SHAMOKIN — Mark Stansberry creates two animation shows for public access television in New York City from his Northumberland County studio, and he’s hoping to teach his skills to a new generation of local animators.
Viewership of “Puddin” and “Adult Skate” can reach up to 600,000 on public access, and Stansberry pulled together a deal to air those shows simultaneously on Cox Communications, which airs on 12 television markets in 12 states.
“Puddin” is about a little girl growing up in New York City in the 1970s, while “Adult Skate” is Stansberry’s take on the Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim,” featuring some sketches with Stansberry actually auditioned for the show.
He’s been animating for over 30 years in New York City, Baltimore and now from Shamokin, where he works in a local church. His animation business is a family affair founded by himself; his wife, Michele; youngest son, Maceo; and youngest daughter, Mary.
Stansberry said his kids grew up around him doing animation, and his oldest son now works in Texas as an online freelance illustrator.
He sees a lot of potential in the coal region and recognizes the talent in the area. He believes places such as Shamokin could be an opportunity for larger markets from cities to set up shop, and he hopes to share his knowledge with future animators.
Anyone can be an animator as long as they have the patience and desire to learn, he said, which is why he has advertised for students in the coal region. Stansberry is hoping to take his skills and knowledge and share it with those eager to learn the craft.
Stansberry was inspired to become an animator as a child when he saw Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty.” He studied photography in high school, which led to his desire to want to create using film.
He had the bug for animation, so he began knocking on studio doors in New York City to ask who needed help. He found a few old animation places that drew stuff by hand, which is where he started out.
“I worked formerly as an amateur, learning, then working, for a few studios in New York City. I learned looking over the shoulders of other people,” Stansberry said.
To this day, Stansberry has only ever done animation by hand with pen and pencil, using a computer just to piece together the cartoons with animation software. It resonates with artists when they learn to do animation by hand because of the monotony behind it, Stansberry said.
Before you see a minute of animation on screen, you must have the patience to repetitiously draw images over and over again.
Though he was inspired by Disney, he uses a technique called limited animation like that used in cartoons he loved while growing up like “Speed Racer.” It allows him to use a shortcut to produce work faster while getting the same result.
Where Disney might use 24 drawings to do one second of animation, Stansberry will use eight drawings to do the same. He utilizes the same technique used in Japanese anime, allowing him to produce more at a faster rate.
A tale of two cities
When life in New York City began getting too expensive, Stansberry moved home to Baltimore, where he ran his own animation studio while working full time for General Motors.
“Having a full-time job allowed me to start the hobby, and I got into doing a couple commercials locally in Baltimore and making short films on my own,” Stansberry said.
After he spent 15 years at General Motors, the plant closed in 2004 and Stansberry received a lump sum of money, which he used to open an animation studio in Chinatown in New York City.
He spent his weekdays working in New York City and went home to Baltimore for the weekends, constantly staying busy and working with about 10 people in the studio.
City living expenses add up, so Stansberry and his family began looking for homes as far away as Michigan when Shamokin came up. They moved here in August 2016, during which point Stansberry was doing a lot of online work and no longer needed to be directly working in a city.
“I still miss New York and I want to have a presence in New York, which is why I decided to produce a show and put it on their public access channel,” he said.
Working alone, it takes Stansberry up to two months to put together one episode of “Puddin,” leading to him advertising for people eager to learn the art of animation.
“I wanted to speed up the process and make the show more regular in regards to making it every single month and maybe every single week, as opposed to every two months.”
Speeding up the process requires training others who have the patience to handle the repetition behind tracing the images repeatedly to get the desired result.
“I thought that would be a good chance to bring people in that want to learn and might be good at it and help me speed up my process at the same time,” he said.
Stansberry thinks anyone can learn animation without having to spend years in college learning tricks of the trade.
“I learned from people in New York City who studied film and video and they would spend thousands of dollars to go to school, and I could do the same thing. I learned from nothing, either from friends or associates or now on the internet.”
Stansberry said animation today is easier than people think it is, and if they have an idea and want to learn the most simplistic way to approach it, he is willing to help.