One of the perks of living in the New York metropolitan area is that among our neighbors are people who work on the other side of the screens where we spend so much of our lives. What appears as if by magic for our entertainment and education is the result of their talent and hard work.
Brett Hall is one of those people. Brett is an animation director living in Tarrytown, where he moved five years ago with his wife Rebecca Phillips, a budding real estate photographer, along with their two cats. Having worked for five years on the Emmy-winning PBS series Peg + Cat, Brett recently finished a three-year stint as the animation director of Stephen Colbert’s Our Cartoon President (originally broadcast on Showtime). During the pandemic, Brett has begun a transition to comics; a sample of his latest work is shown here.
Brett knew he wanted a career in animation early in life. His parents and his sisters encouraged him to draw, and he was “drawn” to comics such as Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes. Documentaries on making Garfield and on making Disney cartoons showed him that animation could be a career.
After receiving a degree in animation from Rochester Institute of Technology, Brett came to New York City to work. He soon struck lucky, working on Jim Gaffigan’s Emmy-nominated animated series Pale Force. Apparently Gaffigan is as nice in person as he seems to be onstage. “Gaffigan (and his writing partner/wife Jeanie) were always very kind and accommodating,” reports Brett, inviting Brett and others backstage at the Pale Force Conan tapings and providing backstage passes to a Gaffigan’s standup show.
Brett later began to specialize in children’s animation, working as an animator on series such as Wonder Pets! and Team Umizoomi, before moving into a larger creative role as animation director for Peg + Cat.
As an animation director, Brett still finds ways to exercise his creative side in his work. At the beginning of the process, “storyboarding,” in which he translates an idea into a visual realm, and again at the end of the process, reviewing the finished product.
Brett and Rebecca knew Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow before they moved here from Brooklyn, having visited the towns for Halloween. They love Tarrytown’s “Halloween embrace”, and they were part of the winning group costume in the 2019 Halloween Parade. They love the area’s Revolutionary War historical relevance, too: “Rebecca is a history geek,” says Brett.
There are things Brett misses while in lockdown, such as the one-mile walk from Grand Central to the Ed Sullivan Theater, where Our Cartoon President had its offices. Closer to home, he looks forward to the day when he can once again go to the Tarrytown Music Hall and local breweries such as Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. in Elmsford. Meanwhile he’s making the most his downtime, exploring comics, a new professional direction, as well as hobbies such as baking, 3D printing and woodworking.