation drawings, a background or two, and a VHS (or U-Matic!) tape of my three Animation I projects.  (One of which depicted the Autobot Tracks transforming from Corvette mode to a robot and rescuing me from being lost in the barren wasteland of Washington state.  Which is either the cutest portfolio piece ever for a Sunbow internship application, or the most embarrassing.)    Also, the then-newest issue of Nick’s and my hilarious and now slightly embarrassing Transformers parody comic book.  My timeline is fuzzy, but I think this was before Christmas and Randy said I should call back in a few months when the Production department would start working out its summer internships.

Did Tim make that fateful call?  Tune in next time to find out!


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I Was a Teenage Sunbow Intern

The story of how G.I. Joe got me into comics may need a rest for now, so here’s a different story:

I Was a Teenage Sunbow Intern title card for Tim Finn blog


In college at RISD I majored in Animation.  It was a great four years.  While the Alumni and Career Services office did have some 3-ring binders of information on companies offering jobs and internships, I barely spent any time looking.  And while our professors did give us much in the way of problem solving, technical skills, and creative thinking, landing an internship was not stressed.  That’s not a complaint.  (It’s a recent requirement for upperclassmen at my school, and I assume RISD Animation has moved in this direction.)  It’s not a complaint because at the time it did not seem like a deficiency and because I stumbled into an internship anyway.  Here’s how.

Summers in high school were a mix of wasted relaxation and real art productivity.  A portfolio class helped prepare me for college admissions.  The summer after that first year of college I vacationed with my family, drew comics, and attended BotCon.  No job, but something would coalesce.  In the fall of college sophomore year I took Animation I class, and worked weekly in the Film Animation Video equipment lock-up office.  There I gabbed with J. Gaston (Hi, J.) and tried not to do any work, instead letting J. fetch all the Bolexes and tripods while I doodled.

Someone who may have been Dee Boyd (Hi, Dee), my TA from Animation I class, mentioned someone else in our department had had an internship the previous summer at a studio in New York.  I don’t know how this came up in conversation, but as sometimes happens during the exchange of equipment and a liability signature, someone will talk about some project they’re up to, or some accomplishment a friend has made.  And while I don’t think I was talking about G.I. Joe and Transformers that day, I was starting to be known as a G.I. Joe and Transformers crazy person.  (Freshman year I had hosted a screening of Transformers: The Movie and 15 minutes of Transformers toy commercials in a dorm lounge with a big screen TV.  For the next three years I hosted it in the RISD Auditorium, where I sold shrinkwrapped VHS episodes I had imported from Canada since they were long out of print and unavailable in the States.  I also made a half-hearted attempt to secure a film print of TF:TM since we were equipped with two 35mm projectors, VHS looking only so good on the big screen.)  So Dee or Unnamed Upperclassman mentioned Sunbow, and probably something about how it wasn’t impossible to get the internship, or how it was interesting, or how I might follow up and try myself.

An internship at the studio that had produced my favorite cartoons ever?  And also such notable shows as My Little Pony, Visionaries, and The Tick?  Wow!  But how could I ever reach out to such an institution?

Tune in next time to find out!

[Click here for Part 2] 

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That First Time I Wrote a G.I. Joe Book – Part Three

In our last episode, Tim wrote an entire issue of the RISD student newspaper!

All that’s left of the original print run

When the print run was delivered the following Monday – The kickoff day of G.I. Joe Week! – I was giddy.  3000 copies were waiting at the mailroom, and I spent my lunch hour placing them in student mailboxes.  (RISD had 2000 students, so naturally I figured I would take the remainder.)  Regular editor Andy Dill helped, which I wasn’t expecting, but greatly appreciated.

I got great feedback from friends and acquaintances.  Some specifically loved the issue.  Others were just impressed by the commitment to take on the project.  And others still had different reactions.  Giant trash cans and round metal recycling bins lined the mailroom, overflowing each night with the day’s junk mail from 1800 undergraduates and 200 grads – catalogs, opened envelopes, memos from school.  After I disseminated Mixed Media, I hovered to see a few random reactions from people opening their mailboxes.  What was this green thing inside, anyway?  I also rescued about 30 copies from the trash.  I had plans to mail the issue to family and friends far and wide, and a vague notion to take a few hundred up the road to Hasbro, in Pawtucket.  (That never came to be.)

I was standing next to a trash can while two young women sorted through their mail.  They were in a hurry since lunch time was short.  “Bill, bill, junk, junk,” complained one, “What the fuck is this?!” she demanded of no one, looking at my masterpiece.  She threw it in the trash can and walked off in a huff.  Her friend finished her own sorting, tossed a few papers and her Mixed Media, and then noticed me standing right there, looking back at her and the trashcan.  In my arms were 40 copies.  She paused, looked in the direction of her friend, looked back at me, looked in the trash can, slowly pulled out her copy, and darted after her friend.

The issue turned out better than I expected, and I floated through the rest of my boring Wintersession short term class.  Designer Sean Deyoe had smartly separated the main article and the episode guide through margins and differing font sizes.  He had cropped and zoomed in wherever he wanted, and with me sitting quietly next to him, had slaved away on that killer back cover.  Two small production errors appear in the final edition – on the front cover and back cover, no less! — but I’m still so giddy with the end product that they don’t bother me.  Either because he was ready to move on or because my issue had broken him, Deyoe quit one issue later.  Andy Dill hung on as editor for a bit until some movement at the Office of Student Life installed two friends, Cory Mitchell and Mark Hoffmann, as new editors before the year was out.  They stayed on through our senior year and nicely revitalized the newspaper.  I would go on to write another article and submit a comic or two, but they were school related.  My ‘80s pop culture intrusions on Mixed Media were over.

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That First Time I Wrote a G.I. Joe Book – Part Two

In our last episode, Tim decided to write an entire issue of the RISD student newspaper.

Mixed Media had its own office next to the Tap Room, which served alcohol before my time (hence the name), and is famous for being the site of an early, if not the first, Talking Heads performance.  When I was at RISD, this was a seldom-used space for music and drama, and tucked away next to it was a claustrophobic closet with a scanner, a Mac, and two desks.  The Mixed Media office.  Weekly meetings took place there, but no one attended besides editor Andy Dill, designer Sean Deyoe, and calendar organizer James Holland.  I had joked to Andy that he could take off for the issue, that me writing the whole thing was tantamount to guest editing it, and he was fine with that.  I sat down with Deyoe and explained that I wanted to have a lot of images.  Deyoe was a talented graphic designer, and had used MM as a place to experiment and play.  Because no one cared about it, the stakes weren’t high, but since it was a “real” publication, printed by a press on newsprint, it was a worthwhile project.

Deyoe was impressed (and later, probably bothered) at how many images I had ready.  This meant extra work for him.  Again, MM was dying of attrition.  The issue prior to mine had 16 pages (one of them blank) and 7 images, and the issue before that ran a paltry 8 pages (one of them blank) and featured three images.  Three!

Mine was a return to form:  32 pages with 64 images.

The contrast was clear.  I knew that even if people didn’t care for my content, they would notice this hefty issue, four times as big as the issue before the issue before.  Even better, Dill reasoned that since we had left over printing money from the previous few issues, we could splurge on mine, and offered a single color ink, something to go with the black.   The choice could only be a military green.  I solicited articles and art, and got three comics from friends, and polished my giant history and episode guide.  Holland brought in the calendar and I beefed it up with several fake G.I. Joe-themed events on and around campus, including a five-day Cobra invasion of Providence.   Deyoe scanned all my photos and comics, picked fonts, redrew the Cobra logo in Illustrator (for someone’s t-shirt design, not MM), and didn’t mind when I pitched him a back cover concept that would take longer to lay out than entire issues – a MM version of the 1980s Real American Hero toy card backs.  I also drew the cover, badly, which my roommate Peter Demarest, posed for.

"Tim Finn" "Sean Deyoe" RISD

Front cover/back cover, art by Tim Finn, design by Sean Deyoe

What happened when the print run arrived the following Monday?

Check back Friday to find out.  Next week kicks off my new posting schedule:  Mondays for small bits of art or commentary, Thursdays for these articles on the making of the book.


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That First Time I Wrote a G.I. Joe Book – Part One

April 1998 covers by Bryan Konietzko and uncredited.

During my time at RISD the student-run newspaper was called Mixed Media.  At 8.5 by 11 inches and with very little news, “newspaper” might not be the best descriptor, but it was printed on newsprint.  It also floundered for several years.  You would think that with all these talented students there might be great artwork or reviews, but students were too busy to contribute.  The calendar was helpful, and a few interesting articles got people to write in, but this biweekly rag didn’t contribute much to the social and artistic life of the school.

There was also a Brown-RISD newspaper, but RISD students had little to do with it.  Whereas Mixed Media was ignored, The College Hill Independent was widely read on at least one of those two campuses and it contained actual news.  In fall 1997 a cover illustration featured several 1980s personalities and pop culture characters.  One was Optimus Prime.  I was peaking in my unreasonable Transformers fandom – watching the old show on VHS, rising at six in the morning to catch the new one, attending the annual convention to sell my Transformers comic fanzine, and hiding Hasbro’s robots in my homework whenever I could.  (Or not actually hiding them.)  Since it didn’t really matter what was in Mixed Media, and the editor was always asking for submissions, inspired by that Independent cover I figured that an article on the history of Transformers wouldn’t get rejected.

It did not, and several friends responded favorably.  I was pleased to see my name in print and to spread the good word about my favorite fictional characters and their conquest of television airwaves, toy store shelves, and comic book sales charts.  And I noted that Mixed Media’s designers blew up one of the two images I provided, breaking up the staid column layout of the 2-page article.  I couldn’t help think that I had gotten away with something, that this publication that was supposed to be about RISD, and the issues facing its student artists and designers, had bent some rule in running a fluff feature on something so off-topic.

Announcements from Mixed Media v4 issue 8

A year later, the newspaper had sunk to its lowest point.  Issues were short, content was light, and no one talked about it.  (To Mixed Media’s credit, it always looked great.  Graphic Designer Sean Deyoe used it as an ongoing experiment in layout, and started calling the publication mixedmedia or MM to refresh its identity.)  I was a junior, and I would skim each issue hoping for comics or anything spicy in the text.  This was still years before free news migrated to the internet and just as the school administration started communicating to students through e-mail.  Each student still received photocopied fliers and reminders in his or her regular postal mail box.  A senior in Film Animation Video named Andy Dill was editing Mixed Media by now, and was either distracted by his workload or losing interest in this dying rag.  Or both.  A few students thought Mixed Media had become an extension of Dill’s ego, a soapbox for him to stand on, even if no one gathered to listen.  We were friendly, but I didn’t know him well.  In November I mentioned that I was considering writing a G.I. Joe history as a companion to the previous year’s Transformers piece, and Dill was amenable.  I had seen entire issues of Entertainment Weekly given over to a single topic (like a Seinfeld episode guide), pushing out all the regular articles until the following week, and as a joke said that I might just write the whole Mixed Media.  Unphased, Dill said that was fine.  I typed all winter break, and into January, while my short-term class (the six-week one between fall and spring) bored me.  Instead of reading about Leonardo’s sketchbooks, I typed – mostly from memory and with little research – the entire history of G.I. Joe, borrowing liberally from Matthew B. Pak’s 1980s episode guide and cribbing a few bits from John Michlig’s wonderful GI Joe: The Complete Story of America’s Favorite Man of Action since I knew little about the 1960s Joe.

Matthew B. Pak’s episode guide cover. I’ve never ackowledged I cribbed from this for “Mixed Media” until now.

And this prose was building towards something else.

Sean Deyoe’s covers to the two issues preceeding my G.I. Joe one, January 1999

As a junior I ran Animation Night for the RISD Film Society.  This was a way to stretch our budget, as renting film prints from studios and distributors and paying projectionists all cost money.  But video projecting VHS tapes from my personal library cost nothing (public screening rights be damned).  That February I was organizing “G.I. Joe Week,” consisting of three nights of Joe-related screenings at the RISD Auditorium.  Mixed Media went to student mailboxes on Mondays, so this would be a great way to kick off this event that was really only an event in my mind.

Half-page ad in Mixed Media 4.9

How did it all go?  Check back next time to find out.


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