Show Creator/Designer, Big Blue, Guru Studio
When Gyimah Gariba was a young boy growing up in Accra, Ghana, he was influenced by a wide range of animated shows and movies, from Dexter’s Laboratory and Wacky Races, to classic Looney Tunes cartoons and Disney features. When he was 18, he was accepted into a B.A. program for illustration as well as animation. “My best friend helped me choose animation because I was really into film at the time. It seemed like a good way to engage storytelling, music and acting while also getting to have input on visuals,” he recalls.
His first big break happened when he interned as a character designer on the first season of Black Dynamite at Titmouse alongside some of his draftsman heroes. These days, he is overseeing his own show Big Blue at Toronto’s Guru Studio. “Growing up, I loved The Little Mermaid and that generated an interest in the mystery of the underwater world,” he notes. “The whole idea that it is as much of an unexplored mystery as outer space was always really exciting to me. I also always wanted to tell a story that revolved around kids being there for each other and having the space to learn from one another in the absence of adults.”
Gariba says he loves that the solutions of his job are usually hidden in silliness. “Story points and strong character jokes are deceptively simple to string through a good story,” he explains. “The comedy forces us to take a step back from the project and find the simplicity in the gag and not over think it all too much. The only way to know that what we’re doing is working is when we’re laughing. It’s a nice way to balance out the stress of building a world on a tight deadline.”
“I’m inspired by Richard Williams, Genndy Tartakovsky and Brad Bird,” says the 27-year-old artist. “They all have an amazing ability to take an idea and find the comedy, the heart and the action in it while still delivering a fresh story. They do a good job of finding balance in their work and they tend to function on a kid level just as well as on an adult level.”
He also has great plans for the future.“I hope to become a better storyteller and to move into writing. Having been a part of productions at different levels I’m really interested in how each department can elevate the next. I’m interested in getting into the core of an idea first on the page — then seeing it through to its visualization.”
Gariba leaves us with a great piece of advice. “To consider the responsibility and privilege of helping others dream is not a skill to take lightly.”