Rick Heinrichs

Rick Heinrichs

AS: Did you go to art school?
RH: Yes, I went to Boston University School of Fine Arts. And then I was at Visual Arts in New York taking cartooning classes with some of my heroes: Harvey Kurtzman and Will Eisner and people like that. I was really interested in animation so I came out to California. The one year I was at CalArts just happened to be the year that Tim Burton and John Lasseter were there. The year before was Brad Bird and Henry Selleck and these other directors. Really amazingly talented people who worked across both live action and animation were there at the same time.

AS: Is that where you first met Tim Burton?
RH: I saw his films and knew who he was but I didn’t meet him then. It wasn’t until we were at Disney Studios together and I started doing in-betweens of his drawings for The Fox and the Hound. Then we were thrown together developing concepts for The Black Cauldron, which was their next film. The studio was not sure what to make of Tim and his work. They knew it was cool but they didn’t know if they could make use of it because it was so un-Disney. So they said it was too flat. My background was sculpture at college so I did sculptures of some of his work. I told them, See, it’s not flat! And that was really the beginning of working with Tim.

AS: What was it like working with Tim? David Warren said he was always sketching.
RH: He’s always sketching. You’re not going to find him doing Photoshop painting with a tablet. He’s very much a hands-on artist. He does these very sketchy, very elegant, very economical line drawings of things and throws color on it. He can say so much with such economy. You know exactly what he’s talking about. And you can then flesh it out and create a world around it.

AS: Is it true he prefers working in the physical world as opposed to CG?
RH: Tim is very much about seeing and feeling and is much less interested in the technology that is required. He loves stop-motion because it is very much a see-feel thing. You can see the object in real life. It’s amazing what we can do digitally with visual effects and it’s changed everything we do. It has become an absolutely essential part of the art department and all the other departments. But there is something inherently mechanical or computational about it.

I remember having these discussions a lot with Gore Verbinski on Pirates of the Caribbean. Gore is also a huge believer of getting as much as possible in camera. Rango not withstanding, which is a completely CG film. But for those things that involved live-action characters it was incredibly important that we capture the immediacy of something spontaneous and alive. Your great visual effects artists and supervisors would

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About the Interviewer

Tom Lisowski is a production designer who has designed swamp mazes shot in China, crumbling cliffs in Utah, future arenas in South Central, dilapidated tenements and twisted laboratories under luxurious mansions... William Anthony is a Los Angeles-based commercial and editorial photographer specializing in portraiture, lifestyle and documentary imagery... Guest photographer Nelson Cragg is an award-winning cinematographer who shoots and directs television, feature films, and commercial projects. Contact ArtStars: tom@artstars.us