Interview: Cartoon Network & Diversity

This year Long Beach hosted a Comic Convention, and like clockwork, artist, fans, and fanatics filled in the exhibit hall to share their love for animation. For the most part animation is colorblind; fans care more about a character’s special power and realistic shadows than ethnic background. However, without diversity in programming the outlook on who or what can be heroes gets blurred.

Conrad Montgomery, Director of Current Series at Cartoon Network, has worked in animation for close to ten years, and he does it because the medium “allows for a true level of freedom and creativity, and the only limit is your imagination.” However, without exposure, those with imagination may be stifled in realizing their dreams. As someone who “shepherds the series until it dies,” Montgomery is the person behind successful shows such as, Adventure Time, and the Emmy winning Regular Show, but admits more could be done to tackle diversity.

MR: Have you found any roadblocks being African American working in animation?�

CM: Hurdles definitely, if someone tells me no, that just makes me try ten times harder. Going after what you want, love, and are good at, is never going to be easy. But I think once you get it, it’s the most rewarding thing ever.

When asked about efforts to improve diversity, there were no clear-cut answers.

CM: It can always be more, it’s been better with voice over artists and depiction of images, they’re more broad and universal, but a lot more can be done.

âÂ?¨In the voice over world, there’s a handful of artist such as, Kevin Michael Richardson, Cree Summer, and Phil Lamarr, that work successfully and consistently on diverse projects; but again, more can be done. This year, actor Donald Glover appeared on both an Adventure Time and Regular Show episode, a noted favorite of Montgomery.

MR: What advice can you give to an aspiring artist?�

CM: Make an effort. Try, and just do it. Animation is a field that is wide open, however, I don’t see a lot of African Americans currently involved in it. I don’t think the doors are close to it. I think if more people saw you could do itâÂ?¦ and see the people behind the camera, seeing the great character designers, painters, and board artist, I think they’ll believe they can do it too. For someone brand new, just draw, write, make your own stuff. Don’t wait for someone else.

Montgomery shares that his staff doesn’t wait for people to come knocking on his door, over the last six years there’s been an effort to seek out talent from social media sites including blogs and Vine. For example, Annoying Orange, is a show found from YouTube. Another show Montgomery is guiding is Uncle Grandpa, a series created by Peter Browngardt, which follows, “Uncle Grandpa, the uncle and grandfather of everyone in the world, as he stops by children’s houses every day to see how they are doing.”

New trends continue to makes animation accessible to the current generation of artist. The 2013 Long Beach Comic Con features a diverse lineup including, LeSean Thomas, Ryan Benjamin, and Pierre Bernard Jr., an example of exposure that will assist in the future of diversity in animation.

To follow more Cartoon Network series visit HERE.

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