One of Mount Baker’s alumni has just won an Emmy Award for his work on the hit Adult Swim animated series Rick and Morty.
The television awards ceremony was Sept. 8 in Los Angeles.
Nathan Litz serves as animation director for the show and he answered some questions for the Townsman about the big win, his typical day in the life putting together the zany show, and what influenced him to get into animation in the first place.
Growing up, Litz wasn’t a big fan of live action shows, preferring cartoons almost exclusively, and has a life-long love of animation.
In a previous interview, he remembered being in grade 8 and seeing the show Mummies Alive and really liking the first season, but then witnessing a decline in its quality in the second season.
He said he was disappointed the series took such a hit and that was when he decided he wanted to work in animation — to do it right.
When asked if he feels as though he has done his grade-8 self proud Litz replied:
“To a degree, certainly, but I had some pretty lofty goals as a kid! I remember wanting to create a show where characters wore different outfits each episode, more like real life, and they would have breathing cycles and so on — when I gained more knowledge about why they don’t do things like that in 2D television animation (like for example, the cost in money and time being astronomical), I scaled things back appropriately.”
He was also a massive fan of The Simpsons growing up, and so his IMDB credit for animating one of their famous couch gags, plus getting to work with people who used to work on the show in its heyday, seasons one through nine, is another cool aspect of his chosen profession.
Litz said that the Emmy win is a very nice achievement but added that considering he has yet to change the medium in its entirety, or create his own show, he can’t help but feel his younger self would want a little more.
When he first got into the business, around 15 years ago, working at Bardel Entertainment Inc. where he still is today, he didn’t necessarily think he’d be working on an Emmy award winning program but said that he “knew he was in for the long haul.”
“I figured at some point I’d work on a project good enough to win some hardware, but I never thought that I personally would be able to win an Emmy,” he said.
Litz said he felt most honoured to find out he was put on the submission to be nominated in the first place. The “mothership” in LA, Rick and Morty LLC, had numerous of people on their team that could, and were included, so Litz said that he was thrilled to know that they thought enough of his contribution to include him for such an esteemed prize.
“Then we were nominated and that gave me the warm fuzzies,” Litz said. “Then they read the winner at the show and it was so cool to turn to my lady Katie and see her just absolutely beaming. It was just kind of a haze walking up onto the stage, I didn’t really see the crowd or hear Justin’s speech, I was just patting people on the back and grinning.”
After walking off stage, winners get to shoutout their people that helped them get to where they are into a “Thank You Cam,” before meeting with the press and then heading back down to the theatre, where Litz said he just sat with his Emmy on his lap, looking down at it and laughing.
“It was all very surreal. Afterwards, there was a huge ball with music and dancers and food and drinks. Celebrities all over the place, everyone dressed to the nines, and a very fun, positive vibe. It was all just phenomenal, best night of my life.”
Beyond the Emmy, he said that he is most proud of helping other artists grow and improve.
“It’s quite the thing to help mold someone into a more effective professional. The sense of kinship you gain from working on shows under extremely demanding deadlines is really something, and it’s great to look back on each completed project and recall many small, seemingly unimportant details that put a smile on your face.”
Litz said the atmosphere at work is always an interesting one. “Animators come in bright eyed and bushy tailed,” he said, “only to find out the process on this show in particular can be extremely rigorous, so that tends to get people rolling up their sleeves and really digging in.”
He added that he tries to keep the energy light, and that when they screen their episodes, or when co-creator and executive producer Justin Roiland Skypes in with the whole team, it’s a great morale boost.
Litz said that he is extremely grateful to all the contributors of the show, animators, leads, supervisors, compositors and beyond.
“Everyone has to work extremely hard to get this show done, as it’s honestly far too grand for the time and money allotted, so I always want to acknowledge everyone’s hard work as often as possible.”
He left off with a message to the youth of his hometown.
“I’d also like to tell all the Cranbrook girls and boys to shoot for the stars. It can be daunting to take your shot and try to achieve something that seems so impossible and so distant, but I’ve managed to carve out a very satisfying career by not giving up, and I hope to help show them that with effort and dedication, they too can attain any goal they set for themselves.”