OWOSSO NATIVE ROB OLIVER was awarded an Emmy for an episode of “The Simpsons” on Sunday, Sept. 15 in Los Angeles. After the win, Oliver is shown with his wife, Diana. He is also shown standing with (from left) Assistant Director Eddie Rosas and the writer of the episode, Michael Price, at the event.
The Creative Arts Emmys will air at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21 on FXX.
“The Simpsons” is the longest running animated comedy television program in history, having earned 11 Emmys for Outstanding Animated Program with the most recent Emmy going to longtime series animator/director, Rob Oliver. Oliver is an Owosso native, graduating from OHS in 1995 and relocating to California in 1996. A cousin, Tim Bailey, was already drawing backgrounds on “The Simpsons” and Oliver ventured to California, witnessed his cousin’s work and was inspired to join. Interestingly, Bailey continued with the show, eventually becoming a director, as well.
Oliver’s parents are Dr. Tim and Marcia Oliver of Owosso and his earliest memories involve his passion for drawing. “We always had Mad Magazine around the house,” he said, via the phone, “I was always trying to draw all the different styles from the magazine.” In 5th-grade, he and some friends created his first cartoon character – Bob Duck. “It was just a little duck. He didn’t change expression or poses.”
Oliver has many fond recollections of Owosso, mentioning several teachers such as Karen Summer, Pat Shaw and Bonnie Brown, for inspiring him to continue with his art. He shared that “Owosso is always in some way” with him.
Starting his career path in animation in 1996, Oliver’s cousin and others “taught me the ropes for character animation. I learned a lot more on the job and I loved it. Now, as a director, I can really tell a larger part of the story visually. Where as a character artist, who was maybe doing ten, twenty or thirty scenes in a 300-scene episode, I am part of the whole visual story process. I can still get my hands dirty, though. I still have my hand in the drawing process.”
Oliver has a love for storyboarding his episodes. “I have a hand in the designs, allowing me to put my own brand of acting into the animation.”
Oliver and “The Simpsons” received the Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program on Sunday, Sept. 15 for the episode “Mad About the Toy.” The Emmy was awarded during the two-evening Creative Arts Emmys in Los Angeles, recognizing outstanding technical and artistic achievement in television programming. The Creative Arts Emmys are combined into a single program that will air at 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21 on FXX. The Primetime Emmys air the following evening – Sunday, Sept. 22 on FOX.
“Mad About the Toy” focuses on Grandpa Simpson, the inspiration for little green Army man toys, who was a model for a photographer many decades ago. Grandpa Simpson feels a need to find that photographer, who is now also an artist with a gallery. Oliver wanted the gallery to be artistically appropriate for the program, so he created 76 digital paintings, exploring a variety of styles he thought the character would embody – questioning what brushes he might use, what paint strokes, paint-layering techniques, what sorts of media he worked in, etc. Oliver then had to go through the process of adapting the colors of these art pieces to assist in forwarding his story. The color process in animation is critical to the story. “I went through many different iterations of these paintings,” Oliver said.
When questioned what it was like to win such a prestigious award, Oliver answered, “What do you think it would be like? It’s like that. To win this award, I still can’t imagine winning this award.”
After many years in the field and on the same show, it is obvious Oliver’s passion has never waned. “It can be just a job, but overwhelmingly I’m just having a really fun time telling these stories and collaborating with other artists … I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Who is his favorite character? Oliver replied that Homer is the most fun to draw because of his attitude and because the lines are fun.