Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chris Savino, Special Guest for IWSG this month...



It’s not often that I get to have a celebrity on my blog… okay, so this might be the first time. But Chris Savino and I go waaaay back. Like, I *think* a year ago he might’ve favorited one of my tweets. Maybe.

Most of you have probably heard of Chris or seen his work without even knowing it. The guy has done EVERYTHING. He has written, directed, or produced numerous episodes of Johnny Test, Kick Buttowski, The Powerpuff Girls, The Ren and Stimpy Show, My Little Pony, Dexter’s Laboratory… just to name a few.  I mean, the dude has been nominated for 3 Emmys.

Three. 

*cough* 

(Emmys!!!)

He’s also developing his own live-action series, Bigfoot & Gray: On the Run. I’m pleased to have Chris here today to talk about what inspires him, how he’s survived in the business, and his current projects. I figured he could share so much more than I could for the Insecure Writers Support Group this month. (Thank you, Alex!) So I hope you gain the same kind of inspiration I did from reading Chris's story!

    1.)   So Chris, I want your life story—start from the beginning. How did you go from Michigan-born-dreamer to fast-paced-LA-living-Emmy nominee? In 140 characters or less. Go! (Kidding…)  

>> I am number 9 in a family of ten. Yes, 10. 5 boys. 5 girls. It’s easy to get lost in such a big family so therefore it was easy to hide in my room (which I shared until I was 17) and draw. I’ve been drawing since the age of 4, copying Peanuts from the comic pages of the newspaper (what’s a newspaper?). My whole life I wanted to have my own daily comic strip (still do) and didn’t consider animation as a career until my senior year of high school. Sure, I watched cartoons all my life, but I never thought about them in that way. It didn’t help that most people saw cartooning as a non-career path. 

2.)  I know you’ve talked about getting a big break at age 19, tell us about your journey from that point on. Were there moments where you doubted your ability? Or has it been a smooth-sailing ride? How have you changed from that nineteen-year-old boy?

>> I was lucky enough to get hired on a show called Ren and Stimpy. Leaving Michigan for  Los Angeles for that job was the first time I had ever been on my own. I was scared, but I knew I had to take this once in a lifetime opportunity. Here I was, a fresh faced kid from Michigan who thought he knew a thing or two about cartooning, and then there I was sitting amongst the biggest names in animation and I quickly realized I knew NOTHING. Since I did not go to school for animation like most had (going to art school was not even an option for a lower middle class kid from a family of 10) I knew I couldn’t screw up my big break so I made a vow to myself to absorb every aspect of cartoon making that I could. I’m still absorbing to this very day. 

I doubt my ability on a daily basis and freely admit that sometimes even I fly by the seat of my pants. I do believe that this doubt keeps me on my toes and keeps me constantly learning and growing as an artist and director, and I never (okay, sometimes) let the doubts stop me from doing my job to the best of my ability. Besides age, (I’ve now been at it for 22 years) I don’t think I’ve changed that much. The vow I made way back when still holds true today as it did then, even more so now because I constantly have to adapt to the changing tides and tastes of the viewing public as well the fresh young kids with fresh new ideas flooding into the business keeps me on my toes and always making sure that my skills and experience always remain viable.

 3.)   What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on to date?


>> It may sound cliche, but every project holds a certain place in my heart. Not only the good times but the bad as well. I suppose I am holding out for that “favorite project” when said project is one that I have created and sold to series. :)

 4.)   Tell us about your baby, Bigfoot & Gray: On the Run. I’ve followed quite a bit of the process on you blog, and it’s fascinating. Where did the inspiration for Bigfoot & Gray come from? And are you more like Bigfoot or Gray? ;-)


>> We all have that one project that no matter what people say about it or how people react, we believe in it so much that we cannot fathom letting it go. For me, that project would be Bigfoot and Gray on the run. I won’t go in detail about what the project is (I’ll assume you will post some links), but I can say it is 100% inspired, in tone, by my favorite cartoon, Rocky and Bullwinkle (as well as Super Chicken and George of the Jungle) which was produced by Jay Ward studios. The smart writing, the visual gags and of course, the puns (I am proudly known as the “Pun King” to my peers and my jokes have even earned the name “a Savino”, as in I totally made a Savino joke the other day...) all resonate with me and certainly influence my own style. 

As for the characters themselves, I have always been interested in aliens, and ghosts and bigfoot and creatures of lore so when the idea popped into my head about an alien and a bigfoot buddy comedy I naturally went the route of and paid homage to Jay Ward cartoons. As you can see by my blog, I didn’t stop at live action. I also tinker with BF&G as an animated show, a comic, and also merchandise. And to answer your last question, I believe I am an amalgamation of both characters as the words that come out of their mouths are words that I would say if I were in their situation.

 5.) Your job has got to be stressful—so many projects at once, while trying to launch BF & G. How do you stay motivated and inspired? Do you still feel magic with each new project? Or has it simply become a job? 




>> Yes. The job can be stressful at times. Fortunately, I work well under pressure and am quite good at multi-tasking. On occasion, it can feel like a job and it loses some of its luster, but when the final product comes out it erases all of that and I am left with a sense of pride. I try to always remember that the mere fact that someone is actually paying me to draw cartoons for a living is as crazy as it sounds and that I am extremely lucky.


6.)   Is there a defining moment in your life that has made you who you are? An event you can always go back to that drives you forward?




>> Not ONE moment per se, but I seem to recall so many times a kid that friends, family and other adults were always impressed by my drawings and would always encourage me and never made me feel like what I was doing was not going to amount to anything. It’s the times where I am at my lowest in both confidence and security in my ability that I recall those times and continue to press on as I never want to let those people down.




    7.)   A little bird also told me that you’re working on a low-end MG/ high-end chapter book. How different is your short film writing experience from novel writing? And do you think your animation writing/directing has given you a leg up in the biz? 




>> Cheep cheep. It’s true. It’s one of those projects that kind of sits on the lazy suzan of projects and when ever it comes spinning around I pick it up, dust it off and add a little bit more to it. Because of my background in cartooning I knew I wanted to have drawings in my book and it seemed chapter books was the proper venue. Because animation is a visual medium and writing is more “in the head” I wanted to find a way to bring the visual gags of animation into reading as well as incorporate a sense of timing and surprise through words as I might through editing in a cartoon. It’s a process I am still developing and I find quite difficult on occasion, but I am totally up for the challenge.



8.)   With any form of art, rejection is always part of the process. Any advice for us writers who are trying to forge on through rejection? You’ve obviously had an incredibly successful run thus far!


>> Ugh. Rejection. As you know I very recently experienced a rejection that really bummed me out. It makes one question not only their ability, but giving up altogether. Why, when it hurts so bad do we then pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start the process all over again, knowing full well the chances we get rejected again are far greater than acceptance? There’s no one answer, but I feel that there’s something inside us that needs to get out and regardless of the pain it causes, we must do whatever it takes to get it out. Now,  because what we do is a commercial art that thing inside us that we must get  out is not for us per se, but for everyone else, we are left to the whims of an executive or a publisher or a test group or a passing fad or what’s “hot” at the moment. The truth is, no one really knows what the audience wants and ultimately it is a crap shoot, but regardless, we are going to keep trying so we must learn to not take rejection as a personal reflection on our ability.

Rapid Fire Questions:

Ghosts or Aliens? Yes.

Pizza or Mexican? Yes.

Notepad and pen or computer? Computer.

Cartoons or reality TV? Cartoons.

Gymnastics or Football? Curling.

Chocolate or Vanilla? Vanilla.

Romney or Obama? (I’m kidding!!!)  Who?


LOL! Thanks so much, Chris, for being willing to let me pick apart your brain. For someone so successful in the business, it's neat to be able to get inside your head. And I love your thoughts on rejection. To read more about Chris's journey, here are links to his:



Any other news? Enjoy Chris's interview? It's October, my favorite month, so time to write! Hope your projects are going well! 

Red. Head. Out.  :)


79 comments:

  1. WOW! Epic interview! I love cartoons, and I think that I have seen most of the ones he has been involved in.
    Great job Morgan!

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  2. Wow. So talented I don't even know where to begin ... I love that he's worked on so many things and still has a full roster of creative ideas to keep going on. So much to learn here!

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  3. I love this interview! Huge fan of Ren and Stimpy and Dexter's Laboratory. Funny my son reminds me of Dexter and my daughter looks like Dee Dee ;D
    Eric so cool that you shared your view!
    So cool about the Emmy's-three whoa~
    I'll predict there will be a fourth one!

    Hi Morgan thanks for sharing Eric! :D

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  4. Wow. I feel cooler just for being here. Great interview.

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  5. I wish I had artistic ability. It would be so awesome to be able to illustrate my own books. I moved from Michigan out to LA, too, so maybe there's hope for me yet. Haha. Great interview, Morgan!

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  6. Good luck on your new venture! My son is into cartooning and drawing at this point, so I look forward to seeing if he keeps at it or if it's a passing fancy. Great interview!

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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  7. Gosh,

    If only I had a teeny bit of Chris's talent.... perhaps I could be Mini-Chris :)

    Great to hear his story, though, and SO nice to hear he's still *hungry.* That's awesome!

    Look at you go, Shamy, with your IWSG celeb scoops :)

    Well done, and remember us minions when you get to ET or TODAY :)

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  8. Worked on Ren and Stimpy with no college experience? That is really impressive. Chris, good luck on your Bigfoot and Gray show!

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  9. Truly talented.
    Awesome interview. :)

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  10. Awesome interview, of course the cat loves cartoon. He has no artistic ability drawing wise what so ever though haha

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  11. Great post! It always makes me feel better to hear really successful people say that they doubt themselves too. It's all good as long as we keep pushing on!

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  12. Oh my gosh, what a fabulous & fun post, Morgan and Chris! Wow, you're a talented guy! I love the sound of your newest project. I'm a huge fan of Bigfoot and anything lore & legend. I've written countless stories about them, and even traveled down to south TX to check out the latest on the Chupacabra. Only came back with a t-shirt, but heck, it was fun!

    Loved the IWSG post, Morgan. :D

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  13. Awesome interview!! Very fun to learn more about cartooning and all that goes into it. And Ren and Stimpy have been around for 22 years? Um, feeling very old now... :)

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  14. Fantastic interview! Chris, the fact you worked on Ren & Stimpy elevated you to minor god status in my eyes. (Not talking major god, Zeus status--you'd have to have worked on the old Transformers cartoons for that--but definitely Hercules or something. :) That show was hilarious!

    Your drawing/art journey sounds similar to my own, except you went for it at a pivotal point and I didn't. I started drawing really early by tracing comic strips as well (Garfield FTW). And then I started doing my own Ninja Turtle comics (they were terrible) and trying to recreate my favorite comic book covers. I actually started buying comics based only on the art just so I'd have something to practice with. :)

    Anyway, my family was pretty large (not crazy large like yours) and we didn't have a lot of money, either. So when I got offered a small art scholarship at the Art Institute of Dallas I declined and went with a bigger academic scholarship at the local university. Plus, I knew I'd have to uproot from Oklahoma and eventually move to NYC or LA to give it a go, and that was just too big for me at that time of my life. (These were pre-Internet days, so there was no staying home in your PJs and e-Mailing your work across the globe. LOL)

    I still draw and paint, but as a hobby. I constantly regret not chasing my dream of drawing comic books, and I just want to say it was great reading about your story and someone who actually did take that leap of faith. Very inspiring for me personally, and I'm trying to make up for my previous lack of faith in my creative abilities by pursuing a career in writing fiction. (How I met The Morgan!)

    I'm also thrilled you're still doing it! Bigfoot & Gray sounds/looks amazing, and I'll keep an eye out for that chapter book. Hope to see you around the writing side of things more often. :)

    Thanks for sharing this guy, Morgan!

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  15. Love, love, loved this! Super inspirational and so much fun. October is my favorite month as well, I always seem to get more done coffee in hand, windows open, pumpkin bread baking, candles lit. Speaking of...back to the editing cave!

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  16. I love October! I really thrive during this month, it brings so much out in me creative wise.
    What a great interview and such an inspirational piece! He has done so much with his life and with what he wanted! Thanks for introducing us [me] to him! I'm gonna be an even bigger fan now that I know who is behind all of those shows. My kids love them!

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  17. Wow! Hubby is a huge Powerpuff Girl fan. Great interview. I love how he is still learning, it's a great lesson.

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  18. Great interview! Wonder if Chris is planing on having a big family. Wow, 10 kids! October is my favorite month as well :)

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  19. October is one of those transitional months I think. I am hoping it is going to be a productive month for me. Hope you have a good one. Great interview.

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  20. Awesome! I love Ren & Stimpy! The hubby and I actually have Powdered Toast Man t-shirts. I grew up in Ontario, right on the border of Michigan, so it's great to read about someone who hails from that neck of the woods. Great interview Morgan and Chris! :-)

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  21. What a great career so far. But curling? That was meant for a joke, right? Well, I guess curling must have a few fans somewhere. Good to meet Chris.

    Lee
    A Faraway View

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  22. Chris is right about rejections - we have to try not to take them personally and just keep on trying.

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  23. What an impressive story about hard work to achieve your dream. Very, very impressive and heartening to hear about the early encouragement.

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  24. What a great interview! I always loved Ren and Stimpy! Best of luck to Chris and his new show.

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  25. Wow! This was a great interview of a really interesting person! That's so cool that he got such an awesome break to launch his career!

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  26. Great interview, and what a go-getter! I've got start drinking whatever coffee he uses;)

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  27. What a fantastic interview! And boy, am I a fan! I love, Love, LOVE Ren & Stimpy, Poerpuff Girls, Dexter's Lab- WOW! Great IWSG post- just great!

    Thanks Morgan!
    Bev

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  28. Excelleeennnt. Bodacious post, Morgana, from the intro (very entertaining) to the Q&A. Loved his rapid answers. I usually don't enjoy interview posts, but this one, I did. :)

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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  29. Wow, an interview for an IWSG post. Talking about going all out. Nice to hear from someone who has been out there doing things. Thanks Morgan.

    And I'm glad to hear Chris grew up in Michigan.

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  30. Great interview! Made me smile and gave me hope. It really is a crap shoot, just got to keep trying! Nice to meet you Chris!

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  31. I loved the Ren & Stimpy Show! I still have my stuffed Ren & Stimpy. Chris, I hope your next show really takes off.

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  32. Enjoyed the interview! A great one for IWSG too. Thanks :)

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  33. Awesome interview! And a great pleasure to meet Chris Savino here. Thanks, Morgan!

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  34. I loved the interview with Chris! It made me smile when he referenced Rocky and Bullwinkle - I loved them. It's so impressive that he's been nominated for three emmys, but still has to brave some rejection like the rest of us peons. Wishing him much success with BF&G! :-)

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  35. Exceptionally talented and humble? I like Chris, even though he answered "Chocolate or vanilla?" incorrectly. Great interview with a great artist, Morgan. Thank you.

    xoRobyn

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  36. What a fun guy! No wonder he is so successful! Great interview!

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  37. Wonderful Interview, Morgan. I thought only my husband liked curling, Chris must be joking, right?

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  38. What a great interview! I watched Ren and Stimpy all the time when I was little. And by little I mean 18. :) Funny to think that just a year older was when Chris started there. He's carved out a career doing something he loves and that deserves kudos.

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  39. I love that Chris is inspired by Rocky & Bullwinkle. That brings back memories! Plus, he's from Michigan where I spent a lot of time when I was growing up. Always nice to see someone from close to home finding success. Great interview, guys!

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  40. Believe it, or not, I actually recognized Chris' name from my (ahem) obsession with Dexter's Lab.

    Great interview and it was very cool to hear Chris' story and I'll be checking out his new project too.

    Best wishes to Chris.

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  41. I remember Ren and Stimpy.

    I love that he went for want he loved to do, no matter the odds.

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  42. Adding my two cents-- very interesting interview. And inspiring-- such clear focus. I come from an artistic family and I am the genetic mutant so envy people like Chris. All the best to you in future!

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  43. Some excellent advice on rejection and following your dreams. I love the idea of Bigfoot and an alien banding together on the run. I'm sure that cartoon will get picked up at some point. Best of luck to Chris and thanks for the great interview, Morgan. Enjoy your writing this October. I'm plotting and gearing up for Nanowrimo, yee haw!

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  44. A wonderful interview and great advice. I was a big fan of Ren and Stimpy. Good luck with the novel!

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  45. What a great interview! Thanks Chris, for the insight, and thanks Morgan for bringing him to us. :) I especially love hearing about how that early encouragement has stuck with you.

    Aww, I miss my kids' Powderpuff Girls & Dexter phase---cuz I loved them too. Omelete du fromaaage!

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  46. Man, what a "get," Morgan! Thanks to you AND Chris.

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  47. Wow, you totally scored, Morgan! Oh, um, Hi Chris. I adore your work. Thanks so much for this interview. This part really resonated with me: "... but regardless, we are going to keep trying so we must learn to not take rejection as a personal reflection on our ability." Good luck on your book!

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  48. Wow, that was awesome Morgan. Chris sounds like a creative, interesting person. Congrats Chris on all your successes.

    .......dhole

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  49. Dang that's An awesome guest!!!! I heart ren and stimpy!

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  50. Very fun interview. Bigfoot and Gray looks like a really cute cartoon. I'm an amateur artist, but not so sure my artwork would be professional enough to pass for an actual cartoon!

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  51. Hi Morgan and great guest Chris! So interesting to read - the cartoon made me think of Asterix .. but I'm of that era and not American. What a great talent to have .. but I can imagine that at times it's so natural you don't realise that to us lesser mortals it's brilliant - well done on taking and make the most of opportunities ... sounds like the rejection was a mistake on someone's part ..

    Good luck to you both for all your endeavours .. great that your'e friends too .. cheers Hilary

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  52. It was great learning how Chris began his career, and how it continues to flourish! Bigfoot and Gray sound like the best cartoon duo since "moose and squirrel!" Thanks to Morgan and Chris for this excellent interview!

    Julie

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  53. Ren and stimpy?!? Oh MY! *dies* I LOVED Ren and Stimpy! :) super post, Morgan. :) thanks!

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  54. So cool! I love Ren and Stimpy and Dexter Laboratory! I think Powerpuff Girls was probably my favorite show EVER. I was always told I looked like Bubbles :)

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  55. Whoa, Morg...

    I am impressed. To interview such an interesting and incredible talent. Chris is such an inspiration...

    Thanks for sharing it with us!!!!!

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  56. You had me at Powerpuff Girls, lol! I LOVE that show! And this is a fantastic interview. Brilliant! Great questions, inspiring answers. Thanks, Chris--it was fabulous to get to know you a little bit! Love your work!! (Ren and Stimpy...sigh.). Good luck with your novel!

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  57. What a great interview! Love me some PowerPuff Girls too. Wonderful advice too. Thanks for the post, Morgan. Heading to check out Chris's blog now. :)

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  58. Back in my college days, Ren and Stempy was a regular viewing occasion. lol And wow 1 of 10 kids?? That's amazing. Thanks for sharing some tidbits with us!!

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  59. I loved this interview, Morgan! Thanks for sharing. :)

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  60. That was a great interview. Thanks for sharing it Morgan. Love that even those who have success and are still on the rise are so very affected by rejection. Good luck Chris on your projects! Writer’s Mark

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  61. Great interview. It's always empowering to hear others' journeys as well as how they handle (and bounce back from) rejections. Thanks, Morgan.

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  62. Hi. Hi. Hi. I'm so honored and flattered to be interviewed here. Thank you all for your kind words and support!! It makes me happy to know how many of you watch(ed) the shows I've been lucky to be a part of. I hope to see some of you over on twitter or Facebook. You can get all the Bigfoot & Gray updates. Haha. Thank you all and especially thank you Morgan!!!

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  63. Wow! Chris sounds spectacular. I remember the days of Ren and Stimpy. That was a show I frequented. A lot. Great post for today. Hugs!

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  64. I loved reading this. Chris sounds like he has a great vibe and energy about him.

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  65. Right then, I can totally understand you anxiously waiting for one of my award winning comments. Maybe next time. I'm rather distracted as I'm listening to a Vancouver Canucks game at almost four in the morning. You'd think they play according to my time zone.

    Anyway, I've never heard of this Chris dude. Judging by the interview, the guy is going to go a long ways. Rem and Stimpy are my heroes. And now Chris can be my hero. Or Chris can be another one of my adoring fans. Or maybe Chris would rather be an adoring fan of Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar. We aint fussy.

    Hey Rocky! Gosh, Bullwinkle! And Hi. Hi. Hi. "savinoboy". Gosh, can life get any better than this?

    Oh, hi Morgan. Sadly, I must go now. Where, I don't exactly know....let me out.....

    Gary :)

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  66. I LOVE THIS INTERVIEW, MORG! It's so inspiring and uplifting. I've watched some Johnny Test before.

    I love Chris's advice on rejection - we must keep on trying. If we don't try, we don't receive input on the other end and our dreams won't become a reality.

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  67. Favorite monthers unite-hehe, I'm an October lover as well. This was such an interesting interview. Thanks for introducing me to Chris. I hadn't heard of him, but it looks like my kids have sure watched a bunch of his stuff:)
    He was great for IWSG!

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  68. this guy did Ren & Stimpy? That show was genius (and a little gross) which is probably why I think it was genius. LOL. Morgan you know all the best peeps!

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  69. Fantastic interview! And I was just talking about Ren & Stimpy just the other day. One of my all time faves! I miss it.

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  70. Such an awesome interview! I It was great to learn more about Chris. :)

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  71. Happy Happy Joy Joy!!!! What a fantastic interview and so fitting for a IWSG post too.
    Thanks Morgan and thank you Chris for sharing with us!

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  72. I loved this interview Morgan! Thanks for the inspiring story. Talk about grit.... ;) I look forward to learning more about Chris, Bigfoot and Gray!

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  73. super cool! a real celebrity interview! and he's so real! from mich!

    i learned a lot. so how do we find luck? is there a secret mountain somewhere to mine for it???

    happy monday!

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  74. Awesome interview. Loved reading all about Chris!

    Nas

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  75. Love that his family encouraged him in his drawing. I think more families could learn from his. Great interview, Morg. My son watches several of those cartoons, therefore I watch them as well. My projects are going fabulously. Are you doing NaNo this year?

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