The Two Weeks of My Life When I Could Have Been Considered An Animator


Yes, the tagline for my blog is not entirely accurate, I did dabble in animation before I became a civil engineer. Now granted, I still cannot draw properly, and never really have been able to do so. I once entered an art competition for the Community Games and it was only after they announced the winners that my mother pointed out that my drawing had everyone swimming out to sea, complete with tropical island and palm trees. Needless to say, I did not win.

So drawing really isn’t in my genes. I kind of wish it was, but at the same time, I know my kids (all four of ’em) will have at least some capabilities that enable them to draw more than a straight line.

You would think that would have limited me in the animation field wouldn’t you? Oh, no. This is the 21st century, where I could, theoretically, carve a whole career out of making films consisting straight-lines all made on the computer (if I really wanted to). But this post is set before that, all the way back in the early, early days of 1997 AD (or BCE for the Jewish folks).

It was at the very beginning of January that year that I paid a very rare visit to the US with my Dad. Long story short, my uncle had a computer (with something called America On-Line that allowed you to do stuff on the “internet”) and on said computer was, Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego. However, that is not all. Also installed on that Packard-Bell-branded PC was a copy of Spider-Man Cartoon Creator.

Sadly, Google failed to turn up a screenshot, but if you can imagine a screen with a scene in the middle and plenty of big buttons around the outside for adding characters, objects, etc. then you’ve got the gist of it.

With this basic program, you could create an entire show using either the included backgrounds and characters. For the voices, you had to supply your own, and I’m sure I did the best impressions of Peter Parker I could. Everything was based on Spider-Man: The Animated Series which was being or had recently been broadcast and is one of the very few comic book TV shows that I watched regularly as a child.

Naturally, whatever I created has long since been lost to the ether, but I remember having great fun playing it and acting out the role of a creative overlord. Perhaps it was because I was a kid and kids are more easily entertained, but I really did have fun when my imagination ran wild.

After nearly two weeks of playing the game, it was time for me to head back to The Auld Sod, but before we left, we headed up to a computer show. Now this is back in the pre-dotcom bubble when computers were awesome and not merely a tool of everyday life. Long story short, we’re wandering around and guess what I see is for sale. That’s right, the Spider-Man Cartoon Maker!

My Dad asked me if I wanted it, and I did, but at the time, I thought computer programs cost $200 and up. Where I got this notion, I do not know, but long story short, so I said….no, because I didn’t want my Dad to spend $200 just on me (I was a selfless kid, really).

Where would I be now if I had had more than a fortnight to act out my animation fantasies? Who knows. I would most likely still be an engineer, seeing as having a cartoon-making program on the PC will not exactly improve my drawing skills in the slightest.

What the program did teach me though, was that cartoons are ‘made’, they don’t just appear out of thin air on the TV or cinema screen. I suppose it’s just a wee bit of a shame that the full realization of that didn’t come about until I was about 20 years, 7 moths old.