In 2009, Jennifer Gauthier, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Randolph College interviewed the 2009 Cineviews special guest, Tuck Tucker, supervising storyboard director for SpongeBob Square Pants
JG: What are some of your favorite cartoons? What did you grow up watching?
TT: I loved old MGM, Warner Brothers, and Disney Cartoons as a child. Sometimes, my dad would actually sit down and watch a couple with us on Saturday mornings. I think, however, the first character that I tried to draw was AstroBoy. Later I started getting more into Disney features. I loved the craft that they showed. When Don Bluth came along with The Secret of NIMH (1982), I had just finished high school. I thought, now there’s somebody I could work for. That was not to be, and I was later glad. When I moved to LA in ‘84, I started transitioning away from my interest in features and started to work in television. It was far more vibrant and clever than any features being done at the time. The Simpsons and Ren and Stimpy were showing the world what animation could do for entertainment, and the talent started migrating towards these shows. In the last ten years or so, I’ve become a fan of Miyazaki’s feature films. I loved every one of them that I’ve seen
JG: What training did you have for getting into the animation field? How did you get started in the business?
TT: I was taking classes at VCU in the early 80s with two guys who had a studio in Richmond. They had a small studio called Candy Apple, and I worked there in the summer between semesters. The head of the studio was Steve Segal. As it just so happened, he decided to go to LA when I graduated and went with him. In spite of having my student films and portfolio stolen from our car the day we arrived in Hollywood, we were both able to get work easily. He eventually ended up at Pixar before going back to teaching.
JG: What was your first big break?
TT: There were a lot of first big breaks. I think the very first one was working for Segal, before I ever went to LA.
JG: SpongeBob is reminiscent of the the Looney Tunes cartoons – why is this do you think? How is the animation process for SpongeBob different from other contemporary animated television shows?
TT: It’s true we do owe a lot to what was being done in the 30s and 40s, namely that content is decided by people who draw, not by writers in the usual sense of the word. No two ways about it. Animation by animators is better. It’s physical, funny, and springs from a far less hackneyed braintrust than animation from scripts.
JG: Who is your favorite character on the show? Why?
TT: I like the characters that channel adult feelings and insecurities. Mr Krabs, Plankton, and Squidward spring to mind. Also, there are people writing for the show who do a better job of getting into character for SpongeBob and Patrick than I do.
JG: Do you have any reminiscences of Lynchburg that have influenced you in your career?
TT: It’s funny, I’ve always enjoyed the reputation of farm boy on whatever show I’m on. Even by 1979 Lynchburg standards I was considered a bit of a hick. Probably because my closest friends were either involved with farming or hunting and fishing. Getting back to your question, I’ve been given assignments because of my familiarity with things “country” or “southern”. I think that these things influence my work honestly and in the very best sense. Take for instance the character Stinky on Hey Arnold. He was a rube from top to bottom. There are definitely aspects of growing up in the ‘burg that informed Stinky’s behavior. On another occasion, I was given the gas station hicks in the SpongeBob Movie for the same reason. Steve Hillenberg thought I would do a better job on that sort of thing and he was right. I don’t flinch from these sorts of assignments, I court them. If there’s anything from my past that might help inform a character or joke, I jump at the chance to let those influences inform the work