Bark: Did you spend a lot of time studying your dogs, Gracie or Oscar, while working on Tulip?
Paul: Both, but mostly Gracie. Sandra found her on the side of Highway 95 in the Carolinas. She was emaciated and still very young: a Corgi/German Shepherd mix with a big dog’s head on a small dog’s body. She looked like a Photoshop dog.
Bark: You seem to be an old-school traditionalist in your animation style. Do you use any current technology?
Paul: It’s all drawn within the computer. And Sandra paints that way, too. We do this through special software using the Wacom tablet. You draw on this tablet equipped with thousands of tiny pressure points using an electronic stylus, which is shaped like a pen so that the drawing appears on the computer screen in front of your face instead of the surface of your tablet. So you’re not looking at your drawing hand while drawing; you’re looking at the screen where the drawing is appearing, unobstructed by your hand. It’s called paperless 2-D animation, or computer-assisted drawing.
Bark: How long have you been using that?
Paul: Since the software came out in 1992 or ’93. It makes drawing much faster. It speeds up my production by fourfold at least. It took us two-and-a -half years to make the film. For a fully animated 80-minute film, it’s about the same that it takes the big studios to make their films with a staff of hundreds.
Bark: What are you working on now?
Paul: We’re working on the story of Joshua Slocum. He lived at the end of the 19th century. He was a New Englander and he was the first man to circumnavigate the globe solo in a sailboat. No one had ever done that before.
Sandra: Now we’re making six commercials for the Humane Society. It’s all dogs and a few cats, too.
Bark: Has your own relationship with dogs changed as a result of making these last two films?
Paul: No, not really. I’ve lived with dogs my entire life and I’m at home with them. But I also like to sail. Sandra sails, too, and up until recently we had a sailboat. I always believed animators and writers should draw and write about the things they know well. So the next natural thing was to do a sailing story. It’s just as difficult to animate large bodies of water as it is to draw bodies of dogs.