On Saturday mornings, 6-year-old Kip Noschese had a routine: a bowl of cereal for breakfast while watching “Speed Racer,” “Scooby Doo” and the rest of his favorite cartoons. Fast-forward to today, and the 26-year-old Noschese’s life isn’t much different. He still has a bowl of cereal for breakfast before settling down with his favorite cartoons. Only now he draws them instead of watching them.
Noschese turned his childhood love of cartoons and habit of doodling little characters in his school notebooks into a career after some post-graduate soul-searching.
“When I was getting my degree in advertising, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” says the 1997 graduate. “I always loved animation and decided to give it a shot and moved out to California.”
He planned his move to coincide with the annual World Animation Celebration in Los Angeles. “I intended on it being a springboard for my career,” he says. “I worked as a volunteer and ended up meeting the president/CEO of the company I work for now.”
That company is Klasky Csupo Inc., which produces cartoons for Nickelodeon. Noschese started in 1998 as a production assistant. Three months later he was promoted to background designer. He works on “Rugrats,” “The Wild Thornberrys” and “As Told By Ginger,” a cartoon about a shy junior high girl seeking popularity.
“ At first, ‘As Told By Ginger’ looked really bad and nobody was excited to work on it,” he says. “Now it’s the envy of the studio. It was nominated for an Emmy. I would watch it even if I didn’t work on it.”
There’s a whole set of steps a cartoon has to go through before it’s even ready for Noschese’s drawing board. The script is written, the voices are recorded and the storyboard artist makes a rough image of the backgrounds. The background designers then make the scene look nice and clean.
He says his inspiration for creating backgrounds varies from show to show. “For ‘Ginger,’ it’s in Connecticut, so we’re drawing change of seasons. A lot of that I take from memories of my own childhood in Pennsylvania. Sometimes I have to design a kid’s room and I put a lot of my own room into it. It’s been fun to put a lot of myself into the cartoon, or sneak friends in by using their initials on graffiti or license plates.”
For “Thornberrys,” though, Noschese discovered that images from his own life weren’t going to be enough. “I have to draw places like China, Africa and Antarctica since the Thornberrys travel all over the world. I can’t draw from my life experiences, so I watch the Nature and Discovery channels.”
Currently, Noschese’s working on background scenes for six special “Thornberrys” episodes that tie in to a “Thornberrys” movie. One day Noschese hopes to have his own cartoon show. But, until then, he just enjoys going home, kicking back and seeing his work come to life. “It’s great,” he says. “At work we’re analyzing them. But when the shows are on TV it hits me that all these kids out there are watching them.”