Dana Booton is the general manager, head of production for Film Roman, the premier TV animation studio who produces animation for Fox Television/Gracie Films' The Simpsons, among many others.
Before being promoted to her current position, Dana Booton was the executive in charge of production for Marvel Entertainment's Super Hero Squad, The Avengers and Ultimate Spider-Man. She joined Film Roman in 2008, after starting her own production studio, Studio NM8, where she produced various animation projects for Disney Channel.
Dana spoke with me about her various roles in animation, how she's seeing more women taking larger roles in animated TV, and how proud she is of Film Roman's series Dan Vs., which is airing on The Hub.
Dan Vs. airs on The Hub. What I love about the show is I can probably name five people right off the top of my head that could be Dan.
"It's very relatable."
I watched the screeners for Dan Vs., and I was blown away by the cast and the guest stars that do the voice-over work.
"That's a good point. We have great people attached to the show. And they are so passionate about the show, and love the show, which is just terrific. You know, we're on a new network; we're on The Hub. And they're finding their audience, and slowly, but surely, people are finding Dan Vs.. And that's exciting. We have a bit of a cult following, and our fans adore Dan [Mandel] and Chris [Pearson], the creators, and they really relate to the character.
"Film Roman is trying to get the show out there, as is The Hub. I think that the more episodes we have, the more they can air the episodes, the more they can promote the episodes. [Audeinces] are going to find the show. But it's taken them a little bit of time to find it."
How did Dan Vs. come to Film Roman?
"It was a project from The Hatchery, and they were looking for a co-producer. Margaret Loesch was in charge at The Hub, and I worked with Margaret for years. And she was very much behind this project. So we thought it was a good project to green light. We're behind The Hub completely. We want another network to succeed. And we just felt that this was fresh and it was funny. And we felt it was very relatable to many people because we always - you know, everybody has a gripe about what's happening in the world, and it can be small, it can be big.
"Like [the episode] 'Burgerphile,' I've watched with several people, and they'll start to watch and they say, 'I've lived that. I've lived that.' You know, going to the extreme. Well, that's just fun to watch, and that's cartoons. We really support the project, and we think it's fresh and it's funny. And Curtis Armstrong is terrific as Dan, and Dave Foley as Chris. And we're very proud of it."
Was the casting process lengthy, or was it pretty easy?
"The casting process went very smooth for this production, actually. And we don't have a large cast. We have Paget Brewster as Elise. And, you know, I believe that Dan and Chris have ideas for the voices in their head, and it worked. Curtis is perfect as Dan. We couldn't have picked a better person. So it would have taken casting months to find the right cast, but I think because we're working with The Hub and The Hatchery, we all see the show the same way. It was easy to move forward with the casting, and we didn't have to go through a committee of people. Everybody sort of sees the show the same way. So that made it easy to bring on the people."
Sometimes with network involved, it can take a long time.
"Yeah, and I don't mean just the network. It depends. You know, if you have co-producers and partners, and you're having to run past a troop of 12 different people, it can take forever. And The Hub is a terrific network, actually, and they're very supportive of the project. It's a creator-driven project. It's [creators] Dan [Mandel] and Chris [Pearson]. And so Dan and Chris said, 'These are the people that we feel are appropriate for the part.' It was a no-brainer that we should go with them. And The Hub was very accommodating."
Dan [Mendel] and Chris [Pearson], I tried to look up any kind of background on them -
"They are brand spanking new."
Did you have reservations about their lack of experience in the TV industry?
"I thought it was fresh, it would bring a fresh idea to the production. And they don't know what the supposed roles are, other than animation, so I think it brings something fresh to the project. And we have a great supervising director, Brian Sheesley, onboard, and he's very helpful for Dan and Chris in order to get the visuals across. It's a learning process for them."
Do you keep them sequestered somewhere so that they don't become tainted?
"I should, right? They're here right with us, so they're very involved, and they're learning the animation process. And I think that The Hub is a great network to be introduced to animation to. Chris is doing the majority of the writing, and Dan Mandel does a lot of the punch up, and they're both extremely involved in every aspect of the production, from design to animatics, to record, to post-production. So they're seeing the whole thing happen here, which is terrific."
Will Dan Vs. be visiting Comic-Con?
"We're in the process. We'd love to have a panel for Dan Vs. at Comic-Con, and that's what we're working on now. We'd like to have a presence on the floor."
Women in Animation
If you don't mind, I would like to step away from Dan Vs.. Believe it or not, you are the first female I have interviewed that is not an actress.
"Well, I'm honored."
I am honored, too. Why is the animation industry so lopsided when it comes to men versus women behind the scenes? Not actresses, and not necessarily executives, but there's no equivalent that I can point to for Stephen Hillenburg, or Seth MacFarlane, or Matt Groening. Why is that?
"I think it's an interesting question, and I've thought about it for years. 'Where are the women?' And I think that animation, for a long time, has been, and especially television animation, has been geared towards boys. And you look back at Disney and here are all these male role models, these animators, that boys could aspire to. I think it's changing now with technology and media and videogames. I am finding that there are more women moving up in an artistic side of the industry rather into the producer role, or network executive or running networks. I think that Vicky Jenson, who did Shrek, and Jennifer Yuh, who just did Kung Fu Panda 2, are huge inspirations to women to show that you can do this.
"And if you have a passion for it, you need to continue and you need to move forward. And I'm seeing more and more women in storyboard positions, in directing positions, coming up much more than in my 20 plus years in animation. When I first started there, women were only doing color, and you had the rare storyboard artist once in a while that would be part of a production. But there are creators now that are coming forward, and it's exciting. I think it's a great time for women in animation, in both feature and television."
There are more and more good cartoons being introduced on TV. More and more networks are becoming either animation friendly or their sole programming is animation. So it seems like there should be plenty of opportunity because all of these networks are always looking for the next new show.
"Right. One thing I think that's really changed the business is I see women these days that are working at the studio, and it's no longer the boys club, and it was for years. This is gonna sound a little funny, I don't think it is. I think that videogames have changed that. It's allowed women to go further in the industry."
"And I think they enjoy it more as something that they enjoyed as they were growing up. Boys always had that. They had their G.I. Joes, they had the action/adventure. Ninja Turtles, X-Men, all that, and there were toys attached to that, and girls got Barbie. And I see a difference now. But the women that are pitching projects and seeing a bigger creative role for themselves rather than, 'Okay, I'm a storyboard artist and that's what I'm going to be.' They see a bigger picture now. And [projects] that I'm seeing are - they're unique and they're exciting, and they would be ideal for boy or girl. So it's interesting. I think we're gonna see a big change in the next, you know, 5 to 10 years."