Working for more than two decades on The Simpsons, Erick Tran says, changed his life forever.
But so did the event that led him to the Fox juggernaut.
"I was the only senior from my high school to attend this charity event known as the Animaction 500, which was held at Raleigh Studios," he recalls. "As a result, I was hired as an animator at Film Roman, the studio that produced the show at that time.
My story got a lot of attention internationally, because my mother was Guatemalan and my dad was Vietnamese. People in the Latino community embraced me, because of my accomplishment in the entertainment industry.”
Tran caught that big break when he was only 17. Over the years, he's generally worked as a character layout artist on the weekly series; he was a character layout lead on The Simpsons Movie (2007).
The job has allowed him to branch out and consult on commercials and video games and even work on the designs of The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios Florida and Hollywood.
"It really got me to think about the whole ecosystem of the animation business," he says. "There is so much more than just the production of the show, and it incorporates the world of toy development, licensing and merchandising, marketing and theme parks — all of which I find quite exciting."
In 2012, Tran founded his own Burbank-based animation studio, Chavvo. He and his core team of a dozen animation pros offer a wide variety of services to clients around the world. "Our crew is spread out in Canada, Guatemala, Mexico and China," Tran says.
On top of that, Tran heads a branding and media services company called Ideal Media Entertainment. "I left my full-time position — and cushy office — on The Simpsons in 2015," he says. "I still come back from time to time to help out on TV show production, but my focus is on all things Chavvo and Ideal Media."
Chavvo is developing its own high-energy animated content — shows such as Soccer Papa, Deadbeat Dino and Urban Reggie. "We have a lot of talented people from Disney and DreamWorks working with us," Tran says. "Our studio has become this creative outlet for artists who want to do something different. We're all about creating appealing characters.
"If you're passionate about animation, it's about perfecting your craft. It's all about drawing until your arms fall off!"
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 5, 2018