Local graduate animates award-winning children’s show
Brett Hall has been working hard since graduating from Hughesville High School in 2001, and people have begun to notice; the 31-year-old recently won an Emmy Award for his work as the animation producer on the young PBS Kids’ show “Peg + Cat.”
The show, created by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson, won three Daytime Creative Emmy Awards: Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Animated Program, Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program (for voice actor Hayley Faith Negrin as “Peg”), and Production Design. Only a week before the Emmys, Hall was in France at the Annecy International Film Festival, where “Peg + Cat” was included in the competition.
After graduating from Hughesville High School, Hall studied animation at the Rochester Institute of Technology, graduating in 2005. He quickly found an entry-level animation job in New York City and worked there until a friend also living in the city connected him with a project animating short cartoons for TV host Conan O’Brien and comedian Jim Gaffigan called “Pale Force.”
“It was awesome to be a part of that,” Hall said in a phone interview. “Within six months of moving to New York I was working in broadcast animation.” The team behind “Pale Force” was made up of only about six people (including Jim Gaffigan doing the voiceovers) and the animated shorts went on to garner their own Emmy Award nomination for the then-young category of “online animation.”
From there, Hall met and worked with “Peg + Cat” co-creator Jennifer Oxley on a show called “The Wonder Pets!.” When Oxley went on with Billy Aronson to create the pilot for “Peg + Cat,” she’d already worked with Hall and the transition was an easy one.
Today, Hall still works at 9ate7 Productions in Brooklyn, where, alongside Oxley and Aronson and only about a dozen other people, he lends his talents to bringing “Peg + Cat” to life.
“It’s not just our team in New York,” Hall explained. “We do as much as we possibly can in-house, but some of the work has to be outsourced to Toronto, Canada.” When 9ate7 Production began working with a Toronto-based studio, it was Hall and a colleague who were sent to Canada for two weeks to teach the team there how to use some of the software used to create “Peg + Cat.”
Hall is proud of the final product put out when “Peg + Cat” hits the airwaves, and rightly so. Though animated digitally, the cartoon doesn’t lose its handmade feel – a result that Hall said he works hard to achieve.
Peg and Cat simultaneously appear as if they’re both handdrawn and occupying a 3-D space. Backgrounds are often faded grid paper, festooned with notes and scribbles, and the patterned flora and fauna that populate their world look as if they started life in tubes of paint.
Hall’s official duties as animation director include the pre-production work on the show (things like designing individual animations and making manipulatable “models” out of the artwork), remotely getting that pre-production work to the teams in Canada, then refining the resulting work alongside the shows’ creators.
“I truly feel that my creative input and my opinions are listened to and valued here, and I really like that,” Hall said.
Despite having such a remarkable amount of success at a young age, Hall remains humble and grounded.
He credits his very supportive family, and several of the educators he had going through the East Lycoming School District. He mentioned teachers like Lynn Stola in elementary school and Steve Buggy in high school who fostered his talents at an early age; Joanne Cromley, whose music class gave him the knowledge of and appreciation for music that helps him time animations; Lorrie Stravinsky, whose direction in school plays and musicals gave him the love of acting that he says is his favorite part of animation; and Sam Armone, whose band direction put his appreciation of music to use.
When asked what advice he might give young, aspiring animators, Hall recommended “exploring as many avenues as you can find; there are often many more jobs in the arts than people realize. For animation that can include jobs like rigging, designing, or storyboarding,” adding, “Don’t give up. There are a lot of artists out there who will, and if you’re one of the people who doesn’t give up, you’ll succeed.”
“Peg + Cat” can be found online at www.pbskids.org/peg, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Youtube.
“Peg +?Cat”?shows on WVIA at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays and at 11 a.m. Sundays.
Check out Hall’s animation work online or reach out at www.brett hall.com.