Alumni Spotlight recognizes a chosen Kubert School alum showcasing their work and journey after The Kubert School.
- Alumni Spotlight
- Shane Davis
- Garry Brown
- Brandon Vietti
- Eric Shanower
- Cliff Rathburn
- Anna-Maria Cool
- Rob Tornoe
- Dan Duncan
- Kevin Colden
- Warren Martineck
- Kevin Mellon
- Thomas Yeates
- Henrik Jonsson
- Tayo Fatunla
- Grant Miehm
- Carli Ihde
- Tamra Bonvillain
- Gary Fields
- Elisa Feliz
- Jerry Wilson
- Jeff Brennan
- Emi Yonemura - Brown
- Adam Pedrone
- Rian Miller
- Eric Schock
- Steven Pennella
- Jason Quinones
- Clayton Cowles
- Mark Gonyea
Talent from The Kubert School
Producer-Director Warner Brothers Animation
Interview by Michael Kraiger
Brandon Vietti is a 1996 graduate of The Kubert School. He is an Emmy award winning director and is currently producer of the acclaimed animated series YOUNG JUSTICE.
The Kubert School: You attended the school from 1993 to 1996. Were you right out of high school or had you attended another school?
Brandon Vietti: I attended one year of city college before attending the Kubert School.
TKS: I read in an interview that you knew you wanted to draw comics since you were in the ninth grade. Had you ever consider another career path before attending the Kubert School?
Brandon Vietti: At one point I began looking in to joining the Air Force because I had the vague idea that flying planes might be cool and a military job would be stable. Other than that I really had no idea what to do with my life after high school. Art was always a hobby of mine but making a career of art seemed like a fantasy. Then I met some local artists who were working professionally in the comic industry. Meeting them in person and hearing encouraging words from them suddenly made a career in art seem possible. Once I got that in my head I started working harder than ever on sharpening my art skills.
TKS: Who are some of the artists that inspired you back in the ninth grade?
Brandon Vietti: John Romita Jr., Arthur Adams, Mike Mignola, Jim Lee, Katsuhiro Otomo, and Moebius were some of my favorite artists back then. I would study their works for hours and hours.
TKS: You were moving across the country to attend the school. What was that experience like?
Brandon Vietti: Moving 3,000 miles away from my hometown was a little scary, but I was ready for it. I was at a point in my life where I was eager to focus on art and I knew I needed to surround myself with like-minded students and instructors. My parents flew out to New Jersey with me and helped me find a place to live. Then they mailed my belongings to my new address when they got back home.
TKS: How would you characterize your daily life at the school?
Brandon Vietti: Daily school life was busy! When I started my first year at the school I really thought that I would have plenty of free time to spend in New York City and maybe get to see other parts of the East Coast. I was wrong! The school gave me more work than I could comfortably handle and I rarely had free time. At first, I hated the huge volume of work. But having to deal with the workload at the school turned out to be valuable training. It prepared me for the same kind of workload that I've dealt with daily in my entire professional career. Without that training I would have been unprepared for the volume of work required of me in my first professional job.
TKS: Was there any particular experience or class that stands out in your memory?
Brandon Vietti: I took something valuable away from every class. Some of the best lessons I got from the school came from classes I had the least amount of interest in. Looking back on it, that was one of my favorite things about the place. The school forced me to consider areas and aspects of art I would have never explored on my own and in each case I gained something positive from that.
TKS: You were the first recipient of a full scholarship from Marvel Comics. Along with the scholarship, you were offered an internship with Marvel. What was that experience like for you?
Brandon Vietti: The internship was a great way to get my foot in the door at a professional studio and to see how things work from the inside. I worked for John Romita, Sr., and he placed me in his art corrections department, a group of artists known as "Romita's Raiders." There I was assigned the task of making minor revisions to artwork as directed by editors who needed adjustments to comic pages before sending them to print. It was my first time working with real professional artwork and it was pretty exciting. When things were slow in art corrections I would go upstairs to visit the various editors and see if they needed any assistance with anything. I would go anywhere I could in the offices just to meet people, ask questions, and learn. I soaked up a lot of knowledge during my summer internship. It was an awesome experience!
TKS: What was your first job after graduation?
Brandon Vietti: My first professional job after school was illustrating a children's book featuring Marvel Comics heroes including Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Captain America. It was one of those read-along books that have a little keyboard of sound effects on the side of it that a young reader is supposed to activate at various times while reading the book. It was a fun little project.
TKS: You graduated after three years in the Cartoon Graphics program. What led you to Hollywood and how difficult was it to get your foot in the door?
Brandon Vietti: After graduation I was trying to find work in comics. In my last year at the school I had become focused on a sort of animation style of drawing. I had applied at both Marvel and DC and I was getting favorable reviews from editors, but my animation style wasn't something they had a great need for. Each company had a few animation style books in print, but they had plenty of artists already working on those books. I simply wasn't needed.
A friend of mine, Pete Carlsson, showed me an advertisement in a comic book trade magazine from Warner Brothers Animation. WB was looking for new artists for a new animated Batman cartoon. I LOVED Batman: The Animated Series and it was a huge influence on my own style but I didn't know anything about animation production. I really had no desire to work in animation, but I decided to send in a portfolio of my animation style comic pages and drawings anyway. I thought maybe I could get some freelance design work with WB to help pay some bills until I could land a job in comics. My portfolio submission led to an in-person interview in Los Angeles where I ended up getting a job as an in-house storyboard artist on The New Batman Superman Adventures. I was lucky to have applied at a time when they were looking for young, enthusiastic students who they could train from scratch. After I moved out to LA, I immediately began learning on the job about animation, design, storyboarding, and filmmaking. I quickly fell in love with the whole process of animation and I never looked back at comic books. I'm thankful everyday that I took that chance and applied for that first job. You just never know where things will lead you.
TKS: Was there a moment when you felt like you had achieved what you’d set out to do by coming to the school?
Brandon Vietti: I think I had a great sense of achievement when I got my first illustration job doing the children's book. Again, that was my first professional job and it was clear to me at the time that the training from the Kubert School made me confident and ready to take that job on.
TKS: In 2006 you won an Emmy for your work on the animated series The Batman. you've worked with Bruce Timm, one of the more well known names in modern animation. Did you ever imagine you'd achieve what you have while sitting in one of our classrooms?
Brandon Vietti: The short answer is no. While working away on my Kubert school assignments, I had no idea that so many amazing opportunities would open up to me in the near future. I remember a classroom assignment from Joe Kubert where we were asked to try to mimic the style of another artist. I chose to draw four comic book pages in the style of Bruce Timm, one of my favorite artists. I never would have guessed that one year later Bruce would hire me for my first job in animation based on the work I did for that assignment. And winning an Emmy NEVER entered my mind as a possibility. Again, you just never know where things will lead you.
TKS: Currently you're a producer for Warner Brothers Animation, that seems like a long road from the school where you were trained as an artist – but I understand you started in story-boarding and character development and moved from that to directing. In producing a project like Young Justice what type of things is the producer responsible for?
Brandon Vietti: I oversee every aspect of production for Young Justice. I come up with many of the stories and contribute ideas to stories that become episodes. I work with my fellow producer and story editor, Greg Weisman, in watching over our stories as a team of writers turns them into scripts. I work with a staff of three directors and nine storyboard artists who translate the scripts into storyboards. I serve as the art director for the series so I oversee a staff of about 15 designers and painters in creating the look of the series. I help four production managers to manage, organize, and control the workflow of all the artwork generated by the artists in an efficient and cost effective manner. And that's just for pre production (the design work done before each show is animated). During the animation process that takes place in Korea, I answer production questions via email and videoconference from our overseas directors at two different studios. After animation is completed, I work with an editor, a color correction technician, a special effects artist, a team of three musical composers, and two sound designers in crafting the final animation that is seen on the air. I'm also involved in developing peripheral artwork for the serieswhich includes print ads, DVD covers, and licensing art.
I've been working in animation for about 15 years as I write this and it took about that long to learn enough about each of these aspects of production to be able to oversee them with some sense of confidence. The real challenge in the job is being able to mentally shift gears at a rapid pace to answer questions about any given episode at any given moment. Every day I have to answer questions and solve problems for as many as 20 different episodes all in various stages of production. It's a mentally taxing job and at the same time it's the most rewarding job I've ever had. I love every minute of it!
TKS: Since the beginning of your animation career you've worked on a long list of classic characters – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Legion of Super heroes, Spider-Man and the Hulk, are there any other characters you'd like develop?
Brandon Vietti: I just enjoy working with interesting characters. The fun part of the job is taking any given character and figuring out what makes them interesting and then figuring out how to get that across on screen so that an audience will also find that character interesting. So from the many comic book universes I really don't have a lot of specific characters in mind that I'd like to develop. They all present their own unique challenges and it's in those challenges that I find my fun.
TKS: Is there any difference in producing or directing a project like Batman: Under the Red Hood and a project like Young Justice? I know some older fans were really jazzed by Under The Red Hood. Are you making them for the same audience?
Brandon Vietti: Batman: Under the Red Hood was conceived as a PG13 movie. In a way it's easier to craft a movie once the PG13 rating is decided because you're just aiming to please one audience. Making Young Justice is a little more difficult because we try to hit the perfect entertainment zone for two audiences. We strive to make shows that are smart enough and realistic enough to hold the attention of older fans while still making the material accessible and fun for a younger audience.
TKS: What’s the best part of your current job?
Brandon Vietti: I get to go to work every day and work side-by-side with super-talented artists who constantly inspire me to get better at my own craft as we work together to bring to life some of the coolest characters in comic book pop culture. That's the best part of my job!