Featherheads! Back in March we cooked up the idea of chatting with Nicholas Kole, our animated series production designer. You all sent in some excellent questions, and he and I had a great 45-minute phone conversation. What with one thing and another I’ve just begun transcribing our talk this morning. My original plan was to turn our interview into one or maybe two posts, but it might end up being more than that. In any case, here are the first six minutes. 🙂
Madame Sidler: So I’m really excited to talk to you. I told the Featherheads I would bring five questions with me, and they flooded the comment feed.
Nicholas Kole: Ooh!
MS: So we’ll see what all we get through. I thought we could maybe just start with… maybe just tell us about yourself.
NK: For sure, yeah. My name is Nicholas Kole, and I am a character designer, concept artist, comic book artist, illustrator, toy designer—whatever needs doing that I can make my skill set possibly fit, I try to make it happen. So I do freelance work, mostly character design. My background is primarily video games, but I’ve been doing a lot of branching out. I went to the Rhode Island School of Design and graduated in 2009, and went on a long journey through big companies and little start-ups and all manner of things in between.
MS: Awesome; thank you. Tell us about working with Wingfeather—how did that happen, and what has that experience been like?
NK: Well, how did that happen is a whole different story than what the experience has been like. Both have been great, but the story about how it happened is kind of wild.
I went to speak at a college in North Carolina called Winthrop University, on the request of one of the students that reached out. They liked my work, and they were looking for a speaker for their senior show in the illustration department. I was very flattered, and that was a very exciting little thing to do. I went and stayed with them for a couple of days and gave a talk and reviewed all their portfolios and their projects. So that was good fun, and I left having had a good time, but not thinking anything portentous about it. And funnily enough, if the screen were split, I went on to live my own life and do sort of whatever, unbeknownst to the deeper currents that were churning.
And apparently one of the alumni who didn’t make it to my talk was told that I’d come, and she was upset that she couldn’t make it, because she was also a Christian and an illustrator and wanted to come see my stuff; and, I think, just because she had been informed at some point that week or that day. But she also happened to be a backer of the Wingfeather Saga Kickstarter, and they sent out an update saying that they were looking for artists and starting to gear up the production. And so she made the connection, completely unbeknownst to me.
So basically, an alumna of a college that I didn’t attend, who herself did not attend my talk, sent an email to Chris and Andrew saying “Hey, you should check out this guy’s work.” And I got an email from them like a week later, saying “Hey, a classmate of yours recommended you to us; would you be interested in talking more about the Wingfeather Saga.” And I asked a few more questions and found out that it wasn’t a classmate; it was somebody who said “this person went to my school.”
MS: Oh! Got it; yes.
NK: So! I wound up in touch with them sort of through a really weird series of, kind of, telephone connections, and then, yeah, wound up talking to them about it. I hadn’t heard about the books at that point; hadn’t really known about the project or the Kickstarter, much to my—I mean, I’m the poorer for it, really. So anyway, that’s the long winding road to the Wingfeather Saga for me.
MS: I remember seeing a post about you in the Rabbit Room Chinwag on Facebook—your Maleficent by the cliff, “check out this artist,” and it was amazing. And I thought, I don’t even know what other artists are out there, but I hope they hire him! So I was thrilled when they did.
NK: The same woman, making that connection!
MS: That’s such a funny random story.
NK: Totally! And in the emails they dropped a couple key reference points—they said Hayao Miyazaki and they said GK Chesterton. And I, basically, anybody—it’s like a cheat code; if you were to drop those two names anywhere near each other, I would then drop whatever I was doing and find a way to make whatever work.
NK: Those are perfect code words for “Hey Nick, you need to pay attention.” So yeah. And I didn’t even know for sure who these people were, or what the nature of the project was, or to what extent it was to do with the Christian literary scene; the Rabbit Room was unknown to me… In the process of discovering the series, Andrew himself, Chris, the Rabbit Room in general—it’s just been like, kind of this unbelievable unfolding of like, why did no-one tell me about this before? How did I not know?
MS: I’m glad you know now!
NK: Yeah, me too.
Thank you so much, Nicholas, for this great conversation! Stay tuned, everyone—there’s more where that came from. Next Monday we’ll get into Nicholas’ experience working with the Wingfeather animation team, and see where else the conversation takes us.
For more about Nicholas, see our post here. And for more about the Rabbit Room, check out their website. (Your librarian had much the same reaction as Nicholas when she first realized the Rabbit Room was out there.)
This week, Madame Sidler will be reading chapters 53-58 of North! Or Be Eaten. Come back on Friday for an excerpt and discussion!