Craig Bartlett, creator and exec producer, “Ready Jet Go!” and “Dinosaur Train”
Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Seattle when it was still a scrappy frontier town, and moved to LA right before it became “cool” with the Grunge movement and the arrival of all the dot-com billionaires. I’m not moving back until it’s “not cool” again.
Please describe the industry you’re in.
I make cartoons for kids, mostly for PBS these days, so cartoons for kids with an educational curriculum. The two shows we’re doing here are “Ready Jet Go!,” a kid’s first space show, and “Dinosaur Train,” which, if you’re 4, is like when chocolate met peanut butter.
How long have you been with the company and what is your title?
I started working for the Jim Henson Company (“Dinosaur Train”) in 2007, and for Wind Dancer (“Ready Jet Go!”) last year.
What got you interested in animation?
I studied Fine Art in school, but found it to be too serious. I was always trying to make art that was funny and told a story, which naturally led me to comics, and then to animation.
How did you get involved with the entertainment industry?
Once out of school I found the only animation job in the Northwest working for Will Vinton studios, the Claymation people. Will’s studio became Leica Animation, but by then I had moved to LA, first to direct the Penny cartoons for “Pee Wee’s Playhouse,” then over to Nickelodeon, story editing and directing for “Rugrats,” which led to my own Nick series, “Hey Arnold!”
What are you currently working on?
I’m producing 40 half hours of “Ready Jet Go!” And 10 half hours of “Dinosaur Train,” both for PBS. I also hope to bring more “Hey Arnold!” work to HPC if I can.
You have accomplished so much in your career, what makes you so driven to succeed?
I really love the work – at this point, I get to work exclusively on stuff that I created. So it’s never boring to me. And there’s always something new about it to learn. So I keep at it.
If there is one person to thank for your success who would it be and why?
I would thank both my parents, who were very creative and driven, hard-working people. They set the bar high, and then turned me loose as soon as I was grown, and told me to make my own way.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Cartoon making is great, because you get to make up your whole universe from scratch. That includes the stories, the look, the voices, the sound design, and the music. And the PBS shows really feature a lot of songs, so I get to write and play songs as part of my job. I’m getting better at music every decade, which is great, because I’m sure not getting better at, say, basketball.
Do you have any shout outs for your employees?
I’m working with lots of great new people, like Producers Rusty Tracy and Blanca Uribe on “Jet” and Melanie Pal and Kadi Rodriguez on “Dinosaur Train,” but I’m also still working with old friends Joe Purdy, Rachel Lipman, and Christie Insley, writing on “Jet,” who’ve been with me for more than 15 years. And with Karl Toerge and Terry Izumi, who’ve been drawing with me 7 years now on “Dinosaur Train.”