Working the Charm behind the World's Favorite Tales

TAXI interview with GREG WRAY, 20 April 2016

TAXI Welcome on board TAXI Greg. I'm sure this is going to be a mild ride in contrast to the Disney ones you've probably taken; which has been the most exciting ride so far? 

Greg Wray Truly, the wildest ride is always the drive from my studio to Disney or Warner Bros. with a finished, flapped painting on the the passengers seat of the car. When traffic slows down, I look over, lift up the flap and take another glance at the image and smile with confidence that I'm 100% pleased with what I'm about to deliver. 

An obvious answer would be the stress and intensity of the deadline and working under that pressure. I believe my ability to adapt to these factors have given me the opportunity to enjoy a 40 year career as an illustrator working with awesome art directors and giants of the industry. 

TAXI How did you fall into illustration for Disney and Warner Brothers, and do share with us what is your memory of your first job with them? 

Greg Wray My dreams to be an illustrator brought me from Chicago to The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena California in 1980. After completing that chapter of my education I began the process of phone calls and setting up opportunities to present my portfolio in the Los Angeles area. My focus and perseverance soon paid off. 

I presented my work to Walt Disney Disney Consumer Products and my career began. The first image I was asked to create was called "Born to Shop" featuring Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck at a soda fountain. I remember with great fondness every moment of the experience. The painting was received with enthusiasm by Carson VanOsten, the Director of Disney Consumer Products and my name went into his "rolodex".Joyfully the phone rang again a few days later and it has continued to ring over the last 40 years. 

TAXI Which Disney character do you think you identify with most, and why? 

Greg Wray Hmmmm. I've narrowed it down to 2, Goofy and Mickey. I'm going with Mickey because as a kid who wanted to be an artist and sometimes didn't pay attention in math class. I'd draw characters in my ring binder and most of the time it was Mickey. 

TAXI These characters are very much fantasy-based, so what is your thought process like when a new character illustration has to be created? 

Greg Wray When concepts and ideas are being developed, the entire team of art director, project managers and I all find ourselves in the moment and environment of the situation. Whether it's a video game cover, poster, cereal box or gallery print, the process is always a good time, especially when one of us starts talking like the character. 

TAXI How does it feel, playing a key role behind icons that millions of children around the world have grown up with? 

Greg Wray Wow, you caught me off guard with the question. Because of the team work involved in every project, I never think of myself as being one person creating the images. Being a participant in the process is what I love the most.TAXIWhat are the tools that you are working with currently, to illustrate? 

Greg Wray I began my career squeezing acrylic paint out of a tube and airbrushing on an illustration board. As the digital world began to influence the entire industry I bought my first Mac, scanner and Wacom tablet as well as Photoshop 4 and Illustrator. I also bought every book I could find and read them all from cover to cover. 

I enjoyed the process of learning something new almost everyday. 

I continue to explore and discover new ways to approach a finished painting working in Adobe Creative Cloud and Wacom's Cintiq Monitor. 

TAXI Could you share with us what you are working on now? 

Greg Wray I'm working on two projects for Warner Bros. The Eating Right Kid's food product for Safeway. I've enjoyed every aspect of this campaign from concept to finish. 

It's fun for me as an illustrator to walk into a Safeway affiliate and browse the isles. I've had moments in my career when I talk to someone checking out of a supermarket and try to convince them, in the small town where I live, that I painted the Looney Tune character on the package that they are buying. 

Warner Bros chairman-CEO Barry Meyer said that the concept is a way to turn its well-known cartoon characters into "ambassadors of health and fitness." He said the partnership "allows us to utilize the Looney Tunes characters' enduring popularity with kids and teens to promote a lifestyle choice that's healthier for them."Read more: 

Safeway, Warner Bros. Introduce 'Eating Right Kids' 

Eating Right Kids

I am also finishing up my fifth of a continuing series of Looney Tune calendars. The calendars are a special project for me. 

I'm thrilled to have the opportunity year after year to illustrate the ideas and concepts that capture the personality of each month. 

TAXI Thank you for being with us today! Where would you like a TAXI to take you to? 

Greg Wray I'm excited to have my portfolio up on TAXI. I look forward to the challenges of new opportunities around the world.