What We Watch: Rodney Lambright II – TV Artist, Animator & Producer

Rodney Lambright II is a Television Artist, Animator and Producer in the Scenic and Animation department at Wisconsin Public Television. On a typical day, you’ll find him planning, collaborating, developing and critiquing narrative animation, especially for Wisconsin Life.

For the January issue of our member program guide, Airwaves, we caught up with him to learn about his must-watch shows and why he loves public media. Keep reading to learn more about Rodney!

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What would you say a “typical day” at work is like for you?
Rodney Lambright II: A typical day for me consists of a few core aspects, which fluctuate depending on where the animation team is at in the creative process on any given animation project. The core aspects include planning, collaborating, developing and critiquing narrative animation, mostly for the Wisconsin Life series.

I usually start off a project by connecting with the Wisconsin Life team to discuss what animated stories we want to tell for the next season. Once a piece is picked from our archive of radio pieces, I begin to develop the animation style and animation timelines, which involves coordinating with other people at WPT and WPR (WPR usually does our sound design for all of our animations). I also create storyboards, an Animatic (an animated version of the storyboard that helps with timing) to start visualizing how we could animate a piece,  and create and collect assets (artwork and moving parts in the animation).

After that, we go through a series of edits and critiques before we begin animating the final version. At this point, we’re at the development stages of an animation – we’re taking the final assets and animating them in the story in several different animation softwares, ranging from After Effects to Toon Boom Harmony.

Then it goes through another series of critiques. After that, we’re done and on to the next animation!

Explore Rodney’s original work in the Wisconsin Life animated series, Something About a Flower! The comic strip and animation follows the adventures of a loving, multigenerational Milwaukee family.

What’s your favorite part of your job at WPT?
Definitely the people that I’ve had the pleasure to meet and collaborate with. I have had the opportunity to work with many different creative minds and personalities, and this has fostered a wonderful environment for me to advance as an individual – and more importantly, as a team member at WPT. The animation and scenic department has created a culture that enjoys cross-pollinating ideas and abilities within – and across – departments to make collaboration with all of the other talented people at WPT and WPR extremely easy.

My second favorite part of working at WPT is creating animations that have the ability to touch communities in special ways through storytelling.

Making these animations, specifically for Wisconsin Life, gives me the ability to see someone else’s experience and/or perspective, and to try to represent that experience visually for others to enjoy. In some ways, it can be intimidating for me: I want to express someone’s story as respectfully as possible, but at the same time, this form of collaboration is quite beautiful because we get to share the storyteller’s experience in a way through the sharing of the story’s creation.

If you had to pick, what are your favorite PBS shows – and why?
My favorite PBS show is Arthur. I’m a huge fan of narrative animations focusing on situational learning through the adventures of a group of recurring characters. It was also a big part of my childhood; to this day, I still find myself enjoying the show’s lessons and the relationships that are built between the characters.

As I got older, I began to understand that the show’s foundation was built on teaching kids how to read, which gave me a newfound respect for what the show’s creators were trying to do at the time. Arthur proves how much cartoons can impact people and the memories that we hold.

"Wisconsin Life" host Angela Fitzgerald.
“Wisconsin Life” host Angela Fitzgerald.

What are your must-watch WPT shows?
I don’t know if I’m biased because I produce work for it, but Wisconsin Life is the show that I really enjoy watching. It does an extremely good job of combining wonderful stories from across the state. This season, I’ve been excited to see the new host, Angela Fitzgerald, in action. She’s doing a wonderful job.

Finally, what’s your favorite thing about public television?
My favorite part is its overall push to serve the public and to provide the community with programming that helps others learn about Wisconsin’s people and history. It’s really inspiring to see how much public television touches people’s lives.

One way I was able to see the impact was through Nancy Zieman and Sewing With Nancy. It was amazing to see the support that the public gave her [during her cancer battle], and the stories of inspiration they continue to share after her death. Reading the heartfelt messages Nancy’s viewers left on sticky notes at the last Quilt Expo was really amazing.

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