by Jeremy Rogers
If you’ve watched PBS kids, Boomerang, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, CNN, AMC, TBS, Nickelodion, Discovery, or Animal Planet within the last two decades, there is a good chance you’ve already seen the work of Douglass Grimmett and his animation company, Primal Screen.
When Grimmett came to Ball State to talk about his company earlier this month, he talked about his childhood and how he got from being a kid who couldn’t draw to being the founder of a company that routinely works for Cartoon Network, PBS and Nickelodeon.
As a young child, Grimmett was inspired by the 1950 Oscar winning film Harvey to start drawing. The story of a man (Jimmy Stewart) who sees a 6’3” white rabbit named Harvey walking and talking with him that no one else can see or hear. Grimmett took his love of drawing to school with him, where he was the sole artist for his school’s newspaper. He drew comics such as In the Lunchroom and Butch Rotten, which was inspired by Goofus and Gallant, a comic series featured in Highlights magazine. After school, Grimmet went on to make his own independently published comic, Mindecay Funnies.
After a while Doug discovered that he didn’t like drawing that much, but he still loved using pictures to tell stories and relate to people. So he settled on using his talents to focus on graphic design instead of animation or illustration, difficult fields to break into if you are not good at drawing. Striking out and finding his strengths, in 1995 Grimmett founded Primal Screen, a digital design firm telling stories across every sort of screen. The company was involved in the redesign on Cartoon Network, the launching the Boomerang channel, relaunching Nick Jr., and several redesigns of the PBS Kids network.
The key to this success according to Grimmett? Embracing disruptive technology. In 1994, Adobe bought After Effects and started repackaging the revolutionary technology as Adobe After Effects. The next major disruption in the animation world was Photoshop 3.0, which introduced layers into the image creation process. Since desktop publishing all but destroyed typesetting, the next logical move for Primal Screen was to jump onto the bandwagon of the next technology out to destroy traditional motion picture production.
Embracing the next big thing was not Grimmett’s only advice to the attendees of his lecture. He also emphasized the importance of being adaptable, using Primal Screen as an example. While most people associate individual animators with their own signature styles, being an animation company means being able to adapt to and create new, unique styles. Having the versatility to tackle Adult Swim’s thin borders and gritty aesthetic as well as PBS Kids’ outline-less, solid color look is invaluable to Primal Screen’s success.
The three big takeaways from Grimmett’s presentation?
- Find something that you are passionate about and pursue it.
- Find a way to use your unique skillset in your given line of work
- Embrace disruptive technology
- Be adaptable
Following these steps has helped Douglass Grimmett and his company Primal Screen become one of television’s most dependable companies. What can these rules do for you?
Jeremy is junior majoring in News Journalism and Telecommunications and minoring in Political Science and American History. Though he is Byte’s Senior News Editor, he also writes reviews, features, and guest stars on podcasts.