The secret life of Jeremy Galante

Monday, May 8th, 2017 at 4:30 PM
The secret life of Jeremy Galante by Kimberly Firestine

A music video released in April 2016 for They Might Be Giant’s “Moles, Hounds, Bears, Bees and Hares” begins with a drawing of a green squirrel playing a trumpet. The video illustrates a different look into the lives of – you guessed it – moles, hounds, bears, bees and hares. The video stems from months of work by animators Jeremy Galante and David Cowles.

Galante credits this as one of his favorite projects he’s worked on. “We had some time to work on it, so that was a lot of fun because I could do it traditionally and clean it up digitally,” said Galante. “It hasn’t really gotten much attention with festivals yet but that’s okay. I liked working on it. It was cute.”

This was not his first brush with entertainment industry bigs. Galante also boasts credits with the Sesame Street Workshop and Sandpiper Animation.

Getting his break into the world of “Sesame Street” by submitting to film festivals around the country, Galante said it came thanks to the New York International Children’s Film Festival. “It worked out because the ‘Sesame Street’ people attend that festival. They were looking for new talent, so then I was contacted by them to pitch ideas and we’ve had that relationship since,” said Galante. “When you consistently put out work, people reach out to you. The more different things you do, the more versatile you become and the more desirable you look to clients.”

Galante considers his constant work with “Sesame Street” to be his proudest accomplishment. He explained; “Just like any studio, they’ll throw out maybe 90 percent of the ideas they get, but that was good because it demonstrated that you don’t have to be in a big city to do that kind of thing. It was also a lot of luck –  being at the right festival at the right time. That’s just been an ongoing thing ever since.”

Working on different “Sesame Street” projects has not always been an easy road for Galante. Between revisions and pressuring deadlines, Galante says things can get to be a little bit tougher than usual. The “Sesame Street” podcast, for example, proved to be challenging for Galante because of a few technical revisions that he was put in charge of. “The characters, Abby and Elmo, had to be green screened because they were live action and then put into the animated portion of the backgrounds, but the animating was the easy part,” said Galante. “Removing the green screen from characters that were hairy and furry and moving around really quickly – that’s not my wheelhouse. They basically gave me all the responsibility to do that and some of the feedback had to do with color correction as well. ‘Make Elmo’s mouth darker, make his eyes whiter,’ just very specific stuff. “

One thing that Galante particularly struggled with was having to revise an animation because of how it may have reflected certain safety hazards for children. “With children’s content, you have to be really sensitive to how kids may get hurt really easily,” said Galante. “One in particular was about the letter U, and we would animate things like with a girl a on unicycle, but then they’d say, ‘go back and make sure she’s wearing a helmet so she’s safe.’” Galante also recalls changing a celebration scene from balloons to confetti at the end of that same hazard, because the studio thought having balloons demonstrated a choking hazard for children. “You have to keep going back and changing things,” said Galante. 

“I’ve always appreciated art. I’ve always enjoyed cartooning and animated films. As a kid, you’re always drawing and then when you realize you can make a career out of it, it can naturally lead you down that path,” said Galante, explaining what led him to his current career field. “It wasn’t until I was a senior in college when I realized I wanted to animate; so I went to grad school for it.”

Though he remembers his love for cartoons of the ‘90s, Galante said there is no specific cartoon or animation that gave way to his career. “I’ve always liked the Disney afternoon, after school shows in the ‘90s when I was a kid; Saturday morning cartoons; Hanna-Barbera stuff,” said Galante. “The old Nickelodeon shows like ‘Ren and Stimpy,’ too. Nothing too sophisticated –  I mean, that’s all just slapstick, gag-based comedy – but I didn’t even think of it as a career path. I just thought of it as entertainment.”

Directing and animating videos are not the Galante’s only job. A graduate of both RIT and Miami University of Ohio, he’s also an assistant professor at Edinboro University. For over a decade, Galante has been working at the university to help mold some of Edinboro’s most successful alumni from the art department.

 While he spends most of his time teaching several animation classes at Edinboro, Galante doesn’t find it too difficult to maintain a healthy balance between working with different studios on projects and being a professor. Galante likes using projects he’s working on as a teaching tool for his students and uses the summer and winter breaks for doing most of his freelance work. “You could teach it (animation) in a classical sense, but you also want to demonstrate it in a practical sense,” said Galante. “When you start talking about deadlines and scheduling and budgets, it’s like, ‘this is how you do it traditionally’ but then, ‘this is how you do it practically with technology and everything.”

With all of his work in animation under his belt, it’s almost a wonder how Galante ended up in a teaching position at Edinboro. Growing up in the Cleveland area – not too far from “Calvin and Hobbes” creator Bill Watterston –  Galante said the university was always on his radar, as well as the reputation of the art and animation work that has come from the hard work of those at the university. “It just seemed like the perfect geographic location. Not necessarily in terms of the animation industry, but at least a good learning environment,” said Galante. “One of the reasons I went to RIT was because it was kind of isolated and I could study without distractions. I guess you could kind of say that about a school that’s not really in a big city.”

Galante doesn’t see himself as ever trading one career for another, but feels that his career in animation will go long past his retirement from teaching. “As of now, I think it’s a good balance,” he said. “You learn a lot here, and then I can put it to use when I go home. It’s not a switch that you just flip off, you’re always thinking about it.” Galante would someday like to work directly in California or New York instead of his usual remote work, but has yet to really pursue opportunity.

Inspired by the aforementioned Watterson – and often even his students – Galante likes to share credit for his works with Cowles, who is a designer and director in Rochester. “He comes up with most of our ideas. He’s always real inspiring to work with,” said Galante. “I would say animation-wise I’ve learned a little bit from everybody,” he explains. “The people I work with (Edinboro professors Mike Genz and Brad Pattullo) and our 3D animation folks Karabo (Legwaila), Megha (Nagaraj) and Hanjin (Park) too. Just being a part of an active art department gets you inspired, especially by the students and their excitement, their passion for it. It’s really just drawing that inspiration from everybody.”

As for his own words of inspiration, Galante offers: “Work harder. Get yourself out there. Submit to festivals. Finish your films. Surround yourself with like-minded people.” He continues: “If you want it hard enough you’ll do it and if you don’t like the idea of drawing or animating every day then it’s probably not the career for you. You have to really want it. “

Currently, Galante and Pattullo are working on more animation projects for “Sesame Street.”

“Brad and I pitched a couple of things about a month ago and we’re waiting to hear back,” he said. Recently, Galante has been working on small thought bubble sequences of animation for “Sesame Street” for the live-action characters in future episodes of “Sesame Street,” which are tucked away in project folders on the MacBook that sits on his desk.

Kimberly Firestine is the arts editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com.

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